Thursday, May 31, 2007

In Toga Candida

"I learned one valuable lesson that day, which is that if you seek popularity, there is no surer way of achieving it than raiding a syndicate of tax collectors."

Tiro, secretary of Marcus Tullius Cicero
and narrator of Robert Harris' Imperium (2006)

I LOL'ed at this.

Politics is boring - and the entirety of my understanding and knowledge on the subject can be summarised in two simple lines;
  • 'Poly' means 'many'.
  • 'Ticks' means 'parasitic, blood-sucking arthropods'.
Malaysian politics means slightly more to me than that. Only slightly.

If I have to comment on it from a dispassionate foreigner's point of view, I would call it a regular source of entertainment - a case in point being the hilarious MP (whose name I don't know and don't care) who opined that bloggers should be registered. For a short stint, I noticed that many bloggers ranted and raged from their own personal soapboxes, putting down that said MP and calling him lots of (funny) ugly names. I simply couldn't decide which was more absurd; the MP or the bloggers for being outraged at him. The idea was clearly neither feasible nor enforceable. I suspect that many of the protesters have an over-glorified and hyper-romantic image of bloggers as "guardians of free speech" - or some shit like that.

But even if I am to comment on it from the point of view of a Malaysian citizen (of which I am guilty of, unfortunately), I cannot truthfully say I felt angry at all about that MP's idea. No, the emotion most native to me when it comes to our politicians' many antics is embarrassment. Every time I hear a politician say something incredibly stupid (like the citation of playing gasing and making teh tarik in space as 'scientific experiments which will produce important data for our country's research efforts' by that other MP whose name I-don't-know-and-don't-care as well), I could feel my blood receding from my face in absolute horror. C'mon, what would hawt Ukrainian babes foreigners think of us? I mean, if our leaders, the ones we chose to represent us, are that dumb...

In short, some of our politicians make me feel like I'm a father of a whole troop of fat, spoilt, mustached kids that runs around the shopping mall screaming like retards and pinching women's buttocks.

Everyone who knows me would know that I'll be migrating to New Zealand as soon as I'm able - so I can sit and laugh at our MP's with the rest of the world instead of feeling ashamed on their behalf.

But my greatest motivation to get out is because I'll never be truly Malaysian. Don't get me wrong - I like the country just fine (spiffing eats, huzzah!). It's just that, well - to put it as bluntly as I can - I don't want to be explaining to my kid next time why Mohd. Entah bin Siapa from their class manages to get a medical scholarship to UK even though he has only half the amount of 1A's my kid scored in the SPM. And do note that I'm bashing no one's race or god here; it's just that Malaysia isn't some place that respects my ancestry and choice of faith as much as it respects certain others.

That's why politics in Malaysia does not interest me - I'm jumping ship eventually anyway. I just can't be bothered to wait for the country to grow up.

Fictional politics on the other hand...

by Robert Harris

The embossed cover of my copy of Imperium.

First off, here's the blurb on the back cover;

Ancient Rome - 'a city of glory built on a river of filth' - teems with ambitious and ruthless men. None is more brilliant than Marcus Cicero. A rising lawyer, backed by a shrewd wife, he decides to gamble everything on one of the most dramatic courtroom battles of all time. Win it, and he could win control of Rome itself. Lose it, and he is finished forever

This is semi-fictional biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero, a famed Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist and philosopher, who was widely considered as one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists - written from the point of view of his secretary/scribe/slave, Tiro1.

Simply put, this is a story of how an 'outsider2' of the senate, though not being even wealthy enough initially to qualify for a seat, managed to technically "talk his way" to becoming the most powerful man in ancient Rome. If you like stories of smaller, weaker men outwitting richer, and more powerful folks - if you enjoy tales of smart protagonists thinking their way out of impossibly difficult situations - Imperium is definitely the book for you.

In reference to this blog post's title; In Toga Candida - the Latin phrase can be literally translated as "In White Gown" which is the proper garb for a senatorial candidate. In fact, the English word 'candidate' was derived from this practice. When historians refers to In Toga Candida, they are talking about one of the most famous speeches in history, delivered by Cicero (in real life) in the senate, indirectly winning him the Consulship of Rome. Are you getting what I'm saying? Cicero became Rome's head honcho by giving a speech!

We, on the other hand, consider ourselves lucky if our MP's don't say something that make us Malaysians sound like a bunch of backwater island yahoos.

In Imperium, you'll be given a glimpse of the circumstances, intrigue, and plotting that made the In Toga Candida speech so powerful. Aren't you the least bit curious of what he said?

Anyway, in further support of this excellent work of literature, I must tell you that I am someone who habitually avoids reading any novel based on a true story (I gave up on John Grisham's The Innocent Man at page 26) - but I made an exception in this case. In fact, I liked Imperium so much that I finished all 500 pages of it in two days.

And if any of you have read Robert Harris' earlier novel, Pompeii, and liked it - you should check Imperium out because it's a heck lot better written than that. Also, to fans of ancient Roman culture and governmental structure; YOU WANT THIS BOOK (you just didn't know it yet... but you do now!)

P.S. I know most of my readers don't read - and those that do, don't read stuff like this. But I'm going to keep writing book reviews anyway with vague blog post titles. If nothing else, I can at least make you guys come in, read a bit before finding out that it's 'another book post', curse me, and leave.

