A Reason To Be

sometimes i read these beautiful books, and all i can think about is how much another person i know would love this book so much more than i. often i do the right thing and gift the book to them, and the beautiful book then has a more suitable new home, in which it is cherished in its right place. but what do i do when such a person and i no longer speak? once, i was lucky enough to know and still be in possession of his mailing address, and so i sent the book anyway, without a card. because, ultimately, it’s about the story and the characters in the pages, and not about our awkwardness. but some other times, i am not so lucky and i don’t have an address — like tonight. where in the world are you? are you happy, are you well? did you know that the Borders where we used to read on Sundays no longer exists? if we played that game where we read out our favorite lines in a book, what would happen? and then, there is that thing about addresses, and how no one ever stays in the same place anymore.



it is a truth that the people who have made the biggest impacts on my life don’t know it, and quite often aren’t very close to me at all. such people include – but are by far not limited to – the quietest girl in my seminar, the guy who lived down the hall from me in freshman year who had some really funny posters on his wall, my cousin’s ex girlfriend, the colleague from the next department two floors down whom i don’t even work directly with. the interaction is so limited but when my paths cross with such people whose brilliance and significance are so immediately eminent, i think about them for an incredibly long time and in some very big ways they change the decisions i make and the person that i become. sometimes they are people from the extremely distant past (like the guy i sat next to in kindergarten who had to put up with my endless crooning of Part of Your World) and sometimes they are people i live with (my suitemate).

i remember everyone and all the nuances of how they struck me the first, second, third time we met or spoke. the difficult part about that is that sometimes the most undeserving and wretched people hold my attention for that long. and the best part is that sometimes i fall in love. or rediscover what sheer respect means to me. or find a friend for keeps for life. the former kind of experience is very emotionally draining because i want to be rid of such oppressive presences, but i can’t help myself from ruminating about exactly why is it they are so undeserving and so wretched. and in a very sick way because i think about their undeservedness and wretchedness so much, it alters my form and the rest of my future as i previously knew it. i become different and it’s not even for someone that falls in the ‘best part’ category.

but that ‘best part’ category truly is the best part. it is finding small slices of humanity here and there. it is being pleasantly surprised. it is being inspired and changed by someone’s humility, intelligence, willpower or kookiness. as a result of lingering upon their impact, my form changes too — but in a strange and physical way, i feel my self morphing back into a state that feels natural and welcome. it’s new, but it’s old, and it’s natural. it’s a propelling force.

and yet the point is that these people so rarely know how seismic their acquaintance has been unto me. wistful as it is, i will probably never tell them. but then they disappear from this earth, and of course i regret not telling them — but what is most regrettable is the fact that they are forever gone, and can no longer move others the way they moved me.



a small window on the lower right of the screen gives me the treasured opportunity to peer into his world, to see strange cushions of hot vapour billowing out into the snowy air, as he bangs and clangs around the kitchen, always narrowly missing the coffee pot. from so far away, it is magical to behold that vapour — it looks like smoke from a chimney, sauntering upwards into the morning air pompously, and almost seems to me to puff forth from the pages of a fairytale script. but more magical than anything is the truth that if i speak, he can hear me. sometimes that is all i need. somewhere i have read, and in life have been shown firsthand, that this sort of thing can be dangerous. it is so dangerous that i don’t even want to define it, lest i realize it is exactly what my affliction is. but then there is trust. and nothing makes sense henceforth.

some pictures from a jaunt into williamsburg, brooklyn earlier yesterday:


The Big Easy

hello hellooo, this is kafka. quaintly is away saving the world so i get to sit in this chair and tell my stories :) i spent last christmas break exactly the way i wanted – lounging in the pleasantly warm winter of my surrogate hood in the upper west side with her. we went to the movies, shopped for presents and caught up with old friends. we even got a small, spriggy christmas tree, a charlie brown kind which i dubbed ‘the little tree that could’. o tannenbaum, did we put the nicest ornaments on you: toy soldiers, shining star and all! but the cold did get to us eventually and so a few weeks ago, we decided to exchange a temperamental heater for a short trip down south to sunny New Orleans. quaintly likes to call it N’awlins, twanging the Cajun accent considerably better than i can whenever we talk to the locals. and they were some of the nicest, friendliest people we’ve met, serving us sweet moonshine whiskey and sharing their favourite food haunts so generously. which is how we found ourselves ooh-ing and aah-ing to the best soul-soothing gumbo, shrimp and grits, and batter fried alligator the city had to offer. quaintly will probably beat me with a stick for doing so little justice to the gorgeous food we had, so i’ll leave it to her to say more next time (plus, she has all our pictures!). but in between shopping for antiques and stumbling into labyrinthine cemeteries, it was a much deserved holiday with my number one travel person.

