Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: Year-ender

Its the time to write another year-ender, however,  this year I’m devoid of any interesting thing to write. 2009 just  pales in comparison to the thrill of last year. If last year was a da Vinci, then this year is a black and white abstract. 

The highlight of 2009 is work, work and more work. Not that I find work tedious - conversely, I found it fun – but nonetheless there’s this monotony to it. 2/3 of this year was spent working and hopefully it is not be like this the rest of my life.

So its nearly a year since I came back form Melbourne. Overseas education – what does it translate? Are we better off compared to the locals? Well not really. But perhaps we do have a different attitude when it comes to asking questions, following orders and ways looking at things. Knowledge wise, we are more or less the same.

The beginning of the year – what distant memories it is now, was filled with the joy of doing nothing. It was a blissful period of indulging in my favourite pastime of reading and writing, knowing full well that it was likely to be the last of long holidays in my younger years.  It was punctured by a short and sweet trip to Singapore – the only time I flew this year.

Then in mid-April work began and never stops. Throughout the year I had been to many places in the pharmacy department of SGH and meet all sorts of characters. It augurs well that I had the foresight to reread Dale Carnegie the week before work starts – the peculiarity and complexity of human behaviour proves to be the main trappings at work.

My main obsession this year was to deliver the perfect presentation. It had something to do with my perfectionist streak I fear, as well as a penchant for show-boating. Public speaking serves as a good output for both. I had also joined Toastmasters for good measure, hopefully to hasten my ambition in reaching the proverbial holy grail, whatever that might be. Still got a long way to go this one..

When it comes to girls… I still wonder what I look for in the perfect one. Choosy sounds a bit harsh but well, it may be spot on.

Hopes and resolutions for the new year? Am still figuring it out when I had the time. Time is a premium currently, and it had been a tight balance between work and play. But of course there was still time for a good book… and in case you are wondering why my English sounds so English, it probably rubbed off Jeffery Archer’s latest paperback. I had spent the last three days sinfully polishing off the 500+ odd pages…

Anyway, hope you all had a swell 2009 and may 2010 prove to be a better year. 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mirage – Part 2


“Wouldn’t a trip here give them inspiration to work hard and earn enough spending money in the future? It can provide motivation to make their dreams come true,” I try to counter his words.

“Dreams? Bah! Dreams seldom come true. See that couple there?” He points to a couple whose backs are facing us. The woman had tilted her head to rest on the shoulder of her husband, while the guy had his hand encircling the waist of his wife. They are strolling towards the escalator that will bring them up to the first floor.

“They are probably here to live their dream. This is their dreamland. They are here dreaming about all the things they can’t have and the life that they can’t afford. He will go to the computer shop upstairs, caressing the sleek edges of the MacBook Air notebook he knows he can’t have. He will type a few sentences on the keyboard and wish he can do it forever. His wife will probably go to VINCCI, trying on a pair of Manolo high heels she saw on Sex and the City. She will feel that she is on the catwalk, sashaying about like a model. Then they will stand in front of a 42 inch plasma TV, marveling at the high definition images, trying to transpose it into their living room. Then the spell will be broken.”

His face is a little red now, as if all the blood had left his body to congregate there. I could detect wheezing undertones beneath his labored breathing. Probably early stage of emphysema due to chronic smoking, I diagnose. Pink puffers, they are called. He pauses momentarily to catch his breath.

“They will realise their living room is too small, and their car is also too small to put the TV into. Then they will be reminded that they haven’t finished paying their home as well as car loans. The ticket to realising their dreams rests solely on the shoulders of their son. They are now investing their money on him, sending him to tuitions, with the hope that he will find a good job and command a high salaried job one day. He is probably in one now. To kill time while waiting to pick him up, they are here to escape the harsh reality of their life. But looking at those things they can’t have…” he shakes his head sadly.

“Can’t even guarantee the son will give them the money.” he mutters.

The couple has disappeared from view. The old man’s words bring images of hamsters I used to have, running hard in the round exercise wheel but ended up getting nowhere, into my thoughts. A wave of pity washes through me. How long will they stay trapped in the rat race? But at least they have each other. That will alleviate the pain.

I follow his eyes which have wandered back to the four teenagers, who are ambling out from the ESPRIT store. They are walking towards the direction of the food court. It may be a fraction of my imagination, but they are more subdued compared to the time before they ventured in. The gaiety has been diluted from their face. Maybe, like the old man had said, they suddenly realise that they don’t belong.

“Poor kids, this venture into a rich men’s mansion will scar them for live. When they reach the food bazaar, they will be pawing into the deep reaches of their pockets, hoping to discover another crumpled ringgit inside to add to those few blue notes in their hands. They will travel from stall to stall, looking for food they can afford. Probably ended up sharing a plate of Nasi Lemak bought with a price where they can get two plates each at the village warung.”