P.P.S. In toga candida is officially my favourite meaningless Latin phrase at the moment. I'm going to keep saying it till everyone starts repeating it in their dreams.

In toga candida, in toga candida, in toga candida,
k0k s3n w4i

Tiro, also a real person (Wiki him if you like), is credited with the invention of the shorthand system of Tironian notes and author of a REAL biography of Cicero (which is now lost in antiquity). Apparently, he invented the ampersand as well. The ampersand is this symbol; (&), which we still use today, even on our computer keyboards.
A man who is not part of the aristocracy and has no ancestor in the senate before.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


"Cute puppy. What do you girls call her?"


"Fifi. And that one over there is Fifi’s Mom."

Li Lian

"What about that one?"


"Oh, that’s Fifi’s Grandma."

Li Lian

When I first moved into Acharya Compound.

On Monday night, my doorbell went off and it turned out to be Linges, from Batch 19. He brought two things to me that night; 150 rupees that a batchmate of his owed me for a neuroanatomy textbook, and Fifi, at his heels.

The dopey pup is the most amiable creature imaginable. She spends her whole day limping after the residents of Acharya Compound hoping for a pet or a scratch behind her ear. Though she hardly looked like a puppy anymore now that she had outgrown all her puppy roundness, I cannot deny that she’s still decidedly puppy-ish in her antics. Li Lian and her girlfriends have spoilt her well and rotten.

If you were paying attention while reading my previous paragraph, you’d notice that I had used the word ‘limping’. Well, poor Fifi only has the use of three good legs at the moment – her left hind leg was fractured (said the vet). The injury was attributed to a supposed road mishap but had that been true, I believe her skinny limb would have been decidedly mangled. No, it’s more likely that someone must have accidentally trodden on it – or likelier still, some anonymous dog-hater must have given her a hard kick or a cruel thwack with a stick.

Notice how she sleeps with her hurt leg tucked under her head?

It’s hard to imagine that there are people who would hurt a creature as gentle, friendly and trusting as Fifi – but hey, it’s not like such monstrosity had never been committed before, right? Humans suck.

And, I also heard from Li Lian that Fifi hadn’t been eating properly since her mishap. She looks, at the moment, the canine equivalent of an anorexic teenage girl – awkward, gawky, with skinny legs far too long for her.

Anyway, back to my story;

Fifi stayed after Linges had left. She plopped down at my front door and looked at me with her big, dark, puppy eyes and I simply couldn’t close my door on her. I fetched my floor mat for her to lie on because I thought the tiles must have been frigid.

Have you ever watch a dog before it settles itself down - how it would go round and round on one spot "tramping down its bed" before lying on it? When Fifi tried to do that with three legs, it was almost too painful to watch. Poor dear.

The Lady Pose.

Fifi understood boundaries very well and did not even try to follow me into my room - but I left the door open so I can see her when I sat at my desk.

I must have been a lot lonelier than I thought I was.

And I noticed that she just kept looking at me.

Maybe she felt lonely too.

The ‘Kelian’ Puppy, Over-the-Shoulder Look.

So I left my laptop, picked up my nearly finished volume of Robert Harris’ Imperium, and sat down cross-legged beside Fifi. I noticed that she was shivering from the sudden change in weather. I half-considered letting her sleep in my anteroom for the night. The obvious problem was my inverter, which I kept there. If Fifi decided to chew on one of its exposed metal bits, I would have had an extra-crispy canine on my hand by the next morning.

Anyway, she appeared to be contented enough licking and sniffing every inch of my feet. I guess she just wanted to be near someone friendly.

And there I was, spending half an hour that night sitting at my front door with Fifi lying at my feet while I read. I have said before that there are certain special moments in life when I believe in God. This was one of them.


Do you know what a perfect friend is?

A perfect friend is someone who would not lie to me, or say nasty things behind my back. She is a person who adores me even if nobody else does, because she accepts me for who I am for all my faults. She is someone to whom I do not need to think of clever things to say to keep her interested in me. She is that someone who does not mind the least bit at all of just sitting near me while enjoying my silent company.

Ideals, ideals.

Fuck ideals.

That night, Fifi reminded me that ideals are nothing more than some cancerous fluff in our eyes that makes all the beautiful things in our non-ideal world ugly.

A perfect friend is someone who limped up the stairs to my front door just when I needed a friend the most.

Sipping simple pleasures,
k0k s3n w4i

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Survivor's Guide to Surviving the Indian Monsoon

"Enjoy the change in weather while you can because in a couple of months, you are going to curse it."

What a senior told me last year
about the monsoon season here in Manipal

So here it is again; Monsoon. The Big Drip. The Great Deluge. The Season of Never-drying Smelly Socks. For folks who have yet to experience this bountiful season of plenty (of water), here's what you got to mentally prepare yourself for;

Imagine the hardest rainstorm you have ever sat through in Malaysia - and multiply that by three. Imagine that rainstorm going strong from morning till evening till night - and through the entire night till morning again. Continuously. Wall-to-wall. For months. You are going to be drying your laundry with a 60 watt lightbulb. You are going to be looking at the big, grey, angry sky half the time tearing your wet hair out and yelling, "OMG, where the fuck is all this water coming from?!"

And if you are reeeally lucky, you'll get to experience one of the season's specialty - Horizontal Rain. And yep, it's exactly how it sounds like.

