Thursday, December 31, 2009

Back Home



We left for the hospital as soon as the kids left. We met my mum's sister. She's only a year older looking very weak. She mentioned how healthy-looking my mother was.

"Who asked you to move to Malaysia?" Teased my mother. Her husband looked on - smiling.

"Apa nak buat kalau jodoh kita orang Malaysia," she said weakly with a smile. Her husband added that disease knows no boundaries. If one's fated to fall sick, one will no matter where one is. They spoke and I could see that my sick aunt was glad that my mum dropped by - even if it was just for an hour or so. I guess it's little things like this that makes the difference.

As we're about to leave, we met her eldest son and youngest daughter. Again, it's funny though how warm they are with my mother. Afterall, it has been many years since the last time they visited us in Singapore.

I couldn't even recognize Aimi. I vaguely remember the little girl that came to our place a couple of times nearly a decade ago. And I only found out that she's 4 years younger than me. I found out coz somehow, I managed to speak to her. The me a decade ago would never. I asked her about school, talked about her course and stuffs. I asked her why we never spoke those many years ago when she came to stay over at our place with her mum and elder sister.

"Awak sombong," she said with a smile.

I simply smiled. I guess my introvert nature can easily be misread as arrogance and anti-social. I'm not surprised. I had always been the shy guy and still am I guess. But I'm talking more now though - I need to. Opportunities to talk such as this one comes once in perhaps 10 years so one has got to make every minute count.

We reached Singapore at around half past nine. As soon as we reached my place, we received an SMS from across the Causeway. Kak Bibah asked if we've reached home safely and said that she wanted to let us know that her dad's been warded into the hospital due to heart attack. My mum felt sad. I guess we'll never know what's going to happen next. I prayed for the both of them to recover soon.

Earlier, I received an sms that informed me that my faculty's floorball team didn't make it through to the quarters. I logged on to the Internet to check my examination results. I saw an F in a module that I found doable. But I smiled when I saw an A in Magical Realism. My GPA maintained. Alhamdulillah.

After a day of mixed emotions, I realized that the setbacks that I've experienced are nothing really. I took a deep breath, replanned my timetable and wrote about my trip. There's so many lovely things in life and I find it foolish to feel down because of a minor stumble. I just gotta pick myself up and move on. I've got dreams to make me study hard coz right now, I'm far from good. And not only that, I must study smart too! Insyaallah I will.

The Lovely Kids





We reached Malacca at around 11am. We met Kak Bibah, the daughter of my mum's elder sister. Despite decades since their last meeting, Kak Bibah was surprisingly very warm and friendly.

We made our way to her house first as hospital visiting hours was at 1pm. There, I met 2 lovely kids who made my day - an 8 year old girl and a 4 year old boy.



"Hi! Nama adek apa?"

He didnt reply and ran into his room. When he came back out, I smiled and asked for his name again. He didnt reply. He went to another room and came back with 2 toy cars. I reached out to him and asked if I could have one. He placed a car in my hand and went away. He then came back with more toys but whenever I asked for his name, he didnt reply.

"Do you want a sweet?" I asked as I remembered the Mentos in my pocket. Kids love candies. He nodded his head and reached his hand out. "But first, you got to tell me your name." He didnt answer. I held him close and looked him. I knew he wasnt going to tell me and I didnt want to let the kid wait for his candy. He smiled. I surrendered. He went away. I loved his smile.

He then came back and sat on my lap. And soon he was lying in my arms. I missed the feeling of caring and loving for someone ever since my brothers grew up and had decided that grown ups shouldnt be loved like as though they're small kids.

As the boy laid in my arms, I asked him for his name again. He just smiled. Something doesnt seem right. He went off to clear his toys and moments later, he was standing right next to me - looking and pointing to my sweets. He pointed at the colour green but it would mean that I have to eat 2 purple ones. So, I did. Mentos should've arranged their sweets randomly and not by colors. He was happy and walked over to his mum to have breakfast.

I looked around and saw the little girl combing her hair in front of the mirror. It's been a long long long while since I saw anyone combed their hair. I remember spending a long time in front of the mirror - just like her - combing my hair. But that was many many years ago.

When she was done, I asked for her name. It was a mouthful. She had to spell it a couple of times - it was a tricky name.

"Aishah *jarak* Firiyyal. Tapi panggil saya Sara je. Nama adik saya Muammar Muhammad. Dia pelat sikit. Panggil dia Mai je." She seemed nice kid. Polite. She then went to the kitchen to have her breakfast.

She was having a conversation with my mum and I heard the word "kucing" which means cat in Malay.

"Pakcik tu takut dengan kucing," my mum told her and pointed at me.

"Siapa?" She asked as she stretched her head out. I looked at her. She saw me and giggled. My mum shouldn't have told her I was afraid of cats.

"There're cats?" I wondered as I looked around the house. I couldn't see or hear any so I resumed watching tv.

Later, I heard the kids playing in the other room so I went over to join them. To my surprise, each were holding a cat.

For some reason (that I think I can explain), I didnt panic. I sat down on the sofa in front of two kids who knew I was afraid of cats. Muammar looked at me and smiled. Oh no... He walked towards me and wanted to place the cat on my lap. I smiled and gave him the "dont u dare... pleeease I beg you" look. I was too late. He placed it just beside beside my lap.

For some reason (that I think I can explain), I didn't move away. I was comforted knowing that Sara was sitting beside me, a white little cat in her arms. There was something in her eyes and smile that made my fear go away.

"Kucing yang ini baik. Tapi dia suka cekau. Yang ni pulak suka gigit." She said and giggled through her teeth.

For the first time ever, I ran my fingers through the cat's fur. "He (it looks like a male cat) definitely needs to use Dove Hair Conditioner." I said to myself. I never thought I'll see this day coming.

The kids left for their Grandma's. I wished they hadn't left so soon. It's only been a couple of hours. I waved goodbye as they left.

I'm glad I've finally learnt what it means by seizing opportunities as they come. I've made full use of the time I had with them to get to know them, and for them to get to know me. I rediscovered my loving and caring side. Ive gotten rid of my fear of cats. And for a brief moment, I was sweetly distracted - the eyes, the specs, the smile, the hair, the cat.


It was only later that I found out that the boy has difficulty speaking. If I'm not mistaken, they have brought him to see a speech therapist. I hope they grow up to be as lovely as they are now. I've only seen them for a couple of hours. I wonder if they'll remember me the next time I see them.

To the kids, if one day you decide to google up your name curious to know if any guy or girl is secretly blogging about you, please do leave me a comment. I'm the not-so-old-pakcik who used to be afraid of cats, but not anymore after seeing how brave and lovely you guys were.

The Idiot...





I had written a long piece. We had just reached Malacca. I was finishing up my LAST sentence when my phone automatically restarted. A little over 1000 words vanished in an instant! Countless kilometers/three hours of thoughts!! I felt like an idiot! I felt like throwing my phone away and never write again. The feeling of losing something that I wrote really sucked especially after I gave so much thoughts and emotions into it. argh!

But I told myself that we learn from mistakes. We should immediately assess the situation and see the next best thing that can be done. I took a deep breath and typed away the last thing I remembered - the final line.

I then retraced my steps and typed the main points of what I wrote. It's been a short but lovely trip. A long day and I'm tired. Therefore, I shall reconstruct my first Nokia E63 piece first thing in the morning.

The next morning,

Looking at the scenery along the NS highway, I can't help but think about things. I'm with mum, my aunt and my uncle on an urgent trip to Malacca. It's been a while since I sat in a car up this highway. Many things have changed since then. The Immigration Checkpoints, the roads, the route, the buildings, the view. But then, I realized that perhaps I'm the one who's changed a lot since then.

