Saturday, May 31, 2008

Running dry

I looked to my left, a young lady in the car was nodding her head slightly, swinging her body left and right, and tapping her fingers on the wheel in rhythm. Vibrant youth. While she thought she's in the middle of a concert, the driver to my right thought he's right in the middle of Sahara Desert, using his finger to work up his nose diligently (better not look at him directly, I could catch the view from the corner of my eye). From my rear-view mirror, I could see the driver behind me trying futilely to cover his hanphone, pressed against his ear, with his palm; while resting his arm against the side panel, and moving his lips with the tiniest of movement.

Traffic jam – moments in time where hundreds of people with different feeling waiting for one common objective – MOVE!

Any buzz while sitting in the middle of the helpless immobilisation? Hmm … couldn’t feel anything.

Stepped into the workplace. Same people, same desk arrangement, same routine, same customers, same suppliers, same ... I took another look around the office. Was there anything interesting that I miss, that was sticking right in front of my nose day in and day out, and yet I didn't notice.

Hmm … nothing caught my eyes.

Munching my lunch, the train of my thought was still trying to get off the station. Trying to pick up something from all the noises of people eating, talking, and laughing around me. Lunch time – moments in time when we use our mouths for two functions, out of many, at the same time.

Lunch? Food? Surrounding? Functions of mouth? Hmm … nothing enough to start the engine.

Passed by a petrol station on the way home. Inflation came to my mind. Thought of maybe getting a bike for transport stopped by too. I could save petrol cost and exercise at the same time. 40s is probably the critical age to start looking after my body. Mid-life crisis is approaching, whatever "crisis" means. But if I could live through 100, or 120, my midlife would be 50 or 60. That would mean I’m still a youth! I could put off the health issue for another 10 years! But how do I live beyond 100??

Inflation, midlife, long life, crisis, … still nothing to cause big enough a ripple in my mind.

Once I reached home, first thing to do was to check what the kids were doing. Sat in front of the TV with them for a while before shower and dinner. After dinner, my times belongs to my kids. After squeaking all day with barely any application of inspirational oiling, the clockwork in my brain could stop for a while. Tutoring the kids on their homework, playing computer games, brushing up, reading to them, until after they went to sleep, the clockwork started again, after much huff and puff. 11 pm. Yawn … still no juice flowing from the creative pool in my brain.

Barely 3 months into my “blogging career”, already I’m facing blogger’s block. And I have yet to reach the stage and credentials where I could blog and boast about "making money with your blog"!

Hmm … what to write, what to post, was there anything interesting that I missed today, what to put in the blog, what to … zz ... zzz ... zzzzz …

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rainbow Slide, 2


She opens her eyes …

In front of her, stands a cliff, rising 2 storeys high into the sky. The wall of the cliff is draped by greeneries and dotted by colorful flowers. In the middle of the vivid-colored wall, a waterfall flows down into a lake. Apart from the cliff, the lake is contained within a meadow of green grasses, on which she is standing, soft as clouds. The meadow, in turn, is guarded by a forest of trees, donned with leaves dancing in the wind.

The lake is crystal clear. From where she stands, by the edge of the lake, she can see the bottom of the lake. The clear view is blurred only by glitters on the rippling surface. She feels a connection. It’s an apt reflection on the state of her heart and mind - flickering joy dancing on the surface of calm and peacefulness.

The lake looks blue, but not as blue as the sky above, decorated by a soft-glowing golden sun, and a few white cotton-fluffy clouds, drifting lazily across it. She sees the wavy image of this on the surface of the lake, along with her gaping face in disbelief.

Rising from the middle of the lake are seven bends of vivid colors – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – arching towards the sky, and curving back to the ground towards somewhere behind the cliff – to her amazement, she’s at the end of a rainbow!

But what transcends her amazement into disbelief, are the children, of around her age, she sees sliding down the rainbow!

It looks all too familiar: she remembers her favourite painting she drawn during one of her art classes.