Some of you may not have scraped through last year so well. Some of you might not even have the first clue to monsoon survival. But fear not, because I am here to save the day! Presenting... k0k's top 10 Essential Items for Surviving the Monsoon Season in Manipal!


1. A Sturdy Umbrella.


For the next five months, this is going to be your best friend. You are going to carry it everywhere like an extra appendage - because if you don't have it, you aren't going anywhere, my friend. Give those cissy, telescopic brollies a wide berth, suh, because the lowest grade monsoon breeze will flip it inside out in a blinking. What you need is one of those huge, solid, industrial strength umbrellas with a reinforcing alloy framework built into it. Bring a brick to test potential purchases when you're shopping for one. Use your imagination.

2. Waterproof Footwear.

yellow boots

An umbrella can probably keep the upper 70% (okay, 40%) of your body relatively, not-quite-totally drenched - but your feet are going to be practically exposed to the elements. Sure no rain can fall directly on them, but you must remember that the rain drops are going to be as big as 5 rupee coins. And when they hit the ground, they are going to splash hard and splatter over everything within a 3 feet radius. Your safest bet is a pair of Wellingtons (or more popularly known in Asia as Phua-Chu-Kangs). You can also try wrapping your feet and shoes in plastic bags - I think that will work too. Personally, I just wear my sandals to class (with my Timberlands and socks tucked in my bag so I can change later when I get there).

3. A Torchlight and Tons of Batteries.


The power supply is going to be cut very often this season - and the Manipal University Hostel generators are going to malfunction nearly as frequently as that. You are going to need this to study, eat, pee, shit, and hunt for millipedes that will start infesting your room (if they haven't already done so). It also doubles up as a handy signaling tool to send messages to your neighbours in case you need help killing that 8-feet-long cobra that had decided to bunk in with you. Learn Morse code.

4. Naphthalene Tablets.


That means mothballs in English, by the way. It's a nifty household fumigant. Just put all your clothes and books into one cupboard, toss a bag in (after you opened it, stupid) and lock 'em up. It's pretty effective in keeping those crawlies from chomping up your important medical notes and your stinky, un-sunned-for-months shirts. Alternatively, you can use Thirsty Hippo™ or other anti-moisture products. The problem is, there's more dampness in the air this time of the year than a couple of Olympic-sized swimming pool combined. Hippo™ simply isn't thirsty enough.

5. A Picture of the Sun.


You are not going to see it at all for five months. You are going to miss it. Trust me.

6. A Half-year Supply of Canned Food.


You will not want to venture outside in that weather at all - even for meals. And also, if a freak flood strikes, you won't starve. And if the power goes out, your sole source of entertainment would be stuffing your own face. Just please, for goodness' sake, remember to get a can opener. Once, we found a guy starved to death in his own home surrounded by lots of cans with bite marks on them. You do not want to be that guy.

7. Inflatable Raft.


Skip this if you're a spiffy swimmer.

8. A Life-jacket.


In case you fall out of your raft.

9. An Elephant Gun.


In case you fall out of your raft and you see a crocodile swimming towards you.

10. A Massive Poster of Kate Hudson Tacked Over Your Bed.


Of course, one thing you are going to notice is that the temperature will plummet like Jennifer Lopez's neckline at the 42nd Grammy Award (Okay, contradictory analogy, I know). Frankly, I know of no better way to get the old blood pumping through the old, frosty fingers than my sunny goddess Kate. Wait, on second thought, don't do this. Kate is mine. You can't have any. Stay back!


And that concludes my top 10 Essential Items for Surviving the Monsoon Season in Manipal. Make sure you have Noah on speed-dial. If you don't have his number, call God and ask Him. Kthanxbye.

P.S. To all the uncool losers out there who didn't buy a motorcycle or scooter (e.g. me), this is your opportunity to laugh at everyone else who did.

Staying alive,
k0k s3n w4i

Lesson #4

Kate Hudson is a Goddess OMG OMG OMG.


I'm going to watch Almost Famous over and over and over again.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lesson #3

It is possible to fall in love at first sight.
It is possible to love unconditionally.
It is possible to love someone who ignores you.


Damn, that felt good.

Rain Again

"It is not permanence that I fear. It is the fact that with every mistake I make, I cannot make it disappear without a trace."

michellesy, on writing with a pen.

The weather changed abruptly. There was no seamless transition – no slow easing-into-it adjustments. On Thursday, it was bright and sunny with the bluest of blue skies stretching lazily in all horizons. On Friday, the sky was a solid, mizzling dome of grey – heavy and looming with a distinct end-o’-days feel to it.

It’s the weather’s way of saying, "Who’s your Daddy?" to those woefully unprepared for its whims. I belong to that caste of fools, unfortunately. That is why I’m the one who always ended up wet and cold. It’s never the different phases of weather – rain or shine – that gets to me. It’s the sudden changes.

I am unable to accept the fact that everything can change so radically in so short a time. In these instances, I ended up almost always never adapting to the change at all.

Love, I realise, is just like the weather.

Main street.

I left my house at about 3 pm and ventured into the drizzle with nothing over my head but a bad haircut. I knew I must get myself an umbrella before the next storm hits. June is nigh. The next deluge that hits Manipal would rage continuously for two whole months – or five.

I bought a black one; same as the last three umbrellas I’ve bought last year. I can’t understand why I kept losing them.

