Friday, March 30, 2012

D Home Charity Silent Auction and Dinner.

Not too often does one gets a chance to stroll on the seaward side of the E&O Hotel in Penang and it is still a breath taking experience anytime of day. This Hotel is one of Penang's Heritage site and has a history of its own that stretches back into colonial times.
From this mélange of cultures and colonial commerce, four Armenian brothers, the Sarkies, would emerge to establish some of the world's greatest hotels in the East, including The Raffles in Singapore and The Strand in Rangoon.

The first of these, in 1885, would be the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, once pronounced as "The Premier Hotel East of Suez", boasting more than 100 rooms, 40 of them with adjoining bathrooms, hot and cold running water, individual telephones and a 902-foot seafront, "the longest of any hotel in the world".

In its long and colourful history, the E&O Hotel has seen two World Wars, the wane of the British Empire as well as the birth of Malaysia. It has welcomed the glitterati of the literary and entertainment worlds including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Hermann Hesse.

Through the highs and lows of events around the world, the E&O has retained its charm and weathered the passage of time with character and grace. Today, more than a century since its establishment, it is still nigh on impossible for travellers to think of luxury travel in the East without also calling to mind the graceful elegance and storied colonial charm of the E&O, one of Asia's truly great hotels.

Find out more about the vibrant history of the E&O Hotel from the book The E&O Hotel: Pearl of Penang. The book celebrates the rich heritage of the E&O Hotel, from its beginnings in 1885 to the present day. Authored by Ilsa Sharp, it is available at the E&O Hotel Bombay Shop and leading bookstores. RP: RM188.50.
Situated in Georgetown at the intersection of Farquhar Street and Penang Road, the E&O Hotel is 20 kilometres from the Penang International Airport and within walking distance from the food havens, shopping complexes and entertainment outlets of downtown Georgetown.
D’Home was envisioned by one man who dared to dream of making a better tomorrow by building a better world. His mission: to give hope and meaning in life to those who are desperately in need of hope.
Dato’ Leslie Lee Kim Guan, Executive Chairman of New Bob Group of Companies and President of D’Home Mental Health Association is no stranger to mental health issues. He has first hand knowledge of what it is to care for a loved one with mental illness. He has been looking after his older brother who has been suffering from schizophrenia for the past 42 years. 
Right from young, he has vowed to help ease the pain of others with the same struggles. It was this passion that propelled him to provide an avenue for others to learn more about mental illness and to find support and encouragement.
Dato’ Leslie, like Lao-Tzu, believes that ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step’. Thus he took the initiative to take that first step in late 2004 by sharing his vision with Dr. Leela Ryan (MB BCh, MRCPsy) the Associate Professor of Penang Medical College. Dr. Leela Ryan then introduced him to the Family Link Education Programme. Together with the pioneering team that shares the same passion, namely, Dr. Leela Ryan, Dr. Lau Kim Kah, Dr. Lai Fong Hwa, Mr. Lee Khai, Mr. Leong Eng Khoon, Mr. Lim Kee Hor and Mr. Jeya Balan, they proceeded to develop the concepts and objectives and D’Home was born….

is Dato’ Leslie’s dream and aspiration that D’Home will soon be able to have in-house psychiatrists and psychologists to cater to the needs of its members as well as the general public. He hopes too that D’Home will be able to expand its services and open more branches in other states in the not too distant future.

Dato Dr. Tan Chee Kuan bought my piece of donation for the event. This  was my third consecutive participation in this fund raising event and would gladly hope to continue to do so into the future. This year's event was organized by none other than my brother Lee Khai which made it extra special.
Dato Dr. Tan has thus far collected a number of my artworks ever since he first attended my solo exhibition at the ABN AMRO USM Gallery back in 2004. I like him as he has always been down to earth friendly towards me and knows his art.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

San Francisco -1993 Marriage Couselling

For lack of better things to write about I am going to look back in time and transfer an episode or two from my written journals cum sketchbooks and i am going to pick out these writings randomly. The following was written in my sketchbook dated 1993 the year when i was married and had my son Karim while living on 2nd. Avenue in the Richmond District of San Francisco, Ca.