Amid the sound of water splashing, children laughing, and leaves rustling, a voice rings out behind her, breaking her thought, “Strawberry.“

She turns around, and is greeted by the big watery eyes of a little girl, short hair, dressed in an orange dress. “Huh?” she replies, puzzled.

“You like strawberry, right?” the other girls asks.

“Yes, my favourite fruit, “ she answers. “But how do you know?”

“I can smell it. You give out fragrance of your favourite food,“ sniffing her nose.

She takes a deep breath, “Hmm … Orange?” she asks, tentatively.

The other girl smiles and nods in delight.

Only then does she notice that she is wearing her favourite scarlet dress.

“Where am I?” she asks …

>> to be continued >

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rainbow Slide, 1


Her eyes closed, she can smell the freshness of the air, much like the cool air of early mornings. She takes a deep breath. Lingering within the freshness, is a pleasant, sweet fragrance, fruity like, which she can’t make out. She feels soothing, as though basking in the warm winter sunshine, or the cool summer breeze. Her dress is fluttering gently in the middle of the wind.

She opens her eyes …

>> to continue ... >

Friday, May 23, 2008

I'm neither Red nor Blue

After 120+ minutes of football, 2 goals, 1 red card, 19 pairs of tired legs (1 pair left early), and 2 pairs of not-so-tired legs leave their position on the field. It now comes to the penalty shoot-out, a battle of will and composure, plus a contest to catch the wink from Lady Luck. Rain is pouring onto the pitch, the crowd and the players.

Coin tossed, and MU will be the first to shoot. Petr Cech stands on the goal line. Carlos Tevez steps up, cool as cucumber. Score. 1-0 to MU.

Van der Sar’s turn to guard the goal. He stretches out his arms. Seemingly a smaller figure than the towering Petr Cech. Hmm … seems like Chelsea has an advantage.

As Michael Ballack walks up to the box, German’s efficiency and dependable quality comes to mind. And he does not disappoint. All square at 1-1.

Michael Carrick is next. The first Englishman to step up. Tevez did not put a dent into the reputation of Argentine’s skillfulness; neither did Ballack bring shame to German’s reputation of robustness. Now what reputation can an Englishman fall back on. Hmm … nothing comes to mind. He runs, lifts his leg, kicks the ball, the balls flies from the spot … straight into the goal. Well done. Advantage MU, 2-1.

Juliano Belletti’s next. Juliano who? How millions did he cost? Anyway, he scores. 2-2.

After four shootouts, it does seem that Van der Sar’s a bit more vulnerable than Petr Cech, letting in goal with much more ease.

Now, Ronaldo walks towards the box. Player of the year, 40+ goals during this season, steps over, etc, etc all do not come to mind, except his penalty miss against Barcelona.

“Score the goal. Score the goal. Score the goal … go, go, go, should I go, or should I stay? Go or stay? Go or stay?”, probably something going through his mind as he walks towards the spot.

One step, two step, halt. Smell the rose a bit. One, two, three, and the ball flies. Roar, from the fans of Blues. Penalty saved.

Head down, hands on hips, “Damn! I’ll probably stay on to redeem myself.” If that’s the reflection, probably it’s a half-full glass.

Ronaldo walks back to the circle. Score remains at 2-2, with Chelsea given a chance to take the lead.

“For you, Mom, “ a probable Frank Lampard’s thought as his turn comes up. He scores. Van der Sar never seem likely to produce a save. Looking at the sky, he reaches out his hand towards it, along with a silent prayer. Advantage Chelsea, 3-2.

Owen Hargreaves equaliser follows. Only for Ashley Cole to take back the advantage. Score: 4-3.

Everybody is holding his breath as Nani steps up. Moment of truth. You can almost hear a pin drops, almost. Score, the game goes on. Save, the game ends. He scores. 4-4.