Okay, maybe I do know – but I never liked admitting my faults.

Outside the Anatomy Museum.

Remember that time when we shared a single umbrella even though we brought two? Remember how both of us ended up wet but it didn’t matter the least bit to us at all?

Remember that time when we only have one umbrella between us and I left it with you after I’ve walked you home - even though you didn’t need it anymore? I told you I just felt like walking back to my hostel in the rain and you called me crazy.

Well, I wasn’t crazy – I just wanted to relive that day when I was sixteen when I walked to your house in the rain just because I felt like seeing you.

Rain was our weather, remember?

Now, rain is just mine.

Damn, I’m such a hopeless romantic.

Haha, 'hopeless romantic' – I like the sound of that phrase. Maybe I was being a tad too presumptuous in considering myself as a romantic, but I most certainly am hopeless.

The ever-waiting, never-getting fool.

The hopeless romantic.

I don't know why but that thought put a smile on my face. I looked at my umbrella and decided that it was simply too big for just one person. So I lowered it and closed it with a click. Today, I walked home in the rain again - for old time's sake. And I know it won't be my last time doing that.

A lonely road.

The reason I keep losing my umbrella is because every time I left it somewhere, I always went back too late to look for it.

Someone else took it.

k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Lesson #2

Eating nothing but pizzas for three consecutive days is NEVER a good idea.


Dear McDonald's

"You know what? I'm going to keep sending emails to McDonald's till they open a restaurant here in Manipal. You guys are going to crown me a hero when I succeed."


"Haha. Good luck."

Inn Shan

maharaja mac

2 Grilled chicken patties with a smoke-flavoured mayonnaise, fresh onions, tomatoes, processed cheddar cheese in a toasted sesame seeded bun.


Mixed vegetables (carrot, beans, capsicum, onion and green peas), mozzarella cheese mixed with tomato sauce and spice blend coated with a savoury dough.


A traditional Mexican soft flat bread that envelops crispy golden brown cottage cheese encrusted with a Mexican Cajun coating, and a salad mix of iceberg lettuce, carrot, red cabbage and celery, served with eggless mayonnaise, tangy Mexican Salsa sauce and cheddar cheese.


Breaded fried vegetable patty consist of peas, carrots, green, beans, red capsicum, potatoes, onions, rice and seasoning. The burger also includes lettuce, eggless mayonnaise in a toasted sesame seed bun.


A rich Béchamel eggless sauce mixed with exotic vegetables like broccoli, baby corn, mushrooms, red capsicum and freshly baked on rectangular spiced bread with a cheese topping.


Fried breaded potato & peas patty that is flavoured with a special spice mix, fresh tomato slices, onion, and veg. tomato mayonnaise between toasted buns.

crispy chinese

A crispy patty that is seasoned with oriental flavours, topped with a creamy vegetarian Schezwan sauce and crunchy iceberg lettuce and served between two fresh buns.


A traditional Mexican soft flat bread that envelops crispy golden brown chicken encrusted with a Mexican Cajun coating, and a salad mix of iceberg lettuce, carrot, red cabbage and celery, served with eggless mayonnaise, tangy Mexican Salsa sauce and cheddar cheese.


Grilled chicken patty flavoured with mint mayonnaise, and dressed with fresh onions and tomatoes in a toasted bun.


A blend of Italian tomato curry sauce tempered with thyme, basil and oregano mixed with chicken and capsicum, freshly baked on a rectangular spiced bread and topped with cheese.

Note: Images and food blurbs courtesy of

Ronald McDonald
My man, Ronnie McDee (or Ronald McDonald to you un-hep folks)

Dear Ronnie McDee,

Hi, I am a second year medical student from Malaysia and I am writing to you from the university town of Manipal, Karnataka. I just want you to know that I am an enormous fan of your excellent, assembly-line-mass-produced, obesity inducing express cuisine (a term I prefer over the vulgar colloquialism of "fast food"). Long live the McD empire! May all those who stand against your inexorable capitalistic march to global dominance contract monkey syphilis and die.

I write to you, Ron, to draw your attention that the only mainstream express cuisine franchises currently in operation in Manipal are Domino’s pizzeria and Subway’s sandwich joint which, between them, enjoys a lucrative, unchallenged full monopoly on the lard-assed populace of this unassuming township. What you and your army of corporate vultures are probably unaware of is just how wildly profitable that monopoly really is. Let me paint you a picture, Ronnie;
Imagine a town which – at any given time – houses at least 15,000 university students between the ages of 18 and 25. A good 600 to 700 from that figure are homesick undergrads from Malaysia who would barf their stomachs out if they have to eat another bloody parotta. There’s also another 200 or so Americans living here and as you probably already know, McD practically makes up their staple diet back home. But here, they are forced instead to make do with Domino’s pizzas and Subway’s submarine sandwiches because there isn’t a single proper burger place to be found (Doesn't that make you sick? Doesn't the make your blood boil, Ronnie?). Having so many teenagers and young adults being monetarily capable of receiving tertiary education, and university lecturers and doctors with way-above-average paycheck, Manipal’s population can easily afford (and rightly deserve) a higher standard of living. They should have the privilege and convenience of stuffing their faces silly with junk food commercialized crap pricier, semi-nourishing, pseudo-victuals anytime they want.