!993 - San francisco
Today I sat facing two women in a confrontation over the state of my married life. The meeting took place at the San Francisco Zen Center, at 300 Page Street in Downtown San Francisco,( I still do not like this place after all these years). Blanch Hartman was in her priest robes, and she was bald, Blanch was the priest that had perform our wedding ceremony which took place at Green Gulch Zen Center. The other lady present was none other than my wife Nancy who had prompted this meeting. In essence it was our attempt at a marriage counseling  as our marriage was headed for the rocks so to speak.
It was on a Saturday and there was a Sesshin,( or an all day sitting meditation practice, which sometimes can also be for seven days). Upon our arrival we were met by one of the older students by the name of Kathy Cook, someone who had an adverse perception of my presence at the Zen Center from day one of our encounter there. If looks could kill as they say Kathy would have me dead along time before my liberation from the Zen community. The Abbot Mel Weissman was giving the Dharma talk in the Zendo or meditation Hall and all around him say Zen students wrapped up in black robes and staring into oblivion with a half smile on their faces like they were experiencing  something deep within or trying hard to look like awakened ones.It was to see that a good number of people cared enough about themselves to take the trouble to be there joined in a group therapy called Zazen or sitting meditation.They sat facing the wall during the meditation period letting go of whatever that needed to be liberated or silently grappling with the ghosts of the past, present and future as they rises in their individual consciousness. Ironically enough most would leave the Sesshin with some new vexations to deal with like yours truly. I had spent two years in total at the Green Gulch Zen Center and also done a few Seven Days Sesshin at the City Zen Center in the past.
There is the good and the bad about marriage counselling whether in front of a priest, a counselor or a therapist; it took a lot of guts and the realization that you needed to do it or face dire consequences in your relationship if not your future.It was an ego bashing choice to make as no one would be caught seeing a shrink in the United States, it was the last effort to mend the walls before the dam break loose and in this case it was my marriage that was at stake with my infant son being the potential victim..A few years earlier I had been advised to see psychiatrist to look into my anger issue and I was recommended  to visit a Doctor Daniel Sonkin who was practicing out of Sausalito, Ca. he was recommended by my former boss and friend Will Harris who had Doctor Sonkin as his doctor for the same problem and it cost me $75 an hour back then and this was with a good amount of discount considering my financial state then. When the money ran out and I had to stop seeing him the doctor told me that all I needed to do was quit smoking pot as it was causing my mood swings from one extreme to another; I never did.
What transpired at the counseling session was my wife's airing out of her fears of my violent temper and the fact that I was not living up to her expectation while me i was tired of living in America and wanted to leave and so it went. One thing led to another and soon i was pilling my guts out blaming myself,my mother my life my every weaknesses in trying to justify why I hit my wife in anger But no amount of self justification could heal the pain i felt inside and the anguish of knowing that i had done the worse thing a husband could do. I apologized and promised to behave I knew that no matter what I stood no chance against these two ladies and things can gat real messy for me with the chances of loosing my children at the end of the session. After being married to her for three years I had a good understanding of my wife's ways and her ability to push all the right buttons to set me off every time life seems dull for her and it became like a clock work with me being the victim unknowingly until became wise up to the phenomena.
