Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mat Lokan

Nothing Lasts,

Nothing is Finished.

Nothing is Perfect.

Sadao Ando, ( Japanese Architect).

As one watches the cherry blossom blooms in spring a feeling of elation fills one's being marvelling at the the magnificience of creation in all its splendor and a few weeks late as we watch the flowers shed their petals to the ground a feeling of sadness and melacholy grips one's heart at the impermanenece of life itself... this the essence of Sabi, Wabi.

"Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent."

Yesterday I learned that a childhood friend of mine is lying in a coma at the ICU ward at the Peanang General Hospital. Most of his life was spent in asnd out of jails or rehab centers, he is a drug addict and his name is 'Mat Lokan', (a nick name). To me he has always been the diamond in the rough, a soul so tough and without the least care about what society has to say about him and yet so gentle towards others who he considers weaker than himself or in need more than he. Lokan, (the name of a clamp that is found in areas of mangrove swamps, buried in the mud and can grow up to larger than a fist) was given to him by his peers as we were growing up in the village of Sungai Pinang or better known then as Kampong Selut, (Mud village). Today the village is no more in exisence being replaced by rows of low cost housing and with it came 'outsiders' who married into or simply moved into the area for one reason or another.
I bought Lokan and myself a pair of jeans each for the Hari Raya Celebration and when i gave it to him I Kidded him saying that I know he would sell the jeans rather than wear it, but he was hurt and for the first time i felt his emotion of being genuinely hurt and I apologized immediately saying that he knew i was only kidding him. On the second day of hari raya when we walked towards the nearby soffee warong he proudly pointed out tome that he was wearing the jeans. Ihad noticed that he was in bad shape while we were having our Nescafe tarik and Char Koay Teow, his breathing was shallow and he was sweating profuriously but said nothing of it. Lokan is one of those kids who in their teen years lost their way towards drug addiction which began with the use of Marijuana and later upgraded to heavier stuff like cocaine and heroine. As we grew up I had lost quite a few childhood friends to this demon that took a hold of their lives in bondage.
The Baharul Alam Football Club is the collecting center for most of the young adults from the old Kampong Selut till this day like from fathers to their sons and even grandchildren and it was the hive where marijuana first used among the young. For as long as i could remember those who frequented 'the Club' as it was known, the smoking of marijuana was taken to be a natural thing especially among those who labored at the harbor in Weld Quay. Each day after their hard day's work the men would return to the club where they practically resided as their second home and indugled in smoking ganja, or better known among them then as Dam. As children my friends and i would hang around watching this despite being threatened or chased away by the young adults. We became the second hand smokers as out of frustration the men would blow the smoke into our faces as a 'punishement'. Thus for most of the time we were stoned and not know it. I was even nicknamed ' Mata nishan' or stoned eyes as my eyelids wouls droop to their half way mark like I was the Buddha. I could safely claim the i was exposed to marijuana since i was four or five years old.
I was one of the fortunate ones to be snatched away from becoming an addict when my eldest brother decided to move me to the East Coast,of Kuala Terengganu when i was twelve. Ganja or canabis was the only drug of choice back i my childhood days and most non users thought nothing of it untill the coming of westerners especially those on R&R from the Vietnam war and drug use was a lucrative business cattering to thier needs. Deadlier drugs and booze came with them and demand and supply grew with the abuse. More and more of the younger generation of the sixties and seventies became sucked into the habit immitating the westerners and their Hippy Era of free love and sex which followed later. The resort areas along the Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and Telok Bahang became a drug heaven for the vacationing US Soldiers and others from Europe who came to spread the Flower Power. They provided the sex and the money while the local heroes provided the places and the supplies of all forms of stimmulants. It was the death of a culture and the birth of another for most who got involved with drug movement in those years untill the authorities got wise and cracked down on the whole event arresting a deporting most drug abbusers and banning the US Millitary from entering Malaysia for R&R.
