Monday, April 25, 2011

the mismatched

Kind of silly being a candle to the blind,
when the walking stick is the true need.

March 20, 2011: Tamil Nadu trip, in Kanchipuram

Notes added while typing this are indicated in [...]. Otherwise the rest is copied directly as is from my travel journal.

March 20, 2011. 10.38pm.

Last night of my stay in Kanchipuram [I stayed a week in Kanchipuram volunteering for a local NGO]. Tmr morning I head off to C.M.B.T. of Chennai [CMBT stands for Central Mofussil Bus Terminus, the largest in Asia. Don't expect much though] by bus and from there catch a 1pm A/C bus to Chidambaram. I've enjoyed my time here in Kanchipuram, particularly so because my teaching in rural schools and my two German friends here. I got along really nicely with them, and Mathias is a really nice boy w/o the usual antics you would expect a kid from a developed country might have. Today he cleaned the room so thoroughly I was impressed [and embarrassed too].

Last Wednesday I went for a Kaittaikuttu performance of the local Kanchipuram Kaittaikuttu Sangam. The actual show was performed by another group, not the local Kanchi troupe [the local troupe was apparently very famous, they performed on Tuesday]. I knew of this academy before I came, it being one of the places I'd like to visit. So happen that this week they are holding a 'kuttu' (drama) festival and seminar--shows 8pm and 10pm daily. It was still out of the way w/o buses, luckily Alex was interested & got her friend's husband who's an autorickshaw driver to do our driving [even the driver thought we were lost! luckily we didn't decide to walk hahahaa]. The performance was really nice, though I only understood little of the Tamil dialouge [but I could catch many words, just couldn't catch the sentences!].

that was a guy.

I found the character 2nd from the right very cute!!
The costumes were very decorated with huge headsets & skirts. All male actors, even for female roles. There was a lot of singing, vocalization, duet dialouges.

The character on the right was Rama. First time I saw a greenish Rama~
 Interestingly, a 'clown' existed throughout the play and seemed to serve a peculiar role of threading the plot along as characters conversed with him, and also a comedian role by doing funny physical stunts that were not only unrelated to the plot but very distracting too [the children loved it though]. The 4th wall was broken w/o hesitation.

this was at the beginning when they sang a series of verses. The guy sitting behind the purple stand sang for 2 hours straight...unbelievable.
  Monolouges were almost all sung.  Actors also served as musicans and would join the band on center stage to do some instruments or sing the lines.

Check out the hands of the actors at the back =)

They would blatantly drink tea on stage [the director of the academy actually went on stage and served them tea at the back. So nice] & wear modern tshirts--totally out of sync with the play. Thus I think this form of performance--at least the one I enjoyed--was very less formal than bharatanatyam, required less effort to appreciate, and is much more flexible than many old, classical formal arts [Kaittaikuttu is centuries old itself and has been a continuous evolution].

It was a village style performance, a once common fare in South and Southeast Asia.  Performances used to draw huge audiences from the surrounding villages and last eight hours through the night. Now we urban kids never see such things no more. Oh yes, we have the cinema and LotR's 3 hours were a pain in the butt (literally).

I also went to two temples this past week, but I shall leave them for tmr night's writing., since I don't expect to have much to write about the trip to Chidambaram.


Thursday, April 21, 2011


There are proud people.
There are confident people.
And then there is me.

I really never thought that I would need to hear praises from others to feel nice about myself.
I am one who does his stuff because he likes doing it, he thinks it's worthwhile and though he is well aware that many others can do it better than him, he is certain that he will do a pretty good job of it too.

Yet here I am, feeling somewhat unsure about myself.
This is the second time I have felt this way within 10 months. fast it's going to be the 'anniversary' of that time when I was lost beyond recognition.
I am ashamed to say that I didn't seem to have progressed much beyond the maze over the past 10 months.

Although the river is dry, it would be good to NOT fall into it.
The car has a bridge, even if it's one slightly too narrow for its wheels, but still it seem sturdy enough to support a safe crossing.
Where's my bridge?
Do I actually need a bridge?
Do I want a bridge?

Would there be a toll charge for using the bridge? I have RM109.40 left in my Smartag!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Timak & Bowie

While I was traveling in India, my dad brought home a puppy. The puppy was stranded in the middle of traffic and he saved her I guess.

The vet suggested that we named her "Lucky Girl" as she was lucky to have been adopted. So for the first few weeks my family has been calling her LG (also intended to be similar to that electronic company that makes good monitors!).