At one point of the meeting i left for the toilet and when i returned i was asked a few questions like what guarantee would my wife has that iw ill not become more violent and abuse her in the future and what about giving her custody of the children if things does not workout while we live in Malaysia. I knew then that things were getting serious and I decided to put my foot done and took the bull by the horn. I told my wife that she had to trust me, support my efforts and help me with my feelings and know that I am a man and that all my efforts were for all of us no just for me. As far as putting on paper with the custodian of my children and so on, I told them forget it. I told them that my wife was not capable of caring for two children and even if she does I would feel sorry for them. As proof, I told them that I was willing to stay way from my wife and children for one whole month if she wishes to find out true this was. They both thought it was not a good idea.
My wife has more than my temper that creates fears in her about men, she was abused by men in almost all of her relationships before she met me and a few were very serious ones with three of them ending in a abortion...(I will not go into more detail of the matter as is not appropriate while writing this down in a blog).However i stood my grounds and let it all out in front of Blanch Hartman the Zen Priest and my wife. I stood up for my beliefs and my faith as a Muslim.I told them that perhaps I can never make my wife happy and that our home will never find the harmony that it deserves, however, I will stop blaming myself and that I will go on forging ahead planning for the future albeit in the US or in Malaysia and with or without my wife. As for my children I leave it up to God i told them for now. I can only take care of what is before me, Now!
Their future i said was dependent on what i accomplish in the next few months
I told them that to me America is a culture less country or a country with too many cultures but none to consider its own. I find that the Americans are the worse of cultural critics especially towards cultures that are non western (WASP-Culture). Off course the laws in this country is based on this WASP culture that is still looking to find its own identity. In the court of law I would be crucified, my children taken from me and I would be made to pay for their support. I can hear again and again the question about my temperament and masculinity issues, "Perhaps it is your culture Shamsul, could it be your culture that makes it hard  for you to wear an apron and change the diapers. Perhaps it is your culture that makes it hard for you to see your wife dressed half naked in public or rude to her guests in the home. Perhaps it is your culture for you to accept the fact that women are equal to men!?"
I asked them what culture are they talking about, as though they know me so well? Being a Malay?A Buddhist? A Muslim? or being in the United States for the past twenty years? Which culture are you referring to or should I assume to fit your narrow perception of who I am? Americans are in their thrid or fourth generation only, the culture i come from stretches back thousands of years of right and wrong. It stretches from India to China and distance as well as in History. If you are talking about me being a Malysian, it is a culture that is made up of all these and more. I come from the culture that Zen Buddhism originate from. Americans may forever be ambivalent about Islam and its uncompromising ways as it does not allow for its principles to be easily bent by anyone or culture to suit personal or national interest. If allowed to do so true Islam will cease to exist and in its place only an imitation of it is present.
Buddhism will lead one to enlightenment but that would only be at God's doorstep.Islam is the key that opens this door for one to step in to face the One that will testify your enlightened experience, your Maker. Buddhism may show you the path whereby this Samsaric life can be forged through without too much strain and suffering but what lies after this life only God will bear witness for not even the Buddha has the capacity to explain this phenomenon called God and the life after.
Buddhism in America at the moment is like the blind leading the blind!