But the dye was cast and the damage done. Today the country is still struggling with its waste as more and more young adults and even children are getting their hands on all kinds of drugs that I have idea of what they are anymore. But one thing is for sure the effects it has on the lives of those who have to put up with drug abusers, the parents the brothers and sisters, the neighbors and the society at large is tragic. I know there are those who had even contemplated on putting an end to the miserable lives of their drug addicted ofsprings had it not been considered a murder or against their religious concience. Drug addiction has destroyed homes and marriages, claimed lives of the innocent when they became victims of aggression of an addict whose demands are not met with. Drug addicts have become the total pariahs of society that has no feelings or concience towards it just ike zombies they prey upon the helpless to satisfy the needs and society has very little that can be done as their numbers grow by the day and those fallen victims are getting younger and younger in age. Drug addiction is a blight upon society worse than H1N1 or Aids simply because it is something that will never go away and can claim anyone, young or old and it affects everyone else especially those closest to the Addicted.
Both my elder sisters each has a monkey to carry on the aging shoulders, a rotting albatros hanging from their necks and both has lost their husbands leaving them to carry this filth of a burden to their graves. Each has a son who are addicts and both these poor excuses for being called humans or men perey on both my sisters for their daily fix each has his own modus operandi. Yester evening i sat with one of my sisters who is visiting Penang for a relative wedding and to escape from the hell of living at her own home and having to cater to the needs of her addicted son. She is the parent tree that this parsite has been hanging on to for its dicrepit existence. My sister lost her youngest son to a motor cycle accident, and her eldest son whose legs has been rotting evesince i can rmember is barely making it with his bakery business and her only hope in her daughter making it was shattered when she decided to become a mother before her time. However her saving grace comes in the form of her second son who made it in his career as an engineer. His self discipline and brilliant mind has seen through many a rials and tribulations faced by this family haunted by a drug addict.
Mothers do not deserve to bear this burden especially those who have lived their lives piously and within the bounds of decency. Mothers shold not be allowed to shed a tear over the fact the their sons have become slaves to demons that control their existence to the point that they are capable of stabbing their own mothers for a fix (re: in the news recently). But mothers will always come to the recue of their addicted sons and daughters in their hours of need no matter how hard it may seem for them to do so simply because they are mothers!
Drug addiction is beyond doubt a curse upon nations much worse than any natural causes of death. In dealing with the problem most countries have succumed to defeat and despair and the cost of making a stand against this plague is unbearable to most. It is through the eradication of the availablilty of illicit drugs that can in any way minimise this scurge. Malaysia's mandatory death sentence to those possesing x-amount of drug is a good way to go for starters. But it is mostly up to the drug enforcement agencies to do their best in eradicating the supply of drugs into the country. It is also the hope and prayer of every souls who has experienced the loss of their loved ones to this mental poisonning that drug merchants and pushers would see the light of compassion and mercy to be human and abort their trade in this product of human misery.
My childhood friend is lying on the hospital bed in the ICU ward of the Penang General Hospital waiting for his turn to take the one step beyond, if he is lucky. Throughout his life he has been a drug addict, a drug dealer a drug pusher and a drunk; he was not born that way nor was he raised to become that way for as long as I had known him and his family in childhood. His grandmother (adopted), taught most of us to read the Quran when we were children, what went wrong? Has God anything to do with it? The Government? The society? The village? The elders? The parents? The mothers? What or where did it all began from, is there anyone or anything to blame? Nope! Only ourselves... our human frailties... Greed, Hate and Ignorance.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


