Are you lonesome tonight?

I don’t quite get the mathematic of activities in my office. There are days that it is bursting with activities – the phone ringing endlessly, fax paper a mile long rolling off from the machine, and the printers working overtime – you would think you are in pasar borong as opposed to law firm. There are days like today when it is so quiet that you can hear a pin drop from a distance. And it is on days like today – so quiet – that I am overwhelmed with the feeling of loneliness.

As the mountain of files on my table eases out to flat ground-zero and work done, I inevitably turn to my favourite past time – blog-hopping. My partner, F, gives me a disparaging look and sighs in exasperation. He still cannot fathom my obsession with blogs. And a blog which I visit often is that of Hjh Esah’s Tale of Psychological Damage. I am attracted to her blog because she writes with utter honesty – how she feels exactly at the moment. I often find myself in awe with her unpretentious writing. Earlier on, Hjh Esah writes, “you are lonely because you are too focused on your loneliness.” I was dumb struck. Do I feel lonely right now because I am too focused on the loneliness?

I long for those days when I was with Raja Eleena’s law firm. I was so busy I could hardly answer personal phone calls. And so lunch time was a break that I looked forward to after a friendly banter with colleagues as where to go and who to invite. Nowadays, I occasionally have boring lunch with clients. Sometimes I don’t even bother with lunch at all. How pathetic can that be!

A friend, P,  has this theory on loneliness, I quote, “Loneliness, lonesome and solitude is a state of mind. Dwell in it if you dare, the abyss of depression would come uninvited. Depression another humongous reserve of unexplained behaviours known to man would slowly rear its ugly head if we stay there too long.”

Theoretically, loneliness is a state of mind. Just like smoking cigarettes, you will to quit depends on your state of mind. Can you, therefore, dictate your state of mind then? I think not. State of mind is a complex equation bestows upon us by god. I am not making sense? I know, I know…I sound like an insane person. Personally, I will let not this loneliness lead to depression. I will make peace with it. The same way I make peace with things I can’t change.

Have a good day folks.

Tender is the Night – II

My late father used to sing this song to me -

Yang kurik itu kendi

Yang merah itu saga

Yang cantek itulah budi

Yang indah itu bahasa …

Ah Ayah, he can sing like an angel. Last night, I found myself humming the same song to Luqman, albeit in a less-angelic voice. I hope Luqman will understand the message behind this song someday. I refrain myself from writing too much about him for fear of this blog being judged as a ‘typical mommy’s blog’ by none other but my closest friends. However, these are few pictures that matter to me and I wish to share it with you all -

“Hello everyone!”

Cheeky Grin 1 

“Arhhhh….”

Keluarga Buaya: Papa Crocs, Mommy Crocs & Baby Crocs.

“Here’s my nose!”

Cheeky Grin 2

“Please Mommy, no more picture, I am tired!”

My library, where I hope Luqman will find his first love in knowledge, hopefully.

Okay, I best stop adoring my son before I bore you to oblivion. I love you, Son.  

Man and Boy – Book Review

I picked up this book because of its cover, which caught my eyes, while I was browsing at Borders on a lonely Saturday afternoon. To my delight, the book did not disappoint me at all. Despite the fact that the story line is predictable, I found myself glued to it until the last page.

Man and Boy is a story of Harry Silver, his separation from his wife and his struggle as a single parent to raise his son.

The author, 52-year old Tony Parsons, a columnist with Daily Mirror, has written three novels  before coming up with his international bestseller.

The book is set in London in the late 90s. Thirty-year-old Harry is completely devoid of emotion and practical sense and thinks that the world is his oyster. He seems to have it all – a successful career as TV producer, a beautiful wife, Gina, and an adorable four-year-old son, Pat. And to top it all, he drives around town in a sporty red MGF – a car which most men dream of owning. (I am digressing a little here to know – why do men need fancy cars to boost their image…err ego?)

However, Harry screwed things up when he had a one-night stand with a colleague. His wife walks out on him, leaving Harry to look after their young son after she discovered his little rendezvous. Gina, who has a penchant for everything Japanese, then heads for the land of the rising sun to pursue an unfulfilled dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.

Suddenly, Harry’s world begins to crumble. He finds himself an unemployed single father and in a financial mess with the prospect of a divorce looming before him. He failed to win Gina back despite apologising to her. On the other hand, his parents could not understand why he and Gina decide to go their separate ways. After all, didn’t they – the devoted parents – raise him in a stable environment?

Harry begins to pick up the pieces from his failed marriage once he stops wallowing in self-pity; most importantly, to be a good parent to his son. He strives to provide a decent living environment for Pat in his bid to fight for permenant custody of him. He takes up a job that gives him flexibility in order not to compromise his son’s interest. He does everything a mother is supposed to do for her child – from cooking for his son to giving him a bath. Pat initially resists him and throws tantrums because he misses him mother very much. In short, Harry realises that raising a child is a daunting task.

