What We Must

in 2007 somewhere in between petaling street and kl sentral something in me moved and it has not stopped growing since, like branches and branches up my throat and out of my mouth, into the world, like a tree. it was raining and we were all singing, clapping each other on the back, asking fellow countrymen what their nafkah were, re-assessing deeply as we walked past the red trucks and blaring sirens about what it meant to each of us to be malaysian and to be human. on the one hand it felt like we were all part of something big, doing something great that morning — and on the other hand it felt like the biggest street party i had ever been to. certainly, the threat against safety was very much present as well then, and this year we all know that the fear has become so much more palpable. but we don’t make progress unless we take risks. in many countries, big and powerful institutions take big and powerful risks because they care about their people, but in this country it is often us, the small and the humble, who create the things that mean the most.

to anyone who’s still undecided and thinking hard about whether or not to go– sometimes it’s not about the politics, the country, justice, society, or even about electoral reform. those things may be what a lot of people are marching for, but if you are not convinced by the arguments so far, that does not have to be what you walk for. you can walk, simply, for yourself and what is yours.

it is instinctive and straightforward to feel like we have so much more at stake in our lives that we just cannot compromise them for a rally in which we are only one person out of tens and tens of thousands, but truly, we are thinking perhaps too lowly of our selves and our capacity if we believe that to be all we are. a rally of 49,999 people will embrace warmly a 50,000th person as friend and comrade, and also his curious younger brother, and that younger brother’s girlfriend, who brings her mom, who brings her entire saturday morning tai chi group because there is safety in numbers. before you know it, the rally has tripled in size, and everyone knows someone whose perspective will be changed for good because they were there that morning. even the lone wolf who goes by himself inadvertently falls into the understanding of what it truly means to be prepared to die for something he believes in, and that can become such a powerful impetus with the force to drive so much good in this world.

having said that, our call to duty is really a lot smaller than the bloody revolutions endured by our neighbors near and far, our friends, the meek and the brave, children, soldiers and women all throughout the world who literally bleed out for a better life and a better future for those that will come after them. here, we go into hiding and submit to terrorism by the very people and institutions who are supposed to protect us and make us feel safe. and all in the name of protecting a career, a scholarship, a car, a mortgage or an upcoming PhD fellowship– things that we believe make up our identity and are our notions of what gives us security. but simply, no one is after these things to take them away from us. think of ambiga and her teammates, all of whom have been publicly named, and how much of their freedom and safety they are putting on the line to fight for righteousness and the rights of people like you and me. and then here we are, anonymous things, worried about the little money we make and what our boss would think if we were detained for 6 hours in a lockup.

there are many reasons why this rally might not make much of a difference, or many reasons why the ‘battle’ has already been won with or without a rally. but on this morning of the 9th of july we should be asking ourselves what our roles are in circumstances like these, and what we can mobilize within our capacity that will create the most good out of this situation, not just for the country, but also for our friends, our family, for all the people we know who work hard, and of course, for our own integrity.


what it looked like in 2007

on a more personal note, i’m very proud of my family, because they will be walking for family, and their family’s family. i am also proud of all my friends’ parents who reluctantly but bravely allowed and even encouraged their children to walk today. i am currently stuck in a harshly lit 24/7 fast food restaurant in the ribs of changi airport, but in a few hours i will be home. this year i am walking for ambiga and her colleagues, for their bravery, and their relentlessness in the pursuit of justice. if only, if only our country’s leadership were made of courage and integrity such as theirs.

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Lost and Found

i just got home from a nice night out with two former colleagues at everyone’s favourite blog advertising network, and last night i had dinner with kim and gareth where kim cooked up a delicious storm of roast chicken, layered potatoes and meringue cookies. it’s always nice to reconnect with the blogosphere even if in this rather remote and infrequent manner, because i miss so many people in there and it reminds me to be thankful of all the big and small treasures blogging has given me. it has made me many good friends, given me several precious best friends and most definitely thrown in my face many lessons that would have taken me years to learn otherwise. for these things and more, i will always be grateful for being bored one night and starting that little personal space on geocities.com 10 years ago.

