Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Minor Glitch in the Machinery of My Life


"There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle."

Albert Einstein

Your uncomplaining patience in reading my oft-trying posts is a commodity very precious to me – and I’ve been shamefully extravagant in my expenditure of it. Thank you. Now Dear Reader, I beseech you to spare me a little more. This is going to be terribly, terribly dull.


I left the cold comfort of my room on Saturday morning at precisely 7.20 am, and its preciseness is the chief virtue I remember it at all. Right before I did, I picked up Hugh Laurie’s novel – The Gun Seller – which was at that time only wanting of one final chapter before conclusion. I debated whether I should also bring along Susanna Clarke’s Ladies of Grace Adieu which I was concurrently reading since there was so trifling a remainder of the former to read. I ultimately decided against doing so.

Being a creature and often slave of habit, I plodded my way to my usual weekend breakfast place, Pangal. I said ‘plodded’ because that was how I was feeling; like an elderly elephant tramping through an ocean-wide mud-pit. I felt dull-witted. I felt as if my limbs were on autopilot and the microchips were fried. I felt an almost overwhelming desire to just turn back home and sleep the day away – breakfast be damned. Yeap, that sums up how I usually feel after skipping yet another date with Sleep.

The walk lasted about ten minutes but I felt as if I teleported there. That’s me; a somnambulist in the making. By then, it’s about 7.30 am – give or take a minute.

The thing about the waiters in Pangal is that they are either resentful of foreigners, xenophobic, or just unhappy with how my face looks like. They’d zip (yes, zip) around the place, taking down orders from the other breakfasters while carefully pretending not to notice me. After almost a minute of vigorous gesticulations, I managed to flag one of these elusive zipping waiters down and told him that I wanted a couple of vadas and a piping glass of chai. The good thing about ordering vadas is that they are already made and are usually sitting in a crispy pile somewhere – so they came almost instantly. The bad thing is; two aren’t very filling, and eating more than that can be seriously sickening.

I finished at about 7.45 am, and ordered a cheese omelette sandwich – my personal favourite from Pangal. The problem is, they don’t start serving sandwiches before 8.00 am. One of the queerest things about food places here in Manipal is that their menus are often heavily scheduled. Only local breakfast items like upma, poori, vadas, etc are served before 8.00 am while the western sorts like sandwiches are available later. Maggi noodles and fresh milk are only sold after 9.00 am till about 2.00 pm, and dishes containing rice can be bought only between 12.00 pm to 2.00 pm, and 7.00 pm to 9.00pm. Tandoori stuff like naan and parota starts after 6.00 pm while North Indian dishes begin rolling an hour after that. Between 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm, you’re better off eating your own socks because at this time, they serve the culinary equivalent of cow crap.

But why? The bread, cheese and eggs are in the kitchen and the same damn guys that’s churning out pooris and dosas since 7.00 am will be the ones making the sandwiches at 8.00 am anyway. What the hell is wrong with these people?

So wait I must, and at 7.55 am, tragedy struck; I finished the book I brought with me.

I cursed myself for not having the foresight to bring the other novel with me. Not having anything to do while waiting without the pleasure of human companionship is a terribly disconcerting experience for me. Disconcerting – that’s the best word I can think of to describe how it felt like that Saturday morning at 7.55 am.

I noticed for the first time that there was a local man sitting right opposite of me at my table - he was wolfing down a plate of idli with gusto and I smiled nervously as his eyes briefly met mine. In my hands was a small, tough piece of cardboard I brought with my book – I remember that I salvaged it for the purpose of serving as my bookmark from its previous occupation; a clothe tag for a Polo collared T-shirt. Then, with a minor start, I realised that I’m wearing that same Polo T-shirt at that moment. I attempted to work out the probability of that event happening but I abandoned the endeavour in the end because I could not recall accurately just how many shirts I owned and because I possessed no possible means of quantifying the chance of my recycling a particular article of clothing from my laundry basket (as in the case of the Polo shirt that morning) at that time.

At about 7.58 am, one of Pangal’s waiters dropped a packet of something small and wrapped in newspaper in front of me. I was at first bewildered and wondered what it was – and then I assumed that the waiter must have mistakenly placed my order of a cheese omelette sandwich to go. I was prodding at it with finger when the local man sitting opposite me cleared his throat and remarked politely that that packet belonged to him. He then scooped it up and left the table, leaving me sitting there feeling pret-ty embarrassed. I was sure that I would not have done what I did had I brought my other book – not having anything to occupy my attention had turned me into an assumptive ass. I cursed my lack of foresight for the second time.

At 8.04 am, I reminded the waiter of my order, and a local couple, probably students, took the place of the idli-wolfing-man opposite me. I noted amusedly that the male counterpart of the couple ordered ‘coffee; extra strong, extra sugar’. Even at their usual dosage of sugar, the tea and coffee from Pangal are barely bearably sweet. Then, from the couple’s mannerisms and conversational tones, I deduced conclusively that the relationship they shared (if any) was very much lop-sided in the favour of the guy. The girl seemed to worship him, while he was scarcely tolerating her affection. I was aware of just how depressing it is to love someone more than he or she loves you back, so I wished diabetes upon that guy, if he hadn’t already have it.

