This is my letter to the world, That never wrote to me, -- The simple news that Nature told, With tender majesty. Her message is committed To hands I cannot see; For love of her, sweet countrymen, Judge tenderly of me! - emily dickinson -

Friday, July 15, 2005

ni how?


i can't believe i am still sitting in the office. it's 7:30pm. and it's friday!

i am still waiting for the files transfering from raj's laptop to the the server. i am supposed to take his laptop with me to shanghai tomorrow. he is supposed to use my desktop for the next 3 weeks. so, his files are now being transfered to the server and ipin will transfer them to the desktop on monday.

the transfer had been disrupted three times (so far) since ipin started the process about an hour ago. i already called my wife to inform her that i will be late. she usually cooks dinner on fridays. dinner was already served, she said. of course. so i told her to put the food away as i don't know when i'll be back. i keep checking on the transfer time. now it says another 98 minutes. just now it was 87.

i already told ipin about the disruption. i think i was nasty on the phone because he sounded very apologetic.

this is extremely not nice.

i am so truly madly deeply not excited about going to shanghai tomorrow. twenty days. marzuki's baby will be able to start crawling by then. my orchids will be flowering and i am going to miss the first bloom. my bettas. my sanseverias...no, they'll be okay. my wife.
a few people asked whether i'm taking her along. yeah, like i have a money tree in full bloom.
eight o'clock.

ipin came in just now. the transfer was disrupted again for the fourth time. he said that there was a problem with the server. when was it not a problem with the damn thing? he said that he had to transfer the files directly to my computer instead. he did not just realize that, did he?

123 minutes remaining. my eyes are getting more irritated. they have been for quite some time now. my lenses ought to be soaking in their saline baths by now. is this payback for going home on time all these while?

they said there are plenty of muslim restaurants in shanghai. tell me one that serves fried rice the way my wife cooks it.
said that high end imitation watches are aplenty. i do not wear a watch. i have not been wearing one since '89. besides, i don't like having a tan line on my wrist. looks good on an okapi but i am a
human.
there is the pearl tower. heights cause me to hyper-ventilate and that is certainly not a nice feeling.

8:27 pm.

mosquitoes are buzzing around me like nano tie fighters. where do they come from? pesky little creatures!

96 minutes remaining.... . are those paper icons really flying from that icon folder on the left to the other one on the right?

how would they say it in chinese? chan chee b**?

9:01 pm.

hah! got one mosquito! never should have landed on my arm.

68 minutes remaining. but i thought... .

gotcha! and another one bites the dust on my crummy desk.

anyone can tell me some nasty mandarin words?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

never mind

my wife didn't pass her driving test.

never mind, i told her.

never mind the fall
if it drives you forward
nasties befall
yes, it does seem awkward

never mind that life
may feel nasty and such
all riddled with strife
might we worry so much

never say pointless
when you've done your bestest
nothing's ever so hopeless
how else would He test us?

never mind at all
get up, just stand tall
grab life and give your all
that's how it is, that is all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

numbers, ii

i am the 14th child in my family. i am also the 7th son and a member of the 7th generation of ethnic bugis from riau who arrived in what was then called the golden chersonese at the start of the 1800s. i also have 13 nieces, 20 nephews and 1 grand niece. a grand nephew is due in november.

because of the size of my family, i always dreaded the times when i had to fill up forms that required me to list down the names and birthdates of every member of my family in chronological orger. the names i never had problems with. but the birth dates required a bit of math and some creative lying so that they could be listed logically as intended. i remember at least 2 occasions where i had to go through this dreadful deed.

you see, my family never celebrated birthdays. well, at least in the years since i was born. i guess my parents stopped celebrating birthdays by their 10th child. but it never mattered. so, i never memorized the birthdays. but i knew that my father was born in 1922 and was married when he was 22. my mother was 18. i arrived in 1969 and my sister who came before me was born in 1967. so, between 1944 and 1967, i had 23 years to sequence the birth of 12 siblings.

my eldest brother had to be born in 1945 because it wouldn't have been logical for him to be born in the same year my parents were married. starting from him, i would then list down the names of my siblings according to the actual sequence that each was born. of course everyone in the family knows who came first up to the last: after my eldest brother, there was my eldest sister, followed by another sister, then a brother, a sister, a brother, a sister, a sister, a brother, a brother, a sister and a brother.

let's see, 6 boys and 6 girls, that equals to 12. okay. everything sums up nicely. now came the tricky part--adding the dates.

