Friday, March 30, 2007

Dying for a record

One can be forgiven for believing that Malaysians in general love the idea of setting records for all kinds of imaginable feats. We have our very own Malaysian Book of Records, some of the entries make for good reading if you are looking for some laughs.

On the other hand, if Mr Nadeswaran of theSUN had his way, he would have entered a few other listings as well involving the feats executed by some of our politicians and "little napoleons" which really deserve a round of applause from Malaysians for their daring and audacity.

But in general, I believe most Malaysians who took the trouble to assemble the longest pizza, weave the biggest ketupat casing, pull the longest glass of teh-tarik, or sew the biggest Jalur Gemilang do so more for the fun of participating in a community project and getting some cheap publicity in the process. Sekadar main-main saja, kan?

And, I believe no Malaysian has ever taken the whole thing too seriously enough to warrant killing himself/herself over a failed attempt to get a mention in the book of records, be it the Malaysian version or the much more esteemed Guinness Book of World Records.

Thus, I read with sadness the brief report on page 11 from today's theSUN free paper where an Indian youth killed himself after failing to set a record number of push-ups.

NEW DELHI: A student in India attempting to perform a record number of push-ups has killed himself because he was unable to enter the Guinness Book of World Records, a news report said yesterday.

Satheeswaran, a 19-year-old resident of Tamil Nadu state, committed suicide on Monday, saying he was taking his life as he could not achieve anything "great", the Times of India daily reported. The report did not mention how the boy took his life.

Satheeswaran, who had made it to India's Limca Book of Records for 141 non-stop push-ups with palms facing upwards, was disappointed ever since his attempt to enter the Guinness Book last year by doing 144 push-ups in front of local authorities, went unacknowledged. - dpa

How unfortunate it is that this young man should have been so misguided as to believe that he would have achieved "greatness" if he could just get a mention in a record book.

Mayhaps a better sense of humour would have saved his life?


Thursday, March 29, 2007

My healing garden

My garden is a-bloom and I'm feeling fine.

I have mangos,

and guavas,


and chilli-peppers too.

Hey, even my palm tree is a-fruiting
with bright red seeds
that no one eats
except maybe the birds that come a-calling.

My heart is glad, at the riot of colours,
The pink of my hibiscus,

the purple flowers,

oh I don't know what they're called.
There's yellow, there's red, even white I say,
But what I like best
is my bright orange orchid,
igniting a sunny feeling to chase my blues away.

Yes, I love my garden,
my little sanctuary where I gather my thoughts
and make some sense
of the less than perfect world that I live in.


What about the NEP?

So, this survey has revealed that many of our youngsters are not too concerned about racial integration, meaning they don't give a damn if they don't have any friends from a different race.

And what do you know? Someone was quick to blame it on the vernacular education system.

National Unity and Integration Department director-general Datuk Azman Azmin said the most “probable” reason some teenagers did not have friends of different races was because of the “environment they are in, especially in schools.”

He said parents’ tendency to send their children to vernacular schools instead of national schools meant students lacked the opportunity to mingle and interact with their peers from other races.

Did someone suffer from constipation for weeks and thus off-loaded this massive pile of crap to add to the stink of this whole messed-up issue concerning our education system and national unity?

Tell me, what is the racial makeup of our civil service? Especially those who hold the highest ranked positions in their respective departments?

Do we have a fair representation of our multi-racial population in the teachers' room of our national schools? In our MARA junior science colleges? In our polytechnics? In the matriculation classrooms of our pre-U students?

Do we get the same opportunity to have our voices heard and our talents appreciated and utilised for the benefit of the nation?

Does anyone even want to consider what the implications of years of NEP have done to two generations of our people, resulting in those shortchanged looking to the future of a borderless world to escape the misery of discrimination in their backyard?

The NEP has been an economic success to those who are protected under its umbrella but at a great price to something else which holds all of us together as a nation.

It has resulted in the birth of a superior race, one who does not feel ashamed to declare lordship over all others by a wave of a sharp weapon.

Tell me, is the Education System vis-a-vis vernacular schools the one to be blamed for driving our youngsters apart along the lines of race? Anyone else missing the bit on religion?

I can go on and on.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pesky card pushers

Many years ago, my neighbourhood was abuzz with excitement because the son of Mrs Lai managed to secure a clerical job at the local HSBC bank.

I didn't know why everyone was so excited but apparently, working in a bank was considered a prestigious thing to do among the small community I lived in, more so when you have been hired by a foreign bank. Never mind the fact that Mrs Lai's son probably spent all day sitting in front of a counter working as a cashier.

For weeks, Mrs Lai proudly went about telling every Tom, Dick and Harry who cared to listen that her son worked in a bank, THE HSBC BANK, in case one didn't know. And her neighbours would all nod politely and some even enviously at her good fortune. It was like her son struck a lottery or something, such must have been the case back then when securing a job in a bank, much less a foreign bank, was surely not an easy accomplishment.