It definitely feels weird as I'm writing this entry. Firstly, I've never written anything in a moving car before. Secondly, I've never written an entry when my mama's just beside me. She must be thinking I'm typing one heck of an SMS. Thirdly, the driver's not my dad. Fourthly, I'm the only kid in the car. Fifthly, my siblings are not with me. I'm feeling pretty alone and when I'm alone, that's usually when my mind begins to wonder. Perhaps that's how you sometimes feel.

We just had breakfast and conversation revolved around children and their future. It feels weird to be sitting in an adult conversation. And I'm finding myself sitting in an adult conversation pretty often lately.

My aunt shared something she heard from perhaps the radio. She said parents should never have the feeling of expecting something in return from their children. She added that the responsibility of parents is different from that of the children and that parents should be grateful that their children thinks about them. My mum didn't quite agree but she admitted that looking at today's context, perhaps what my aunt said was true.

Like my mum, I didn't quite agree with what my aunt shared. I think it's my responsibility as child to give back whatever I can to my mum - to just make her happy. Thinking about her just isn't enough. But as I looked at the thoughts I'm currently having - school, stress, results, frisbee, floorball, soccer, my future - I realized I haven't been thinking about my mum much lately. And once I've graduated, I'll most probably be shifting my thoughts to work, stress, the one and marriage so hopefully, I'll remember mum as I think about those things.

It strikes me that parents think about their children ALL the time. The things they do, they do it for us. I hope that us children will do the same for our parents, and in future, our own children.


I'm never one who rewrites the same thing twice so the above is only a fraction of my original piece. For some weird reason, I forgot what came before the final line. Really. Perhaps it's a good thing too that my phone restarted - I was starting to write using more of my heart and less of my brain. Here's the final line:

Ive been told by some that my entries have a voice. And if what they say is true, I hope you know I'm talking to you.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Writer ...





.. is someone who plans to read The Zahir during the trip up and down Malaysia's North-South highway but ends up typing away thoughts and reflections and stories into his Nokia E63.

I went to Malacca with my mum today to visit an unwell relative. And the 8 hours on the road wasn't enough for me to finish what I started. More to come soon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hoping beyond hope





We drew 2-2 this afternoon. We scored the first goal and celebrated like we had won. Shortly after though, they equalized. We then surprised ourselves again by scoring a second with only minutes left to play. This time, we celebrated like we had won the Champions League. And yeah... shortly after, they equalized - again.

grrrr. So close. We were so close. I was *this* close to writing an entry for floorball that has a "we had lost a game but won the next. We qualified for the quarters." But I guess it wasnt meant to be. "If only I had used my legs or body to block the shot instead of the stick." I told myself. "If only..."

I had signed up for floorball expecting nothing much besides making new friends and learning a new sport. I made new friends, and loved a new sport. But why am I feeling so bothered that we didn't win? Could it be love? Could my love for the game, and my teammates, have changed my initial expectations? Maybe. I guess I'm one who hates to be on the losing side when I'm involved in something that I love - for I love a fairy tale ending.

I later found myself asking if it's possible for one to love so many at the same time. I said I love soccer, frisbee and now floorball. I love to write and I loved Magical Realism. I love my family and my friends. And if there's a girl, then perhaps her too. So I guess the draw could be a sign that says, "This is what happens when one starts to love. In love, there will always be disappointment. So if you're gonna start loving one too many things, you just gotta learn how to live with the disappointments that might be waiting round the corner." But since I'm generous with the word "love", I guess I could try to love the disappointment that awaits me.

I know full well too that life isn't a story that I can simply write about. I know that things may or may not go my way. And when it does, thank god. And when it doesn't, I think I need to remind myself that things always happen for a reason. Perhaps I'm not meant to play 3 sports concurrently: my right palm's aching and I'm seeing blue veins; my right forearm feels so tight that I feel so tempted to try and punch through one of the blue walls of my room (I cant decide which one); my left feet and left hamstring are slightly strained. If I had to choose just one sport, I guess my choice is pretty obvious.


However, there IS a twist to my fairy tale (as always).

We lost a game, and drew another. All we need now is a miracle. The team we lost to 5-1 yesterday has to win the team we drew this afternoon by 5 goals in order for us to qualify. I know it's hard but the side of me that believes in the 0.00001% probability of it happening is definitely still in me somewhere. I'm just hoping beyond hope.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hidden Ability





I was never a good soccer player. Never played Frisbee nor have I ever touched a floorball stick.

Hence I'm surprised to hear people telling me I played really well today, and the game before - one even remarked that had he known that I do not stay in any of the halls, he would have asked me to join his hall team. Looking back, the past 2 games I played for my faculty were the finest two games of soccer Ive ever played. I was winning aerial challenges, making key through passes, crucial sliding tackles and I even had a one on one situation with the keeper during this morning's game. It missed by inches!! I was taking hits in places a guy never wish to be hit but it was worth it, I think. We lost a game but won the next. We qualified for the quarter finals.

My first brush with Ultimate frisbee began during a picnic. Someone brought a disc. It flew to me. I caught it. I threw it back and it flew pretty smoothly. And when it came back to me, I cheekily tried to do a flick and it flew pretty smoothly too. Friends began asking me for advice and suddenly I'm a pro (almost there though. Haha!).

I decided to up my game by signing up for my faculty's Frisbee team. After intensive analysis of tutorial vids and full games on Youtube, I walked onto the field that afternoon hoping to put to practice whatever I've seen. Only 6 other people came - no substitutes. Everyone never played a proper game before. I somehow became the one that pointed out common mistakes in throwing and catching. We discussed whatever tactics that made sense. Spirits were high. Magic happened. We lost a game but won the next. We qualified for the quarters.

Floorball's a little trickier. It's a highly skilled sport. I didnt manage to watch the whole series of training videos on youtube. So I walked into the hall today, having watched up to vid 2.4 out of 4.5. We managed to hold our opposition to a nil-nil draw at half time. Spirits were high. But we lost focus/lacked experience/didnt know what needs to be changed in the second half - scored 1, conceded 4. Against a team of floorball and hockey players, we definitely did awesome coz we had none! For someone who never touched a floorball stick before (and fyi, the handle grip smells!!), I was guilty of dribbling too much - it feels sooo good to dribble. We lost a game.... but IF the pattern repeats, we'll win tomorrow. (:


The point of this piece isn't about my natural sporting talents. It's about how it's possible to do reasonably well in something totally new. One simply needs to put in the effort - Youtube vids, frisbee throwing sessions - and remind one's self that a part of him believes he can do real well and WANTS to do real well. With soccer though, it's about not wanting to disappoint teammates whom he's never met before prior to the games. It's also about not wanting to make a fool of himself by shying from aerial challenges and tackles. I feel that if one really wants to succeed, one day one will.

It worked with my Magical Realism elective. Now if only I can somehow translate this desire to succeed to my core modules! Fyi, results will be out in a couple of days! Here's hoping I won't be writing a bunch of entries to psychologically tell myself to stay optimistic.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Little things





He was holding 2 pieces of purple notes in his hands.

"Ive got $4 for lunch and dinner," he said to his unemployed twin brother. He must've known I'm within hearing distance. Cheeky.

"Awww," I said as I pulled out my wallet from the back pocket of my jeans. I had 2 pieces of red notes in my wallet. I took one out and gave it to him.

"Thanks!" He smiled.

"Where's my hug? Or at least just a kiss?" I teased him as he left for work.


Time flies.

I remember feeling extremely happy whenever my dad gave me money. Without me asking for it, he would somehow sense that I could use a little extra and would ask if I had enough. And despite me saying that I've enough, he'd dip his hand into the front pocket of the pair of jeans that he'd hang behind the door. And he'll give me whatever loose notes he could find. I've always wondered why he never kept his money in his wallet - notes and coins were always in his pockets.