Economy 101, Ron; supply versus demand. Currently, supply is wee Frodo Baggins, while demand is Godzilla’s sumo-wrestling grandpa. What are you going to do about that?

Tell you what, Ronnie. I’ll strike you a deal. If you open a branch here in Manipal – preferably a 24-hour one – I promise that I will spend each and every mealtime in your establishment (but please serve Sausage McMuffin with Egg™ for breakfast). Will you shake on that?

I await your answer eagerly, Ronnie. Think it through and do what’s right. Think of the money you can wring out of us poor hungry suckers.

P.S. If you’re not interested, I’ll just write to Burger King then.

Your average McGlutton,
k0k s3n w4i

P.S. Fellow Manipalites, do your part and go spam McDonald’s India’s inbox with our pleas at Or you can call them at 66000666 (No, I’m not kidding. They really use the Beast's number for their delivery hotline).

Addendum (12.02.2011): I heard that they finally opened a McDonald's outlet in Manipal, years after I have left. Bah. Anyway, I hate McD's now.

Building a better Manipal,
k0k s3n w4i

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lesson #1

Though a guy may be the nicest, most blameless person imaginable, it still doesn't stop me from wanting to stab him in the eye with a dinner fork.


There a just so many things I'm learning as I'm growing older now - so I've decided to start this new segment in my blog to document them.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Hate Thursdays

"These lecturers must know how to bend time or something. I swear that the last ten minutes felt like a whole hour. Come - let's grade all them on a scale of 10 by how much they can slow time down. Dr. Yoga from Forensics would be 1, because time goes by pretty quick when he's in class. Dr. Surekha from Physiology would be a 10 - that woman can practically stop time, I tell you."

Me to Shaki, last Thursday

Every Thursday, lectures start at 8.00 am instead of at the usual, comfortable 9.00 am we enjoy on the other weekdays (Fridays don't count because the lunch period starts at 11.30 am instead of 12.30). Plus, there's a Pharmacology SDL presentation class after lunch at 2.00 pm (which I usually have to prepare for by skipping lunch because I'm just too bloody lazy to do it the night before).

Today was particularly sluggish because half the time in the lectures, I have to struggle to stay awake (I spent the other half of the time sleeping). Had a couple of bad dreams the night before. Don't wanna talk about them.

So, I when Shaki told me that SDL was canceled today, I was so overjoyed that I actually spent the whole Pharmacology lecture (which replaced the SDL) paying my full, unwavering attention to Dr. Yeshwanth Rao while he gave a long, meandering talk on immunosuppressive drugs.

But I did skip lunch anyway to grab a short nap. So when I saw this, my stomach growled audibly, beseeching me, its master, to feed it;

No, it wasn't the cow that made me hungry. Look closer;

Nope, it wasn't these two heifers either. Closer still;

There! The Pearly Gates are painted blue and red.

A while ago, Domino's expanded and opened an outlet just two minutes' walk away from my place in Acharya Compound. They must have heard that Sir 'Scarf-a-lot' Kok1 have just moved into the neighbourhood.

Why are all the powers in the cosmos aligned against my fitness and diet plan?

My resolutions crumbled like a pathetic house of cards (no surprise there) and I bought myself a personal combo; two personal pan pizzas, cheesy garlic bread and a bottle of coke. Why on God's green earth is there two personal pan pizzas in a one-person combo? I didn't dwell long on that particular philosophical question though - I simply can't think straight when I'm starving.

As soon as I stepped into Acharya Compound, guilt gripped me. I suddenly decided that two personal pizzas were simply too many. I spotted Lai Yin and I wondered if she could take one off my hand.

"Hey, Lai..."

"Hey Kok! Autopsy. Over at the mortuary now. Wanna come?" she said, cutting me short.

"I... err..." I began lamely, pointing at the big plastic full of obesity delights I was carrying.

"No time. Leave them in my house first," said Lai Yin.

I obeyed and immediately hopped into an auto with Lai Yin and Nina (haha, going to an autopsy in an auto). As required by my course, I must witness four autopsies at least in my second year in medical school. Most of my batchmates have already seen one while I've seen zilch (they couldn't wake me up on the Saturday they went). Guess, I didn't really have a choice since I was already behind schedule anyway.

The wait.

A whole crowd of people were already there when we arrived.

Only in medical school would you get to see so many happy, excited faces on people who are about to watch fresh corpses being hacked apart. I got a feeling we are all going to hell.

Warning: Potentially disturbing images ahead

Yeap, I'm only showing you the disturbing ones. I'm keeping the really grisly, visceral, insanely gory pictures for myself.

on the table
On the table.

The guy we're "doing" this afternoon was a 39 years old, 71 kg2, Indian man who was admitted into the hospital 6 days ago. Apparently, he lost control of his motorcycle, hit his head on the asphalt and didn't regain consciousness since. He died in the ICU this morning. Let's call him Joe, okay?