At 8.06 am, I was methodically checking out every table in the establishment, watching their occupants’ antics. A pair of middle aged ladies held my attention for a full two minutes as they poured both their cups of tea into a thermos and took turns drinking from it. I thought it was simultaneously bizarre and fascinating – for the sole and simple reason that I did not understand why they did that.

My cheese omelette sandwich arrived at 8.12 am and I dove for it thankfully. Idleness and inactivity simply disagrees with me in so many ways. Between 7.55 and 8.12 am – a mere 17 minutes – lasted as conceivably long as several sunlit days. Not doing anything, I discovered, exposes a person to all his senses and thoughts. I fancy what I went through in that brief 17 minutes were what the greatest scientific, artistic and literary minds experienced hours daily when they ‘sat down to think’. Possibly, the initial inklings of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity was conceived the day his telly broke down. Dali probably did an awful lot of nothing, staring at empty canvases before he actually painted anything. I can indeed see my favourite author, Susanna Clarke performing a monstrous amount of mulling over the span of a million cup of teas during her ten year long authoring of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - all hypothetically speaking, of course.

But what set me apart from all these admirable people was that I found ‘doing nothing’ to be very disconcerting. Maybe that’s why I always carry a novel or two with me whenever I go out in the same manner and purpose some people carry bad-aids with them, download hundreds of movies and TV shows every year, and spend hours writing long, tedious essays like this one – I’m just afraid of ‘doing nothing’. Perhaps that’s what makes special people special. ‘Doing nothing’ does not upset them.

I finished less than half of my cheese omelette sandwich, picked up my tab, and left for home and bed. My appetite, I found, had deserted me.


Disconcerted,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Batch 20 Chinese Orientation

"Hey, are you attending the Chinese Student Orientation this time? You skipped all the previous ones."

Shaki

"Nope. Not my kind of scene, man."

Me

"Well, this one you must attend - by default."

Shaki

"Why? It’s not like they can make me."

Me

"Dude, they are holding the event in front of your house."

Shaki


For those uninformed, Shaki's the smart-ass that sits beside me in all the lecture classes. It's not that he particularly likes me or anything.
It's just that we must all sit in our designated positions according to our roll numbers. Don't Indian colleges just suck?



I’m not a partying kind of person (my mom hoarded all her social genes for herself). I’m more of a one-to-one conversationalist – a true believer of the idiom; ‘Two’s company; three’s a crowd’. I do quiet dinners in dim-lighted restaurants, meaningful phone conversations, and long drives around town in my beaten Vitara. Increase the party number by just one or two, you’ll get to see me do my trademark “Freeze-Up-Shut-Up”. You’ll see me nodding and agreeing with a big, plastic smile – but that’s all I’ll be doing.

I like connecting with people just fine. It’s just that I’d rather do it one person at a time.

My doorbell rang at 5.00 pm today, interrupting the payment of my cumulated sleep-debt. It was Abby, and she wanted to borrow my laptop – apparently, she and her cohort of choreographed cronies wanted to play music from it and practice the dance routine they planned for the Chinese Orientation tonight1. I ended up dragging my arse out of my bed and helped; by standing in front of them with my laptop in my arms2. S’pity Jason didn’t get a picture of that. It’s not everyday you’ll see me in my sleeping togs, my hair still disheveled and me, standing in front of about 20 dancing guys and girls with a laptop in my hand3. Priceless.

The festivities started at about 7.00 or 8.00 pm (Why? Should it matter?). To those not privy to the formal workings of the foreign student social protocols in Manipal, the Chinese Orientation is held every six month by the Chinese kids of Batch (X) for the Chinese kids of Batch (X+2). This time, it’s our (Batch 18) turn to host one for the fresh meat of Batch 20. The soul and purpose of this really inconvenient event is to enable the Chinese crocodiles and Oriental colour-wolves to do a spot of hunting Chinese seniors to get to know the freshies of the same ethnic, creed and race better.

And no, I shall decline to comment on racism. It is sufficient for you to know that I do not endorse such a practice. I even boycotted the previous Chinese Orientations to demonstrate my steadfast disapproval4 of it.

Have enough of my crappy commentary yet? If you have, here’s good news – I’m going to start showing you pictures instead;

From my front door.

Looks like Shaki wasn’t kidding after all. They brought the party to my neighbourhood.

The freshies.

The emcees for the night.

For your information, Abby (right) is still available and is up for grabs. Kit Sze (left), on the other hand, isn’t – and if you try to grab her, Casey will personally make sure that your grabbing hand will be in no shape to grab anything else for a very long time.

We feed the hungry because we are kind.

The secret to getting to know anyone is food. Business lunches, candlelit dinners, and even in this instance; soup kitchen style mass-feeding – all of them works by that same principle.

The Musical Trio.

After the kiddies are fed and watered, item one kick-started the night – Singing on the Lawn.