The old man’s eyes dart around the mall again, like the searchlight from a light house, searching for a new target to harp on. Like a bald-head eagle finding his prey, he swoops down lithely on a young couple emerging from a corner of the mall. They are probably only around seventeen. They look sweet together, holding hands and sharing a single scoop ice-cream.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A throw of dice?


The two groups of children are roughly the same age: cute, big eyed, cherubic cheeks with just a hint of baby fat. Just like an unfinished masterpiece. They exude a sense of purity, of vulnerability that will melt the heart of whoever set sight on them.

Yet they couldn’t be more different.

For those on the left were an award-winning choir members flown in from KL; those on the right, children suffering from cancer.

Those on the left were resplendent in their Santa hats and smart red-and-black vests; standing upright rendering Christmas cheers in heavenly voices.  Those on the right were dressed in shapeless green smocks, their head shiny domes, listening passively.

Those on the left are here to give, those on the right, receive.


What makes them different? What makes them the anointed one to give; and conversely, one to receive, when in theory all children were born equal?

Surely not more than a throw of dice. Fate dealt a hand, and one find him/herself on one side, the other find him/herself on the other side of the divide.

And just by that, the rest of their lives are different.

Life is unfair. But surely, mentally and spiritually, both sides gained something from this visit, because even me as a bystander, learnt something new. 

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Update by short sentences

Seems an eternity since I last updated my blog.

Been busy doing this and that. Caught up in things.

A little bit burnt out. Going here and there.

This weekend been nice. Been sleeping a lot. Readying myself for on-call next week.

Best feeling is when curled up in bed reading a novel. Peeking into the magical lives of others.

Clinical pharmacy is okay. But is every single life worth saving?

In the meantime, going to post up a short story to fill the impending void.

Mirage it was called. Wrote this in March 2009. Since then have ideas on how to improve it but lazy to do it. Oh well, just enjoy the original version.

Going to try making apple crumble cheesecake later. Anyone interested?

Mirage – Part 1


“Good weather today, isn’t it?”

It seems funny that the man should comment about the weather, as both of us are located deep in the labyrinth of the colossal shopping complex, where rain or shine, the temperature is kept at a cool 18 degrees, and the lights bathing the place are from artificial sources. But he looks friendly enough, offering a smile which exposes two missing front teeth, a feature that stands out amidst the surrounding salt and pepper stubble on his face.

“Yes it is,” I reply, out of respect for his seniority.

“Interesting place here huh? Never thought I will see a shopping complex this big in my life,” he continues.

I nod mechanically, not really interested to be mired in a conversation with this wizened old man. His sallow face is lined by wrinkles and he stands with a stoop. His fingernails are yellow and dirty, probably due to years of smoking. The outline of a pack of cigarette is jutting out of the front pocket of his blue T-shirt.

“My son said this shopping complex is smaller than those in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. But what do I know? I never took a plane before in my whole life. For me, this is big enough. Maybe too big for this place…”

What do you know, old man, I want to smirk with disdain. You are like a frog living in a well. How can the country progress if all people think like you? But I keep quiet.

Just then, a group of four dark-skinned teenagers walk by, their loud chatter diverts our attention to them. Two gangly guys; one in a chequered shirt faded with too many washings and jeans torn at the knees, the other in a bright yellow T-shirt and gray slacks, which I suspect used to be white. Two skinny girls; one in short sleeved V-neck tee and shorts above the knees, the other in a flowery baju kurung. They are chatting in a language that sounds familiar yet foreign, a hodge-podge of Malay mixed with some other dialects. Bahasa Sarawak, I suddenly realise.

Oblivious to the newly wiped floor, they trudge across, leaving numerous grayish imprints of their sandals on the otherwise spotless marble slabs. The old man shakes his head disapprovingly.

“These kampong kids are probably wearing the best T-shirt and trousers in their limited collection. The lipsticks on the girls’ lips are probably their mum’s, stealthily removed from scant make-up boxes and applied, then stealthily put back. The boys talk loudly and walk with a swagger to hide their insecurities. They need to be macho, even though deep down they are afraid of this foreign place. This is probably their first trip here, via the old steel mass called a bus.” The old man’s voice is suddenly animated.

My eyes linger on them. They are standing in front of the ESPRIT store, their mouths agape upon seeing the huge poster of a European female model on the display window. The spacious brightly lit store beckons, yet they seem afraid to go in. Perhaps they are overawed by the futuristic space-age façade of the store, so accustomed they are to the congested, packed-to-the-brim kedai runcit in their kampong. Tentatively, one of the boys steps across the line into the store, and like goslings following their mum, the rest join him.

“Their eyes will widen, big as saucers when they see the price tag of the clothes. Probably a piece cost as much as their parents’ monthly combined salary. The shop girls will watch them like hawks, afraid that their dirty hands will smudge those expensive wears. If they are intelligent, they will see their own reflection off the mirrors or these marble floors and get out of there quick. It is not their place to be here.”

The venom in his voice surprises me. He seems such a genial man, a dotting grandfather.