heck, i can't remember exactly how i did it but the list came out looking the most logical it ever chronologically could by the time i was done. was that a nasty thing to do?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

necessary

as it turned out, all my anxieties concerning the traffic fine were for naught.

i bled two hundred bucks earlier this year for running a red light -- lunch-hour rush, i was the last car, so happened that there was a traffic snoop in the bushes.

and now, another ticket for parking in the wrong place at nine on a school night in an almost deserted street in kuala terengganu. is that really necessary here in bolehland?

i think i bitched so much that my wife called up the police station to check up on the amount i was supposed to pay. seventy bucks. well, at least it wasn't two hundred. but if i appeal, it could go down to fifty. appeal? i tossed the choices around in my mind as i headed for the marang police station. appeal? is that so necessary?

the cop on duty was all smiles. that was nice. i showed him the ticket and he grinned even wider. the line was down, he told me. great! so, when could i expect the line to be up? he told me to come again the next day. just great!

but at least he was polite. quite unexpected.

i was there again yesterday afternoon. same smiley face behind the chilled counter. he would make an excellent cutout, i tell you. they hadn't entered my ticket into the system, he told me. so.....? it would take a while, he said. i'd wait, i told him. so, he keyed away as i paced about. the buletin board had the same news clippings that i read a couple of months back.

mr. smiley called me and merrily announced that i only had to pay thirty bucks. say what? he mumbled something but it didn't matter. but hey, cool! so, i gave him a fifty. and then he asked if i had small change. oh, man! the police too?

Monday, July 11, 2005

nice day

the day started nasty.

the alarm didn't go off. we hadn't packed. su's kurung still needed ironing. the gift hadn't been wrapped. and worst of all, we didn't have anything to wrap it with! so, we scoured the entire strip from renggeh to kelulut hoping that one of the roadside trinket stalls would be open. i was thinking of a bamboo basket that would fit the teak vase just nicely. no need for wrapping paper. enough trees had died. bamboos are plentiful and they are the fastest growing plants. but either it was way too early or all the sellers decided to open their stalls late that morning, we couldn't get any baskets in marang. well, perhaps the souvenir shop in taman shah bandar would save us. and it's just along the way, i told su.

after changing into our travel gears, filling the kancil with our stuffs and locking all the doors and windows, we bid farewell to qop qoon and qoom qoom and rushed towards downtown kt. two minutes later and about fifty yards from the shop, we could see the "close" sign on the door. great!
well, maybe we'd find something along the way to ketereh. after all, this is the east coast where all the bamboo baskets are made. so, somebody somewhere along the way was going to be our salvation, right?

as it turned out, we got to ketereh two hours early. how? camus explained over the phone that he'd sent me a message the day before, telling me that i should be at his parents' only after two. but he probably used the maxis number that i had suspended. of course i didn't get the message. but i was glad, actually. that meant that we still had time to get our basket. so, i called zaitun in tendong.

-fast forward-

but we ended up buying two strips of organza ribbons in rantau panjang! all the baskets were either too big or were not of the appropriate design to contain our fine teak vase. ribbons? well, i decided that the vase looked too good to be wrapped anyway. the ribbons were to say that it was a gift for the newlyweds.

it was almost five when we finally reached his parents' house. it was nice that su and i had freshen up at zaitun's place. and we were color coordinated. if we had to be late, it had to be with style.

i could see camus as i parked. he was dressed in sparkling cream with black songket. and his new bride was dressed in, maroon? no, was it mahogany? what? how could? who could've? what the? was the mak andam color blind?

i was so glad to see camus. i grabbed the hand he extended and pulled him close so i could hug him. it's been over five years since we last saw each other. i wasn't sure whether the tears i had welling up in my eyes were for the past he was leaving or for the future he was starting. but i knew that i was just so glad to see him.

and his wife... . oo what beautiful full lips you have all glossed up under that smashing lip-ice glitter... . ouch! yes dear? no dear, i was just complimenting the bride. she looked nice, didn't she? yes, of course. you looked nice too... .

and there was kichi! my, he's a tall guy. maybe he needed more meat on those bones of his but he's got a tall frame. i had to look up as we were introduced.

so, we all sat at a corner as the crowds came, salam, ate, salam and left. we ate. we joked. there was plenty to laugh about. updates. questions and answers. missing persons. asides. i hope i didn't talk too loud, i said at one point in all the excitement. we cautioned our wives about our strange ways. we warned them that they would feel left out most of the time. they knew that. someone else's wife had told them!