You must be wondering why I suddenly recalled that incident which happened so many years ago.

This morning, I was at the shopping complex with the intention to pick up some groceries from Jusco and then maybe some toiletries at Watsons. I planned to complete my task in less than half an hour.

As I walked through the glass door, I was no more 10 steps into the shopping complex when I was stopped by a young man whose T-shirt told me he must be working for ABC Bank. Actually, I should use the word pounced because that was how I felt when he jumped right in front of me and stopped me in my tracks.

Ignoring my startled looks, he proceeded to wave a card in front of me and rattled off in Cantonese the benefits of owning a credit card, in particular the one that he was holding.

It's FREE FOR LIFE, he emphasized while looking straight into my eyes.

I didn't know whether I should hit him with my handbag or not. I was annoyed at being caught off-guard by this young ciku and also for the fact that he did not have the courtesy to ask for permission to waste my precious time.

Since I don't want to injure him considering my handbag is rather lethal, I chose to mumble a polite "no thanks" and side-stepped him, all the while giving him a "you'd better not come nearer" expression. That I think was more than polite in response to his rudeness.

I made a mental note that if indeed I want to take on another credit card, it'll not be with this particular bank.

I carried on with my business at Watson's and proceeded to the supermarket which was another 30 steps away. Believe it or not, I was again stopped in my tracks by yet another credit card salesman, his T-shirt telling me he's from XYZ bank.

This time, I gave him a small smile since he made the effort to say excuse me before he stood right in front of me to block my way. I told him nicely that I already have his bank's card and he politely uttered a thank you and let me go. Still, I wished he wasn't there to waste my time.

As I walked away, I remember the countless times I have been "detained" by encyclopaedia salesmen, credit card salesmen from almost all the banks, water filter salesmen, fitness equipment salesmen and what-have-you while out shopping.

This sort of situation is annoying to me because I don't like to waste my time having to explain to all these people why I do not need or even wish to buy their product(s). If I wanted any of it, I'd know where to find it. Trust me, I do.

I find that my shopping experience gets marred by these persistent sales people because if I don't dodge them, they will surely pounce on me if I get within sight of them. And then, I had to shake them off. Utterly annoying. Pesky, if I may.

I have nothing against salesmen, okay? I mean, I understand that these guys are just doing their jobs to earn an honest living. But it is the way they shove it into your face that is so unacceptable to me. Even when they are polite and smiling. I have had some of these credit card sales people put out their hands right in front of me as I was walking past just so I stop long enough to hear them speak. Don't you think that is so rude?

It makes me wonder at the irony of working for a bank these days as opposed to 2 decades ago.

And it also makes me wonder at the kind of sales tactics employed by banks in order to market their products and services. Kind of low class and unprofessional. I once saw a HSBC van parked near a pasar malam and selling their services like one of those pushcart vendors!! Wow ... the competition must have really hit them hard to resort to such a move.

I believe Mrs Lai is no longer around to witness the change in people's perception of the banking industry. It would have been laughable now for any mom to display such immense pride at their son/daughter's job selling credit cards at pasar malams.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Breeding excellence via a culture of fear

I was supposed to collect my kids' report cards from their school last Sunday morning but since I could not make it, I left a message to their teachers that I'd see them the following Tuesday, which was this morning.

Academically, my kids never give me any cause for complaints because they have always managed to do quite well in all their subjects, getting an average score of 80% and above.

And I'm rather proud that they have managed to cope with the very strict demands of studying in an exam-oriented environment where you get hit on your hands (hard!) with a ruler for every single spelling mistake that you make during the weekly spelling test. That's how perfect you have to be in order that the system can continue to churn out scores of straight As students in public exams.

Once, a friend of mine found J in tears because she got whacked 5 times for getting 5 of the 10 spelling questions wrong. And she was only in Year 2 then and Chinese was her weakest subject. Well, what did she learn from that lesson? Paranoia, I'm afraid. And a love-hate relationship with the language of her ancestors.

Initially, I had my doubts about enrolling them in such a fear-based school environment but my husband thinks that if they have a secure environment at home, they will stand to learn great life lessons from the demands and expectations placed on them by an external source. In other words, they will toughen up when given no choice but to adapt.

I wish the guardians of Chinese vernacular education can shed some of the rigidity that is so ingrained in the system because it always works against those who are more inclined to think out of the box. In fact, I'd say it does more harm than good to the non-conformist.

But that's just wishful thinking, I guess.

Much like the heavy load of schoolbags laden with workbooks that they carry on their backs to school each day, nothing really changes year in year out.


The teacher who handed me J's report card was pleased with her academic performance but wished to gripe about her less than perfectly beautiful handwriting. And she needs a haircut because the back of her hair has touched down on her collar.