It never mattered to me how much he gave. To receive something from him, on top of the usual allowance from mama, was enough to make my day. Imagine the number of nuggets I could buy for lunch with an additional $2!

Whenever I feel like I'm wearing his shoes, I'll think about him. And I wish he was still around. Sometimes I wish he was still around so that I could feel younger. Haha!

Dad, if you're reading this .... really, you're making me feel like I'm 52. Not saying you're old but I'm sure you know what I mean. I'm thinking things through alot more than I used to and it's all because of you. I really wish you're here right now coz there's a question that I'd like to ask you...

Suppose there's a girl that you met in school and you really like her even though you don't even know her. Dad, I've gotta tell you first that she's sucha beautiful girl and both you and I know that you're not the most handsome guy around. What would you do? You know, I was thiiiis close to talking to mama about this but somehow, I know she'll tell me to focus on my studies first. How I wish you were still around. You'll always be in my prayers.


Missing you, your son.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Blank Spaces





I've been staring at this space for quite some time now. I've ran out of stories - stories that I could write and share with whoever's reading. Hmmm... then again, I think I can somehow squeeze one in tonight.

He was reading The Zahir by Paulo Coelho last night and the following caught his eye: "The Zahir - someone or something which, once we have come into contact with them or it, gradually occupies our every thought, until we can think of nothing else." He smiled. No one else could probably describe it better than Coelho. It's no longer a secret that someone has been his Zahir for the longest of time. If writings had a scent, his would smell like a million sweet-smelling red roses.


.......


I'm stuck. Staring into space again. It's as though Santa had given me a "nothing box" this Christmas. I hope this W-block of mine is temporal. In the mean time, I shall continue with the story I started in my new notebook.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Day






A philosopher once asked, "Are we human because we gaze at the stars,
or do we gaze at them because we are human?"
Pointless, really...
"Do the stars gaze back?" Now, that's a question.

Today's the day when I destroy the boundary between the real world and the unreal. I've always wanted to destroy this wall ever since I wrote Unreal Realism (27 Oct 09).

Could thoughts and stories come true in reality? Do wonderful stuffs only belong in books and films? Do opposites really attract? These are questions a thinker thinks about but never will he find the answers unless he embarks on a personal quest to find the answers - himself. The eventual answers may not be what he had hoped for them to be but at least now, he has answers instead of questions.... Answers that will come in useful in later parts of one's journey in life.

Today's the day when words translate into actions. It ain't going to be easy but he has gotta start from somewhere, right?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Conversations






I was flipping through one the many brochures sent to our home by the various polytechnics. My brothers are currently at one of the many crossroads in life. I was at that crossroad years ago and had chosen the junior college route. My brothers on the other hand however, have ruled out the route I took - having seen me gone through the things I did. As I flipped through the brochure, I wondered how things could be like had I chosen a different path.

"Have you thought about Law and Management offered at Temasek Polytechnic?" I asked my brother.

"Not interested," he replied.

"In that case, you could consider Psychology. Stuffs you see on The Mentalist and Criminal Minds."

"Do you know what's the cut off point for Psychology?"

"8 points," I replied with no hesitation. And I also told him I do believe he's capable of achieving 8 points. He smiled a smile of uncertainty - unsure of what he is capable of achieving in life. I remembered myself being unsure of what I'm capable of back in those days. I was unsure of where to go and the paths I could take. But unlike my brothers, I was alone. I wished I had someone to show me the way - someone like me.

"Are you thinking about studying Engineering? Coz if you do, you might want to think twice. I'm in Engineering but I wish I was somewhere else instead. I just want you to do something that you will enjoy doing. It has to be what you want; Not what I want, not what mama wants and definitely not what your friends want. It has to be your decision. One that you know you won't regret."

But deep down, I know that at their age, one usually doesn't know what one truly wants. Dreams change. And sometimes, they don't even exist.

"I'm not interested in school," he replied half-jokingly. "Can I just make do with an O-level cert?"

How I wish it was possible. Many of my friends had the same thought as my brother. What is the point of going to school? To university? I've seen friends go through depression to the point of quitting - and never wanting to come back to school. I've also seen friends who never completed compulsory education yet they are having the time of their life. If there's anything I could learn, it'll be that there's no fixed way for one in pursuit of happiness.

"You really should consider courses like Law or Psychology. You could be a lawyer or a psychologist. They sound like awesome jobs." I told him as I walked towards my room.

I was just about to sit at my desk thinking about of the story I'm planning to write, I hear my sister asking me, "What about you? What are you going to be when you graduate from University?"

I smiled a smile of uncertainty - just like my brother did - unsure of what I'm capable of achieving. I gave the question some thought.

I don't know, whispered a voice from within the innermost confines of my soul.

I don't know.

The One





I'm one of those who spends only on needs. I hardly spend on anything I want. Never on impulse. But yesterday was different. I was killing time at the bookstore - looking around, reading cards, reading faces. And somehow, I ended up at the notebook section.

She caught my eye. Unlike the others, she wasn't wrapped in clear plastic - probably removed by an inconsiderate customer. And I'm sure that she must've been caressed and flipped open and close countless times - seeing how pretty, beautiful and vulnerable she was. However, there's something about her that words just can't explain. I guess I could say was drawn in by her beauty - her inner beauty. Like others before me, I picked her up. She was soft, smooth and velvety - unlike any others I've seen and touched. The feeling's definitely lovely. And many others before me, I too flipped it open and close - thrice.

She was unlike any other notebooks I've seen where all I could see are a couple hundred blank pages with lines. With her, however, I could see myself in my room, lying on the couch that doubles up as my bed, staring at her empty pages thinking about all the lovely things that I could write - and then eventually writing it. I guess I should probably let you know I've been toying with the idea of writing a story of a boy meets girl - two complete opposites who were simply made for each other.

But then again, maybe I should write that story with no particular ending in mind. I shall write it as it happens. As of now, it's shall be about a boy who grew up believing that he’d never be truly happy until he met “the one”. He's finally met "the one" (or so he thinks), and he asks himself: What's next? And you should also probably know upfront that this may, or may not, be a love story.

I'm glad I picked her up - the notebook. I then looked at the price tag - $14.50. Hmmmm... I ran my fingers across the cover of the book again. I flipped it open and close again. This time, I saw a couple hundred pages filled with my messy scribbles. A couple hundred pages of my story - a story I hope I could read soon.

I walked over to the cashier. I asked if I could get my hand on a brand new copy of the notebook only to be told she's the only one left. I smiled.

"I guess you and I, we're just destined to be together." I knew I've found the one. I knew she's the one.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Few Options






I entered the police station. My youngest brother was in detention.

"What was he doing working at the petrol station at such young age?" Asked the investigation officer.

Time stood still. Everyone stopped whatever they were doing. All eyes and ears were on me. "He has to work. Both of them need to. They've got no choice. We've got few options."

She looked straight at me - as though looking for signs of lying. I looked straight at her - not because I was afraid I might give my true feelings away. But because her eyes were windows to what seemed like a beautiful world that I simply had to see what lies within that world. Her world.

Satisfied with my answer, she ordered for my brother's release. She was right. What was a one-year-old child doing working at the petrol station? I teared a little as I carried the little child in my arms. As he wrapped his arms around my neck, I whispered whispers in his ears.

As much as I wish for you not to work, you have to. Both you and your twin need to. You've got no choice. We've got few options.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Moment of Brilliance



thespiralstairwell


I've not been here coz I'm there this past couple of days so forgive me if my writing's a little weird - my head is tuned in to CreativeWriting FM right now.