Then, there was a spot of fun and games involving the Batch 20 freshmen. They were divided into 4 or 5 groups (Why? Should this matter too?), and the game they played was this; they stood in a line and freshie number 1 was given a role to act out to freshie number 2 (while the other freshies were looking in the opposite direction). Freshie number 2 then tried to emulate what freshie number 1 did to freshie number 3. The game then progressed along this formula; freshie (Y) will act out what he or she saw freshie (Y-1) did to freshie (Y+1). The last freshie, (Yfinite) will have to tell the game-master what character/scenario was freshie (Yfinite-1) aping. To simplify things, we'll tag the variable freshie as (f), and the number of freshies in a group as (n). The fun part (which I shall denote with the function, F) of this game came from the scene/action they are suppose to act out (which I shall denote with the function, G) which will decay in accuracy as it is acted out by subsequent freshies. If we’re to represent the accuracy of their acting skills with, A, and the accuracy of the answer of freshie (Yfinite) - which is fn - as Afinite, then;

F= AfiniteG[A(f1)+A(f2)+…A(fn-2)+A(fn-1)]

Okay, in plain English, the freshies played a hybrid game of Pass-the-Message and Charade. Sorry I do not have any pictures of the game because I was too bored to care. F < M - B (with M being Live Malaysian Parliamentary Broadcast, and B being Badruddin).

The Improvisational Acoustic Band

They did it with plastic pails and empty water dispenser bottles. I’m impressed that they managed to get more than “tonk-tonk-tonk” out of them. The crowd absolutely loved it.

The Dance Team.

This is the troupe of toe-tappers I played musical box too earlier in the evening. The truly amazing thing was that they only started practicing the night before. Now folks, this is a true mark of dedication - putting together a show overnight for some strangers we pretended to care about
5. Jolly good work, fellas.

Hua Min

Here’s one of the dancers. She likes squatting.

Jason

And here’s the backbone of this event, the guy that made it all happen – our batch’s Chinese Representative6. He likes eating. A lot.

Two sporting guys from Batch 20.

One of the last event we had was getting a couple of volunteers from Batch 20 themselves to come up on stage lawn to sing. This was obviously the highlight of the night – the freshie girls are practically flinging their undergarments at the duo. One Batch 20 girl whose name was Ann Li, Annie, Anne Lee or Ang Lee (Why? Is this important to you?) told me that these two guys are the heart-throbs of her batch.

Bah, I detest these so-called heart-throbs. They are everything I’m not.

I think there were a couple of other things that happened after this but I can’t report to you about that because by that time, I was already back in my room editing the photographs for this post. There you have it, a brief insight into the inner workings of k0k bl0k.


Your friendly neighborhood newcaster,
k0k s3n w4i


1 I’m being perfectly honest with you; that’s how I remembered that the Orientation was scheduled for tonight.
2 Technically, I can just pass my laptop and its password to Abby and continue cutting Z's but frankly, I didn’t have the energy to try to get her to memorise my senseless, twelve-digit, alternating-letters-and-numbers password. I was also too lazy to look for pen and paper.
3 Have you seen a Chinese funeral procession where someone would walk in front of the coffin carrying a big photograph of the deceased? Well, that’s how I was holding my laptop.
4 Okay, I admit it – I’m just too bloody lazy to go.
5 With a few exceptions, of course. Like that cute chick in the miniskirt. And that hottie in pigtails. We definitely cared about them, oh yeah.
6 Our student council is structured like BN, with a Malay (UMNO), Chinese (MCA), and Indian (MIC) representative from each batch. All we’re lacking is the NEP.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ghosts

"All men whilst they are awake are in one common world: but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own."

Plutarch

By DeviantARTist, skim-mik.

I’m glad that classes are canceled because I honestly felt like shit. Today, all I want to do is to sleep the daylight away, waking only when it’s dark again. Today is one of those days I won’t mind dying in my sleep.

But I can only hope.

That’s usually how I feel being awake through the entire night till dawn. I loathe nights. Nights estrange the sleepless from those in repose and unconscious. If loneliness is quantifiable, then night will multiply it.

I believe that the human brain is nocturnal. Most students revise after dark, finding the cooler and quieter time of day to be more genial towards scholarly efforts. Night is the domain of writers and their quills, and of men of science and their numbers. Night is the time of the boogeyman and spirits with malicious intents, of fairy dances in flower rings and inanimate objects that come to life – multi-coloured figments of imaginations working overtime. But that silence – it allows those inconspicuous, low buzzing sounds at the back of our heads in daytime to grow to a screaming pitch. Trifling worries and menial problems can turn into monsters in that terrible, terrible silence.

And memories seem so lifelike to me at night. Old conversations sound as if they are being said right there in my room, and every bygone scene is a live stage act. At night, I realised this – I realised that the warmth of kisses can never truly leave one’s lips. Lying on my bed with my eyes closed, I could still feel them.

I tried distractions. I watched the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie but it was a bit of a disappointment. Or maybe I was just expecting too much. That’s my problem; I expect too damn much from everything and everyone.

After pottering about some sites, I took an online psychoanalytical quiz, and it said that I have a high affinity towards manic depression. I thought that was strange because I used to think I’m more of a multiple personality disorder type of guy (confirmed by that ‘Heroes’ personality test which said that I am most like Nikki/Jessica among all the characters). In fact, my ex had told me many times before that I am like many different persons in one body, and that she had never known the real me.