John Terry steps up to an opposite scenario. Score, the game ends. Save, the game goes on. One step forwards, two steps, three steps, slip … the ball hits the post. Probably by the similar divine intervention to Lampard’s goal, Terry’s did not get a favourable response. This time the divine one’s wearing red. The slip bears similarity to the one by another ex-England captain, David Beckham, though now the miss would put the captain arm-band a bit further from his reach.

Heartbreak all round for those wearing blues. Terry cries.

Score remains at 4-4. Back to square one.

The substitutes show their mettle as both Andersen and Kalou scores from the spot. 5-5. It seems the nerve-wrecking exercise’s going to continue for a while.

The man who equaled the appearance record 10 days ago for MU, and scored, is next. Ryan Giggs has now gone one better and break the appearance record. Now can he score, though? Experience counts. He scores for MU to go ahead. 6-5.

Chelsea new boy who joined mid-term, Nicholas Anelka, steps up. Now, is he blue enough to feel the pressure generating from expectation of millions of Chelsea's fans, or is he not blue enough to to carry out his task indifferently, coolly and professionally?

The seemingly easiness with which Van der Sar lets in the goals would suggest another even score.

This is Football, though. Van der Sar saves.

Crowd erupts. Fist punching, head hanging, bodies jumping up and down, bodies slumping to the ground, joy and sorrow all round. The European champion is born in the middle of a Russian downpour. And they are wearing reds.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tears of Joy and Sorrow

Stories from aftermath of Sichuan Earthquake from a local Chinese daily, Nanyang Siang Pau on 17th of May:

After the 43-years-old police officer, Lee, emerged from the rubbles caused by the earthquake, he rushed to his quarters to rescue his colleagues. Suddenly, he remembered his son in the nearby secondary school. He found a bicycle, and cycled as fast as he could towards the school.

As he approached the school, he saw children crying at the school courtyard, a few school buildings had already collapsed. The 5-storeys building where his 15-years-old son was studying was then 3-storeys high – the ground floor and first floor had crumbled.

“Lee Wang Zhi Guo, where are you?” Lee shouted with all his might.

“Baba, I’m here. Help me!” Lee could distinguish his son’s voice amongst hundreds that responded through opening within the rubbles. Tears flowed down his cheek hearing his son’s desperate and helpless voice. But without tools and machineries, they could only use their bare hands to remove rubbles and debris. His son was buried about a meter from the open within the rubbles, immobilized with his left leg trapped.

He knew that with whatever tools available to them, if he started digging towards his son, he could be saved. But there were others who were buried closer to the open space, easier to reach and had greater chance of survival. Lee requested the surviving people to start digging from the outside in. “Disaster dictates our course of action, “ Lee lamented. That was on the 12th.

Until 13th 5 am next morning, his son’s call for help could still be heard. The rescue team of fire brigade and army arrived. His son’s voice grew weaker as noon approached. By then, Lee and others had already succeeded in rescuing 30 or more children.

On the 14th at 3 am, at long last, Lee’s reached his son. He had stopped breathing.

“ … “

When the earthquake happened at around 12 noon, there were about 200 children in the classrooms of the primary school. As the children panicked with fear, the principal of the school rushed into the classroom and carried the children on his lap and on his back to the open ground.

About 10 meters from the school compound, stood the hostel for teachers, within which the wife of the principal, who was also a teacher at the school, was staying. An old neighbour of the principal couple said she could clearly hear the familiar voice of the principal’s wife shouting for help as the building was starting to crumble after the quake. And she’s sure the principal heard it too. However after 3 to 5 minutes, she didn’t notice anybody rushing towards the hostel from the school. The hostel collapsed, the wife gave out a scream for help.

The principal had chosen the lives of the children over his wife of 20 odd years.

After the quake, the principal spent the days helping to settle the children. Nobody saw the man cried. At night, silhouette of his lean body can be seen squatting in front of the rubbles where his wife was buried, smoke rising towards the darkness of the night from his cigarettes, non-stop into sunrise.

