Monday, January 25, 2010

malaysia: masih bowlay harap sikit...

I mentioned last week that I had unceremoniously lost my wallet, the careless idiot that I naturally am. Hey, it's been over 5 years that I hadn't lost it, that is some kind of record which I am quite proud of. :-)

So, I went through the tedious process of getting the contents of my wallet replaced. While there was a minor adventure with replacing my driver's license, I was also pleasantly surprised that my Identity Card replaced with absolutely no hassle (albeit a well-deserved fine for my carelessness). But
guess what surprise was even more pleasant? The IC was ready today. Exactly a week later. Now, who says that our government departments are beyond hope?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

guardians of driving license photos...

I thought nothing would shock me anymore when it came to ingenuity of the Malaysian race and their ability to adapt just about anything into almost any situation. But pleasantly shocked I was at a polished display of resourcefulness yesterday, made necessary by the opportunity to make a few ringgit of course.

I had suffered the major inconvenience of losing my wallet out of my own carelessness. One of the things I had to replace was my driver's license. Now, I know that you need to bring photos with you to have a replacement done but I also did remember seeing an elderly Chinese chap operating a Polaroid camera in a makeshift studio at the JPJ, where you could get photos done on the spot. So I chanced it and went with almost no identity and
almost no money , armed with nothing but a police report.

After taking a queue number from the information counter, a security guard taps me on the shoulder and whispers softly if I needed photos. I said yes and he takes my arm and leads me towards the outside of the building and points skywards (but toward the general direction of the car park) and whispers instructions to go to the guard house at the main gate.

I almost felt a necessity to tip-toe my way to my rendezvous point with the James Bond who would give me a sealed, self-destructing envelope with further instructions. At the guard house, I peep in through the window and who do I see? Not James. I saw a tiny man in a blue security uniform who didn't seem like he was a fan of speech and speaking. When I asked him where I should go to have photos taken, he smiles and signals for me to come into his guard house.

By now, I am highly amused by the whole cloak and dagger mystery. I enter the guard house (but not before I had to take off my shoes...) and in a corner is a swivel chair and a piece of blue cardboard stuck to the wall, as a backdrop for photos to be taken. I was trying to stifle my incredulous laughter by now.

He invites me to take a seat and proceeds to punch some keys on his mobile phone. I had assumed that he was calling for James with-the-camera Bond but again I was wrong. He swivels around on his chair to face me, points his mobile phone about 3 feet from my face and pulls the trigger. He pauses and then shows me the shot he's taken. Unsurprisingly, I looked like a bemused deer caught in headlights.

I'm not happy with the photo and ask for the picture to be taken again. In true Malaysian spirit, he simply says, "boleh" and proceeds to shoot again. This time, I looked a little more composed and said, "Ok. Now what?"

He asks me to go back to the information counter and wait for him there. He'd come to me in five minutes. So I do as I am told. Exactly 4.5 minutes later, he shows up with 8 photographs in exchange for RM10. That's it. Transaction complete.

This was one of the most bizarre encounters I have had in a long time but it was also the fastest photos I ever made, in the most number of copies and for a bargain; photo studios give you 4 copies of a Polaroid shot and charge you RM10 (some places RM12) and make you wait longer than 4.5 minutes for them to develop and crop the photos.

So the next time you're in the neighbourhood and decide that you need some photos taken, please do look up the guard house at PJ JPJ branch... no need to ask for James.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

aal izz well...

I've never watched a Hindi movie in totality before. On any medium. So watching a Hindi movie in a cinema, on a planned outing, was really a first for me. And I think there was no better movie to lose that virginity to than 3 Idiots.

I didn't know at the time of agreeing to watch the movie right up to the time I got home and googled it, that Aamir Khan's 3i was already the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time... it was released on Christmas Day, less than 3 weeks before! It had, in fact, obliterated Ghajini's top box-office standing within days of release. Aamir Khan wrote on his blog on 4th January:

Last year GHAJINI had broken all records and had gone on to become the biggest grosser in the history of Indian Cinema. No film since has even come close to the business. In fact very few films even before GHAJINI are close, just a handful. Examples Gaddar, Hum Aapke Kaun, DDLJ, Raja Hindustani.

Now hold your breath, and take a seat.