Who then, am I?


At 4.30 am, I watched another movie – this time, that Tony Leung and Takeshi Kaneshiro flick; Confession of Pain (傷城). I learnt three things from it;

One: Shu Qi is damn cute. I wonder why I didn’t realise this before.

Two: Humans are slaves of passion. We let it rule our heart, our actions and our souls. Sometimes, we would even let it destroy us. Passion, borne of desire, is the mother of all suffering and pain. Guess Sid1 got a point there after all.

Three: In the final scene of the movie, Shu Qi was trying to tell Takeshi Kaneshiro something, but he kept interrupting her by kissing her on the lips. I remember someone who loved me once kissed me many times when I was talking – and I gave up in the end because I had forgotten what I wanted to say.

What I learn from that was; I used to love nights.

I used to love staying awake at night.


The insomniac,
k0k s3n w4i

1 My personal moniker for Buddha. Guess why.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"If I were a One Rupee Coin"

"You seem to have a knack for writing romance stories. Write one for your 1119 - the examiners will eat it up, I promise."

June Yong, my old English tutor


Note: I ultimately ended up writing a war story from an Afghan boy's perspective - but I still got my 1A, though.


Here's what I wrote for UTSAV. The twist is right at the very end. The criteria for "writing creatively" are;
  • Why-didn't-I-think-of-that topic interpretation
  • Simple-yet-still-kick-ass plot
You be the judge on how far I've missed the targets. Suffer! Enjoy!

Jessica’s seat was about 7 feet away from mine and if I were to turn my head to a slight easterly position, I’d have a rather good view of the left side of her face. I know for a fact that in the period of one lecture class – which lasted about an hour apiece – Jessica would have twirled her right index finger in her thick, luxuriant ponytail five times at least (more than ten times if the lecture was particularly dull). I also noticed that there’s a small mole perched on the back of her left earlobe, and that whenever Jessica smiles, a cute dimple would appear on her left cheek. Occasionally, I was treated to the delightful sight of her throwing pretty head back and laugh whenever the lecturer up front made a joke. Mind you, when Jessica laughs, it was no polite ha-ha affair. It was real laughter, infectious and straight from the heart. I could swear that whenever she laughed, the world would stop for a second in its orbit, babies would cease crying, and flowers would bloom in the courtyard outside. That’s how beautiful her laugh was.

I knew all this because – well – more half the time, I was watching her instead of paying attention to whoever was talking at the podium upfront.

Around her slender neck ran a silver chain, and from it, a one rupee coin with a hole in it dangled over her bosom. It was kind of like her trademark – after all, how many girls you know wears our national currency around her neck like some sort of jewelry? I knew only Jessica who did. Apparently, when she was a tiny girl of four, her best friend gave it to her, and she had never taken it off since. It followed her wherever she went, and for all I knew, she could have even worn it to sleep.

“If I were a one rupee coin,” I mused my days away wistfully. “If only I were that one rupee coin, I’d be able to follow her for the rest of my life.”

***

Hi, my name is Kumar and as you probably have guessed, I am very much in love with Jessica, a colleague of mine in a medical school which I shall decline to name. As clichéd as this is going to sound to you, I am also a fantastically shy person with less charisma than a carton of skimmed milk. The most intimate moment I’ve ever shared with her was when I shook her hand on the first day of our academic First Year while I (futilely) attempted to stammer out an introduction of myself. Pathetic.

But today, that is going to change. I’ve taken the initiative to purchase two tickets to the upcoming annual ball which cost me 10 lunch-less days – and I’m going to ask Jessica to go with me as my date.

***

Right after Monday’s last lecture class, just as Jessica and her girlfriends were about to leave, I called out after her. She topped and turned. Unfortunately, her twelve girlfriends did exactly that as well. You’d be stunned too if you have thirteen pairs of eyes looking straight at you, but after the initial shock, I barged on anyway. I searched myself for every drop of courage I could find in me – and I pour it all out in that singular moment;

“Jessica, I’ve bought two tickets for the upcoming annual ball, and I wonder – just wondering – if you would like to come with me.”

A short moment of uneasy silence passed, and Jessica said, “No. I’m afraid I can’t Kumar. I’ve already promised Suresh I’ll go with him.”

A herd of cows could have fallen from the sky right on top my head without me realising it. And before I could stop myself, I held my two tickets up to eye-level and repeated lamely, “But I have two tickets…”

Twelve pairs of girlfriend eyes were scrutinizing me on every level at that very moment. If social etiquette was more permissive for outright indulgence in schadendfreude, they would have taken out their video camera phones and capture this ‘drama’ for their later viewing pleasure.

“Kumar…” began Jessica.

“Why Suresh?” I blurted, regretting the words before they were even out. “What does he have that I don’t?”

To the utter disappointment of her army of girlfriends, Jessica asked them to go ahead without her first, and that she would catch up with them later. Very reluctantly, they left Jessica and I alone. Jessica then took a deep breath.

“Kumar,” she said as she fingered the trinket she wore around her neck, “You know this coin, don’t you?”