The month of Ramadan for 2009 came and went and most of those who have left the cities and headed for their respective Kampongs and villages are now struggling to get back to the humdrum life of the life they had left behind and pick up where they had left continuing with their desperate need to excell in the material world. The villeges will return to its normal rustic existance again with the elderly and the retired puttsing about their gardens and the backyard or daydreaming at the edge of the rice field. The women will be back at their task of keeping up with the latest soap on TV especially the Indonesian and Korean series while in between doing their daily chores. Yep, the Ramadan this year has not changed much and as a matter of fact it seemed not as alive as it used to be. Not much fireworks or fire crackers as the police and customs departments made sure of that, the great party poopers! If they wish to kill of every form of celebration that the people enjoy at least they could also do us the favor of throwing us less crap from the politicking and economic scandals that we are also subjected to. What are we to become? A nation of Zombies law abiding morons who live in dire fear of the very people elected to protect us and our freedom! Take the fun out of the people and what have you, just moans and groans of dissatisfactions or give them F1 quality entertainment that they can ill afford and then you ask why the people are not too happy with their elected Dickheads.
It is very sad to visit homes on the Hari Raya and see children sitting with their heads in thier hands bored to death or watching the TV while just about every channel has choreographed performing the same old songs. And we complain why our young ones take to the roads performing death defying antics with their motorcycles, what else is there to do? Why can't the Customs department put on a real fireworks show with all their confisticated fireworks for the public? No, that would defy all simple imagination, counter productive as we are trtying to curb our chikldrens' yearn for excitement and hey where or what happened to the cofisticated items? Reserved for Chinese new year celebration? One or two dumb kids blow up his fingers and the media gets frenzy making sure that this is well covered as a warning to others. In short we take and take deprive our children of every so called 'bad habits' but what do we give them as a replacemnt? Nada! There are millions of children who enjoy making a little noise on this special days its human nature noise making is synonimous with celebration for crying out loud! Perhaps we are having a bunch of old farts making up these laws, they who have almost totally forgotten what it is being a child. In my childhood days we created 'Canons out of Bamboos and metal pipes and bought carbides with a few drops of water fired off loud booms competing with out neighborhood gangs, who can make a louder cannon, no one died that I know of from this. But we were tought to be resourceful and played it safe that safety precautions came naturally from experience not from being taught by Dato' Lee and his Department at NIOSH.
So the Ramadan came and went woe unto the future generation if this trend persist and the only excitement they can expect will be those fireworks coming out of the house of parliament.
On the thrid day of Hari raya I travelled to Kuala Trengganu to pay my respects to my brothers and sisters in the East Coast. Drove my trusty Kancil with my daughter and was stuck in a traffice jam for almost two hours in the middle of nowhere near Macang in Kelantan! Travelling at less than a crawling pace for over ten kilometers we watched the smart ones pass us by driving along the curbside. At one point my daughter turned to me and said. Papa sometimes you just have to just join in and break the law like everyone else don't you? Ya I said, I have promised to be a good citizen but look at what it got me. Those years of my life when I live the 'Davil may care' kind of life style i was doing pretty good and respected even! Try to turn a new leaf and they kick you in the teeth!
We dont need wars in this country, the roads and highways are our killing fields every year during festive seasons. You take your life and your loved ones' in your hands when driving on Malaysian highways and the death rate rises every year eachtime the festive seasons comes along. Other than the children committing suicides on their motorcycles, one major contributor of accidents in this country is the AlMighty Ego! Malaysians are great drivers and are out to prove it to the next guy on the road especially if the driver has a fancier and faster vehicle. Most travellers who take to the roads on festive occaisions are not long distant drivers, most are like horses let free out of their corral after along time of being caged in. So they are out to out drive anyone and everyone regardless of how experienced they are on the highways it is time to let loose with the car. Most accidents occurs when overtaking and especially at night. Most drivers loose controll of their vehicles from freezing in fear when caught in a bad situation, they simply are not used to being in that situation as when they drive in the city to and from works day in day out. Fatigue can do worse when driving long distances and most drivers fail to recognize this untill too late.
Impatience is the number two killer on the road second to Ego. Most drivers wants to get to their destination in record time so that their realtives can look at them in awe, Wow! three hours only from KL to Penang? And how old are you? Sixty two you say?
Well life goes on...SELAMAT HARI RAYA for those who survived.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another fill of time in a bottle...