3i has already crossed the business of GHAJINI even as you read this post!!!

In less than 10 days 3i has overtaken the ENTIRE business of GHAJINI!!!

India, Overseas, everywhere!!!
Wow! What an achievement. 3i was breaking records everywhere and not just in India alone.

Anyway, we found ourselves looking like the three idiots going along this outing. And between Sonya, Tzee and myself, I joked that there were exactly 2.5 Chinese audience in the hall that day; Sonya being the 0.5, of course.

The movie was thoroughly enjoyable. It was a coming-of-age comedy which had excellent lines within a superb script, with a tight story-line to boot that didn't leave any nagging questions unanswered. It all came together spectacularly. The three main protagonists were excellent in their respective characters, with Aamir Khan, at the ripe old age of 44, managing to play a 19-year old engineering student flawlessly.

And I was told that Kareena Kapoor, for once, was not playing a role that made her annoying to watch. Another notable member of cast was Boman Irani's cantankerous, no-nonsense character as Professor ViruS. Truly unforgettable.

The story also revolved around the reality of paper-chasing amongst middle and lower income Indian society. Aamir's lead character, Rancho, says in the movie that "people study engineering, then management and then become bankers; so what is the whole point of studying engineering?" Rancho challenges conventions and mind-sets in the movie, much to the chagrin of Prof. ViruS. And Rancho shows his two closest friends how to break out of their own inhibitions and fears.

One apprehension that I did have going into the movie was song & dance sequences... it is a Bollywood production, after all. If you are not big into twirling around palm trees, spectacular changes in scenery on a dime and world-record attempts at wardrobe changes in a number, then you will be heartened to know that this movie contains minimal amount of bursting into song and I can also assure you that those handful of occasions were very situational and entertaining.

And while I am on the subject of scenery, one cannot help but be awe-struck by the beauty of the northern Indian city of Shimla and the breathtaking Ladakh regions, including Lake Panggong in the final scene of the movie.

Another thing that I was wary of were subtitles. I generally don't like reading subs as I am watching a movie unless it is done well. And Malaysian standards of subtitling are notoriously known for anything but well. But to my delight, the subs for 3i were done in-movie and were thus, studio-controlled. And it was excellent. It was great to watch a subtitled movie so seamlessly where the difference in language was hardly noticeable. It's not quite the same experience to be watching, say for example, a Raymond Chau slap-stick with subs, if you know what I mean. Some things defy translation and subtitling. Perhaps it's in the intricacies of language. I don't really know.

All said, it was a highly enjoyable and entertaining movie and I recommend a watch, whether you are a hard-core Aamir Khan fan or someone like me, a first-timer being introduced to Hindi movies for the first time. And the verdict on the excursion from a first-timer, borrowing a line from a song in the movie, aal izz well... very well indeed.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

eff-all 2009 in review...

I started off 2009 with something that was less of "a resolution" but more of a promise to myself to adhere to a list of 8 things I saw as centrally important to my life. I wasn't going to change or discard anything, per se. I was just going to consciously do more of the things that mattered. Thus began what I titled my Eff-All Campaign 2009.

And what a year it was for me. I'd done so much that to read all that I had taken time to record over the last 12 months still boggles my mind now. "I did ALL that?? WOW..."

And here's the re-cap:

1. Family: I've somehow succeeded in spending more time with my Ma (and sis) with the now-regular Saturday breakfast outings to Sri Paandi, me for my ghee dosai and Ma for her appam. She would dutifully carry her own little container of gula merah in her handbag to sprinkle on the appam because the shop doesn't serve it. I spent more time with extended family as well, making a conscious and concerted effort to attend more family gatherings, made more meaningful with the number of deaths experienced in the immediate family last year; four to be exact, three of whom were in succession within a three-week period. I've met cousins, nieces and nephews from all far-flung corners who I have not met for a long while and Facebooked many more long-lost cousins.

2. Friends: I've met a lot of new people throughout the year, including a lot of kids! It is an achievement because I still maintain that I am a dreadful curmudgeon and generally very anti-social. But meet new people, I did... somehow. And some have been great, they know who they are. Rekindling old ones is a little more lacking but for sure, there have been some significant recognition of who were NOT worth my time and a whole lot of one-on-one conversations.