“ …”

May 12th, 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the earthquake struck. The secondary students were studying geography in the classroom. Lee Aun Ling was at the fourth floor. Within 20 seconds, the building collapsed.

Within the rubbles, with the scarcely available lighting, Lee saw her classmate, Lee Yuan Foong. Lee recalled, “I held his hand, I called out his name, no response. His hand was still warm then, in a matter of seconds, it grew cold.”

Immobilised, she shouted out her classmates’ names one by one. Three of her best friends lying besides her stayed motionless, dead. Some of the classmates awoke in the darkness. Somebody shouted, “People, we want to get out alive, hold on!”

Lee recalled, “Somebody then started singing. Those who are alive followed. We sang a lot of songs. One of them was Michael Wong's Fairytales. In that song, there’s a verse that goes, ‘blissfulness and happiness will be the endings’.”

Lying on the corridor of a hospital, Lee was waiting for medical treatment. Her left leg was broken, but she showed no sign of pain. The mild-mannered Lee said, “I’m OK. I’m not afraid of pain.”

“ … “

There are probably hundreds or thousands of stories like these emerging from the catastrophe. The selfless sacrifice of one's life, and the lives of loved ones for others; the unbearable sadness from losing the loved ones, and the ensuing loneliness on the road ahead; the solidarity of humanities united in the face of hardship; the teeth-clenching gritty will to live on to fight another day, with battered body and soul emerging from the rubbles; and the helplessness, the fearlessness, the strength and all virtues of humanity that shine through these stories brought uplifting joy and wrenching sorrow to my heart, tears to my eyes.

Most of all, I felt for the loss of innocent lives of the children. I wonder where had they gone to …


Thursday, May 15, 2008

1 x 1,000,000 =/= 1,000,000

I took my little boy to the hospital a few nights ago. He woke up during sleep, groaning with stomach pain and his face reddened with high fever. Without hesitation, my wife and me brought him to the emergency department of the nearest hospital at 3 o’clock in the morning.

While we were there, I overheard a nurse telling the doctor a patient whom he treated moments ago had passed away. While the medical staff showed little emotion, my heart tightened.

As the doctor was attending to my little boy, my thoughts went to the 31,000 in Myanmar and 15,000 in Sichuan, China. If this was how I felt when I heard a stranger within my close proximity had died, I couldn’t bear to imagine the reaction of my heart if I were to stand in these disaster areas, surrounded by bodies. And my admiration went to the doctors, nurses and other rescue team members who had to deal with so many life and death situation, fighting against time, and yet maintaining a much-needed controlled composure.

My train of thoughts was interrupted when the doctor told me it might be viral infection that’s causing my boy’s suffering. I got nervous. A few years ago, I have a friend whose little girl passed away because of viral infection (though it’s common amongst children). So viral infection was automatically linked to something unthinkable in my mind. Frantically concerned, I asked more questions regarding the infection. Sensing my uneasiness, the doctor gave me assurance that things were going to be fine, and at that moment he couldn’t do much except to prescribe medicine to suppress the pain and the fever temporarily.

On the way home, images of children buried under the rubbles in Sichuan flashed across my mind. I felt for the parents, those who found bodies of their children, and those who have yet to see the bodies, dead or alive. While sorrow would swamp parents who knew their children are no longer with them, burning anxiety would overwhelm parents who had yet to know the fate of their children. And frankly, I couldn’t imagine which is worse. Whenever I saw pictures of parents crying uncontrollably over the bodies of their children, but for the tears welling up in my eyes, and the lump forming in my throat, I have no words to describe my feeling. Similarly, seeing pictures of parents embracing their out-of-danger children would stir up the same reaction but with different emotion.

In the morning after, my boy woke up feeling fine and healthy again, although his stomach still felt little nudges intermittently. My mind then turned to those who lost contacts with their loved ones immediately after the disaster struck, and the relief that exorcised their anxiety when they later found out that they are safe. For those less fortunate, I’m sure their mind will be filled with heart-wrenching questions on the cards that fate had dealt them with.