My blog has been boring as hell of lately as my life is not any better. Why the lack of lustre and go get her spirit of late? Perhaps I am asking for too much this late in life where most retired working men have gone to the pastures for the R&R before the Eternal Journey towrds the final resting grounds. Well I always believe life begins at Sixty! Yessir! At sixty everything you do will acccount for all the things that you have not been able to do for the past fifty years simply because for the time- space conciousness. Like 'time is money', no enough time to do this or that, or how time sixty you stop giving a damn about time. Other than having a lunch time and a bedtime time is irrelevant to a sixty year old timeless man. Unless one is still resposible to keep in touch with time for the benifit of others in one's life such as the kids and their schedules. I look foreward to the day that i can wander out of this time space capsule I am logged into and just exist mindless of time and space... insane perhaps but still...

I look foreward to the next sixty years of my life with great hope and gusto as to what will be in store for me and my children, but then again Allah may have a different schedule for me to work with like my death would be alot sooner than I anticipated; I leave that up to Him and nope I am not fully prepared to cross the 'Sirat'al musta'kim' nor for the voyage in the hereafter. Many, many loose ends to be tied and lots of unanswered issues still floating in my mind with regard to this material world. Like Who or What Am I? And how do I fit in the scheme of things in this so called life? Yes my old 'Koan' still haunts me and will do so i guesse, till end of days. I am still riding 'Suzuki Roshi's 'Zen' Train' although no more guided by a beginner's mind, I still every now and then experience the mini satoris of a Zen student but they have somewhat become polluted by the everydayness of life. Not - athing special about them as they used to be.

The Fasting month is almost coming to an end instead of losing weight i might have gained a few pounds but that too is irrelevant just like time is, I still do my repertoir of exersises just to keep my muscles from getting droopy and my bones greezed. I am having sleep disorder but fastin months does that to you, stay awake at night and sleep in the day, Karim has made that his full time practice. Even as I am typing I am having difficulties keeping my eyes open and it is 9am. The hardest thing i find about growing old is to keep this mind ever alert and active, challenged and confronted, enlightened and fully lit. To keep myself from tripping on things beyond my scope of activities and controll like worrying about what would happen to Aung San Suk Yi or will the West ever come to see islam eye to eye or will the climate warming ever slow down or will Barak Obama make a difference... an the list is endless as these global as well as local events keeps invading my thoughts and conciousness despite my effort to meditate them out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A New Brew in the Making