I'd like to share with you one moment of "brilliance" that I had yesterday during a conversation with someone whom never fails to gift me a wonderful conversation - to illustrate how I'm tuned in to CreativeWriting FM. And if i may add, it was on msn. I don't think I'm one who can carry a real life conversation well. Anws, back to THE moment of "brilliance" of the year.

Someone was feeling stupid and down. And i told her she's being stupid for feeling stupid and I also told her something like:

"Hey, you better not crumble ey? It's ok to be disappointed, but do not crumble. Move on. I could move on from Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood but you... you could move on from the cute guy to Prince Charming."

Deep down I knew my story isnt the same as hers - for neither Cinderella nor Little Red Riding Hood knew of my existence. But that story belongs in a different story - not this present one. I secretly wondered what could top Prince Charming, just in case a similar day came, when something or someone whispered in my right ear.

I then typed, "I've got a nice piece of poetry for you... Hold on."

(..I walked over to The Spiral Stairwell)

"When you come to something, stop to let it past. So that you can see what else is there.

One love may hide another love or the same love. As when 'I love you' suddenly rings false and one discovers, The better love lingering behind.

Those are lines from this super long piece called
One Train May Hide Another by Kenneth Koch."

Wonderful eh?

And on a different note, I just wrote a piece of nothing that could be something one day (I shall keep on dreaming) over at The Spiral Stairwell. So check it out yea? There's a link above. I feel like writing a lovely Fiction soon.

So please do remember,
If I'm not here,
I'm there -
The Spiral Stairwell
- where the boring interesting Litty stuffs dwell

Hmmm.. Now all I need some music and I'll have my very first jingle! Haha! Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

If I'm not here....






If I'm not here,
I'm there -
- where the boring interesting Litty stuffs dwell


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Homer, Frost and friends





The first time I watched the movie In Her Shoes was the first time I heard the name E E Cummings ..... And I fell in love with it - or was it Cameron Diaz. Im not too sure.

And it was through The Reader that I was exposed to Homer and The Odyssey: "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy."

The only Robert Frost I knew was the one I read while reading Paulo Coelho's Like the Flowing River :

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Sappho, Dante, Milton, Seamus Heaney, D H Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, Rita Dove and the list goes one (at least 25 other names) - and this is only the poetry section of Introduction to Creative Writing. For the prose section of the elective, Franz Kafka and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are the only two familiar names. I have no idea who's Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, George Moore and friends. Oh, and I cannot differentiate a prose from a poem and last i heard, there's such a thing as a poetic prose.

Enrolling myself into an elective potentially filled with a sea of Lit students doing a Minor in Creative Writing is akin to a failed suicide attempt. But should one be afraid of committing suicide just because of the 0.00001% chance of it becoming failed suicide attempt?

haha! I don't think so.


And no, I'm not advocating suicide. And yes, if you're feeling suicidal, please talk to me.


Fast Forward





There's only several things on my mind this past couple of days - next Monday's Frisbee matches, Thurday's soccer matches, my daily runs, studying Ultimate frisbee videos, planning next semester's timetable and meeting up old friends and colleagues. Oh, and I'm also kinda looking forward to meet Cinderella at tomorrow's gathering despite the fact that she'd already met her Prince Charming. I'm secretly hoping that seeing her could give me some inspiration to start writing again.

I'm planning to take Introduction to Creative Writing next semester. So do note that any future entries with the label Creative Writing need not be based on a true story (:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Planning nerves



Registration of courses for Semester 2 is on the 21st of December 2009. Examination results will be released at the end of December. Results of the electives application will be on the 8th of January 2010.

Right now, on the 9th of December 2009, I am planning my timetable for the registration on the 21st - under the assumption that I will pass all my papers AND not forgetting the hopes of getting my desired electives. So in the event that i pass all my papers AND get my desired electives, all is fine. But what if I dont?

What if i fail a couple of papers? What if I dont get my desired electives? What if I were to fail a couple of papers AND not get my desired electives? ... Does anyone else hate the system?

I think it would be better if us students could receive our results first, and then register for our courses. At least it will eliminate the "If I were to fail a couple of papers" aspect of the equation.

It's starting to get on my nerves...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Boring Evening Dreaming





I think I'm bored. I think I'm slowly falling back into the realm of introverts. I'm starting to talk to myself - mentally. And while some self-thought can be a good thing, too much can be ... too much.

Before I went for my run this evening, I was writing the following:

Dear World,

I think I'm bored. I want to stay at home, yet I don't seem to want to. It's turning into a routine - morning runs, evening runs and tv. Ive just ran out of Lie To Me episodes to watch - analyzing people through their actions, inactions and micro-expressions.

I then resumed watching season 2 of The Mentalist, only to see Patrick Jane taken off from the Red John case and.....


I knew I had to end it there. I do not like to entertain neverending thoughts. So I left it hanging and went for a run.

However, the run turned into several short sprints and kilometers of walking. I was looking at cars and people and the evening sky. I saw a little boy learning how to walk, a lady talking on the phone, people waiting for the bus at the bus stop. I was reading signboards, bus numbers, block numbers, car plate numbers. I began to wonder what time it was. I looked over at the clock at the train station and it was almost a quarter to seven. I was twenty minutes behind time. I should've been home. I should've been sweating. But I wasnt. I was evening-dreaming.



Monday, December 7, 2009

Letting go





My Sister's Keeper isnt about one's right to one's own body even though one's just a child.

It's about love.

It's about life.

It's about letting go.

It's about moving on.




Sunday, December 6, 2009

Birthdays





I couldnt let this day go by without writing something about it coz I want to be able to look back to this day and read something about my brothers' birthdays - as i see it at this moment.

It was a quiet day. No cakes, no presents. Just tv and computer and tv. It kinda reminds me of someone else's birthday that comprises of simple wishes from whoever's at home and of late, scribbles on my Facebook wall. I guess birthdays will never be our forte.

My brothers, they're all grown up. No longer the little boys whom I could hug and kiss as I please. As much as I hate to let them go, I believe I had done just that quite some time back. It's sad but I guess that's just life. People grow up. Sometimes, i fail to realize that i too am growing up - too fast for my own good. But that's life.

It's nice to see them become smart individuals despite no one having imposed anything on them. They remind myself of myself when i was their age. However, being the eldest, I was pretty much on my own. My brothers, however, had me. I remember telling them how i'll teach them personally should they come back with an average result for their tests. And I also remember them coming back doing pretty well. I told myself that they're smart and capable of succeeding without much push. They have each other. All I had to do was to remind them that Im here whenever they needed me. I would do little things like ruffling their hair - despite them hating it - just to tell them I'm still around.

This decision of mine to let them develop on their own might come back to haunt me. Or maybe it won't. I guess in life, we can only plan so much and that at the end of the day, we wun really know the outcome of our actions until the day comes.

All i can do is pray that my little brothers grow up and be big guys who will never look back in regret. Happy birthdays.

The Fish in the Sea



MCKENZIE
The point is,
you’re the best guy I know. You’ll
get over her.

PAUL
I think it's kinda like what they say...there’s
plenty other fish in the sea.

TOM
No.

PAUL
(unsure) They say that.

TOM
Well they’re lying. I don't want to get over her.
I want to get her back.


I've just watched 500 days of Summer and boy do I not like that show. This movie certainly didnt help make me feel better - but it did made me think about some of the things that I've deliberately chose to not think about. I've been meaning to write something about it (the movie, and stuffs like that) but writing mood has yet to come knocking on my door. Anyways, a familiar name said hi to me as I was scrolling down my Facebook news feed late this night. The name reminded me of countless hours I spent thinking about it .... and it also reminded me about the countless hours I'm currently spending thinking.