I know, and I hope, I may never know how those victims, survivors, friends, parents, sons and daughters, or families feel. I can multiply how I felt on the day I took my boy to the doctor by a million times, and I’d still hardly feel what their hearts would have trudged through. But my hopes for those who lost their lives to the wrath of Mother Nature, would be that they would spend their coming times in a peaceful world; those who survived the catastrophe, to be given the strength to stand up again, stronger; and for the surviving friends and family of all affected, to be pillars, strong and tall, to support and keep each other from falling down in the wreckage, and walk towards their tomorrows. And more importantly, may they be bestowed with the strength and resources to rebuild their ruined home, once again, on Mother Earth and in their hearts.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Ticket, please

The Syariah High Court had allowed a Muslim convert to renounce Islam and revert to her original faith.

Let’s acknowledge the social significance of the ruling. Within our multi-racial and multi-religious society, the decision would be most welcomed. For now, we are given the assurance by the authority that our freedom of religion, enshrined in our constitution, is given a timely and much needed reinforcement.

However, if I were to look at it from a higher perspective, I would opine that the incident is actually a non-issue.

In my opinion, religion is a way of life, and death (or afterlife). Plunged into the wilderness of life, many of us embrace religion to guide us in living, and in living, dying. By showing us the beacon from our next world – afterlife - religion gives us direction for our path out of the darkness shrouding this life. Having accepted our next destination, we would live according to religious practices to lead us towards it. That would give meaning to our life and our deeds within it. In the strictest sense, our path in this life will end the moment we exhale our last breath. From then on, our soul would take on another journey. The manner in which we will be buried, what prayers will be cited during our burial, which burial ground will our abandoned form be resting would bear no significance (except to those we will be leaving behind) to which road our soul will be taking: substance over form.

I would hardly expect someone who prays to the statues of Kuan Yin, Tua Pek Kong, or Kuan Ti, offers fruits and burns joss-stick on the first and fifteenth of the Chinese calendar month to one’s ancestors and other deities, would be given the eternal reward by Allah. The wordings in one’s Identity Card, or the ruling of the worldly court assert little influence in one’s eligibility. The more one attends Sunday church meeting, repents one’s sins to Jesus and His Father, sings hymns and says prayers praising God, the more credit one would accumulate to check into the mansions in heaven after death. Likewise, the more one prays to, gives thanks to the God of Vishnu, Shiva, Lakshmi, offers a kavadi to the Lord during Thaipusam, the more likely he’ll get his passport into nirvana of Hinduism.

Point to ponder 1: if someone is so lost and so confused in this life, that he goes to church every Sunday to seek solace under the cross, prays to Kuan Yin and Buddha in his house every day for blessing, recite Quran everyday to seek eternal reward, which soul train would he board after death? What kind of ticket is he going to hold?

Point to ponder 2: but then again, perhaps, perhaps all tracks lead to the same station anyway.

Point to ponder 3: what if, what if that station is not terminal, there's another station after that?

Point to ponder 4: I wonder if there is WiFi connection on the train and at the station ...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Waking up

Opening my eyes, my face could feel the welcoming warmth of the early morning sunshine. I turned in my blanket, my hand felt a soft tug from a warm little hand clinging to my arm. I rested my head on the other side, and felt the warm moisture oozing from a little angelic face. My little boy on my left, my little girl on my right, there’s nothing more fulfilling than waking up realising you are exactly where you know your heart desires.

I can still remember a time long ago, when I woke up feeling all excited, knowing that I finally got an entry into a university. That was the first step into a world where I started to live without my parents’ presence within my shouting distance. It’s a world where I did my own laundry, ate my own ‘delicious’ cuisine, washed my own dishes, and left as many piles in my room as I liked. I was going to live on my own.