3. Fitness: I wanted to be involved in a lot of sporting activity. And I was. I wanted to try new stuff and here, I will just rattle off the things I did of significance or for the first time in 2009: 78km bike ride to Putrajaya, not-quite-ultimate Frisbee, 40km group ride in Putra/Cyberjaya, Cycle Singapore 2009, Dragon Boating, 5km at the Stanchart Marathon 2009, Diving in Perhentian, Badminton Tournament (where Tzee and I didn't lose ALL our games), Tennis with random strangers and intermittent table tennis games. It's been GREAT!!!

4. Free time: Phew! I was quite breathless amidst everything in 2009 and kept busy a lot. I think I now crave my me-time more than ever! Seriously, I would have liked to spend more alone time but that hasn't always been possible. On that note, I have somehow managed to travel 6 new cities, watch 55 movies, attended 11 arts/theatre events and read a measly 3 books.

5. Faith: On my Facebook profile, I listed religious view as "Catholic Agnostic" because I was Catholic first, before I could even recognize who my mother was, and then grew into agnosticism later. I posted that in my warped sense of humour. But I now truly believe it more and more. Learning to surrender when all else fails and in doubt has been more trying. Breaking away from human forms and conformities of the human mind is never easy. I learn, yet.

6. Filosophy: It has been a tough to shut up and conscientiously listen to other points of view before offering my own (if at all). It has been a large challenge but once the I had gotten the hang of it, it was really quite insightful. And what was most apparent to me was the fact that what I thought or what I had to say was sometimes irrelevant or more powerful left unsaid. I don't always have to say something, nor is it expected of me. Silent observation offers a world of insight.

7. Food: Oh, my word... where do I start? I had been to 166 new places to eat in 2009 that I had never been to before. And this does not include the places (including the 166) I've been back to for repeat visits. And the evidence of all this?? It's in my gut... I feel it! ;-)

8. Fear: [Not of fear itself but the acknowledgment of its existence acceptance of its influence and effect on the things that we do.] This one was a little more complicated. It was more of externalizing and understanding other things and people around me and why things happen the way they do. Understanding the fear that drives people to do the things they do and say what it is that they say. It's hard to quantify how successful I have been in this area but it is something that I continually strive to achieve.

Top 5 of 2009:

1. Melbourne, Australia (May 2009)
2. Showdown of Champions 2009, Kuala Lumpur (December 2009)
3. Carcassonne, Figueras, Barcelona (October 2009)
4. Bangkok, Thailand (February 2009)
5. Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary (August 2009)

It's been a an action-packed year. It had its ups and downs and its share of drama but never once, has it been dull. I could write so much more but I fear that writing about the past year will only eat into my time of recording down the year that we're in now. And 2010 will be even greater!

Monday, January 11, 2010

hello 2010... it's been mortifying...

Another year. Is it just me or does time fly faster with every year one adds on to one's age?

It's been a grand old 2009 for me. I'm retrospectively browsing through my 2009 to see how much of my eff-all objective I had achieved and I shall write my observations and achievements in due time. Meanwhile, I'd just like to wish the handful of people who do read this humble and intermittent blog a Blessed and Peaceful 2010.

The date today is 11th of 01 in the year '10. Auspicious as the date may seem, it belies the tough times that we still live in. Economy is supposedly recovering and peace has yet to rear its head in Malaysia. The nation is polarised by an issue of the usage of the word "Allah". Yahweh. God.

Whatever one's religious leanings are and whatever the form or shape that God takes for a person, how can anyone want to claim an exclusivity on the name of God? If you have that much faith in the existence of God and all that is good about Him, then should we not be sharing His name with all and sundry, and IN HIS NAME?

Allah is a name that has been in use to describe God since the ancient forebears of the major monotheistic religions dating back to Abraham. Have the Jews, Muslims and Christians forgotten that they are ALL Abrahamic religions? They all acknowledge Abraham. And back in the day, Abraham worshiped only one God. He is still one and the same God, no matter what you and I choose to call Him today.

So what's in a name?? Get on with life already. There are proposals to write, hungry kids to feed and laundry to do. There's too much to do to be wasting time on arguing semantics and building petrol bombs.