Thursday, October 27, 2016

Life of My Own

Father left us some money in his life insurance policy. I remember one morning a man with thick peppered moustache and another one younger probably in his early thirties without the moustache and two quiet ladies a lot younger sat in our living room. Just tea, no cakes, and a cheque laid flat on the coffee table. I did not remember what the two insurance men were talking about but I remember I felt embarrassed to stand up and pinch the corner of the cheque with my one hand and the man with the peppered moustache who did most of the talking pinched the other end and Mother stood beside me smiling before the second man without the moustache showered the living room with flash of light for a second and two. It was not because I had to pose for the camera that made me feel embarrassed but it was all about the ladies presence and I forgot to wear my underwear underneath my track trousers.

Before that we had cattle cheeks and tongues and tendons and some real beef stuffed in the kitchen freezer from previous Eid-ul Adha celebration. Father gave me two decapitated cattle’s heads and forced me to extract the meat from that poor carcass as much as possible with a knife so dull it couldn’t even slice a cake days before he left us. That hit me at my spiritual sense, having a thought that God planned all this beautifully and amin to that. That was the first time I tasted the best beef cheek and tendons and tongues in my life and it would taste better if Father was there at the quiet dining table but that was alright because cattle’s cheek meat tasted like normal beef.

Long before that someone I knew from the blogosphere generously deposited RM500 in my bank account for us to live after Father’s demise before I got a decent job and I am today still thankful to her. Never met her in real life, yet it was so kind of her to do kindness to a stranger. She has stopped blogging because of reasons. I don’t know. She just disappeared, probably eating egg tarts at an apartment’s balcony overlooking Hong Kong skyscrapers with a pot of green tea by her side and stuff like that. I remember her deeds well and I know she wants me to do the same to other people and I am trying to do that as well, but I am so annoyed with those people knocking on my car’s window asking for a Ringgit or two during traffic jam.

All these memories come back after I saw the news reporting a man misappropriating public donations channelled into his bank account initially claimed to be spent for the well-being of his two orphaned nieces after their parents’ life ended on the road in a car collision. Blindfolded by greed, he siphoned large fraction of the fund elsewhere and that caused public uproar.

While the netizens are hitting their keyboard hard in anger, I had a bath under shower head long enough that life reflection was inevitable. As I said, Father left us some amount of money. We had a talk about this and I compromised – agreed that I leave it all to be taken care of by Mother, for I can find a job and build my own wealth, so I would never have to worry about Mother anymore with that eighty thousand Ringgit in her hand. Mother later insisted that I should buy a new car which made us not talking to each other for two weeks because I wanted to stick to the old 1991 Perodua Kanchil. Eventually, I compromised; bought a new car that put a smile to her face. Mother persuaded Sister to do the same, so she had one herself too. Mother gave us enough money for paying the down payment, all deducted from the inheritance.

Years passed by and things are not going to the way I always wanted it to be. I hated it whenever somebody else related or not interferes my financial planning. The son wants to save, but the mother says “spend”. The grandpa told to demolish the house down to build it again from concretes. The uncle taps the wooden wall and reminds me that this house will go down one day if I have not done something to it. The aunts ask haven’t you found your soul mate yet? These aggravate me and it all boils down to my parsimonious nature which is the trait passed down from nobody in the family. I have been a little rebellious lately, showing more disagreeing than approving, avoiding meeting certain people and turning down a family vacation plan to Indonesia and Mother now understands that her son is finding life of his own.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Remnant of Yesterdays