I nodded, not having the slightest clue where she was going with this.

“When I was four, there was a boy my age who moved into my neighbourhood from a big city elsewhere, and I – having no brothers or sisters – was thrilled that I would finally have someone to play with. We did everything together, that boy and I. We were best friends,” she said, a smile starting to take shape on her face as remembrance kissed her. “That was, till his father moved him and his mother to Delhi just six months later. But that bit of time I spent with him – that six months – was the happiest days of my life. I cried bucketfuls because my best friend was leaving, very much afraid that I’ll never see him again,” she said.

She then reach for her one rupee coin again and caressed it lovingly.

“This was his most prized possession, a coin with a hole in it. I remember that he treated it like it’s worth a gazillion rupees. But before he left, he gave it to me, telling me to wear it always – so he’ll always know it’s me however I grew up to be like.”

“But what has it got to do with Suresh and the ball?” I asked helplessly, my voice and composure fractured into many tiny bits.

“Well a week ago, Suresh told me that when he was small, he gave something like this to a girl he knew named Jessica - and he's sure it's me,” said Jessica. “He’s a really nice and witty guy, and him turning to be my childhood best friend – it’s just too perfect to believe! I thought... I thought I could really be with a guy like that.”

“You believed him?” I asked, making it sound more like a statement of unbearable grief rather than a real question.

“Yes.”

That was the point I dropped the tickets and walked away. I really didn’t want to cry in front of her, but the tears - I could not stop them coming.

***

Dear Jessica,

I congratulate you on your engagement to Suresh, and I am honestly happy for both of you. It’s a real fairytale ending – you being engaged to marry your best friend from your childhood, and him finding you by a coin he gave you. It is unfortunate that there is no room in this fairytale childhood love story for me. I myself could barely remember anything earlier than when I was six.

I’m sorry I cannot make it to your wedding next June. Right now, even as you’re reading this, I’m probably hanging from my ceiling fan, and my feet are dangling one foot off the ground.

There are many bitter hurdles we need to leap over in life, Jessica – and tried as I can, I cannot clear this one.


Sorry.

Love always,
Kumar
***

It was late March in 1990. A four-year-old girl named Jessica was running excitedly to the house next door to find her best friend. To the little girl's surprise, she found her playmate sitting under a Mahwa tree in the garden, hugging his knees. His eyes were red and puffy, and he had obviously been crying hard.

“Why are you crying?” asked Jessica. She felt like crying too, seeing her best friend so unhappy.

“My Amah said that we must go to live in Delhi,” said the boy, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

Hearing this, Jessica burst into tears as well, and they sat there crying together for a quarter of an hour under that large, shady Mahwa tree.

“So we can’t play together anymore? When will I see you again?” asked Jessica between sobs. “And what if I don’t recognize you next time when you’re big and tall?”

The boy thought hard – as hard as a four-year-old boy could possibly think. He then took a small shiny object out of his pocket and pressed it into Jessica’s tiny hand. It was his treasure – a one rupee coin with a hole in it. He was terribly proud of it because nobody else had one.

“Put a string through it and wear it around your neck,” he said brightly. “So, I’ll always know it’s you! But I’d much rather stay here with you. I wish I can turn myself into a one rupee coin. If I am a one rupee coin, you can hide me in your purse or dollhouse. If Apah and Amah can’t find me, they can’t make me move with them!”

Jessica throw her pretty little head back and laughed, in that special way the boy found to be endlessly fascinating. He always tried to make her laugh because of that.

“You say the funniest things, Kumar!”

Goodness gracious, you actually made it till the end? Bloody impressive patience you got there! Do let me know what you think of it.

Now here's a tag from fuolornis - 10 camwhore shots of self! (I can't think of anyone who needs a bit of silliness in his or her life to tag, so this ends right here).

"Slurp, yummy."

Now for House episode 20 of season 3.

To all House fans in Manipal - ask for it, and you shall receive! And no, I don't have Grey's Anatomy (because it has got no Hugh Laurie in it). If you come and ask that from me, I'll give you a computer virus.

Ps: I deliberated whether I should just strike-out the entire suicide letter bit - but I went on with it included anyway. I didn't really like it (but hell, I do like suicides). And in case you haven't yet notice, I like unhappy endings. I can learn nothing from happy ones.


Drained,
k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The UTSAV Creative-Writing Smackdown

"Results are out for creative writing. We didn't make it."

Su Lin, Batch 17's Class Representative


I detest losing – and I detest joining competitions because of that. And goodness knows I’ve tried hard enough to get out of joining this one (though I finally failed at that because my, err, sense of duty overwhelmed me). I was perfectly contented with the introspective fantasy that I was a pretty darn good writer, and I did not need my pegs being taken down at all (I like them exactly where they were, thank you very much). Alas, my clothesline – it is now peg-less!

So, it’s like losing at trying to lose, and ultimately losing, in more ways than one a loser can lose because I lost at losing.