For those that harbour illusions that death is a solemn (and possibly even a beautiful) thing; boy, do I have news for you. Here's basically what Joe went through after he had given up the ghost3;
  1. Joe was stripped and photographed.
  2. He was cut open from his chin till the root of his penis and opened up like a sports bag.
  3. His tongue was cut from the floor of his mouth while his rectum was tied off and was severed from his anus (tied off to prevent his "last meal" from spilling out). Then, all of his innards (between the tongue and the rectum) were hoisted out and dumped at his feet like some macabre ceremonial garland, leaving behind an empty shell.
  4. Every organ (heart, liver, lungs, spleen, kidney - everything) was harvested from that 'garland', individually weighed and sliced apart like cuts of meat so the coroner(s) can see how they looked like inside.
  5. His scalp was sliced from ear to ear, flipped, and draped over his face like a ski-mask.
  6. His skull cap was removed using a saw, a hammer and a chisel.
  7. His brain was dislodged and was sliced from several different angles.
  8. After the coroner(s) were satisfied, all the bloody, minced visceral organs were stuffed back into Joe's chest and abdominal cavities. Joe's colons are now at where his heart and lungs used to be. And yeah, his diced brain was stuffed into the chest too. The coroner managed to herd everything back in by using Joe's own breastbone like a prod before finally tossing that in as well and sewing him up again. The skull cap was replaced and the scalp was sutured (but now, Joe's head is literally full of air).
  9. All this happened in front of a whole class of eager medical students who looked on with morbid fascination.
So, where was I? Oh yeah, death sucks.

Turns out what probably killed Joe was blunt force trauma to the left temporal region of his head. A straight 6cm fracture was discovered there and underneath it was a pretty mushed up temporal lobe of his brain. Both subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhages were evident.

Now listen here;

Joe's did not hit a car or a bus or a truck or anything. There were practically no other injuries elsewhere on his body. He merely fell off his bike and hit his head on the ground. Had he been wearing a helmet that day six days ago, he could have picked himself up, dusted himself off, and rode home.

No amount of gore can disturb me more than that.

The weighing machine used to weigh Joe's organs.

This was a whole different experience compared to the Anatomy dissection classes I had last year. The bodies we used in those have already been pickled for years in formaldehyde and their blood had long been drained. They looked just like - well - really, really dead people.

In an autopsy, the guy lying on the table in front looked no different than if he was just having a peaceful, quiet, afternoon nap - while we play butcher on him. Looking at Joe's face, it really wasn't that hard at all to imagine him opening his eyes, putting on a pair of pants, and walking out of the mortuary whistling the latest Bollywood ditty.

You may find my narrative callous and unfeeling (It's a fucking human being you insensitive bastard!). Trust me when I say that we would have all gone mad if we weren't so hardened up inside4. It's necessary for us to lose a bit of humanity for this job. Is it too big a price to pay? Does any of us even realise that we are paying it?

There was also another autopsy (on a suspected case of organophosphate - an insecticide - poisoning) on a 52 years old, 75 kg, Indian male. Boring case. Shan't waste your time talking about that.

I reached home at about three-quarters past five. As expected, my pizzas were already cold and the Coke was warm.

I ate both the pies. I finished the garlic bread as well.

Damn, I was famished.

And I still hate Thursdays.

P.S. If you don't like my dumbed down account, try - kye -'s slightly more technical report on the autopsies. He even covered the organophosphate poisoning guy.

Not quite human anymore,
k0k s3n w4i

1 Other nicknames include, Fat-ass (Shaki), Mr. You'll-die-of-heart-attack-at-30 (Shaki again), Free Willy (Yeap, same idiot), and You-make-me-look-thinner (ex-girlfriend).
2 Ironically, though he was bigger than me, I was the heavier one.
3 Autopsies are done in unnatural deaths. Live well, die old - capiche?
4 In fact, the Associate Professor of Forensic Medicine, one Dr. Vikram Palimar (excellent chap, by the way), was talking to the pair of coroners about some restaurant or canteen that one of them wanted to try out. Over Joe's dead body. Literally.

Idle Doodle

"This is to inform the general public that the name of Manipal Academy of Higher Education (Deemed University), Manipal, has been changed to MANIPAL UNIVERSITY with immediate effect, in accordance with the notification dated 13th September, 2006 of the University Grants Commission."

The Registrar, 20th December 2006, in

Damn. My school had gone and changed its name last year and I know nuts about it till a couple of days ago.

This post will be brief. I don't feel like saying much.

This is how my school's emblem/logo/cop mohor/magical seal/rune of awesome cosmic powerz looks like; that dinky little brown 'M' shaped thing with an egg floating above it (left).

A few days ago, I doodled a tangled, messy, "tribal" interpretation of that logo with a pencil and a black-ink pen on my sketch pad. Here's the result;


Then, I took a proper photo of it and 'cleaned' it, producing this;


After pottering about for a bit with my Photoshop, I came up with this;


I know it's crap but what d'you think about it?

k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Hippest Djinni Ever

"I am Bartimaeus! I am Sakhr Al-Jinni. I am N'Gorso The Mighty and the Serpent Of Silver Plumes... I have spoken with Solomon...rebuilt the walls of Uruk, Karnak and Prague."

Bartimaeus of the Bartimaeus Trilogy

I love books but I absolutely loathe writing blog posts about books because no one really reads them1. Maybe it's because (I think) a large bit of my readers are medical students - and whenever you recommend a good paperback to them, they'll give you that saucer-eyed look of utter disbelief and go; "You got time to read storybooks, ar? Got time go study-lar, diu!"

And let us not forget that most Malaysians who claim to "love reading" actually have only read the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings (which they gave up on after struggling through the first two pages) and The Da Vinci Code sitting and playing catch-the-dust on their vastly empty bookshelves2.