so … i’m a year away from graduating and leaving the big apple. three years ago i quite disliked new york city; i found it abrasive and individualistic, and ironically in such a place it was hard to be ‘myself’. but i am beginning to love the city, for its boundless opportunities and its grace in allowing a tired and grey you to be a brightly shining phoenix — constantly in a state of flux, rebirth and renewal of the self — and for these reasons it’s been great to pursue an education there. for better or for worse, that part of me that searches for a chemical reaction on first contact has disappeared. i’m in the younger stages of realizing that the “i just know” sentiment doesn’t apply to everything, including cities, and that one has to be open to the element of surprise and yet know that the reason you love that city is because some things in it don’t change, and will remain a comfort to your changing, growing self. like how the entrances to central park are always just there even though i can never remember which streets they are on. or how the layout of manhattan is pretty straightforward, but once you get deep downtown, even a good sense of direction isn’t going to be of much help in finding one’s way (if one is searching for something in particular).

i think i mentioned somewhere in some recent post that i’ve lost a lot lately. like with most kinds of loss, i’ve been trying hard to repress a lot of the memories, and with time i begin to succeed until someday i realize that it’s been a full ten hours since i last thought about my loss. and then a full twelve hours. then a full waking day. and at some point, you look upon some thing and a distant memory flutters in a cobwebbed corner of your mind. i was looking at some pictures the other day and a whole host of these distant memories fluttered like an army of sparrows. ah, perhaps i should stop taking pictures of things i am bound to lose :) but what kind of life would that be.

and so, for my own archiving, here are some fragments of things i once cherished:

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Free and Fair

if you haven’t yet registered to vote in the Malaysian elections, you can do so today, Sunday June 12, at Sunway Giza, on the Ground Floor next to the Mr. Tom Yam restaurant or Baskin Robbins. the registration booth will be open from 12pm to 9pm, and all you will need is your IC. this is probably your last chance to register before the upcoming 13th General Election, so do go…!

and a very big thank you to everyone who’s been responding to my question on racism vs lack of public safety in the below post. i’m reading your responses with much interest. keep them coming…!

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A Question For All

which is the bigger and more serious problem in malaysia – racism or the lack of public safety? and why?

addendum: it seems that most of the responses are towards the lack of public safety. but what about institutionalized racism? do you guys think that might be causing further economic inequality, which leads to a whole host of issues, of which the lack of public safety is one? or are they not related, and public safety is still the larger problem? or are they related, but public safety remains still the larger problem?

31 Comments

Untitled

aiya i really didn’t want to be emo today, y’know, but the sensations are just here and i haven’t been able to shake them off. no matter what i do, i feel preoccupied – like i want to do something about what i’m feeling but i have absolutely nothing that is useful. no hands, no mind, no willpower, and all i can feel is this really dull pain. yes i’m aware i’m sounding like an angsty teenager, talking about ‘pain’ and all, but there’s really no other word for it. it’s like the underside of my skin has receptors, and they’re all in mutiny, standing up straight and boiling over so that i will wake up and do something. it feels like a textbook panic attack, in which i was once told that for several, very acute seconds you feel like dying.

i haven’t felt like i could write coherently and truthfully on this blog for a long time, and for just as long i haven’t felt like i could talk to the people closest to me about the things i truly think about and feel. i think all the trust debacles over the past few years have cumulatively been more than i could handle, and now there’s something within me that’s dysfunctional and broken as a result. sometimes i meet people who fix those issues and heal me just by sitting close to me, and saying some small inconsequential things, but these people are few and far in between and they often don’t know the effect they have on me. maybe if they did they wouldn’t be so cruel (to me), or they wouldn’t leave (me).

sadly i have come to think of myself as this person with life support, that i’m connected by some invisible tether to a space outside of me in which nothing but pure truth exists. it’s a small space, but it’s there, just for me and the person to whom i tell everything unadulterated and unabashed. i don’t know why it has to be a person but nothing else seems to compare. writing on paper, talking to god, talking to myself — none of these things work, because i need some kind of heat, a blink, a murmur that tells me there is a living, breathing being who could be doing other things with his or her time, is listening to me right now, and caring. caring: such a big and powerful force for this little world that we inhabit. it warms me and makes me want to create and expel honesty, pouring it all into that space of pure truth, so i can see it all and admire how simple and beautiful things can be when i remove myself from the muddle. but there are times when this security dissipates, and everything ceases to make sense to me. i can’t think. i can’t breathe. and then i feel like i feel tonight, full of hopelessness and very frightened.

how silly… understanding one’s existence only through something outside of oneself. but that’s just how i was built, incredibly weak like that.

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