All this while I was traveling in Tamil Nadu. My mom told me over the phone that
"There's a new bug in our house"
"Really? How is it?"
"I will send you a picture"

Imagine my surprise when the picture loaded and it was a dog, not a bug. Hahaha. Miscommunication leh.

LG was cute, apparently cuter when she was younger. When I returned home a few weeks after we adopted her, she has already grown up a bit. You know, young animals grow geometrically! She's awfully playful, and likes to bite our shoes.

Actually Timak's teeth are sharper than Bowie's and her bite hurts much more than his.

From the moment she joined us, she's found a friend. A friend who's also a bully and a jealous mentor I guess--old resident dog, Bowie (nothing to do with David Bowie). Whenever we play with Timak, Bowie would growl and clamp Timak down with his jaw. Timak would either roll over or play along with Bowie and bite back, push back. Soon Timak learned to crawl under the car, where she has more space to maneuver than Bowie has.


Timak also learned quickly to jump onto our swing, an act which Bowie can't do now. Bowie has always been really superb with his jumps--a very agile fellow--but now old age has caught up with him. He's like 11 years old at least, and definitely not so active as he was just last year. So when Timak gets onto the swing, Bowie becomes less commanding, but doesn't stop trying to exert his authority.

I think Timak will learn quite some stuff from Bowie over the next few months or years. I am not sure however that Bowie makes the best role model....haha....Bowie's afraid of thunder and firecrackers! And worse, he runs away when we call him on the street haha...always an embarrassing situation.
'Show me the ropes, uncle!'--Timak

I also wonder how long Timak will survive alongside the vicious Bowie who doesn't shy away from cannibalism.


the Jaws of the canine world

By the way, know the meaning for Timak?

Monday, April 18, 2011

entries from my Tamil Nadu trip: Day 1-9 Feb 2011

I wanted to write about my Tamil Nadu trip in detail here but alas, I lack the motivation. Instead, I will copy word for word entries from my travel journal onto here. I won't do every day, since some entries are kind of private or contain sensitive issues pertaining to other people. Today I start with...the first day of my trip in Tamil Nadu, Feb 9, 2011.


9 Feb 8.30pm (Wed)
I've finally arrived in Chennai, checked into DakshinaChitra & finalized courses arrangement at Institute of Asian Studies. Now I'm sitting in my room in D.C., writing my entry, trying to wind down after a somewhat chaotic day.

Touching down at Chennai International Airport, I bought a ticket for Muttukadu, Rs. 590. Cheaper than I thought. Walked out, one guy tried to take me to his taxi before the rest. He looked fishy, and so I glanced around. The other drivers got mad & a quarrel ensued. In the end, I was asked to follow the 'proper' guy.

The vehicle was so old & run down, the only thing that seemed decent was the seats. My driver was a young man who sported a bushy moustache. Soon I will realize that almost every one of thse tAmi Nadu guys have a moustache. It must be THEIR thing! He had a statue of Mother Mary, Ganesh and 笑佛 on his dashboard. The hood of his bonnet adorned a narrow shilef/plate. The car looked like it could break down anytime, but it didn't. In fact, after seeing the way he drove his car, I came to believe that his car must be in a very reliable condition. Else where had he the courage to change lanes w/o checking, slip betw. cars like a bike, gives a new dimension to the term 'bumper to bumper', if he wasn't 100% sure of his car performing on par? They love to sound their horns, almost every 3 sec as if worried if the horn failed the zillion times before. Some cars even have 'Sound your horn' written on their back!

Wow, I'm so tired. Guess I will write more tmr.



I slapped myself

a friend of mine, like many other people, like to say that 'each of us deserve the best' or 'I deserve the best'. I hardly agree with that per se because I don't see the logic in it (I wrote a naggy post about it on another blog that nobody knows of) but if I be wrong and that statement is true, then I deserve the best too.

and the best I can get today is a slap to ma face. HARD.

you see, I have a serious issue with letting go of feelings. I associate intense belonging with most people/things that I have had spent some time with. It's as if once my antenna have reached out and touched you, it takes an elephant's effort to unplug the link. To avoid accumulating more than I can keep, I tend not to acquire new stuff, which also helps me save money (and that's important). With people though, my heart seems infinite and I don't like to let slip of people. I know that people come and go, but I try to stay in touch. I sincerely care, if only because we once sat across each other in a bus and we chatted for 20 minutes. Every person I have ever liked, I have kept in relatively close contact with them. We update each other and I like to know that they are doing well.

I had a very tough time, a very very tough time, a very very very tough time (get it?) saying "F- it" and forget about the whole deal.

