Sleepless in Setiawangsa 10

I have always loved Tuesdays. We bloggers are Tuesday people. Somehow, last Tuesday started off on a wrong footing for me. In my usual topsy-turvy morning rush, I managed to lock my entire family out of the house by leaving the keys atop the shoe rack. The shoe rack is, of course, inside the house. To make matters worse, I have an eleven o’clock meeting to run to. My brain simply could not function without that compulsory-caffeine dosage every morning.

The locksmith became my savior – the one that I have to fork out money for though. I despise parting with money, particularly at an ungodly hour in the morning like last Tuesday. I got to the meeting breathless and disoriented from the whole locking-out drama.

Save for the Mee Rebus Tuesday, my day stayed on a rocky path with client whining and complaining through my old Motorola. Hell hath no fury like a client enraged – that I can assure you.

By the time I reached home late in the evening, I was ready to fall apart into million pieces; fatigue had taken over my body. But Luqman has a mind of his own. He pulled my hand towards the door, stepped into his crocs and said “Park Mommy, Park!” Let me translate that for you: he wants to go the park.

I hauled myself from the sofa, shoved my feet into a pair of thongs and scooped him up my waist. He awarded me one of his million-dollar smiles knowing that he now rules his parents. He kept chanting, “Park! Park! Park!” showing off to his grandma and Sue. He waved them goodbye, blowing kisses with drools around his mouth. So happy he was just to go to the park.

As we got nearer to the park, Luqman let go of my hand and ran to the first slide he saw. He greeted other toddlers nearby flashing his smiles to just about everyone at the park; he was in his element. Luqman craves for other children’s company since he lives in a houseful of adults. He is popular among the regular kids at the park. They love showing him stunts they can do or just chase him around. His face glowed with excitement, his eyes sparkled with a million stars and his shrieks echoed throughout the neighbourhood. He was a picture of happiness.

He kept running around the field which is surrounded with old shady trees. Few kites were flying in the sky handled by a group of boys in a distance. I spotted a girl about Luqman’s age walking towards him. She stood across Luqman, tilted her cherubic face and “chup!“, planted a kiss on my son’s left cheek. Overwhelmed and surprised by the unexpected kiss, he ran helter-skelter and fell down hitting a side bar of a swing. I laughed out loud. At the same time, my heart warmed at the sight… ahhh kids. Sweet, sweet innocence!

We kicked the ball around for a good fifteen minutes before he grew bored with the routine. I pointed to him a small adjacent hill by the side of the field. His eyes widened in anticipation. I taught him how to climb up and roll down the small hill. Luqman mastered the steps in no time. He stood at the peak of the hill making a sign that he was now an Ultraman and rolled his body all the way down. His laughter touched the deepest chord of my heart; healing away my bad Tuesday so far. His voice shouting “Ttttmman!” (Read: Ultraman) could be heard all over the field. Luqman had a ball of a time.

After about 20 trips of climbing up and rolling down the hill, he was utterly spent. Shouting “Mommmmmmmy!“, he ran towards me and threw his arms around my shoulders. The smell of grass and mud permeated my nostrils. His pants soiled with dirt, sweats smeared his face but to me he looked heavenly. He grinned endlessly while trying to catch his breath. My heart melt and everything was just perfect again. I prayed silently and thanked Him for Luqman.

Goodnight Sleepless in wherever you are…

Fidel Castro

I can’t take it no more. The sound of rhetoric political speeches for the election have become unbearably boring. After reading three newspapers and five cups of coffee (five cups? You mad woman!) I drove to Pavilion and headed straight to Times Bookstore. Perfect date: me and the books, the coffee has just got to go though.

My steps came to complete halt as I was passing through the new arrival’s shelves; my eyes were drawn to a new hardcover being displayed on the top shelf. “Fidel Castro, My Life.” The picture adorned on the book’s cover is that of a young Castro in his fatigue inhaling the addiction of his life – cigar.

A renowned Spanish journalist, Ignacio Ramonet, won a lottery in journalism when Castro agreed to grant him 100 hours of interview before he fell ill in 2006. Ramonet subsequently wrote Castro’s first spoken-autobiography.

While being a social pariah to many democratically-inspired Cubans, much has been left unsaid about this elusive leader. Castro, who ruled Cuba from 1959 to 2008; rose to power shortly after overthrowing the previous dictator, Batista.

Castro’s classmates crowned him “El Loco” which means “the Insane” befitting his tendency to test the law despite being a brilliant student at the same time.

What amazes me most about this illustrious Cuban is his ability to navigate a relatively small country through decades of political crisis with the super power – United States. Castro ruled to see the succession of 11 presidents of the United States from Eisenhower to Bush Jr. He survived countless of assassination attempts by sheer wit and shrewdness.