Big brother country is not happy with litlle brother for plagerizing their cutural heritage by the Astro TV network to promote a Malaysian Tourism footage. No apologies accepted and there is hell to pay for any Malaysian caught on the Jakarta Roads as young and patriotic Indons are on rampage against their mutual enemy the Arrogant and conceited Malaysians, can you blame them? Old and festering wounds and new ones erupting causing an escalating tension between two neighboring countries sharing a common root of indeginous people.
The Malay Warriors are no less out for blood already incited by the challenge thrown at them by their counterpart from across the Straits. No one more louder than the UMNO youth leader who will not let this opportunity to show his Malayness by challenging the burning of the Malaysian flag by Indonesian youtrhs on the streets of Jakarta. Lets hope if and when the time comes for a rumble he will be wielding the kris right at the front of the line and not some poor Malay kid in a Army uniform doing it for him.
Hey! its a great diversion from all the politcal chaos going on in this country and why not? its good for the moral of the nations to let their young have a field day letting off steam, barking at each other from across the waters along the Malacca Straits where irronically a bridge is being planned ( demi untok mengikatkan erat tali Siratul Rahim) to further join the two nations closer together. This is the Month of Ramadhan for Christ's sakes!! Two mostly Muslim populated nations are spitting at eachother like Allah's mandate does not count for anything! What or who needs to make Islam look pretty bad in the eyes of the world when we are doing it better than anyone non-Muslim already! Here offcourse is another twist we really need to take a very good look into at least the leaders of both countries need to, who is promoting this event, or who stands to gain in the event that our two nations have a fallout? Check and double check for the fate of two emerging nations are at jeopardy here. Go deep and weed out who is at the bottom or who is the 'Dalang' in this about to erupt fiasco, leave no stone unturned and nip the culprits right at the bud otherwise this will become a bad habit for us like another festering sore never healing and keepin both nations in its bondage. If it truly comes from the hearts of our young ones then we have a task to defuse this sooner than later for their sake and do it in a win win way.
Allah has a special place in hell for hypocrates!! Be aware!! lets not become another Pakistan or Afghan or Iraq, the Killing Fields for Innocent Muslims!! Wake up! There will never in a million years a winner for Islam in this tragedyand Allah's curse be upon anyone who doubt this. What if because of a Balinese cultural dance being mistakenly taken to be claimed as a Malay Arts can cause a bloodshed among Muslim brothers than shaitan (rejam) has his work cut out for him, how weak is our Iman in Allah's Way and the Prophet's teachings. But then again not not all of us here and there are Muslims are we?
Fasting Month aside, who gives a damn if a few more Muslim nations jump at eachother's throat all over, mistakes made by those who claims themselves as our leaders. When too much politicking takes place in house, the mess outside our fences accumulates, and sooner or later shit hits the fence...KaaaBOOOM!! Ooops too late now, we have been yelling for bigger and better and claiming having the brightest and the tallest at the expense of our neighbor's pride over their country's lack of achievements. Yes Sir, Malaysia Boleh!!
My Grandmother was from Medan and so was my mother born in Medan, Sumatra while my grand father a Singhalese and so was my father and they came from Sri Lanka, I am proud to be a Malaysian. My wife was an American and my children too are still Americans citizens by birth pending my applications for the to become Malaysians which has been for the past ten years eversince I made the application. They may be Americans in name only as they have spent most of their lives here from primary schooling till they have graduated secondary school, Malaysia is their home like it or not for now untill shit happens or they are awarded the citizenship they have earned and which is rightfully theirs. Malaysia Boleh Indeed!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What's new and Exciting?...

While hanging out at the poolside of the Equatorial Hotel with the Museum Gallery Boys I made the acquaintance with an Englishman who happened to be sitting alone having a beer. He has a company her in penang processing fire safety fixtures for buildings and visits the island everyonce in a while to catch up on things. He told me that he and a few of his friends including his wife had build the company from scrap and it has beome their retirement breadwinner as all of them had once held regular jobs and utilized their expertise in creating this company. Like his wife a former banker is the accounts dept. head and his commercial designer buddy is the marketting manager and so on. Way to go!
The moon gazing business with the astrology depatment is not going too well as the moon is not being cooperatinve and neither are the skies but people do came to aske questions and take a peek into telescopes just for the hell of it. Breaking fast at the hotel makes up for all of these and I enjoy doing my sketching in public and always getting a good respond from the audience especially the school kids. Fasting has practically worn me out in more than one way as my age might also be catching up with me and so my normal outgoing personality has taken a step back and I find myself becoming alot more mellow and self concious mostly tired and sleepy, lethargic and zombie like kind of feeling.
Yesterday attended the D'Home Mental Health Association of Penang Press Conference for the launching of their fundraising event which will be held at the Equatorial Hotel on the 10th. next month. I will be one of the artists among eight others participating in the evnt by donating half of the cost of our works if purchased to the Home. I did the same last year and donated about RM700 to the cause. This year I will try to make it to the function as one of my favorite TV Characters will be performing at the event. Mr. Gurmit Singh aka Mr. Phua Chu Kang the comedian from Singapore will be on stage.
All in all not too bad for the guy who is penniless and wondering if he will make it through the next month. Breaking fast at a five star hotel with my buddies while enjoying my work and making new friends, donating my works left and right to charities like I am a Dato' and getting my share of doing good while at it. There is nothing like turning a depressing state of mind into a positive mental health than the act of giving no matter how small and insignificant the gift may be. In the past few weeks I have given away quite a number of my sketches to appreciative friends here and I find it very rewarding inside if not financiallywhile being among the guests at the Equatorial Hotel.
The Hotel itself for being quite up there in age compared to others on the Island, is a very well designed and laidout facility. Sitting on top of the small Bukit Gambir Hill it holds quite a panoramic view of the Penang Bridge and Pulau Jerejak side of the coastal Penang Island. The staff are mostly very cordial and friendly and the food is scrumptuous with a vast selection of dishes from A-Z in the Malaysian traditional menu. They could work on the light drinks though maybe upgrade abit with the latest in juices like the Rossele and the Marquisas juices instead of just plain old syrup drink! But hey beggars cant be choosers now can we? After all afive star buffet is a 5 star buffet!!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