When I saw my son's teacher, she too has no complaints about his test results but wishes that he could improve on his handwriting and at the same time, tone down his exuberance and chattiness. And, he ought to have another haircut because his hair stuck out when she ran her fingers through the top.


No wonder Ellie, who scored 7 straight As in her UPSR exam last year was so glad to finally ditch the system for good.

Now, she is having a whale of a time in her new multi-racial Methodist secondary school of her choice. She ran the 100m and 200m events during her school sports day and is active in a number of clubs including drama and Interact club. She looks forward to going to school each day and comes home happy and full of stories to tell of classroom happenings.

She positively glows in her new environment. Along with that, she is also thinking of dropping out of Chinese lessons because she too had a love-hate relationship with it throughout her primary years.

And yes, she is finally free to choose to grow her hair long. But surprise, surprise. She did not feel that it is a style that suits her personality and opted instead to keep it at shoulder length.

The thing is, it is now HER choice. And, it was an empowering feeling for her.

And for the young ones who watch her blossom in awe.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Where was I??

Gee, I did not expect it would be so hard to get back into the groove of things here.

For sure, it took one SO-LO* to get this SO-PO off her cozy chair long enough to write an apology for the brief episodic attack of an unannounced break. (*You know who you are!)

Apologies all round to my blog-friends & regular visitors who took offence because they had been indignantly subjected to horrendous rumours spread by a particular gang of misfitiers that I had been detained by mutant mullah aliens or some Insensitive Silly Apes bent to flush out unemployed, female bloggers who were deemed to be some desperate sex-deprived housewives or unmarried old hacks.

Boy, was that a stupendous sweeping generalization by yet another donkey, or in this case, APE.

Let me state categorically here that I am most certainly NOT desperate, NOT sex-deprived and for those who are unfamiliar, NOT an old, unmarried hack.

And then again, why do people like to demonise housewives? How many of their own mothers were housewives too?

There has been so much silly news in our silly papers of late, and the silliest of them all is probably those that hurt the most.

You know, the ones where we know for sure that we taxpayers have been ripped off (again!) and yet the rippers are laughing themselves silly all the way to the bank (again!).

IF you don't get what I mean, check out my favourite guy in that free newspaper who continues to update us on the latest scam involving some RM17 million and a ball.

Now, where was I again?

Oh yeah ... my disappearing act.

I was like, uh, busy busy busy. And then, I needed to sit back and catch my breath and pay some attention to my kids. And I find that I'm missing out on some of the stuff that I ought to do with the kids on a daily basis which really feeds my soul and makes me feel real good inside out. As a woman, a mother, a wife and a responsible human being.

I'm making some major changes to my routine this year. So far, I'm convinced that it is the right direction to take because I feel good about it, and God willing, I hope to reap the rewards of my efforts in the long term.

I'd still like to continue with this blog but the strange thing is, I'm beginning to look at my life from a different perspective.

This has profoundly affected the way I respond to local happenings and all those silly and annoying stuff that get us all so worked up when we read yet another headline of corruption and wastage of public funds in the morning papers.

Just yesterday night, I was stopped by a traffic officer for a minor offence of making a wrong turn and as the guy waved me over, I was well prepared for a summons. It was my fault for not seeing the double-line so I didn't argue with him on that point, other than expressing the fact that it wasn't an exercise of wilful disregard for traffic regulations.

Now, to cut a long story short (you can fill in the standard scenario that is usually played out in cases like this, if you ever find yourself being stopped by a traffic police), the officer was very kind to offer to help me to settle the issue minus all the hassle of having to deal with the summons myself.

I won't tell you how it went but given the choice of forking out a mere 25% of the actual fine and be done with the sorry episode, what would you have done?

When I got home, I felt sorry for this country. I felt sorry for the multitude of honest police officers out there who are fighting an uphill battle to recover their dignity and pride in being a member of this honourable profession.

And then, having had personal experience dealing with local councils and various agencies for more than a decade, I know that this "comfort-zone" that our civil servants are in is part of the root of the problem plaguing our country.

Our system has bred a whole generation of shameless wrong-doers and it seems like no real effort is being done to emphasize the disgrace of it all. In fact, the opposite seems to be true, inaction is deemed to be a silent act of approval. What's a little shame when you have a big fat bank account, eh?

I cringe when I read of yet another minister blaring out yet another slogan against corruption (in all probability for the sake of publicity). I become increasingly disenchanted with the current regime. By 2020, will there still be enough left to plunder to keep them happy?

So you see, another blog entry, another depressing take on what's happening in my country.

My apologies. I didn't mean to start griping after weeks of absence. How rude of me.

Excuse me guys while I go get a large pizza and sit in front of the TV for this season's American Idol. I think I deserve some sinfully high calorie comfort food and junk entertainment to recharge my spirits and face tomorrow's battles.

Yey to Jordin Sparks!

adopt your own virtual pet!