Castro warded off the attempt to oust him by 1,400 members of CIA-trained Cuban exile force known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. Kennedy denied responsibilities for this infamous invasion.

Castro is best remembered for putting the US on its toe with the missile crisis in 1962 and his close alliance with communist leaders. The world saw the closest point to a nuclear war between the US and the USSR when he allowed Khrushvev to place missiles in Cuba to avoid US invasion. The relationship between Castro and Khrushvev soon faltered bringing an end to the possibility of nuke war.

National Geographic reports that this quintessential son of Cuba once spotted wrapping his arm around the shoulders of an old lady, looked up for her farm and cordially asked, “how are those chicken doing sister?” He won the hearts of Cuban ladies but kept his love-life private most of the time.

Castro drove around Cuba to promote the plantation of sugarcane. He dressed himself as a farmer, pulled a boot up his leg and swayed those sharp knives to harvest sugarcane with ordinary Cubans.

However, Castro allegedly amassed personal fortune throughout his tenure in leading Cuba. For most of us, Castro remained an opaque.

Now back to reality. I glanced around and noticed the thinning crowd in the bookstore as the clock approached to 9 p.m.. “Ah, I got to buy this, ” I whispered to myself. I flipped the book around in search of the price tag; the book is retailed a  whopping RM137.50. A sure source of bankruptcy for yours truly.

[Sources: National Geographic, Castro's autobiography and picture stolen from Barnes & Noble without their permission]

The Inheritance of Loss – Book Review

Despite winning the Man Booker Price’s award in 2006, despite nailing a fiction award from National Book Critics Circle in 2007 and rave reviews from literary critics around the globe: Kiran Desai’s novel, The Inheritance of Loss, fails to move me.

The author penned her first book, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, in 1998. Desai currently divides her time between India and the United States. She is a daughter of Anita Desai, a noted author herself.

The Inheritance of Loss lags in speed and its subplots are too chaotic; resulting in me losing in the book after the seventh chapter. The over-poetic nature of Ms. Desai’s style, in my humble opinion, is a little “overboard” to enable her readers to appreciate her passion in poetry.

Desai arouses my curiosity with her outstanding first few chapters; leading me into believing that I will not be able to put the book down. First impression can be deceptive. But as the story unfolds and as the novelist interweaves the story line with too many subplots, one simply gets lost from the main plot of the novel.

Desai writes long sentences which I find difficult to grapple with. Personally, I am of the view that the author “abuses” the use of comma in this book. I think she should apply dashes and semi colon more often; these two are the luxuries in punctuation often use by creative writers. Short and powerful sentences can make a huge difference in a book – especially when the genre is fiction. I may be bias here because I love John Steinbeck’s writing in its simplicity. Tunku Halim also shares his view on short sentences to get a point across in his post “The Economy of Words“.

On a positive note, Desai is a mistress of details. The story is set against a background of a beautiful village at the foot of the Himalaya. The author asserts Indian values – or lack thereof – in her characters denoting her readers with Indian’s lifestyle and tradition.

The book has a lot of history anecdotes which has been painstakingly researched by Desai. She captures her reader’s attention with multiculturalism and her definition of the different forms of love, giving an edge to the book compared to other fictions in the market.

The story evolves around the lives of the people living in an old bungalow in Kalimpong. Western-educated Jemubhai Popatlal is an embittered and vengeful Indian judge, who thinks that the Indians are a despicable lot despite being Indian himself. One day, he found his granddaughter at the doorstep of his house after her mother died. He grudgingly accepts responsibility for his granddaughter, Sai, but treats her with disdain. The only creature he loves is his dog which he treats like a princess; he treats others like lepers. A man who thinks the world of himself, he believes he is above mere mortals.

The judge lives with his devoted cook, who takes care of him and the household. The cook has a son, Biju, who is living as an illegal immigrant in the US. The life of Biju is the main subplot of the story as the author struggles to make the connection between the life of the son and his father, the cook, in Kalimpong. Sai falls in love with her tutor, Gyan, during the Nepalese insurgency.

Strangely, I find reading about Biju’s difficult life in the States – his fight to avoid captures by the authorities and the ill-treatment by his employer – more captivating than the main plot.

The author took seven years to complete this books which explains the myriad of plots and details in the book. The novel demands your absolute attention otherwise you will loose focus in no time. You will also find yourself longing for the words “the end” just to reach the long-awaited conclusion of the story.

A dismal read.

  • Local Price: RM34.00 (MPH)
  • Publisher: Grove Press (357 pages)
  • Genre: Fiction
  • ISBN: 0802165052

Sleepless in Setiawangsa IX

The stars wink at me across the sky in Bukit Setiawangsa. The wind breezes softly lulling its residents to a deep slumber. The trees radiate fresh air adding soft sound to the still of the night. Tonight, the hill is just magnificent.