His Summer came one June. And went as soon as it came. And as soon as it left, along came Autumn. He remembers writing the following that June:

Some do leave you with a pretty sweet impression. Many did. Many could still do.

But should one ever decide if the impression left is the sweetest? Or should one simply wait for the next sweet impression.... and then the one after that... and ...


And true enough, Autumn walked into the lecture room one August wearing something red. But could Autumn be just another Summer?



Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Fight





"Has there not been over man a period of time when he was nothing to be mentioned?"

A quick flip of the Quran after the end of my Soil Mechanics paper brought me to Surah Al-Insan(Man) or Ad-Dahr(Time). I wasn't feeling too good after being slaughtered by the muddy monster. And the first verse caught my eye. I knew there were definitely several period of time in my life when I was feeling worthless - reduced to nothingness. I knew lousy papers werent exactly good reasons to feel worthless about but sometimes, just sometimes, I can't help but think that I'll never be able to master my school work no matter how hard I try.

"And they give food, inspite of their love for it to the Miskin(poor), the orphan, and the captive. Saying: "We feed you seeking Allah's Countenance only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you. Verily, We fear from our Lord a Day, hard and distressful, that will make the faces look horrible (from extreme dislike to it). So Allah saved them from the evil of that Day, and gave them Nadrah (a light of beauty) and joy. And their recompense shall be Paradise, and silken garments, because they were patient."

Why do I not fear a Day that will be hard and distressful? I know that being slaughtered by Soil Mechanics, Physics 1 and Mechanics of Materials can hardly be called hard and distressful. During the few hours when I'd allowed myself to entertain silly thoughts about giving up, I asked myself why I am not patient. I asked myself why friends of mine can work so hard and get the results, but I cant. Sometimes, I felt as though the time and hard work I put into something goes to waste.

"It is We who created them (disbelievers), and We have made them of strong built. And when We will, We can replace them with others like them with a complete replacement."

Perhaps they were made of strong built. That might explain why they're up there while Im still stuck down below. However, it doesn't mean that we're not made of strong built. Perhaps its a test of how much we want to achieve and how far we're willing to go to get what we want in this life. I asked myself why, despite the time and effort, I still can't do it. Should I keep fighting?

"Verily! This (verses of the Quran) is an admonition, so whoever wills, let him take a Path to Allah. But you cannot will, unless Allah wills. Verily, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise."

We should never stop fighting the fight - even though we know we're losing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Sacrifice





Eid this year seemed to be a different one. It's been a long time since I visited my dearest grandmother - perhaps a month or so - due to school and stuffs. I told myself that my Grandma, of all people, would definitely understand. I know she'll miss me, but she'll understand.

We went to her place after Friday prayers and as I entered her room, she smiled before I could smile and as I walked towards her bed, I apologized for not dropping by as often as I used to. We hugged and kissed and I asked her how she was and we talked. Everything seemed normal. I secretly felt glad that she wasn't angry at me for not visiting her as often - as she normally would whenever a few days has passed since my last visit. She never fails to remember.

As we were talking, an aunt of mine came in and mentioned something about a couple of birds, pointing at the top corner of the room. I had no clue what she was talking about as there were obviously no birds there. That's when another aunt of mine told me that my grandmother said that she saw the birds - two brown ones who were supposedly the parents and a little grey one - birds that could not have existed.

My thinking mind ran a marathon in a couple of seconds and tears formed in my eyes. I hate it when I get overly affected by the thoughts that went through my mind. I thought about how fine she was the last time i visited, how she wish she could walk again and move her left hand, how she could be more useful and less of a burden, how I would tell her that she'll never be a burden and that the stroke was just a test of patience and faith. I recalled my childhood with her - stories about her carrying me in her arms when I had high fever one night when no one was home, how I used to always accompany her to the market and the first time I carried a 5kg sack of rice, the countless durian ice cream she buys for me, the countless mangoes she'd bought for knowing that it's my favourite, the times she forces me to pray, the times I sleepily accompanied her to the mosque for subuh prayers. I also remember that as a kid I'll always include in my prayers for my grandmother to live a long and healthy life - for her to see me get married.

And I wondered why, despite all this beautiful memories of my grandmother, I wasn't willing to sacrifice a couple of hours a week to be by her side and just to keep her company. I knew how happy it would make her whenever her grandchildren came to visit. And I knew too just how often us grandchildren would come to visit - not as often as I would like my grandchildren to. Yet, for some selfish reasons, I was being very selfish.

Remember that time waits for no one. After the two second marathon, I left her room. If I had stayed any longer, my mind would have ran a triathlon and the little tears in my eyes would have rolled down my cheeks. I guess someone must've told me that big boys don't cry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Crossroad



I was on the train back home thinking about things. The word 'crossroad' came to mind. I then stopped my train of thoughts so that I could think about it now - as I write(I don't like to think about things twice). My Physics paper this afternoon was a bad one despite me knowing what to expect having failed it last semester. And when the paper was over, I was confused. I wasn't sure whether I should stay positive and look forward to my final two papers or to dwell on the paper just passed and slam myself for not preparing for it as well as I could have. I know the latter's a definite waste of my time. But I'm not sure about the former either - I'm not sure when optimism crosses the line of madness.

I'm always giving advices, silly words of encouragements and telling friends not to dwell too much on the past and to look on the bright side of it all instead. But seeing many feeling depressed and upset over the littlest things made me wonder if I'm "mad" for always looking at the glass half full. I don't think I am, but why the self-doubt? I feel like I'm at a crossroad - feeling unsure as to which path I should take.

On the bright side though, I felt that my previous 3 papers went well. Alhamdulillah. Last semester, I felt great after my Physics paper and ended up getting an F for it. So this time around, I've learnt to expect the unexpected. A failure isn't the end of the road. Two consecutive failures .... I'd like to think of it as a final wake up call to really a rhythm that suits me best.

The two biggest monsters, Soil Mechanics and Mechanics of Materials, await me next week. While they're clearly my weakest two modules, there's really nothing much that I can do now besides making smart use of the next couple of days and hope for the best.

Can't wait for all this to be over. There's a movie that I've been wanting to watch and never had the chance to, but will - 500 Days of Summer.



"This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen, grew up believing that he’d never be truly happy until he met “the one.” The girl, Summer Finn, did not share this belief. You should know upfront: this is not a love story."


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turning Red





Today's probably the second time (an underestimate) when friends told me they could see me blushing. And the more I deny, the redder I become. As much as I'd like to maintain a cool neutral face, I go red whenever someone mention someone that strikes a chord somewhere. Could someone tell me how to not make my true feelings show?

A dusty line crossed - a year later. And as the line waved at me from across the old canteen, a friend ruffled my hair as he walked behind me. How embarrassing. Now if only a special little red line would somehow appear and ... hmmm...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Numb3rs





If only I could somehow love numbers more than words ....

Seeing my mother asking me twice if I wanted anything to drink while I revise my work and seeing my younger brother coming back from his first day of job assessment and complaining how much he hates having to stand for 8 hours doing something boring, I realize that I can find reasons to keep on going.

It was funny though how he expressed his hatred for work and how he doesnt feel like working anymore. At least now he knows the true value of money.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Magic of Nostalgia





A friend wanted my SimonCowell-esque comment for a short piece of poetry. My first glimpse of it reminded me that despite my love for words, words in the form of poetry isn't exactly my cup of morning tea. But as always, I tried my best to understand. and I kinda understood.

Reading the story behind the poem reminded me of the story behind a "poem" that I wrote quite a while back. It was my first time writing something poetic. But it was also my last coz I feel that writing poetry makes a guy appear.... soft.