The big rusty, ornate key to Happiness is contentment. Now, because I’ve messed up this time, I’ll be damned if I don’t join the next UTSAV1 to make an attempt at recovering my honour (and my pegs). I am now trapped in that caste of people who felt discontented with what they already have, and will not rest till they get their paws on whatever it is that they want. I want pegs my pegs back – and more. I want to bloody win this!

Okay, now that I’ve got my "I'll be back" speech down in bytes, here’s the story;

Su Lin messaged me the day before the competition, telling me to "get my arse there" (in her own words) by 9.10 am to register. This is how the competition venue looked like at 9.15 am;

You know that old chestnut about early birds? The worms slept in.

For the record, I was there by 9.00 am, and not a second later. I do not advocate the practice of "Malaysian Punctuality2", and I believe that I am possibly the last honestly punctual Malaysian in current existence. Anytime when there’s a dinner, party, vacation trip, or society meetings, I am always there 10 minutes early (or I won’t be there at all).

Ever wonder where I picked up the habit of reading?


The registration bit started at 9.30 am (thank Hitler that I brought Hugh Laurie’s The Gun Seller with me), and because I did not bring my Student ID card3, I was the last to register – at 9.50 am. Someone lend me an oxygen mask, please - I’m trying to breath under the crushing weight of all this irony.

Geeks

We Malaysians were sorely outnumbered by an exact 20 to 1. Two Batch 19 kids plus me, versus 60 locals from assorted universities with scary sounding acronyms like KMC, MCON, MCODS, and MIT4 (I was surprised that I did not see CIA and KGB on the list). And my heart practically sank and hit the security guard one floor down when I found out that even the KMC in Mangalore had sent representatives.

I felt just like King Leonidas in 300. Bloody Persians.

Nerds.

The topic was revealed just as I plonked into my seat at 9.50 am. I spent the first five minutes of the allotted 2 hours asking a member of the competition committee to repeat that to me (10 times at least) because I can’t bloody well understand it through their heavy Indian accent. That guy had to write it down for me in the end. By that time, half the competitors had already started scribbling furiously. No need to mull or ponder – just ‘on your mark, get set, and write, write, write, write, done’. If anyone tells me that the local participants already knew the topic earlier, I would yawn theatrically and say, "Now, tell me something surprising."

I on the other hand, spent another half an hour before the Muses popped a half-baked one into my oven. By this time, some of them have even finished their essays. I completed mine by 11.45 am, being one of the few last ones to leave.

In case anyone’s interested, the topic was, "If I were a One Rupee Coin."

I’ll show you what I wrote in my next post, but tell me, what would you write for a topic like this? Tell me, and I’ll tell you mine.

Haha.

I then headed for the much-hyped annual UTSAV Book Fest, reaching there to find this (above) dingy little canopy tent that looked even less appealing than a Win-a-Teddy, fairground shooting gallery (Book Fest? Book-Less, more like). To be honest, I believe I personally own more books than what they have there. A large fraction of they were selling were self-help books and business strategy manual – stuff that I won’t read even if you threaten me with an enema.

While I was there scoffing and making faces at their books, the following scene took place;

A guy, probably American (because his face made me sick), was apparently having a tiff with his girlfriend. Boyfriend was sitting astride a I-am-compensating-for-my-manhood sort of motorbike while Girlfriend was tugging at his sleeve with big, teary, pleading eyes.

Boyfriend violently shook Girlfriend’s hand away, and proclaimed very loudly, "You didn’t give me what I want." I don’t know what was it that he "wanted" but I’m perfectly capable of employing my imagination.

Next, he pulled her close to him by the underwire of her brassiere and began to scold her torrentially under his breath. I sort of had enough at this point and began walking towards the couple when Boyfriend let go of her (I stopped in my tracks right then). Girlfriend then hopped onto the back of the bike and they rode off. I went, "WTF just happened here?"

Any thoughts?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have episode 19 of Heroes to attend to.



Filed for peg bankruptcy,
k0k s3n w4i.


1 Don't know what this stands for but I know that utsav is the Sanskrit word for 'festival'.
2 Heard this expression first time in my Fourth Form English tuition class. I can't be sure but does standard Malaysian social etiquette demands us to always arrive fifteen minutes late to any event? And if anybody wants to invite me to anything, please tell me the real time you expect everyone else to get there - not the time you give everyone else so that they'll arrive punctually however late they are running.
3 *Raises one eyebrow at Su Lin*
4 Not the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, of course. It really stands for "A College in Small-town Manipal That Just Wants To Cash in on Some Big-shot University's Name and Fame"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Signs of India

"Blogging is lame."

Me, less than a year ago


Words will be minimal in today’s post (frankly, I don’t have many words left in me after that UTSAV inter-college creative writing affair). Today, I finally decided to head to Udupi1 to buy myself the pair of sandal I’ve been meaning to get since two weeks ago – how’s that for procrastination?

I opted to hire an auto there instead of taking the bus. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with this vehicular animal, this is how one looks like;


Looks pretty dull, huh? But let me assure you; riding one on the road between Manipal and Udupi is definitely not for the cowardly, pregnant and those with cardiac problems. I had no less than four near death experiences in this journey alone;


Flimsy, three-wheeled excuse for a vehicle zipping at 60 km/h + a two way road that has the width of a cow-path + buses and trucks zipping at 80 km/h from the other direction = THAT WAS SOME FRIGGIN’ AWESOME RIDE, DUDE!