Parts of Dungun coastal line are slowly pushed inland by ferocious sea as days gone by. They took them away, leaving a little behind. We hardly see spinifex grass nowadays, the thorny vegetation that steals the look of sea urchin, which once detached, would roll along the sandy dunes for children to chase after. That alarms nearby crabs to scurry themselves sideways into their holes until they hear footsteps' pitter-patter fade away behind the rough note of roaring waves surging towards the sodden footprints. In December, the sea gets its full power from the moon, and becomes so short tempered that it always wants to go against the land in full force, destroying everything within its reach. The severely destroyed seaside road along Teluk Lipat beach once became the shameful evidence of land's (and the human's too) defeat in the worst war of nature in modern Dungun history, now that children can no more chasing after spinifex grass and annoy crabs' daily business. Local authority has placed concrete structures that supposedly fix the destroyed area. We cannot foresee the future of our beach as the sea has a mind of its own. Many Decembers past, it has probably become better at adapting to the changes, and the concrete waves breaker are only shooing the waves away to other area instead. What left now as the remnant of yesterdays are short beach line of Sura Tengah and its next door neighbour, Sura Hujung that holds the door to the realm of elves and jungle spirit of eerie Bukit Bauk. Recently in July, I stopped by Sura Tengah beach in one Dungun afternoon, only to look at the calm sea and speak with it and the mind wondered when this beauty will last, before I could bring along my beautiful missus in her sheer cotton t-shirt and kain batik jawa.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Less Strings Attached

One year more and I will be reaching thirty but I still ditch people from my life every now and then. Popular wisdom tells someone near this age, when dealing with confrontation, should be docile, calm, and gentle. I embrace the idea and put it into practice all right, letting the bear with the sore head growl. Unbeknownst to them, as I walk away, I have ended all connections with them. From then on, they are no longer exist, unimportant, insignificant like a speck of dust in the universe. In social media, that would be a single click that removes the victim's account from my friends list. Pathetic it may sound, I cut the connection in real world as well. It has crossed my mind that my puny body on the deathbed would not be accompanied by many people because of that. Malaysia population is approximately thirty million. Thirty million antics to deal with. Sorting them into several groups with whom I am comfortable to deal, taking accounts differences of skin colour, culture and faiths, sexual orientation, age, nature of profession, political views, hobbies, etc.; that would leave me only a handful. A handful of people making a fragile network like criss-crossing cotton strings tied to pins pricked at random points on a softboard like seen in movies; one pin holds a photo of one man and the string connects to another. The strings sketch possible interaction between people; glimpses, silent judgment, small talk, casual conversation, pretentious laugh, argument now that the string is outstretched then broken making them become strangers once again. I am the gray pin over there positioned somewhere at the corner, separated from others by huge gaps at all sides, silently observing in solitude and peace. That huge ball of cotton strings down there is not important to me anymore.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

We Are All Actors

“Actors – actors Pok Deng, do you think they see those people at the benches?” questioned Al. It was raining heavily that evening.

“What?” I replied, bewildered.

“God, Pok Deng! A theater stage, there are actors acting,” Al grunted, “Do you think they see people watching?”

"They don’t, I suppose.”

“You shouldn’t be one,” said Al before sipping his tea. “Be the one who watches instead. The problem with you, Pok Deng, is that you see them but never observe.”

“I am observant,” in my defense.

“But you never learn anything from them,” Al reprimanded. He continued, "You can't be anywhere better than at a bus station for crowd watching. Lots of weird people over there showing different characters, idiosyncrasies, awkward social interaction. One day I saw one man wearing a ring with big gemstone on his every finger..."

"Long time haven't been at bus station, mate," I said.

"You never learn," Al replied, took another sip of his tea. He seemed uninterested to tell me more about people at the bus station.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Devil Within

People are so drifted with fear of hypocrisy. I embrace hypocrisy for crying out loud, if you define hypocrisy as ‘false profession of desirable publicly approved qualities’. Had I obeyed the devil within, I would have been so vulgar, pervert and harsh at my workplace.