And not long after that, there was a time when I woke up feeling energized, fists punching and feet kicking, knowing that I would be stepping into my new work place for the first time, and getting a paycheck one month after. Finally, my own financial ship set sail. It’s when I finally had the luxury to decide what I wanted to buy and where I wanted to dine, everything I couldn’t afford during my university life with my lean budget.

And not too long ago, there was a time when I woke up feeling my heart racing, realizing that that day would be the day that I finally got to spend the rest of my life with my girl. I would finally have a life-mate, standing side by side, facing every challenge life would throw at us, and fighting them head-on, with a smile.

And today, just like any day from the past seven or eight years, I woke up next to my children, my heart taking a stroll on the lane of fondness. I smiled, knowing that as much as these little kids expect to see me when they open their eyes, I want to wake up next to them. Unlike other times, instead of the eager impatience to get up and get the day started, I would snuggle in my blanket, eyes opened, greedily immersing myself within the warmth of my two kids. Gazing through the cool air and the window at the blue sky, white clouds and the soft sunshine, listening to the soft echoing rhythmic breathing, I would savour every drop of blissful serenity in the room, quietly hoping this moment will last as long as it could, if not forever. For six or seven years down the road, I will still have my independence from my parents, my financial ability, and my wife standing by my side. But, as the kids grow older and start stepping out into their own world, we know our hands would have to slowly let go, bits by bits, finger by finger, hearts souring with joy.

Until then, submerging myself in the cool morning freshness, I'll continue to wrap myself with the warmth of my children and go back to sleep.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I know Andy Lau

I know Andy Lau. His real name is Lau Fook Wing. He was born on 27th of September 1961 into poverty of rural town Taipo, Hong Kong. He has 4 sisters and 1 brother. His physical data: height – 174cm; weigh – 65kg. He entered into TVB Acting Academy at the age of 18. Worked his way into stardom through acting, singing and producing. One of the TVB famous Five Tigers, and of course, one of the four Heavenly King of Hong Kong music scene …

Okay, okay … all these data was easily gathered from the Internet. BUT, but I can also recognize his hooked nose, his enchanted mouth, his manly eyebrows, his thoughtful eyes, his lined handsome face, etc. I have seen him climb walls, hold a gun (or guns), kick the bad guys’ arses, flirt with beautiful girls etc. I can even recognize his voice. I have heard him sing, talk, cough, give speech, scold, …

Okay, okay … all these can be seen or heard from his movies or songs.

Actually, I know Andy Lau, but I don’t know him personally. BUT, but I know him better than the MP I voted into Parliament.

Most of us would have seen our MP’s picture, and know about their educational, family, and political background. And we’ll get glimpse of their attitudes and mannerism from TV news, or even YouTube. But the limited exposure doesn’t endear them to us like any of those movie stars, or singers do. Before the election, some of my friends were commenting that we only see our politicians in person once every 4 or 5 years before the election, hardly enough to impress a personality into our mind, instead of just a symbol, a name, or a face.

Big Foot, Big Hand, Circus, Kindergarten, Big Monkey, King Kong, Clowns, Lion Tamers, whatever names thrown out from the first Parliament session should not be reasons to cancel the live telecast of Parliament meeting (although, I had not seen the telecast nor any YouTube videos yet). For the sake of a better understanding of the MPs as people by the public, the live telecast should not be cancelled now, it deserves another chance. After all, it’s first day at school, and the children are all excited and jumpy.

The live telecast showing the MPs’ voices, their eloquence or otherwise, their gestures while speaking, arguing, defending, their handling of anger and frustration, their smile, their laughter, their shouting, their reaction to hostile criticism, or praises, etc will help in endearing the MPs to the public as a personality, and thus shorten the distance between the politician and the common people. And of course, should we want to vent our angers and frustration for any wrongdoing, we would also have a clearer image of the person we’re targeting our flying shoes at in our mind.


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