This was my marriage counselling that took place before a female Zen Priest at the San Francisco Zen Center at 300 Page Street, San Francisco. Cal. sometime in 1993: never had anymore after that. I loved my wife even more ever since we moved to Japan and later on to Malaysia and I believe i gave her a life she would have missed otherwise with two beautiful children. She became a good Muslim and was well loved and respected by her peers and students when she was a lecturer at KUSZA in Kuala Terengganu.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What the Hell!!

My latest Studios space at MGTF after being relocated due to a renovation work in progress. My next relocation will be to the rear of the Museum building where all my works will be outside of the building itself to avoid being audited by the USM auditors. I guesse it is alright to have dead unused spaces than having spaces being utilized to the maximum according to their books. For one who has been squatting here for the past five years I cannot complain especially when the hospitality has been kind.
Whenever I mention that i work out of a studio space at the MGTF  everyone would enviously goes ooh!! Wow!, like, you lucky dog! However little do they know how much pride and prejudice one has to play with and the patience it takes to survive the onslaught of  envy and jealousy from petty tyrants. I told myself that i would survive doing the impossible in everything i do and this is part of my survival as an artist living on the street. I have had five shows from out of this spaces at the MGTF three of them major solo exhibitions and another in the making. I have never had a permanent studio of my own and I guese I never will.
I have been going through a phase of stagnation, lack of the desire to move on to greater heights in my pursuits of happiness or self gratification much less to share my thoughts and feelings through writing this blog like i used to. I find it is becoming a futile endeavor which is time wasted and amounting to very little benefit to myself much less for others.Blogging has met with a blog and mind has declined in its tenacity for the seek of truth, as a friend recently puts it my mind is failing to detoxify.My physical state is also beginning to experience signs of the onset of decay which I am sure the doctors would find no difficulty in diagnosing as one common decease like diabetes, high blood pressure of maybe even cancer of one form or another. I am 63 so what more need to be said..
My daughter called me two days ago in the wee early hours of the morning crying on the phone which scared  the life out of me thinking the worse had happened to her. I finally found out the she had dreamed that I had passed away. Oh...well , that is not too bad worse things she could have dreamed and further more this is the second time I have died in her dream. I would not mind exiting just about now anyway as i am beginning to find life a little too much pain and very little pleasure for my taste. Too much disappointment and too little achievement to look forward to, too much horrors and too little compassion where humanity is concern. In short, life is no more fun like it used to be, like its every dog for himself and the hell with the quality, it is the quantity that matters, the hell with love and compassion its the 'money that talks and bullshit still walks' virtue that prevails today.
Death would be a welcome alternative for me and i say this with no regrets except that my  daughter still needs for me to be there when she needs me. My sons, they have practically written me off from their calendar and rightfully so as i have not been much of a father to them in the past when they really needed me. I cannot hold it against them and nor do i intend to. I have done the best I could given the circumstances and made life as interesting and exciting for myself and for them to reflect upon in their own time, I had traveled the road less taken, veered off the beaten path and ventured into the uncharted courses where not too many would dare venture. I have threaded where angels would not and touched many lives in so doing for better of for worse and came out to write about them in the effort to share my experiences with them.
My son in Dubai called at three in the morning last week and asked me if I am ready to go to Dubai as his friends are all excited about having some artworks done. I can hear that there was big party going on in the background with some calling out "Hi Dad!" I told ok if he send me some money to pay for the way to the KLIA from Penang and catch up with my car payment and my rent and some to cover my daughter's needs in school. His famous last words has always been "ok, see what I can do." then the long silence which in the past I pay some mind over but I think its enough for now. My son has become what he has become and only there is nothing i can do or say to change him. Like my daughter once said to me, "Dad, money does things to people."
It is indeed sad, very sad indeed, and like most others my initial reaction would be; had I known.... No, how could I know! I was a selfish, stubborn and often enough self centered arrogant son of a bitch with a rotten chip on my shoulder when i was their age and I did many wrongs that i cannot even begin to imagine. How can i judge my children with the same faults. I lived my Karmic consequences as they are living theirs and we are all of us headed in the same direction of self discovery as we mature each of us making the right and wrong moves as we see fit.As a father all I can hope for is that they will prevail and live life to the fullest just like me or much better without too much attachments.
As for where I am at right now, I do not have the same kind of energy like I used to take on the world much less to deal with what lies after I am dead and gone. I dread to even think of heaven or hell and the prospect of meeting my Maker as i am as sure as hell not in any way ready for Him by a long shot! Many of my friends and Muslim relatives have been urging me to take my trip to Mecca and make peace with the Lord of the Universe while I still am strong enough to do it.I can only laugh at the irony as my son the pilot lives within walking distance of the Holy Land, but that off course is  a whole different story. It is another one of the side roads i had taken along the way which has resulted in him not being a Muslim and the prospect of sponsoring his father to Mecca would be a miracle.But like everything else in my life there is always a catch 22, and so I always believe that if Allah wants me I will be there one day,one way or another and if not well, Such Is.
I have always maintained that just before i breath my final breath I would like to catch a glimpse of why was I alive in the first place;What brought me here? Who am I? It is not that I was not blessed with many a good times throughout my life and for these I am mostly grateful but to weigh these against the darker times I would rather that I had never been born. It is said you reap what you sow, indeed you do, but when the soil you sow your seeds in is toxic it does not really matter what you sow only shit grows out of it.I have spent most of my adult  life caring for the soil, weeding and tilling it, detoxifying it with organic compost so that my seedlings stands a chance of survival in this age of decadence and corruption. I have been churning and mixing my thoughts and philosophies, spirituality and religious experiences into a mixture that I hope to enlighten my children's mind as to what their father was all about. I try not to tell them who or what they should be but show them who or what they can or should not become. To avoid the pitfalls and the groove that had inhibited my existence or to taken on the bull by its horns when and where needed be. Through my faults and errors, through my mistakes and weaknesses I have tried to turn my life into a compost pile fit for the growing of healthy minds.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Short and sweet trip to K.Tr.