like almost everyone, i like to travel. i know it’s probably an accessible truism in this modern age of budget airlines and online travel forums, but it’s always a pleasure to chuck my stuff into a bag and just pour out into the world. some of my fonder memories have been in places like the sleepy seaside town of Montauk and the mountaintop Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. i have a soft spot for sunrises (as i do for lazy picnics and urban parks), and watching the sun rise over the great Atlantic or the lost city of the Incas, i’m reminded of what i cherish most about my travels: having the luxury of time to muse. there’s just something about being transplanted to a new place amongst new people. without much coaxing, my mind turns to conjuring up all manner of speculations from the banal to the fantastic. why does a city allow garbage to pile up in the piazzas? why does fish cost so much when we’re surrounded by the Mediterranean? and mainly for quaintly’s benefit, i sometimes frame my musings in catchy jingle and rhyme. while she never fails to give me her sweetest layan face, her probing questions such as the one on the existential lament of my turnip song tell me that she secretly enjoys it. and i secretly quite enjoy her ripostes to my endless hypotheticals too. ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we do or where we go; boarding a plane with quaintly is a special kind of adventure that i hold close to my heart for the discoveries, inane jokes and moments that sneak up from behind me and change my life. when she gets back from saving the world, i’ll have to remember to tell her how easy she’s made all this for me. and then maybe we’ll go looking for more gumbo.


Pemohonan yang Sedang Diproses

there are big portions of my life in which i forget that i am no longer 18. in these days, weeks, and sometimes months, i believe it is okay for me to fall unconditionally into deep thought and nostalgia, oblivious to the world and completely in harmony with my hopes, goals and state of being. but the world contains these built-in mechanisms to remove us occasionally from such states, and delivers into our unwitting hands some kind of shock that jolts us out of the complacence and contentment. when that happens to me a small kernel of panic usually unfurls, and i look around thinking, oh shit, where the fuck am i in life? a mad scramble, and then i am back at unhappy square one, realizing that a year has passed and i have been with each day increasingly dissatisfied with the fact that i have remained true to myself. isn’t it bizarre? i wish sometimes with all my might that i could enjoy more this process of doing and undoing, but i can’t stop myself from being over-analytical about the entire process. am i doing it right? is there something i should be avoiding? what can i learn from my mistakes? at the end of it all i find myself breathless, tired and incredibly pessimistic.

i have been saying for some time now that there are many days when i don’t recognize myself. which might seem at odds with my earlier assertion that i have quite stubbornly and accidentally remained true to myself. but both statements are true, in an odd binary on/off switch. sometimes, there is the reprieve of a grey area, but these are hard to come by in the wretched economy of my nature. so often i want to surge forward and adapt to the curveballs that the environment throws at me, and i want to be the best at that — but i also want to be the old, indulgent, happy me. if there is anything that the last several years have taught me, it is that the competitive road is a long and twisted one, littered often not with friends but people who think smart, work smart and eliminate smart. certainly there is very little place for indulgence in too many things, and happiness is something that is clawed towards in victory. that — or remain simple, oblivious and honest. and i think that is what i’ve been coming to terms with for so long: how to be happy despite the stark and steep loss of innocence that is all part of the puzzle of growing up.

a big welcome home to myself, on this blog that i have abandoned for some months now! i was surprised to find that my last entry was all the way in september — a bittersweet scribbling about my grandmother, who is back home in malaysia, steadfastly unspeaking but still so very adorable to me. a lot has changed since then, and the world still seems to be spinning at a ridiculous pace. there have, however, been two overarching themes: What am I Going to Do with My Life now that graduation is looming (oh, my) and what i have no other words for but a Purifying Overhaul of how i’m choosing to live. i can’t say i’m doing very well at either, as i still don’t quite know what i am going to do with my life nor am i living a purely overhauled way of life… but it has been such a revolutionary time. that is the best kind! it is an amazing feeling to discover that after much toil and trouble, what you want at the end is what you wanted at the beginning.

that’s me just before the new year’s, in a lamp shop in the french quarter of new orleans. lamp shops occupy a very special place in my heart, and stepping into one is often like a homecoming, a nostos to some kind of truth.

happy new year, everyone! may your 2012 be filled with all the very best things a year can bring.


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