When Gina returns from Japan with a new man in tow, Harry threatens to fight for sole custody of Pat. However, he soon realises that loving someone is about setting her free. Loving someone is about letting go. He eventually agrees to a shared custody of their son.

The subplot of this novel comes in a form of Cyd, a divorcee. This American single mother eventually finds her way to Harry’s broken heart. The book offers its suspense elements when Pat is involved in an unfortunate accident at the park. The way the author describes Harry’s anxiety and his state of mind then will move you to tears. Well, I cried when I read this particular scene. 

In my opinion, Man & Boy is a predictable story – a story which most of us probably have heard or read. In fact, the story reminds me of ‘Kramer versus Kramer’. However, Parsons retains his originality with his wit and his writing heartfelt in its simplicity. Parsons takes his readers on an emotional roller coaster ride from the first page right until the last. He skillfully narrates the trials and tribulations of a single father in a demanding modern world.

Apart from the coincidence of Pat and Peggy (Cyd’s daughter) attending the same school, which seems a bit far-fetched to me, the storyline is carefully developed to retain the reader’s interest throughout the book. Overall, it is very well written, funny, and heart-breakingly moving.

This is a must-read to those who are suffering from premature mid-life crisis. It’s good for women too because the book guides you right to a man’s heart. Parsons gives you a reality jolt and a subtle reminder not to take anything for granted. Highly recommended.

Title: Man & Boy

Author: Tony Parsons

Price: RM35.90 (Borders)

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (344 Pages)

ISBN: 9780006512134

Genre: Fiction

Love thy neighbour

Bukit Setiawangsa is magnificent after the rain. I stand at the balcony to breathe in the cool crispy air of the night. My thoughts drifted to my childhood – that part of my childhood when we were neighbours with the Tongs.  

You see, earlier today I was visited by members of the Tong family whom I have lost touch – for what seems like an eternity. I grew up with the Tongs as my next-door-neighbour in that godforsaken district of Kuala Krai.

They are a typical Chinese family. No, let me rephrase it, they are a typical Chinese family from Kelantan, who speak fluent Kelantanese dialect and culturally… very Kelantanese. Ever so sensitive to the feelings of the community in which they live, the Tongs have this rule – one must not mention the fact that they consume pork in the presence of their Malay neighbours and friends. It is just isn’t nice. And they don’t eat in public during fasting month out of respect for their Muslim neighbours and friends. The list goes on…

My family and the Tongs lived next to each other in perfect harmony. I recall wearing black for an entire week - in mourning for a close member of the Tong family who had passed away.

I also remember fondly Ah Kong, Mr. Tong’s father. Grandpa Ah Kong would open their kitchen door and called me with an offer I could not resist, a pack of “biskut masjid” in his palm. Just for me. Grandpa Ah Kong died in his sleep 10 years ago, so I was told. Ah Kong, dear, dear Ah Kong, used to take me – “lil” Elviza – on his old Raleigh bicycle around the little neighbourhood. May he rest in peace.

The Tongs have three children: Tong Chin Fei, Tong Chin Aun and Tong Wei Wei. Their only daughter, Wei Wei, was my playmate but with somehow more timid disposition as opposed to me. Our playtime was often interrupted with her shouting out in Cantonese “Ma! Noli (my nickname at home) taolah!” which means (I think) “Ma, Noli pukul!” But Mrs. Tong, more often that not, would chide her gently to stop complaining and keep playing with me as she and my mother continued to exchange gossips…until the cows come home.

I left for boarding school, I never got to see them as often as I would like to.

Our relocation to Mama’s hometown marked the end of that beautiful friendship with the Tongs. But I spotted them – years later – when the entire family attended my wedding. Sadly, they left early and I didn’t get to say hello.

Earlier today, Mrs. Tong walked into my office, took a moment’s pause before throwing her arms around me. Her eyes were brimming with tears as she kept saying that she could not believe I am all grown up. After all the hugs, my mother, who insisted on coming to the office with me to meet them, “plonked” herself on the sofa and invited Mrs. Tong to sit next to her. Once seated they just couldn’t stop talking. Old habits, they say, die hard. So true with Mama and Mrs. Tong! They reminisced about the good old days and talked endlessly to make up for lost time.

Mr. Tong, whom I swear hasn’t aged a day since the last time I saw him, spoke about Ayah and his regret for not being able to attend my dad’s funeral seven years ago. Chin Aun, still the same mischievous “boy” whom I knew, winked at me, stuck his tongue out and teased me like he used to. Aiyaa! Not so cure anymore-lah when you are already grown up. Chin Fei is happily married with a daughter in tow. And Wei Wei, she is all grown up and now working in Penang.

I was touched by the visit of the Tongs after all these years. Their visit is a testimony to the strong bond of friendship between the two families (the Tongs and the Kamals) despite the years of separation. This is because we understand what it means to be neighbours irrespective of our religous belief and ethnic background.

Have a good weekend folks.

*[Biskut Masjid is a small biscuit with a round base and hard icing on top of it. The hard icing looks like a minaret, so we kids call it biskut masjid]