The Udupi Bus Station.

The girls are particularly fond of Udupi *coughshopaholicscough* and some would even visit it on a weekly basis. Me? I never liked the damn place – too bloody noisy, smoky, fishy, garbagey for my taste. And I was never much of a spender anyway (lest we’re talking about Kinokuniya, Borders and MPH here)

The only thing that interests me here is the way the shops are named. For example, let’s take a look at this fine specimen of a bicycle shop;

Noble Cycles.

It’s seriously pretty presumptuous to consider those plastic, kiddy bikykles to be anything near nobility at all. The nerve!

Angel Broking.

I guess this must be some sort of brokerage but how can one be sure, really? For all I know, they may be holding some serious grudge against angels.

The Biggest Showroom.

Sheesh. But wait till you see the real name of this "biggest showroom";

Silk Hina.

Hina sial! Haha.

Sabah Fashion – His and Her and Little Ones too!

Holy cow2! I’m a Malaysian and I don’t even know what folks in Sabah wear. I always imagined that the state comprised entirely of Kadazan and Bajau Laut tribes – they dress au naturel, don’t they?

Sad Guru Dress Centre.

Where depressed teachers go to get their togs – Est. since the invention of children.

Asma Cassette Corner.

I bought my Edifier Multimedia Speakers from this shop. So, this is the reason why Mariah Carey tends to wheeze whenever I play her through them?

Shopper’s Shop.

Duh – uh.

Ding Dong House of Electronics.

Ding Dongs? As in "I want to jump around buck naked singing 'Jingle Bells' and shakey-shake my ding dongs?"

Sai Cellular’s.

Sh!t so small you’ll need a microscope to see them (Check out Poseur Beardy, bottom right).

Mysore Medical Stores.

Holy sh!t3, it rhymes!

"If you have lots of pain and sores,
Come to Mysore Medical Stores!"

Catchy stuff, that.

Shams Land Links.

I don’t know what "land links" are but if they are shams, I’m not buying any!

Maybe that explained why they went bankrupt. Poor morons.

Digi Con Services.

Use Maxis.

Sphatika Residential Apartments.

This is the sponsored segment of today’s post;

"Sphatika! A phremier reshidenshee phor lihsping sphastics. We cater to all youhr lihsping sphastic needhs!"

Forgive me, Father, for I had succumbed to the temptation of indulging in lameness.

Trade Centaur.

Hey, that’s not how a centaur looks like! A real centaur looks like this;

Half horse, half pornstar. *Rawr*

Shanker Building.

I don’t really know why but that just sounds so wrong.

Sheetal.

Diarrhoea Delight! Cholera Cones! Ingest their ice-creams and you’re going to "shit all" out one hour later - in puree form.

Shoe Kemp.

Huh?

Shoe Ground.

How thoughtful of the shop’s proprietor to provide instructions on using his products.

Goodwill Shoes.

Ever wondered where that pair of clobber nightmare you donated to the church ultimately ended up in?

Solo Shoes.

ROTFLMAOOAOAOAOA4!!! Look, if you don’t get the joke, I’m not going to tell you.

Shoe Mahal.

This is the shop no Malaysians shopped in. Gosh, I wonder why?


Sign spotter,
k0k s3n w4i

1 The nearest town to Manipal that has a passable selection of shops
2 I’m pretty sure this phrase has its origin in India.
3 I’m pretty sure this one was too.
4 Rolling on the floor laughing my ass off over and over and over and over again.

A Message for Chern Lin

"Eh, Kok. Can help with something ar?"

Khim Hai

Note: This is a sponsored post. It was paid for in friendship points.

I don't know if I have many Batch 19 readers but if any of you are listening - well, listen up! please.

Khim Hai is a buddy/neighbour/schoolmate/3.00 am mamak-kaki of mine since I was four years old1. Over a short MSN chat session, he had entrusted to me the task of passing on a message to Ms. Loh Chern Lin. Now, I will in turn appeal to anyone who knows Ms. Chern Lin personally to ensure that Khim Hai's message reaches her ears, pretty please.

It's a birthday wish, of course - and no birthday wish is complete without something hug-it-to-bits, oh-my-god-that's-so-cute-I-can-explode to put a smile on the birthday girl's face;



Now, try not smiling when you see these!1

Okay, I've tried my best. Here's the message;

Hey Chern!

How are you? And how's life in Manipal? Pretty great, huh? I hope you are enjoying life there. Anyway, I just want to wish you a,

Happy 21st Birthday!

I hope this birthday would be memorable, and that you will cherish this blithesome moment for always. Tack this in the centre of that scrapbook of back-and-white photographs and past perfections in the vault of your memory - because, if any birthday deserves that spot, the 21st definitely does.

And of course, I do wish that all your wishes will come true. Fingers crossed here!

Till then - take good care of yourself, and have a nice day.



Yours as always,
Khim Hai


Sweet fella, ain't he?


And a Happy Birthday from me to her as well.