After I wrote it, I thought it was nice - it was something I felt, thought hard about, and then scribbled them down in my notebook, lying on my bed, with a pen in my hand, thinking. Reading it again tonight, I still find it nice, calm and poetic but I'm also slightly irritated that the person that wrote this hasn't changed one tiny bit. Haha...the magic of Nostalgia. Could someone just tell him where he could purchase a bottle of courage?


Lying on my bed
A pen in my hand
Thinking

Wondering why she's taking so much of my time
Why she appears in most of my thoughts
My dreams

Of coz this is foolish
These things come and go
I noe

The more i try to not think abt it
The more i want to think abt it

Why i wanna forget abt it i dun noe
Why i wanna keep thinking abt it i dun noe
Actually, maybe i do

Could it be tt i like her?
Could it be tt shes come to be my special someone?
Or could it simply be me?
Am i simply thinking too much?

Should i go up to her and tell her i like her?
What then?
What if she says she likes me?
What then?
What if she says she doesnt feel the same way?
What then?
These are questions to which the answers will never surface..
Unless i make the first move...

The first move
It's ever so hard

How can i tell tt she likes me?
Is it thru the way she dresses?
The colour she wears?
The hints she drops during conversations?

How can i tell tt i like her?
Is it thru wat i wear?
The things i blog abt?
The colours of my stationaries?
The colours on my blog?
How?

Well i guess lying on ur bed
A pen in ur hand
Thinking..

...That should be enuff to tell u tt u like her


Writer's Note: A friend told me to take this poem down cause others who stumble upon this public blog of mine will think that I'm 'soft' and hence, it might kill off any chances of romance that could blossom through my entries coz apparently no girl likes 'soft' guys(Precisely why it was my first and last poetry). Really?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Will you be the one?





I'll be the one who brings you coffee when you can't get up
I'll be the one who turns the light out when you go to sleep
I'll be the one who turns your stomach into something else and you say
Shut up, shut up, every time I say
I'll be the one who takes your coat off, one to take the blame ...

Yes yes. I'll be the one. But will you be the one too?

Writer's note: Someone's just tired and simply wonders if he is still sweetly distracted by the sweet distraction. I guess he still is. haha. Someone's talking to himself, again...

Writing isnt an easy task. I still cannot write a decent conclusion. I seem to think that I have the ideas but I can't seem to write it the way other intellectual academics write their papers. Introduction to Magical Realism has indeed stretched myself to what I think is my maximum and I'm glad I had challenged myself to take this elective this semester. Introduction to Children's Literature with me some time in the near future anyone? (:


The Magic of Hybridity





If my head were to explode write now, words and thoughts and ideas will fill the space surrounded by the four well known blue walls. The space known as my bedroom. Oh man, this talk about SPACE has just reminded me that spaces also play a significant role in most of the text - but I shall not digress. I shall not digress solely because the very thought that is sitting right on top of the piles of words, thoughts and ideas right now. And if you realize, I'm beginning to "talk" instead of write.

I left out the concept of "Transgression of Boundaries" in Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons from my previous entry because of my ability to think of any as I write. However, as I set out to write on my next plan, I realized the following:


HYBRIDITY can actually be interpreted as a transgression of stable boundaries. One of the most disputed terms in postcolonial studies, hybridity commonly refers to “the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonisation” (Ashcroft,Griffiths and Tiffin, 2003). Syncretism on the other hand, is the reshaping, union or attempted fusion of different systems, beliefs, thoughts and practices through cultural accommodation so that "they consciously or unconsciously blend with those of the dominant culture"(Rheenan, 2003). In both these concepts, the blurring of boundaries between different worlds and categories contributes to magical aspect in Of Love and Other Demons.

Hybridization takes many forms in the book. Hybridization is taken literally as illustrated in several instances. A slave named Judas was referred to as "a minotaur" - part man, part bull. In addition, when the Marquis mentioned his fear of horses, Abrenuncio suggested that "if we broke down the barriers, we could produce the centaur" - a creature that is part man, part horse. We later learn that "Sierva María's hair coiled with a life of its own, like the serpents of Medusa" - who part woman, part snake. References to hybrid mythological creatures were probably made to blur the distinction between the hybridity that took place in myths and the ones that are taking place in reality. It is also interesting to note that the creatures were those from Greek myths thus, making the book a hybrid in itself - a hybrid of European literary realism and the magic of Latin American reality.

Racial and religious hybridity is one that occurs in the real world setting of the text. For example, Marquez's protagonist Sierva Maria is the daughter of a mestizo woman and a Spanish marquis. Father Aquino was a priest of African decent who could converse in Yoruban, Congolese and Mandingo. In addition, "(the Church) had constructed sumptuous cathedrals to hide the pagan pyramids, not realizing that the natives came to Mass because their sanctuaries still lived beneath the silver altars" - this illustrated the religious hybridization of Christianity and paganism. We also read of the "chaotic mixing of blood that had gone on since the conquest: Spanish blood with Indian blood, and both of these with blacks of every sort, even Mandingo Muslims"- this went further to show how the initial hybrid of racial bloodlines can eventually lead to the hybrid of religion.

In the text, hybridization was seen as polluting when the bishop "asked himself whether such miscegenation had a place in the Kingdom of God". In this case, Marquez uses hybridity to allow readers to imagine and feel the plight of the indigenous. The Church's main objective was to establish the dominance of Christianity by assimilating the indigineous into Spanish culture and colonial order. Hybridization was seen as a (threatening) ‘contamination’ of Spanish blood. Hybridity and multiculturalism was interpreted as a gradual dilution of the exclusiveness of the Spanish colony. It was viewed as a threat when boundaries between races, ideologies and beliefs began to blur. And for this reason, the exorcism on Sierva Maria and the Inquisition can be seen as a repressive means to silence the colonized.

Through the concept of hybridity, Gabriel Garcia Marquez gave readers a feel of what life was like during and post-colonialism for the colonizer and well as the colonized. It also brings to light the negativity that is seems to be associated with the term hybridity and forces us to ask the question whether hybridity is a form of contamination or a form of creative transgression.


Writer's note: As I decide to end this looping piece of writing prematurely, I smile and am thankful that I'm in the engineering field. Writing essays after essays will definitely drain my love for writing and I definitely do not want that to happen. My heartfelt sympathy to those majoring in Literature.

Writer's latest note: I'm writing this a day after my paper. I wrote something during the exam that I found interesting. Week's ago, I wondered why the African priest Father Aquino died a mysterious death. While writing my paper, I found a possible answer: Father Aquino embodies the hybrid of race and religion. Perhaps, Marquez wanted to put across the idea that even this was unacceptable in the eyes of the Church.

I wrote that the Inquisition and the exorcism was the Church's way to silence the colonized - as represented by the 'hybrid' Sierva Maria. It was their way of showing the authority they had over the colonized and to some extent, their hatred for the indigenous. Perhaps then, one could imply that Father Aquino didnt die a mysterious death after all. Interesting. This thought of mine (as crazy as it may sound) was the perfect way to end my paper. Hope I get a decent grade for it.


The Transgression of Boundaries





In magical realism the writer confronts reality and tries to untangle it, to discover what is mysterious in things, in life, in human acts. The principle thing is not the creation of imaginary beings or worlds but the discovery of the mysterious relationship between man and his circumstances. In magical realism key events have no logical or psychological explanation.
.....Luis Leal, Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature. Magical Realism. Ed. Zamora and Faris, p. 119-123.

Roh’s conception of magical realism was intrinsically interartistic. In his 1925 essay he asserted that “magical realist” painters created a new kind of imagery whose “special way of intuiting the world …can apply to all the arts, including music”.

(In Magical Realism)....all “seeing” is symbolic, and requires mental operations that literary critics take for granted when we speak about verbal “images.” The relation of consciousness to the visible world is more likely to be the purview of philosophers, and more recently, of psychologists and neurologists, than of literary critics. To apply Roh’s argument to literature, then, we must acknowledge the physical and cultural operations by which the apprehension of material objects (what the eye sees) become literary “images” (what the “mind’s eye” sees).