Last Thursday my daughter and I left Penang on the ferry as we needed to take a bus to  Manjung, Perak  where my sister was waiting for us. My sister had bought a new car and needed me to drive her and the car back to Kuala Terengganu. Taking the ferry always brought back fond memories of my younger days when my uncle used to work for the Penang Port Commission and I was given a tour of the ferry from top to bottom when they first arrived in Penang from Hong Kong where they were constructed. I remember taking a ride in the Pilot House and being explained how the Ferry works. These were the food for my childhood imagination and thanks to my uncle too Iwas taken on board ships that anchored to the Jetty loading and unloading goods from Indian and various other foreign lands. I still remember the names of Steamships like the S.S. Rajula and the State of Madras, ships that were loaded with onions and red peppers, potatoes and various kinds of spices. Just walking from one end of the ship to another was like walking inside a flour mill filled with the most aromatic smell  that mind can imagine. 
Today the channel has become shallower and less vassals are seen anchored and most of the loading and unloading of cargo are done across from the Island in Butterworth. The Weld Quay area of the Georgetown today catters more towards pleasures cruise ships and yatchs  belonging to the rich.

The ferries must be more than fifty years old by now but they are still going strong and has become an icon for most Penangites who had grown up with these boats.
It is highly doubtful that these ocean going containers would be as  full of  a sense of excitement and  surprises as the old steamships used to be for me much less spices more like the smell of paint and oil as most these vassals do.
At the Butterworth bus terminal my daughter and I took the express bus and headed for Manjung Perak which took us almost three hours which I did not mind at all as my daughter was beside me asleep on my shoulder. Moment like these are rare and will soon be a thing of my past as she grows older into her own life.
I asked my daughter to snap a shot of me sitting in meditation as iI often do whenever and wherever. This time it was at my niece's house in Manjung where my sister was house sitting. My niece and her husband at present are in Kuwait where her husband works as an engineer.  I had the opportunity to visit them while I was visiting my son in Dubai.
Friday Prayer in Kuala Terengganu with Adam and his father/
Yes what kind of  a world would I leave you behind when I am dead and gone,. What have i done that would have made the environment you will inherit be more pleasing and sustainable for you?.
I spent the Friday with  Mohd Rafi and family at his shop in Durian Burung Kuala Terengganu. Rafi is my most eldest of all my nephews and nieces and I had the opportunity to babysit him until he was replaced by his younger brother Jamal. I spent the entire Friday sketching the portrait the entire family and was promised that they would be framed and hanged on the wall.   .
Maya! The youngest. I hope you too someday will  read this blog  and  know who the Cheeseburger Buddha was. I hope too in some small way you will find a lesson or two to help you find your way through life through having read my writings. Today you look at me with trepidation wondering who this white bearded old man with a pony tail might be and that is fine too.
I stayed for only one day this time as the small voice within whispered that I should be home for one reason or another. Mostly it is because of my ongoing group show and the other being two Art Openings happening on Sunday and both that of my close friends as well as fellow artists...Patrick Lasak and Shaparrel.