My creed was shaken to its core a month after I signed my tenure agreement. Forgive me; I did not spank any young lady’s bottom. I had a quarrel with my former lab superior over a dispute about whether I should be her shadows, trailing her every step in the organization as a lad manipulated to do all the jobs while she can take care of her personal business or commit treason by choosing someone else with better skills and profound knowledge as my rightful superior. She had unpleasant views of a man I was about to work with. Dirty workplace politics. Then we had a fight through email. It was a nitpicking and rebuttal game in which I wished not to prolong as before my very eyes was a woman who possessed a very weak reasoning (quality of a bad scientist), so weak that I thought I might have gotten better comebacks if I had an argument with a dud coconut. My ambition, career path, and future were matters which she selfishly chose to overlook. She has finally known my true colours – sarcastic, outspoken, a formidable wordsmith forging letters for destruction. That was the last time I spoke to her, and then silently clad myself again under the veil of hypocrisy.

Men really are a minority at my department. I find it difficult to find an apprentice among them who are willing to inherit a responsibility which I am slowly developing distaste for. It would be the same person carrying out duty as an imam of any congregation, leader of khatam Quran ceremony, sometimes source of general Islamic jurisprudence. It is pretty straight forward to be one – you must be fluent pronouncing Arab words, possess excellent clarity in speech, confidence that moves a mountain. I have all those qualities perfectly covering my fallible spiritual virtue. I understand very clearly that they cared not the meaning of the prayers. So do I. They would amin in unison whenever the prayers reach a comma. Food matters the most. Roasted lamb & cheese cakes. May they know the man reciting prayers out loud at my workplace’s every social event also has the devil within.

In jest, a few of elderly ladies at my workplace proposed me to be their son-in-law. You know, it is heartwarming looking at a lad donning perfectly matched turquoise baju melayu paired with navy sampin wrapped around his loin, sitting cross-legged politely, body rocking to the sine wave rhythm of mass zikir. Pretentiously, giggled a little in embarrassment, I said I am nowhere near a fine gentleman for their dear daughters. I learnt how to say that from watching movies. If they hear my inner voice or see images in my mind, they must have warned their daughters to stay away from this creep.

After dissing my former lab superior until she hurt so bad that she took few days leave to lick her wound, I lead my life as a quiet man at my workplace – too quiet that every day I wished I come and go unnoticed like a cat out of its nightly prowls. I was told by my colleague that she badmouthed me in front of my boss. My subconscious saw disappointment in his eyes, a hint of regret for letting me in permanent position. Regaining his trust took me three years. Bootlicking I must not.

Hypocrisy saves me from more troubles over here. I wonder whether I define hypocrisy well herein. There is indeed a gap between feeling and action. Hard to accept it is already written somewhere in the divine realm that I must walk through this path. Perhaps it is just a way of cleansing bad vibes hovering my skin every now and then. Perhaps one day you will see me as a soft-spoken man wearing enormous serban, large white beard, white robe, talking about Sufi stuff like Hakikat Insan and shit.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pesto

Lemon tarts. Valencia orange tarts. Oregano bread. Cinnamon roll. Apple crostata. Pear crostata. Aglio olio spaghetti. Pesto spaghetti. Chicken curry. Fish head curry. Fried rice. Tom yam. Beef soup. Lemon tart again, but a little less tangy. Orange tart. Baking and cooking are my current obsession. I think I will be a good husband with these self taught skills.

You don't want to invite me to any football match. I don't know jack about football. But I'll invite you to my place where you yes yes yes please chop the cilantro for me while I saute the shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Pass me the salt, please. Thank you. We will wait for the spaghetti cooked al dente (I don't know what that means, anyway). I will pretentiously plate the pesto spaghetti on a big round white plate like Jamie Oliver does. We will sit facing each at a small table with dried flower stalks placed in an empty glass jar in the middle. We will see each other's face showered with incandescent light that colours everything warm. We will let the television back there blare whatever appears on screen so that we could sense extra company. We will talk about almost anything in particular except football. We'll go deep into our nation's politics and their clowns. We will exchange stale jokes. We'll wash the dishes together then close the night with a cup of my watered down version of affogato and a slice of lemon tart. Bitter and sweet, just like our future will be.