i did my best to impress the couple and su was the sweet smiling package that had me falling for her five years back. i hope camus enjoyed my visit as much as i was glad to see him. but somehow... .

i wished him well. live long and prosper, i told his wife. plenty of nice days ahead, i pray for all of us.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

nuff said

fifty odd unsuspecting commuters were killed in london.
supposedly, by the "al-qaeda of europe" that suddenly surfaced out of the blue.
worst tragedy to hit the city in fifty years.
never should have happened.
not something to be taken lightly.
sadness and anger the world over.

but.

what about the thousands who have died and are dying since the 'liberation' of iraq?
what about those hundreds of thousands (and counting) of unaccounted deaths in afghanistan?
what about those underage stone throwers brough down by live ammo almost every day in palestine?
what about the thousands of mysterious disappearances in southern siam for the past two hundred years?

is the world giving a shit?

so, in the ensuing strategic 'pre-emptive' strike, iran will be the sacrificial scapegoat for the sanctimonious superstates?

and then what?

Friday, July 08, 2005

numbers, 1

i have this fascination with numbers since i started writing the dates on the chalkboard back in primary school. but this, mind you, has nothing to do with math (or anything as bothersome), feng shui or gambling.

in primary school, one of the chores that i liked was to dust off yesterday's dates from the boards and then write the current dates. in those days, each classroom in the lower primary was equipped with two pairs of chalkboards placed side-by-side on the wall facing the students. the two boards in a pair were dangled from the ceiling by steel wires that were run over pulleys. so, when one of the boards was pulled down, the other would move up.

so every morning before class began, i would climb onto the boards and start rubbing off yesterday's dates and whatever that were left behind from the last session. i would start with one of the boards on the bottom. once that was rubbed cleaned, i would push it up the wall to allow it's pair to descend. i would work on that before moving on to the next pair.

when all the boards were clean, i would use a chalk with the help of a difficult-to-handle meter-long wooden ruler, to make underlines on the top corners of each board--on the left corner for the day, and on the right corner for the date. then, i would chalk the day and date in the most legible style my young self could muster. on fine days, the feat would only require a single attempt. but on days when my hands were fidgety... uurghh. usually though, it was not too bad. after all the days and dates were done, i would climb down and stand back to check my handiwork. i dreaded when i would have to climb back up for repairs.

i remember getting excited whenever the numbers for the month had to be changed. i would thought that the numbers for the month would have become so bored by the end of their month-long tenure on the boards that i was making them a big favor by removing them. and those poor numbers for the year!

hey, i was only a kid, ok!

here are a list of fascinating numbers i liked in those years:
standard one: 07-06-76, 06-07-76, 09-08-76.
standard two: 01-01-77, 02-02-77, ..., 07-07-77wow!, ..., 12-12-77.
standard three: 05-06-78, 08-07-78, 07-08-78.
standard four: 07-07-79, 09-07-79, 07-09-79.
standard five: 08-08-80!
standard six: 08-01-81, 01-08-81.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

ninny


one of my all-time favorite tv shows was "Lost In Space." my favorite character from that show was none other than Dr. Zachary Smith. i found a list of his notorious insults here. read on, you proverbial neanderthal ninny!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

notice


i got a "notification of a traffic offence." just what i needed.

i stopped by a video store at a corner in jalan tok lam after i had my haircut. there was some space for parking right beside the store but that evening, it was full. so i parked right on the corner. it was close to nine on a school night in kuala terengganu and i was not going to stop traffic for parking there. who would care?

well, one traffic cop did care.

i was all too eager to watch the two movies as i drove off from the store. i hadn't seen "flatliners" (julia in her buck teeth days) and "heavy metal" (from 1981!). boy was i happy! then i noticed the piece of paper flapping under one of the windshield wipers. oh, shit! i pulled over and grabbed the paper. i couldn't see clearly what was printed or scrawled on the paper but i knew that it was bad news. bummer!

it says that i committed offence number 4. so, from the list on the back of the paper, number 4 states: "Meletakkan kereta kurang dari 30 kaki daripada selekoh." in italics it says "Parking within 30 feet of corner."

cars were triple-parked just fifty yards away at the tanjung bus terminal and the good cop picked me! nine p.m. on a school night in jalan tok lam in downtown kuala terengganu, for crying out loud!

Monday, July 04, 2005

numb

my sister placed all the freshly washed laundry in a pile on the floor right in front of the tv. she then sat down next to the pile, her feet splayed in front of her, her back flushed to the leg of the sofa, her focus on the tv. she was on to something but the remote was with me. so i asked her what show she would generally watch during that time of the night.

