Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Perennial questions

I think I must be the most clueless person in the world. I once described myself as a tumbleweed. Many years since then, I am still a tumbleweed. I thought I would have figured it by now. You know. Life.

Most people have, well according what they have been posting on Facebook anyway. Career and offspring feature prominently.

I came across a youtube video of a crying girl asking her teacher why wasn't she not born like everyone else with hearing. Her teacher simply asked her, why be like everyone else.


I guess that is in essence what this conversation is about. How we define happiness and does it fit in with everybody else's. Some say its service to others. Some say its sacrifice for family. Some say one should only live for one's self.


In the end I would say, in all honestly, that I want to matter.

For my life to have meaning beyond being just a face in the crowd, sized up by salesmen if I am worth their sales pitch or by cashiers if I am worth their smile.


Yet even what matters is so personal. In this world, money matters. Image matters. The superficiality matters as much as we want to deny it. My stints in marketing and communication reinforces this. And yet it feels shallow to want to matter to people who care for so little.


All round I hear how people are reduced to dollar values and the spirit counts for small change. The increasing number of feel good sites and forwarded inspiring stories fill the holes in our hearts because as a community we are running low on faith and hope. We all crave for good news.

How can someone with so little courage dream of making a difference. I guess I should try to start small.

I have the rest of my life to wing it. A tumbleweed looking to bring meaning and to actually matter. Sounds so crazy it may even work.



Friday, October 18, 2013

People Watching

After months of solitude, the hermit has had enough of her own company (God, is she depressing). I have since christened my neighbourhood Starbucks as my office. Wifi, caffeine and many a distraction. What's not to love (besides the coffee).

Hipsters bump chairs with insurance sales people who try to talk above the loud businessmen with their mobile phones - oblivious to the student looking to stay as long as she can with her homework and a tumbler of discounted Americano.

My least favourite patron is the loud contractor businessman who unabashedly suck up to Datuks and in a heartbeat spew insults into his Samsung handheld presumably to some underling. Yes la. We know you are important hot shot la. Ok, so its a million dollar deal. Still not your money right?

Which makes me wonder if this is the real face of business in Malaysia. That it is brash and loud and manipulative. The sub-prime mess was a result of an unconscionable Wall Street yet I am not sure if lessons are suitably learnt.

The rethoric of all encompasing economic reform is jarringly different from the financial pages which still is all about one upmanship - how do you make more money, safeguard your intrest and get ahead of everyone else.

While our social entreprenurs talk about sustainability and social responsibility, a running theme in every feel good TedTalk there is, our bankers are still telling us how to run our businesses and build debt, governments tell us how to live our lives (chicken too expensive, dont each chicken lah) and society still reveres the financial tycoon who fights tooth and nail to delay the implementation of minimum wage.

I reject the notion that making money has to be at the expense of society. Microfinancing and crowd sourcing are wonderful new paradigms that make up today's economic and social narrative. It still begs the question of how many of our current industries will support and participate in a new economy where there is no place for corruption and old world bad behaviour. I feel my MBA materials are obsolete already.

The businessman with the Samsung handheld looks at me and shifts his eyes. Somehow I am not feeling optimistic.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, I was called a Wordsmith.

Perhaps it is time to be called one again.

Friday, October 11, 2013

What Does Travel Mean to Me? Good Question.

I just found out that Tourism Selangor is running a competition surrounding  What Travelling Means to You. This is just as I am compiling an account of a family trip to the East Coast of Malaysia.  While timing is extremely tight, I am nevertheless intrigued by the question.

Despite being a pedestrian all my life, I have been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel quite extensively, being allowed to share space, breathe in new surroundings, learn about people and have them change me in return. 

It is rejuvenating as it is humbling. It is a reminder of how I am a citizen of the world and yet how little I am. 

The meaning of travel has changed for me personally throughout the many years. 

Travel is putting myself out there and saying "show me. I am here to learn".  

It started as unadulterated awe of being able to bear witness to monuments that only seemed to exist in dog-eared Sejarah textbooks. Let me tell you a secret. I actually felt woozy when I stumbled upon the Hammurabi Code of Law at the Louvre, a long long way from Taiping, Perak.  It was awesomeness overload. Plus a confirmation of my geek-hood. 

Yet looking back now, my best memories are those  simple, unexpected and emotional connections to places and people encountered along the way.  

My best recollection of Seville is having the bar patrons laugh when I professed that my future profession was to be an Avocado as oppose to an Abogado thereby reducing my legal ambitions to a pear. From maneuvering a gridlocked roundabout in Dhaka to feeding eagles over an emerald sea in Langkawi, the emotional associations are so palpable, they remain surreal and larger than life, long after the Polaroids have faded. 

Which brings me to the conclusion that when I or anyone else for that matter travel, we don't just visit, but we bring the location and our hosts back with us - the joy as well as the heartbreak, the beauty and the tragedies. It demonstrates our capacity for compassion, it allows us to understand and it spurs our aspirations, so we end up learning about ourselves as much as we do our destination.

Upon my travels end from abroad, I absolutely love coming home to be greeted with the cheery "Selamat Pulang ke Tanahair". More than anything, travel never fails to remind me of where my heart truly is.