....Lois Parkinson Zamora, The Visualizing Capacity of Magical Realism: Objects and Expression in the Work of Jorge Luis Borges

May I be able to "see" as they see.

I've been tossing the ideas around for a week now. Scribbles after scribbles, Google searches after Google searches and I'm still unable to write a decent coherent plan. Here goes yet another "plan as I write" piece....


BOUNDARIES, in both the physical and non-physical sense of the word, play a very significant role in The Metamorphosis, Of Love and Other Demons and Amelie. Boundaries that we so often take for granted serve to provoke the reader "to actively interact with the text in order to ascribe meaning to the place where it collapses"(Pentony) and forces us to reexamine the existence of boundaries in our present lives. Here, I shall attempt to discuss the significance of boundaries in Kafka's book The Metamorphosis and Jeunet's film Amelie.

In The Metamorphosis, the first boundary we see are "the four well-known walls"(Kafka 4). Besides giving us a glimpse of how much time he had spent in his room, this physical boundary is significant in the introduction of more abstract boundaries in the text. These walls literally and physically prevents him from coming out and the house is a slightly bigger boundary that keeps the family in. This boundary comes into play as we learn that "standing out clearly on the other side of the street .... was a hospital"(Kafka 24). For some unexplained reason, no one sought medical help for Gregor. Was it because everyone felt that Gregor was no longer human?

We see Kafka's protagonist Gregor caught between two worlds: the animal and the human world. Due to his transformation, Gregor had to "hurl himself ... with all his force" just to liberate himself from the bed (Kafka 9). He had "an animal's voice"(Kafka 20) and his sense of taste gradually changed - he prefer leftovers and spoilt cheese over sweetened milk and white bread. However, he still retains characteristics that are recognizably human. "He felt a great pride that he had been able to provide such a life"(Kafka 34) and when his family had an argument, Gregor hissed in anger that "no one thought about shutting the door and sparing him the sight of this commotion" (Kafka 73). While physically, Gregor was a vermin, he retains the emotions and thoughts that separates us human from animals. The transgression of boundary between the human world and the animal world provokes the question of what makes a human ... human.

As I read on, I began to lose my ability to distinguish the humans from the animals. The fact that his family never sought medical help for Gregor disgusts me far beyond Gregor's transformation. Gregor's family, horrified that Gregor has become an enormous insect, keep him in his bedroom and refuse to interact with him. When Gregor broke out one day and ventured into the living room, his father threw apples to chase him back in. One managed to hit him in the back. Eventually the apple becomes rotten and infected. Gregor's health deteriorated. Despite being treated like an animal, Gregor "remained in this state of empty and peaceful reflection"(Kafka 89) moments before his last breath. He "remembered his family with deep feeling and love"(Kafka 89). Just because one appears human, does it "naturally" make one better than animals?

Traditional boundaries that typically exist in every household appears to be blurred in The Metamorphosis. We learn that Gregor financially supports his parents and younger sister despite them being able of fully supporting themselves. The boundary between a younger sister and her older brother is usually one that is bound with unconditional respect. However we see this boundary transgressed as "the sister now kicked some food very quickly into his room in the morning and at noon"(Kafka 71) and how she "had grown tired of caring for Gregor"(Kafka 73). The transgression of traditional boundaries begs the question of the existence of such boundaries in the first place. Is it the jobs of fathers to go out and work? Is it acceptable not to work despite being able to do so? Should a younger sister respect her elder brother unconditionally?

Through the transgression of boundaries, Kafka might have wanted to alter our perspective on things that we might find not normal. For instance, the way we treat the physically and mentally disabled, the stereotypes we attach to people that are different from us - Muslims, Christians and Jews etc. Perhaps through the use of boundaries, he wanted to put across the point that boundaries are lines drawn by Man and it is something that can be redrawn by Man.

Besides provoking thoughts among readers, boundaries can help create a common ground between the audience and the literature that they read or watch.

In the film Amelie, Jeunet's explores a personal boundary that exist within us - the boundary that makes us either an introvert or an extrovert. His protagonist Amelie is an introvert who enjoys the simple pleasures of life. However, she transgressed the boundary that separates an introvert and an extrovert when she made the first move and eventually getting the guy of her dreams. The boundary between the possible and the impossible is also transgressed when we see Amelie's imaginary friends and her suicidal pet goldfish. The fact that Amelie ended up with the guy of her dreams despite her roundabout way of getting him evokes the question of it's possibility. Having created a common ground through boundaries that already exist in our lives, Jeunet's transgression of those boundaries moves us into doing something that we felt was never possible. By destroying the boundary that separates introverts from the extroverts, Jeunet introduces a new class that one can fall into - one that sets one's own boundaries instead of being bound by boundaries that had been created by others before them. The use of boundaries in Amelie inspires positive change.

Boundaries can either keep us in or keep us out. And there can also exist a world that knows no boundaries. The use of boundaries as seen in The Metamorphosis and Amelie serves only as a guide for us to decide the boundaries that should be created, those that should stay, as well as the ones that needs to go.


Monday, November 16, 2009

The Magic of Dreams






As the exams draw nearer, we begin to understand rather than simply knowing. I wonder why we can only develop this ability now and not weeks earlier. 14 weeks in a semester seems a little too short. But I guess it's the same in other universities, isnt it?

My first and most favourite paper is in 3 days - Introduction to Magical Realism. Posts labelled "Magical Realism" are the ones I wrote to help me recall each texts. They arent the typical conventional post about myself - though it's not surprising if you find me in every piece of writing. In the coming three days, I will be writing posts on "Magical Realism" as part of my preparation for my paper. One might say it's unwise to share one's thoughts for the exam online but what are the odds of all 200 students in class finding me? And if some do end up here, please do share some of your thoughts too in the comments below. Anws, I believe in sharing what I know as only through sharing will you learn. Unwise? Maybe, but that's just me.

I've also been trying to figure out how the comparative essay question will be like. This is a newly added component to the exam so sample questions from past year papers are unavailable. However, one can always make educated guesses, can't they?

Comparative Essays Definition

"Great minds think alike" – this expression underpins the rationale of a comparative essay. In a comparative essay, you are expected to discuss the similarities between or among two or more works. For example, in literature, writers typically address universal themes of the human condition; in the social sciences, academics often find common ground for analysis; ..... In a comparative essay, your professor expects that you will grasp the key concepts in your field of study by examining the works of more than one writer or scholar in an academic discipline.
[http://www.comparative-essay.com/]


So here, I shall identify several common ground among the three texts that I'm focussing on: Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis(TM), Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate(LWFC) and a small dose of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons (OLAOD). Firstly, the concept of hybridity - the most obvious of the lot. Secondly, the battle between strong female vs the weak male characters: Grete vs Gregor and his father (TM), Sierva Maria and Martina Laborde vs Ygnacio, Abrenuncio, Father Cayetano Delaura, Father Aquino and the Bishop(OLAOD) and Mama Elena, Tita and Gertrudis vs Pedro and Dr Brown (LWFC). And lastly, the subtle and abstract use of abjects and space in the texts. I prefer to leave the concept of the grotesque unique to TM and the concept of feminism unique to LWFC.