Messenger boy,
k0k s3n w4i

1 He was all that since four except for being my 3.00 am mamak-kaki. Obviously.
2 I scoured the whole internet for cute stuff and this is about the cutest one I can find. Credits due for this site.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Little Girl and Hand-drawn Flowers

“Why do you want to be so different from everyone around you?”

A question I’ve never given a truthful answer to before

Picture from deviantart.com. Words by Robert Frost.

The highlight of the week in my old all-boys secondary school was the PE period. 10 minutes before PE, all the dudes were already fidgeting, feeling the rise of adrenaline for a rough spot of footie to come and the rise of impatience at whichever teacher that was taking the pre-PE class. 5 minutes before PE, more than half the guys were already at the field – all changed and raring to start.

"Boys."
1

Of course, there was always someone who would not share the class’s enthusiasm for football. That someone would consider it a perfectly silly and futile exercise (Honestly, twenty-two sweaty guys chasing after a ball in a huge field?). That someone would not even bother to bring his physical kit to school. That someone would instead pack a good novel to read when he was left alone in an empty classroom when his mates were out in the field (laughably) emulating Beckham.

That someone was me. That screwball. That insufferable elitist slash Mr. I’m-Just-Too-Cool-to-be-Like-You.

I don’t give a sh!t how many goals Manchester United scored against team X in that game Y nights ago. I don’t care if Real Madrid bought Beckham like a whore for some insane sum of money, or that Rooney bangs senior citizens, or what kind of razor Zidane uses to shave his nuts. I have no interest in sports cars and could barely tell Porsche and a Toyota apart – let alone all the model types with names that sounded as if they belonged to government experimental stealth bombers. I insisted on buying only the cheapest, most durable and practical Nokia phones as opposed to getting those MP3 player + gazillion-mega-pixel camera + game console + GPRS + ICBM launching capabilities type of mobile phone hybrids which my friends worked two part-time jobs simultaneously to pay for. I have never worn a pair of jeans in my life. What I know about gadgets won’t fill a thimble. I’d pick a long, thoughtful, artsy movie over an action thriller any day of the week. The anime/manga japanophile culture had left me unmoved. And oh, I detest seafood don’t lynch me, please.

The thing is; there seems to be an overwhelming personal drive to choose2 differently from my approximate majority. It’s not that I’m trying very hard to be a social freak – it’s just that being different comes so naturally to me. Whatever the flock does, I do not.

The standing postulation is that I get a colossal kick out of saying “I don’t do that,” and watch people stare at me incredulously - which I assure you is rather far from the truth. The most recent time anyone asked me the question at the top was regarding my total dependence3 on the Keith L. Moore’s Clinically Oriented Anatomy textbook (which most people deemed unreadable), and my complete ignorance of the contents of B. D. Chaurasia’s Human Anatomy trilogy (which everyone thought to be essential and sure-to-fail-if-you-one-if-you-don’t-read). In spite of the odds cited against my favour, I passed anyway *takes a bow*.

The book everyone thought was crap.

Maybe I’m just afraid of losing my individuality – so afraid that I don’t even mind walking off the nice, paved, flower-skirted roads.

Maybe.

Now, let me tell you a story. You like stories, don’t you? Everybody likes stories (yeah, even me);

Between the period of time when I was three and six years old, I studied in a missionary kindergarten called Pei Daw. Frankly, I can’t remember much from my time there - just snippets of playground games, scenes where I wetted my shorts, and this truly massive Indian girl who sat beside me in one of the classes. I remember that we were supposed to leave the classroom everyday in a line of twos and that the boys were forced to hold hands with the girls while standing in that line. I remember replacing another boy in a skit during the annual graduation kiddie performances because he couldn’t act for peanuts. I remember that there was a durian tree standing in the middle of the playground and that our teachers would forbid us to play there during the fruiting seasons4. I remember that I can read and speak Chinese better at that age than I can do so now.

Memories, memories, dressed in black-and-white – but one particular memory stood out in colours;

I was sitting alone by the drain watching the other kids play in the playground. Frankly, I don’t know why but there I was – alone.

A little girl wearing a bright red skirt came and sat beside. In one of her tiny hands was a box of colour pencils, and there was a piece of paper in the other. She showed me that piece of paper and I saw that she had half-decorated it with drawings of flowers – uniformed, five-petal blossoms in red.

“Can you help me draw more flowers?” she asked me earnestly in Mandarin. “I want you to fill the paper with flowers.”

I wordlessly took that piece of paper from her and proceeded to draw, solemnly copying the flowers she had already drawn on that piece of paper. I drew mine in red as well, and all of them had five petals – just like hers. I even drew them the same size.

But before I could finish, she took her colour pencil and her paper back, and walked away.

Ps: In case you haven't yet realise it, I have already answered the question in the beginning.


The one and only,
k0k s3n w4i

1 I'm saying this not with an affectionate smile, but with my eyes rolled to the back of my head.
2 Keyword.
3 T-O-T-A-L D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E. Not even class notes (because I've lost most of them). And not even Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy (because I was too cheap to buy one).
4
Durian + Heads of 3-to-6-year-old Kids = Tragedy + Lawsuit