Some of you know that I have been hanging off a cliff for quite some time, unwilling to let go and see if I can truly fly yet unwilling also to climb up and forsake the chance of trying to fly. Before that, I always knew that I could fly...well, mainly because I had a flying partner. There's no fun in flying alone, right? So I told myself that there was no harm to hang there for a while, admire the scenery to pass time until my flying mate comes back. No I wasn't JUST waiting for that fellow, I was admiring the scenery. Then off in the distance, I saw that fellow. But he wasn't coming toward me. He was going away from me. Even worse, he had a sign on his neck that said "Available--Looking for New Flying Partner".

That broke the straw of the camel's back.
Wait, no.
That was the straw that broke the camel's back.   [LOL]

I was quite upset as I drove back today. In fact, I tried a new route just because I was upset. While driving, I remembered that in the movie "The Social Network", that smart alec got the idea to integrate 'status updates' on his brainchild, Facebook. In the movie, he described the addition as 'that's what college is all about--dating, to know if the other person is available or not' (paraphrase k?).
Wow, I got upset over a college's game!  Good job dear me, having taught >500 undergrads (slight exaggeration is allowed), supervised ~20 undergrad RA, dated seven sophomores and three seniors (unbelievable exaggeration is encouraged) and I got tripped over a game motivated by college hormones?

That was my first slap of the day.
WHACK!---------------I deserved it and I welcomed it.

Obviously my dear flying partner has gone off to seek greener pastures. Good for him. I have never been anything but an admirer of him, and no matter what he's done, I sincerely wish him all the best and I bear him no hard feelings. Seeing him so happy while I sulk off the edge of a cliff was quite detrimental to my morale of course, but as I said I had a very tough time letting go of the idea and the memories and the naive dreams of a thousand possibilities all pointing to nothing but heavenly endings....

Until that first slap hit me, and the second one came screaming across so quickly I couldn't avoid it.
I had my ambitions when I left graduate school. I wrote a list of things to do, the type of person I would like to be before I left for India. While in India, inspired by my experience there, I wrote a letter to myself reminding myself not to stray from my goal of being the best educator I can be. High standards I have set for myself, high standards that require time and lots of focus. Yet for the past few days I have been nothing but distracted and wasting time checking FB and blog posts, fishing for who knows what. I remembered the kids I taught in Kanchipuram, the ones who had to be dragged from their parents in the stone quarries so that they can learn a few alphabets of their mother-tongue. Could them or their parents even afford the time to think of 'what if ...?'

Day-dreaming is a luxury I cannot afford!
Pouting over a flying partner that abandoned ship is good time wasted!
I literally sweated in the car when these thoughts swirled and thundered in my mind.
WHACK!----------the second slap came hard and fast. I deserved it and I welcomed it.

Still reeling from the shock of the two slaps, I came home to see my mom coming out to park our MyVi. The sight of my mom reminded me of Buddhism, and then and there I got my third slap.

In Buddhism, one is taught to treat everyone, everything with compassion. Be patient, be kind, be understanding. Don't ask for returns, don't yearn for more. Wasn't that how I have always wanted to be for my flying partner? Why should I change just because he's left? Did I want to fly with him  JUST because he wanted to fly with me? No. I wanted to because I wanted to. I saw the good in him, and he was totally worth every effort I have put in to get the flying course started, and it would have been worth every future effort from me if he had stayed. Now that he's gone off to seek another flying partner, that doesn't mean I should be ashamed of myself, that I should question my choice, that I should demand an apology. Of course I definitely shouldn't wish that his wings break or he goes blind mid-flight (tempting, but no).
WHACK!------------that was my third slap.

I don't know what's going on with my former flying partner...since having left me, he's never spoken a word to me. Sometimes he waved, sometimes he seemed to be smiling, but it was hard to tell against the sun. He could have been crying and I wouldn't know. In any case, I never knew for sure. Two things I was certain of. First, I would like to fly with him again...just for fun! Second, he's always been a very able person, so he will go on to be a great pilot.

Anyway, that's his life now. I have mine to be busy with.
If you are reading this my dear ex flying partner, brother, all you need to know is that I wish you all the best.

funny pics

I have been feeling a bit down these days, so here's two shots from my family's recent trip to Sitiawan,Pangkor Island and Teluk Intan to cheer myself up. Perhaps you find it funny too?

my sister pointed this out to me when we stopped at Bagann Dato jeti. There was nobody manning the stall, but the stall was in safe hands. Look at that row of sentinels!! If there's one thing you can't complain about these burgers is the lack of kicap!

