Friday, October 31, 2008

Just found out that my college mates have somehow found their way to my blog.
Oh well, now you people can see clearly; I am a poor writer.

Moving on;

I realize that even though I'm studying Economics, and I don't exactly dislike it, or am failing it in, but English is clearly more my forte. I'd probably do a better job at teaching literature, or writing, rather than fixing government policies.

Money never mattered. Words do. I've always been fascinated with the power of words, how it influences people. I get soaked into books; listening to great speeches. I find beauty in speeches, in proses. "Let freedom reign" said Martin Luther King; "An eye for an eye makes the world go blind" cried Mahatma Gandhi; their words are seeped into my consciousness. Shakespeare wrote "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds"; Murakami wrote "Death exists; not as an opposite but a part of life" and Lao Tzu wrote "Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you." How can anyone not find all these awe-inspiring?

So what stopped me from going into writing?

Truth is, I was afraid. Writing, or more specifically journalism, was something I've always wanted to delve into, but I never had the courage to pursue it. I read great Pulitzer pieces, beautifully intricate materials by Nobel Prize winners, and I thought, "never in a million years would I be able to do that."

Sure, I wrote some pieces a few years back. Bits of poems, proses... None of it was satisfactory. I was too analytical, too much of a perfectionist, and it came out too refined. It never flowed properly, never the way I wanted it to be, the way I pictured it in my head. Too many awkward verses, grammatical errors, too much paraphrasing, stuff like that.

But lately I'm starting to get my writer's drive back. I've been scoring pretty well for my writing assignments at school, and hell are there a lot of those. Takes me ages to write something. But it's good practice, I realized how much I missed words.

I've picked up three books this weekend. I've read all of them, just needed to scan it through once more. The books are:

i. The Picture of Dorian Gray
ii. Norwegian Wood
iii. Atonement

These are the books that have recently influenced my writings. Norwegian Wood would be the book I single out as my biggest inspiration, as Murakami writes so flawlessly in such a simple way. It should be noted that two of the books are about love. I wouldn't call myself a hopeless romantic, but I find it amazing that people can put indescribable emotions into words. I'm hoping that by re-reading all this, I'll be able to write a good; no, a fantastic sonnet for Mr. Wise.

And I thank Mr. Wise profusely for giving me confidence in my writing, and for being a great, great teacher. Even though what you said could be entirely untrue, I appreciate the gesture. I really hope I'll be in your class next year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Have any of you ever driven down Jalan Kia Peng before?

It's a beautiful road; a haven of green lush landscape smack dab in the middle of this metropolis we like to call Kuala Lumpur. Old trees are lined up at the side of the road, the houses are living heritages.

I used to stop by and look at one particular house. It was situated opposite Top Hat, and to its left was the KL Convention Center. It was a gorgeous house; a colonial British style, complete with a garden, courtyard, huge veranda and a stream running across the front gate. The environment was lush, full of big ol' trees and beautiful flowers. I used to joke that one day I would buy that house, as I thought it wonderful that there was this spectacular piece of greenery in the middle of a concrete jungle.

Imagine my shock when I passed by it this morning and saw that it was completely demolished. The house was leveled; the trees were gone, and all that's left is an empty plot of soil.

I've been questioning capitalism for a while now, and this hits home. Badly. The Jalan Kia Peng area is slowly being turned into a money making address. There are condominiums being built on the left, right and front side of my house. I keep thinking, what for?

I've never been a big fan of pure capitalism. One of the questions I keep pondering on and on is at what cost should capitalism be? We've lost our heritage, environment, and ultimately, our soul. What is up with this neverending quest for greed? It's costing us more than it's profiting.

I applaud Penang for keeping its heritage. Penang to me, should be taken as example by every other state. This vibrant city is full of people with conscience. Take a drive around the island and you can see many heritage places being reserved; and Penang's culture is so distinct and infectious that you cannot help but be drawn to it. I've met so many awe-inspiring people in Penang, history lovers, people who appreciate the finer things in life. And by finer things I don't mean those pieces of paper you keep in your wallet. There was where I began to develop my civic consciousness, an awareness that I never really thought of as important before.