And the fasting goes On...

It is almost halfway through the fasting month already and I must say that I have not really performed as best as i had hoped to in keeping my practice as pure and meaningful as i had wished. However i had not missed a day so far even when I had at times wished for a drink so bad or my migraine headache was killing me or i was so pissed off at one thing or another and chuck it all into the garbage bin, I kept my fasting.

For the next week or so I will be breaking my fast at the Equatorial Hotel here in Penang! One of these ironies of life that happens and needs some explanation as to those who has the right impression that I am a penniless, single parent supporting two teenagers might get all flustered over the contradictions on my lifestyle. I have been invited to be part of the Musium Team putting on an exhibition of Islamic Art and Astronomy and I am there as the Artist. So, for the past few days I have been hanging out by the Hotel swimming pool playing my role. Last night i was asked to do a potrait of a a blind elderly gentleman, one of the Hotel guest. I had a good time doing my sketch but an even greater time getting to know the guy who suffers from kidney failure and had just had a dyalisis done in the afternoon. His son and two daughters had decided for him to have a good time breaking fast with them at the Hotel.

We talked a bit about how I lost one of my elder brothers (see Gina), to the same ailment and how painful it was for me to watch him going through his dialysis treatment three times a week. He used to joke about it and called getting his blood laundried. The final few days of my brother's demise was the most painful expereince for him as for me as well as I witnessed what he had to struggle with. I was with him within the hour of his death all strungout in the Intesive Care Unit with tubes and hose sticking in and out of him, struggling for every breath like it was going to be the last. I felt very sorry for the elderly gentleman when these images ran through my mind, but i was also glad that he could not see the drawing I did of him. I often prayed that my life would end swiftly and not prolonged by any form of illnesses.

I also met a young man from Mainland China who seemed to enjoy his stay in Penang. He came over and joined me while i was doing my reflexology walk along the pebbled bed provided for the guests by the swimming pool. I asked him his busines and he told me that he was in Penang on a furniture business. I assumed that his company imports furniture from China into thias country but to my surprise he told me that his company buys furniture here and sells them in South Africa. I wonderd why we Malysians are not doing this instead it takes a Chinese company from China to be the middle man.
The skies was clear and we had a great viewing of the Lunar landscape with Dr. Chong the dynamic astrology professor from USM giving his spill on the subject. In was intresting to observe how the westerners were more into astronomy than most of the Asians present. Sad to say that we Asians or Malaysians lack enthusiasm when it comes to learning about nature or the cosmos and those who do are intrested just out of curiousity. A Malay father came to collect his children at the pool area after he had had his dinner (buka Puasa), the children protested and wanted him to take a look throught the telescope at the moon, he brushed them off and told them it was time to go. Dissappointment written all over their faces the kids left after a promise was made that they will come again the next day. Ten to fifteen minutes of the father's time to show intrest in the matter might have created one or two astronomers in the family. The man could afford to take his family to an expensive dinner at a five star hotel but could not see what was really the gift of the evening for his children from him - a sense of enthusiasm in what they enjoy, the chance to plant a seed of learning into their curious minds.
I must confess that given the opportunity to spend the evenings at the Equatorial Hotel while waiting to break my fast is a gift considering that I could be sitting out somewhere like the Museum or my home waiting out my hunger and thirst till the nightfall. At least I got a good lesson on the lunar surface from Dr. Chong and the telescopes.