I've briefly written on the grotesque and abjects in "The Magic of Abjects". Hence insyaallah, during the course of the next few days, I plan to write on the following:

  1. Is LWFC genuinely 'revolutionary' and feminist or does it support traditional values and gender roles
  2. The significance of hybridity and syncretism
  3. The significance of abjects and space
  4. The significance of food and cooking in LWFC
  5. Reasons why female characters are being portrayed in a much stronger light than males

It's a relatively huge task Ive set myself out to do despite being in a battle with monsters with names like Probability and Statistics and Soil Mechanics. But you see, I'm a dreamer - so anything and everything is possible. This is what I meant by "The Magic of Dreams" for it's dreams such as these that give you something to hold on to and work towards. I'm just glad that my dream has helped me to finally turn the mess in my head into something tangible and coherent - and I hope it has helped some of you with the mess in your head too!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Magic Of Abjects



"ACCORDING TO JULIA KRISTEVA in the Powers of Horror, the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The primary example for what causes such a reaction is the corpse (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality); however, other items can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, shit, sewage, even the skin that forms on the surface of warm milk." [Felluga, Dino. "Modules on Kristeva: On the Abject."]

"Barbara Creed writes: The place of the abject is where meaning collapses, the place where I am not. The abject threatens life, it must be radically excluded from the place of the living subject, propelled away from the body and deposited on the other side of an imaginary border which separates the self from that which threatens the self."
[Samantha Pentony, "How Kristeva's theory of abjection works in relation to the fairy tale and post colonial novel: Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, and Keri Hulme's The Bone People."]


The word "ABJECT" has been mentioned one too many times in class that it deserves my attention. In Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, physical abject seem to stand in for, or symbolises the social abject. I read of the physical abjects - the "sticky substance" and "brown liquid" that came out of Gregor, who is both a physical and social abject himself. Firstly, he is neither a cockroach nor human. His fall to abjection is supported by the fact that no one sought medical help for Gregor despite the hospital being situated just across the street. He falls deeper into abjection among the dirt and rubbish is his room when his sister no longer cleaned his room as thoroughly as she used to. Secondly, ever since his partial transformation, he has been kept away within the confines of his room - away from society. He was no longer able to perform his duty as the provider of the family. Everytime Gregor attempts to leave his room, he was chased back in.

On one occasion, I see Gregor being chased into his room by his own father by "throwing apple after apple" in his direction."A weakly thrown apple grazed Gregor's back but skidded off harmlessly. However, another thrown immediately after that one drove into Gregor's back really hard." Later we learn that "no one ventured to remove the apple, it remained in his flesh as a visible reminder." Kafka wrote that the wound "seemed by itself to have reminded the father that in spite of his present unhappy and hateful appearance, Gregor was a member of the family, something one should not treat as an enemy, and that it was, on the contrary, a requirement of family duty to suppress one's aversion and to endure - nothing else, but endure."

I immediately scribbled along the margin the word "GROTESQUE". The way Gregor's father treated him disgusts me. No father should simply endure the presence of his son irregardless of the condition his son is in. And having left an apple in his son's back, Gregor's father could have shown a little bit more care and concern for his son instead of "endure - nothing else, but endure". I find Gregor's father more disturbing and grotesque than the physically disturbing and partially transformed Gregor. It's also useful to note that other sources of the grotesque in The Metamorphosis include Gregor's own thoughts and perspective after the transformation as well as the way his sister and mother reacted to his transformation.

I've been figuring out the reasons for the use of abjects in literary works like The Metamorphosis and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons throughout the course. Perhaps, the following best decribes one of it's many uses: "The use of abjection ... provides a forum for the exploration of the subconscious. It is provocative because it forces the reader to contemplate that which is uncomfortable to face. This both disorients the reader and encourages us to actively interact with the text in order to ascribe meaning to the place where it collapses." (Pentony)

Hence in The Metamorphosis, I find that abjects highlight and amplify the grotesque to make readers truly feel for the suffering protagonist, make us hate the way his family treated him and hopefully, make us treat our own family and loved ones that little bit better.

The use of abjects is also present in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons. However, they play a slightly different role as compared to those in Kafka's The Metamorphosis. "Then Delaura witnessed the fearful spectacle of one truly possessed. Sierva María's hair coiled with a life of its own, like the serpents of Medusa, and green spittle and a string of obscenities in idolatrous languages poured from her mouth." Here, the green spittle that came out from Maria's mouth amplifies her rage and anger towards Father Delaura.

The concept of abject was applied when describing the state of Bernarda Cabrera, Sierva Maria's mother, a mestiza. "Her Gypsy eyes were extinguished and her wits dulled, she shat blood and vomited bile, her siren's body became as bloated and coppery as a three-day-old corpse, and she broke wind in pestilential explosions that startled the mastiffs." Here, the abject is used to degrade the indigenous people to the lowest possible status - to reflect the degradation they were subjected to as the colonized.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Other People's Shoes






"Try to put yourself in his shoes once in a while so that you can have a feel of how he feels." This and others that carry a similar meaning can be detrimental to one's health. Initially he wears the shoes of others to be a more considerate person for one should not do unto others what he does not want others to do unto him. But as time passes, he began to wear their shoes to try and be that person - he tries to anticipate their possible reactions to his possible actions. When he feels that things are very likely to go his way, he'll execute his plans. But when he has the slightest of doubt, things usually remain unmoved. Should he then stop wearing other people's shoes?

Why bother trying when I know what's going to happen? He asks himself after wearing a pair of shoes that isnt his, without realizing that life isnt as predictable as the films he'd seen or the few books he'd read. He wonders if it's time to dream less and think less. He wonders if it's time to stop finding too much pleasure in the simplest of pleasures. But he wonders if this is a positive thing or a dangerous form of escapism - a way of avoiding unpleasant realities and abandoning "big political ideals".

In my previous entry, I shared how a simple pleasure has kept me going day to day. She helps me to avoid falling into the trap where I start to whine and complain about anything and everything. Clearly, this a positive thing. However, after the lengthy conversation tonight, it could also be a dangerous form of escapism. I've become too comfortable in my own little world that I'm starting to fear certain things in the real world. Someone pointed out that this fear of mine could make me remain single all my life. Worse still, a stalker. Now, that's dangerous. Was Amélie a stalker?

Escapism is bad. It becomes a habit. It may be a way of avoiding unpleasant realities but in reality, the unpleasant are usually unavoidable. Perhaps what I need is someone to make my life unpleasant. Get me a Liverpool jersey.

.... [Inserts a new paragraph the next morning]..... While preparing to go to school, a thought flashed pass his mind. He scribbled somewhere the following: "Escapism for ordinary people is bad. But for introverts like Amelie and me, escapism is a good thing. We are escaping from our own introversion by exploring and enjoying life through simple pleasures. It's only a matter of time before I explore and enjoy life beyond its simple pleasures. Look at Amelie - towards the end, after playing her little games, she ended up with the person she wanted to be."


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Sense of Purpose





I read and hear of people around me complaining about school - to the point of giving up. Whenever I hear such stories, I pray to Him that I, as well as my siblings, will never think of giving up at any point in our lives. I pray that we'll be as strong, if not stronger, every time we meet an obstacle. And I shall not let anything stop me from believing in myself - even when my results say otherwise or even as I'm not doing as well as the rest around me.

I believe the key to my optimism is faith. Having faith that insyaallah, things will turn out fine as long as I keep on trying and doing my bestest. Besides faith, I believe that having a motivation or two and a sense of purpose have helped me stay on the right mental track.

This semester, my motivation has primarily been someone who do not know of my existence. While walking to class this afternoon, I questioned my purpose of being in school. I asked myself what REALLY keeps me going - whether it's her, or is it something bigger. And I realized that my sole purpose is to be able to graduate, find a good job and to support my family. And only after I successfully achieve this mission of mine will I make known of my existence to her.

Would that be too late? Am I being foolish? Should I make myself known now?

Haha ... And rhetorical questions such as these never fail to keep me going day after day after day.

"We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same." ~ Carlos Castaneda