Okay, that filled my destructive criticism quota of the day. Here's what I really want talk about,

This goes out to all Harry Potter fans out there (and fans of general children fantasy); I have something to tide you guys over while you wait for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows make the biggest publication debut of the decade,

Presenting, the Bartimaeus Trilogy!

First thing I learnt about recommending books is that people are always, always skeptical about whatever reads you try to shove down their throats, but let me assure you this; every single person I managed to threaten bully coerce convince into reading these 3 books have completely fallen in love with them. I mean, if everyone who reads them ended up liking them, they must be some seriously good shit right?

Remember Disney's interpretation of Aladdin? Remember that crazy, blue genie voiced by the immensely gifted Robin Williams who practically sweats talent from his pores? Well, the protagonist (and semi-narrator - I'll explain later) of the Bartimaeus Trilogy is a genie, or as the books spelled it, djinni too.

Book 1: The Amulet of Samarkand

Just imagine a dystopian London in an alternate history setting (tentatively in the 1990's) which is governed by an elite class of corrupted, back-stabbing Magicians3. The Commoners know next to zilch about magic and are purposefully kept under-educated so the government officials can keep them in line easily. It's a like a kiddie version of 1984, but with magic!

But these corrupt, magician-cum-politicians have a deep, dark secret.

All their spells, hokery-pokeries and magical knickknacks have their source in 'demons' or 'spirits', which the Magicians summon and enslave. The cool thing about the magic in this trilogy is that it did not stem from some genetic disposition that allows people to shoot stuff from a cissy sticks with the help of a two-cent Latin phrase *coughPottercough*. The Magicians in these novels actually have to go through years of training, learn a dozen dead languages (Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian, Coptic etc), engage in physical exercises to build up stamina, and attend technical drawing classes to produce the intricate pentagrams/pentacles prerequisitive of the summoning rituals.

Why so much work, you might ask.

The answer is simple. If they make the slightest mistake while summoning a spirit - a line not drawn straight in the pentacle or a mispronounced syllable in the summoning spell (or even a spell spoken in a rustic accent); the spirit they summon can turn onto them and tear them into tiny bite-sized pieces, with a little cocktail toothpick in each besides.

You are liking this trilogy already, aren't you?

Book 2: The Golem's Eye

The books also feature one of my favourite fictional characters of all time: the sarcastic, witty, sassy, cheeky, resourceful, vain, sly, infuriating, irrepressible, lovable, egomaniacal, cool-as-a-popsicle, side-splitting funny, shape-shifting 5000-year-old third level djinni4 called Bartimaeus. No amount of adjectives can do him justice, I tell you, and kid you not.

Half the books are narrated by this character, giving you a first person point-of-view of his doings, his tasks and missions, and his general bullshits. The best bits are his "footnotes" (like the ones at the bottom of this post) in which he breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to you (the reader). In them, he would either offer a bit of trivia about famous spirits or magicians, funny asides, insults to his enslaving masters, or just cover-ups for embarrassing moments he blundered into in the main story.

You'll laugh your stomach inside out reading them, I promise. Heck, if you can finish all 3 of these books without laughing out loud even once, I'll get a penis amputation done.

Book 3: Ptolemy's Gate

The other chapters (which are more sober) features Bartimaeus' master, a shrimpy boy named Nathaniel, which I often refer to as "Harry Potter's less popular, corrupted and ambition-mad cousin". These parts are narrated from a third person's point-of-view. In the first book, Nathaniel is an 11-year-old apprentice to a lowly Magician, the Minister of Internal Affairs. We'll be following his story, his rises and falls in the government of magical Britain and his oft-strained, oft-hilarious relationship with Barty.

Here, I'll give you a short of the first book from Wikipedia to get you panting,

A young magician's apprentice, Nathaniel, secretly summons the irascible 5,000 year old djinni, Bartimaeus, to do his bidding. The task for Bartimaeus is not an easy one- he must steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a master magician of unrivalled ruthlessness and ambition. Before long, Bartimaeus and Nathaniel are caught up in a terrifying flood of magical intrigue, rebellion and murder. Nathaniel learns quickly that he may have gotten into a plot much more in depth than he and his djinni can cope with.

My favourite book is Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (which impressed me like no book had) but the Bartimaeus trilogy remains the most easily enjoyable read I have ever own the pleasure to read. Honestly, do yourself a favour and get the trilogy now! Gosh below, that made me sound like a late night TV shill!

If you don't trust me, go read an excerpt of the books HERE in the official site (complete with the footnotes I harped about).

And to get further instances of Barty's legendary sense of humour and wit; check out this hilarious guide to London written from that zany djinni's point-of-view in Jonathan Stroud's (the author's) website. Whenever he refers to 'an unknown djinni' or 'certain anonymous djinni' - well - let's just say he's not being particularly honest about the anonymity bit.

And here's Barty's "blog". Damn, I love the author to bits, I tell you.

P.S. To Manipalites, all 3 books of the trilogy are now available in the B.I Publications bookstore (formerly Higginbottoms or something like that). To everyone else who are lucky enough to have a MPH or Borders or Kinokuniya within driving distance, the books are there. Go get 'em!

P.P.S. I finished reading the trilogy a year ago actually. It's just that suddenly in class today, I felt a sudden and overwhelming feeling of regret that there aren't more books like these.