"akademi fantasia!" it was either this one or the spanish soap.

i switched the channel to 15. the screen was a riot of ads and messages running across the bottom, and up and down the left margin. the actual program was a tiny square of moving pictures squeezed between the ads.

"can't see much, can you?" i had hoped.

"try the other channel, number 4" what? they were showing this program on 2 channels?

yes, it seems that malaysians can't get enough of this crap. and my poor sister is one of them, how unfortunate.

c-r-a-p, crap!

c for that campy najib ali-wannabe. "abang main-main je. jangan le ambik hati, ek?...". yeah, right! i bet i know which adik-adik he would love to play with!
r for all the ridiculous choices of getup for the performing clowns. they are supposed to "accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives." not the other way around!
a for the ape-like mentality of the mimics on stage and the hootin and hollerin mob below the stage. did you see how that granny in the tudung and the atok with the kopiah waved that banner?
p for the profoundly pitiful and perplexing way that a 'winner' is chosen. "kenapa saya pilih Mawi? duit saya, ikut suka saya lah!" or "kenapa? sebab dia cuuute sangat!" oh, my gawwwd!

dear God Almighty,
i beg you to send down a comet to smash into that rich indian guy's satelite that's been transmitting all these crappy shows to the homes and the minds of all Your servants,
poisoning their faith with false hopes,
flooding their spirits with salacious senses;
fooling their minds into blissfully accepting mediocrity, bad tastes and a straight out-awful sense of style!
please save them from themselves, i beg of You oh Most Merciful of all.

nitwit

it was somewhere between midnight and 4 am. the transnasional was moving at the typical water buffalo murdering speed. an endless stream of hindi tunes was playing loud enough to keep everyone as awake and alert as the driver. the driver was singing along and sucking in as much nicotine as his lungs could carry. the fume and smell were filling up the air-conditioned interior. the chill was pricking my bones. and this nasty old witch in a tudung was making the ride ever more miserable for me.

i could feel her shoving my seat. if it were the bus moving fast over uneven road, it would feel entirely different. but the sensation was specific. coming from behind instead of the floor. was she trying to push my seat upright? was she trying to get my attention? she could've just asked.
so, i pretended not to notice. i dozed off after a while.

then, i was awaken yet again. what was wrong with the witch? i swear if i ever did turn around and confront her, she'd be sorry she was born without the ability to lap her own behind.

when we finally reached seremban, i made sure that i was in her face while getting my stuffs from the overhead compartment. i could sense that she glared at me but i just made it like we were on board a terribly crowded economy classs public transport which in fact, was what we were on.

if you don't do economy, then for God's sake, don't act like you own the blinking economy!

neither

she asked about my wife too! :)

then she asked what su's name was... :p

Friday, July 01, 2005

notion

my mother came this close to death fourteen times. well, there were other times but these times were definite. i'm talking about the number of times my mother gave birth. she delivered seven boys and seven girls. i was the seventh boy and the fourteenth in the bunch. to picture the difficulties that she went through in each of those times, is just beyond my wildest imagination. they say, imagine forcing a mellon through your navel. hmm. would that be a large mellon or a small one? a round one or an oblong one? suffice to say that the ordeal is nasty enough to warrant comparing it to dying.
she is dying now. her knees have given up some time ago. over weight, poor diet, too little exercise. all the usual excuses. not much from the help of the walking stick that i got her but more from her will, she still manages to waddle between her bed and the toilet in her room, and then to her spot in front of the tv in the living room, and then to that one chair at the dinner table, before returning to bed. or she would head to the chair left just outside of the main entrance, then moved to the one in the car port and then returned to her room. it is all part of her daily ritual these days.


but what pains me most is her memory loss. i would show her the tudung or the sarong that i bought her. she would say nice things about the item and tell me that i should not have bothered. i would then place the item beside her. within minutes, she would ask me who does the tudung or the sarong belong to. i would tell her and she would ask me again the next minute. and this would continue unless one of my sisters remove the item from her sight.
her grandchildren would be running around her and she would ask who those kids belong to. my wife would be helping out in the kitchen and she would ask me who the person was. i would tell her and she would ask when i got married.

i won't hope for a miracle, for her memory to return or for her condition to improve. but i hope that my prayers are heard, that all her slights are forgiven and that her place in Heaven is assured.

i hope she remembers me when i see her tomorrow.