I love this balcony at night. Over the years, we have formed a profound companionship throughout my lonely nights. At this very same balcony, I wrote countless posts for this blog. It would be a sad day when we finally have to move out from this tiny apartment my family called home for the past four years. Ah, that needs a posting on its own – just for the balcony.

A friend of mine, Ati, died a week ago after battling cancer for years; she left behind a grieving husband and two girls to fend for themselves – forever. Ati and I went to college in the mid nineties to sit for our A-Levels. Though we were never the best of friends, I remember her beauty and comforting voice above others. Back then, Ati was quite a catch. 

I first learnt about Ati’s terminal illness through Nina - my flat mate in the UK. Late last year, when Nina flew back from London and hurried to KL from her hometown in Penang, I was a little perplexed with her haste. I got up at six that day to catch an hour with Nina at KL Sentral before she headed back to Penang. Nina told me about Ati’s ailment with tears threatening to burst the damp in her eyes. Nina said “Mish, this could be my last meeting with Ati.” Even to this moment, I could still feel the stumbling lump in my throat as I thought about Ati and her now-motherless children.

Nina and I bade each other goodbyes after the short meeting. Nina cried while giving me her signature-bear hug. She said “Mish, take care…pray for Ati, pray for us all.” Ah, Nina… My mind immediately played tricks on me; I was transported back to our varsity days in Sheffield. Nina and I shared many nights chattering away about boys and other intimate things at 84, Stafford Street. Nina’s bedroom ceiling has a window which overlooks the skyline. We will sit at the foot of her bed staring at the sky. I am sure, Nina can remember all these…

Late in the afternoon today, I had Noren badgering me about when was the last time I had a mammogram done? When was the last time I had my pap-smear done? She went ballistic after her 29-year-old friend been diagnosed with cancer. Noren adamantly insisted to talk about the law of probate & testament, insurance coverage and every pecuniary interest involved when someone dies. Friend, these issues are just plain harrowing!

Reality dawned on me in no time. I know these are the things one must not ignore. I got to put things in order – just in case. My languid conversation with Noren ended with me fearing about the possibilities of life, or rather, how fragile life is at times.

Sleep well dear Ati, till we meet again in eternity. I end this post with a phrase from the Quran which I copy from Zeaty Jane’ facebook: “Everyone is going to taste death, and We shall make a trial of you with evil and with good. And to Us you will be returned” [Al-Quran 21:35].

Goodnight Sleepless in Setiawangsa.

Pak Lah dissolved the Parliament!

Oh! I am so excited!

No, no, no… Don’t get me wrong, my apolitical-self is, of course, not interested in the current hullabaloo of the Malaysian politics; I am just excited for purely selfish reasons. Why would I care when I end up paying exorbitant tax at the end of the day? Sheesh!

But, the aspiring politician I married a few years ago will be busy out of his head with his division’s activities thus leaving yours truly to her own amusement! Hah! I will go out every night with my friends after Luke goes to sleep. (So that you know, I am grinning endlessly now).

I’ll spend time with Aryati at her cozy apartment in Pantai and bitch about life. I’ll drive to see Yanti wherever she decides to be. Oh, may be I’ll go chill at Pavilion with Riza and Liza. Also must see Ijan and Mas – I miss Mas especially.

I will hang out with Nurul at KLCC without thinking whether Jefree has eaten his dinner or not. That is a refreshing thought for a change. What the heck, I’ll persuade her to take leave or something.

On the other hand, I can also read till wee hours of the morning in bed without fearing of waking Jefree up with our one-sided bed lamp. Of course, must bribe Mama to care for little Luke while I do all of the above.

This is a serious syndrome of mother of one longing for some privacy time. I will go to Sembunyi Spa in Cyberjaya I have been dreaming to go for so long.

ANTICIPATION!! (How do I put that sign of me jumping up and down here?)

Oh, if you want to read serious stuff about the election, please click Tok Mommy’s.

Untitled

The presence lacks vigor
Hearts confound in absence
His body intense
His speech stutters without reason
The familiarity is but forever gone

The Ghost roams free at her territorial water
He is jeering her; he is mocking her
Cynical laughter punctures every beat of her soul
She souls her entire being in desperation
Her heart, her weak heart is stifling tears
She has lost the façade to the Ghost

The water pools beyond her
She is drowning, real fast
But the Ghost’s eyes can never lie
Dancing lights used to house his pupils,
She searches for it; to no avail

Her heart weeps in anguish
Her soul screams in agony
Her strength dwindling fast in the face of the phantom
Her feelings rival Mercedes’ and Dante’s
The spring in her eyes turns wintry cold
Colours drain from her face

The Ghost looks away at the sunset
Back to the coffin of the memory’s past
She heeds not the raging storm in her heart
She clings to the elusive pain forever
Her soul faltering

For she has begged God for mercy;
To be liberated from the throes of pain: forever.