P.P.P.S. A movie of the first book is slated for release in 2009 (directed by one John Madden of Shakespeare in Love fame). Frankly, I'm expecting the flick to flop because; how the hell are they going to translate Barty's footnotes - the best darn parts of the trilogy - to the big screen?

P.P.P.P.S. The comment section below may contain spoilers. You've been warned.

P.P.P.P.P.S. In a wholly unrelated note, the season 1 finale of Heroes is about to finish beaming down into my laptop from the interweb in less than an hour's time.

Addendum: Season finale of Heroes was crap. More about that in my next post. Maybe.

Huge, rabid fan of Bartimaeus,
k0k s3n w4i

1 Both; books and blog posts about books.
2 Not a surprising fact, considering that the average Malaysian thinks that Harry Potter is the pinnacle of 'hi-crass literatchur'.
3 Oh yeah - none of those pansy wizard Ministers you see in Harry Potter that are just too pussy-fied to use their l33t magic powarz to subjugate the Muggles.

4 There are generally 5 classes of commonly summoned spirits in Bartimaeus' universe; imps, foliots, djinnis, afrits and marids - from the wimpiest to the über-awesome-est, in that order.

Monday, May 21, 2007

My Aka

"No, Boss. If Boss no give money, I no take, Boss."


For those not having the privilege to be trapped of studying in India like yours truly; Aka can be literally translated as 'Big Sister', but in all practicality, it actually means "Maid" or "Cleaning Lady".

In the whole past week, I've been trying to pay her her last month's wages - which can prove quite a challenge because - well - we don't meet very often. You see, she only comes in to clean when I go to class (because I hate incursions into my lovely, lovely privacy).

Of course, some of you may have qualms (as did I) about a giving a stranger the key to your home, and leaving her at leisure to loot and plunder. Though the senior staying in the ground floor of our triple-storey Tower of Fugliness spoke highly of her, and vouched passionately for her honesty, I remained unconvinced initially. I'm just not a trusting sort of guy. Heck, I don't even trust my own Mom (never did - since the day she fooled me into eating frog meat, telling me it was chicken when I was 5).

So I devised a little experiment to find out;

On the first day I was expecting the Aka to come, I scattered a specific amount of coins on the floor of my room, giving the impression that I am the type of guy that's careless with money (okay, I am, but that's not the point). The plan is, I wanted to see if she can be tempted to sneak away a rupee or two, since after all - someone who's capable of stealing a lot can't rightly resist the little bit which no one will miss anyway right?

So when I came home from class that day, I found that my rat-hole of a place had received a thorough spic-spanning. On my desk in a white plastic bag was the coins I had sowed on the floor earlier (that's nice of her, I thought). But her honesty remained to be judged.

I counted the coins carefully, rupee by rupee lest I make a mistake. I found that the number wasn't right.

So I counted them again.

And again.

There were more money in the plastic bag than what I have laid down for her to find.

Bag o' coins.

Now that white plastic bag is a permanent fixture in my room, for her to toss in any change she finds while cleaning (and boy, the bag's getting heavy!). Honestly, a beggar can make a living by just following wherever I walk.

So where was I before I digressed? Oh yeah, paying her!

cash table
Attempt #1.

I admit, I am extremely talented in forgetting to pay my rent or bills or debts (in a wholly different manner from my practiced skill of "forgetting" to do my class assignments) - and my Aka reminded me that I was already one week overdue in giving her her money.

So, I left her 360 rupees (about RM30) on my desk prior to attending lectures on Tuesday last week - 10 rupees more than what she asked because she did such a smashing job at keeping up with a one so staggeringly gifted in the art of slobbery i.e me.

I came home finding the cash untouched - but the place had been meticulously scrubbed down yet again.

cash door
Attempt #2. Pretend you didn't see the empty vodka bottle, okay?

Okay, maybe someone as honest as her won't presume to take whatever cash I've laid on my desk as her salary (though she would have been justified in doing since I was late in paying her anyway) - so I tried again;

This time, I placed the moolahs on the counter in my "anteroom", right where the mop, broom and other cleaning supplies stood. C'mon, there's no way she can miss it this time, right?

Yet again, I return to my apartment which shone as if an army of House Elves had launched Operation M.O.P.S.T.O.R.M there while I was away. And yea, the Paper Gandhis were still there with not a single rupee missing. *smacks head*

At long last, I spotted her on Friday and gave her the money. I asked her why she did not take the money I left out for her - and her answer is now forever immortalised up there as the Quote-o'-the-Post.

My Blue Blankie.

Frankly, I cannot offer her enough praise. Besides general-cleaning duties, she also does my laundry. It's as if I did not generate enough dirty clothes for her to wash, she would strip my bed-sheet from my mattress periodically to give it a good scrub (even though I did not tell her to).

Just last Thursday, I came home finding my blanket hanging in the breeze - with all its "wondrous" scents wrung out of it. I knew it wanted washing, but I never quite gotten around to remembering to drop it into the laundry basket.

But Aka took care of that anyway.

I have endless admiration for people who do their jobs properly and honestly - two simple, yet very rare virtues. 350 rupees for cleaning + laundry services every two days seemed terribly paltry to me, especially when it's performed by someone as committed as Aka.

I'm thinking of raising it.


All hail Mega Slob,
k0k s3n w4i