Living in this capitalistic environment, where everything follows the Theory of the Firm, has taken its toll on me. KL has lost its essence; its zest. People couldn't care less as to what cost it is for them to be able to get what they want. I don't envy these people who have the latest phones, go to the latest clubs and buy the latest fashion. I pity them. They've lost sight of what's important. This individualistic society, where no one gives a shit about each other, could be blamed on having such a capitalistic view on things.

I find it ironic that the friends I look up to, who are teaching me ethics and make me question my own self, all lived outside KL. Maybe it's because they lived outside this society that they developed such a good outlook on life. I respect them completely. Never in a million years would I thought I'd get inspired by an amazing group of friends, who are ethical and strong in their convictions. I'm glad I met them just before I go overseas.

I don't shun capitalism purely; yes people should be able to gain what they earned. You work hard, you get more money. Everyone needs their worth to be recognize; it's the only way someone can grow. But at what cost? A great example would be Hong Kong. Once famous for its waterfront, they have now built so much high rises in front of it that one can't see the waterfront anymore. They've lost the one thing that have made them unique.

Pure capitalism has failed. Want proof? Take one look at America's economy. Enough said.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I've been delaying this post for two months now.

On August 7th, 2008, I lost my grandfather. Unfortunately, I never really had the chance to get to know him well. He had two strokes while I was still in primary school. So I've always remembered him to be sickly. And it's only recently that I'm staying in KL permanently; before this I moved around.

There are few things that I do know about him; smoking was probably the only thing that kept him going. And my grandmother. Boy did he love her. I remember this one time when my grandmother came over to Penang and he called about five times every single day, asking her to come back. =) I wonder if my grandmother misses those phone calls now.

He taught me how to play cards. Yeah, he was good at that. Before he fell sick, he used to finish up the crossword puzzle everyday.

Every single day he used to ask for the date. He was always waiting for the 21st of every month, as that's the day that his pension money was banked in. Then when the day comes, the first thing he'll ask is for my grandma to buy a pack of cigarettes. =/ Haha it was funny though, how he'd wait for that day eagerly.

This year my parents decided to visit the place he grew up in. No one knows a thing of his past; all we know is that he studied in MCKK (Malay College Kuala Kangsar) and took his bachelors at Otago University, New Zealand. He's from Rembau; his dad was a headmaster (I think). All that's left of his family now are his three sisters; his brothers have all passed away. And they're all buried at the same graveyard too.

Another thing about my grandfather; he always asks "How are you?" even when he's sick. As though other people's well being mattered more than him being sick. I am glad I got the chance to take care of him when he was in the hospital. I was complacent with him passing; it wasn't unexpected and I think all of us can say that we did our part in making it easier for him. It's not like we weren't sad, don't get me wrong. It's just that we didn't have any regrets with him.

That's how he usually looks like, with a stony face. Haha. This picture was taken in 2006. The guy wearing white, my cousin Danial, he's the closest cucu(grandchild) to him. Used to take him to the mosque for Friday prayers without fail. People remember him for it. Needless to say, my grandfather's passing hits him hard.

That's his expression whenever he hears a joke (sometimes he gets amused even with the lamest ones). It's rare, and adorable. =)

Suffice to say, it's strange not having him around for Raya. We used to make him do silly poses during Raya, and we'd try our best to make him smile for the camera.

One thing good that came out of his passing was that it brought everyone closer together. The six older cousins you see in the first picture are close like no one's business now; we stay over at our grandma's house every weekend. And my mom sees her sisters and brother all the time.

Strange, I had to mark my last Raya before going to Canada (InsyaAllah) without my grandfather around. But it was a good one. But that's for another time.

Sedekah Al-Fatihah kepada Tok Di; Allahyarham Abdul Rahim bin Abdul Jalal. Semoga rohnya dicucuri rahmat Allah.

The family misses your presence every single day.