No play play. Catering to everyone from children to elephants. Truly a place to get a peace of mind.  This was in Teluk Intan.

Monday, April 11, 2011

making decisions

Of late, I seemed to have been lecturing more than usual. No, not lecturing in class to a room of sleepy or bored-to-death students, but to my friends who asked me for my opinion(s). They asked me about decisions, about courage, about facing the uncertainty of the future.

Of course, I'm not an expert in decision-making, courage-building or future telling. For these you will need to consult a housewife, the 80-year old man who did a bungee-jump, and the countless websites on 'the end of the world', respectively.

I'm however, quite proficient in talking about things I have scant ideas about, and convincing others to take me seriously for it. At the very least, they often get a laugh out of it at the end. So here goes, my take on decision-making, courage-building and facing the volatile future.

The laughing doesn't have to wait till the end. You can start laughing, now.

Decisions. We have to make decisions every day, in fact every moment. Most decisions are trivial, e.g., what to have for lunch ( a question I'm pondering now), that don't bother most people. Some decisions however, are very non-trivial and threaten to crumble your walls of sanity if you seemingly make the wrong decision. For example, quitting a job, having a baby, kissing your boss, to go or to stay, to be or not to be...etc. I apologize if my list of examples is as exciting as a stack of white paper in a big white house, but I myself cannot recall having had any tough decisions or having ever worried about a wrong decision. My close friend called me a boaster, so now I am permitted to make the following claim.

I have never made a wrong decision. Not a single one.
I have also never made a correct decision. Not a single one.

I have however, made countless decisions big and small, and I do not label them as correct or wrong. I cannot , for I lack the ability to do so. Tried as hard as I did, I could not come up with satisfactory standards to evaluate decisions on moral grounds (in this case, 'correct' and 'wrong' are morally based adjectives, no?) Should I treat decisions as a continuum of correct to wrong, or is it a distinct binary? What's the temporal frame for such evaluations, and to what extent? A disaster today may prove to be a blessing 10 years later, what's great for a family may be nasty for a community. It became too challenging to make decisions if I am concerned with trying to be 'correct'. More importantly, it's just not worth my effort.

Instead, I simply make the decision**, and then life begins. For it is what I do about a decision that matters, not the decision itself. The decision is but a given starting condition with suggestions on how to proceed with the journey; it is not the journey itself, and it certainly does not dictate the course of the journey. If the decision is a bicycle, I can cycle to the park and enjoy myself some butterflies (if I like butterflies) or I can push the bike along a creek to find a shade and read a book--I would leave traveling across the sea for another day, when decision is a boat or a plane.

Nothing real is perfect, and there are always trade-offs. By recognizing both ends of the trade-off, by working on reaping the most out of the positive end, my decision comes as close to perfection as I can imagine. Don't waste life away on regrets and scenarios of 'what if's...unless you can turn back time, you cannot undo any decision (the 'undo' function in computer programs is as close as you could get) and the consequences of alternatives are forever lost to you. Just make a decision, and make the best out of it. In any case, you can congratulate yourself on having made a decision--something many of us are stuck on!

Arh~I fear that I have written too much already. I shall leave my nonsense on courage and the volatile future for...the future. Understanding how uncertain things can be, put your bets on that I won't bother to write about those.

**: a bit on my actual insignificant step of making a decision. I usually ask myself what I wish to achieve, then I list down the options and analyze them rationally. I pick the one that brings me closest to my goal and creates the least inconveniences to others. This is how I make most of my trivial decisions (hence I rarely buy an ice-cream spontaneously :( ). Most of my major decisions however, including where/what to study/work, to start a new relationship or to hang on to a dying one, all these I followed my heart's desire instead of paying much heed to my rationale. So far, life's been great to me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

like river to sea

I know some of you are anxious to read about my Tamil Nadu trip. I have been posting some pictures on my Facebook page. I plan to post fewer pictures but more in-depth account of my trip here. You will have to be patient though.

Then again, you guys who read my blog only come here when you get I know you can be patient.

In the meanwhile, here's a short piece I wrote in my office on my first day of work.

you laugh
you look away
   like a young girl
   from an old man recounting his youth
   but it's true
   how I think of her all the time
      like a river from the peaks
      ever flow to the indifferent sea
   so do my mind and heart
     ever share one common destination.


Lord Siva and his consort, Parvati.
Carving on the 7th century Kailasanatha Temple, Kanchipuram.
The Kailasanatha Temple was one of the most beautiful temples I have visited. Simple, but just incredibly elegant.