Friday, August 24, 2007

22 and Counting...

So... I turned 22 early this month... It all seems so surreal... It feels that a chapter of your life has just ended. The days of merry-making and careless laughter... The times where you only have yourself to take care of and the option of your parents bailing you out of any trouble you get yourself into... I'm afraid these days would have to be put aside now...

The longer we exist on this earth, the heavier the load we carry on our shoulders. With age comes responsibility... If you screw things up, no one to blame but yourself. Freedom comes with a price my friend... It feels harder to do things based on passion nowadays... Follow your heart, let it tell you where to go and what to do... That used to be second nature...

Now, thoughts come with strings attached to them. Do this? What would the consequences? What would this person feel or that person think? Will doing this affect my grades? This is too risky, I have to take care of my health... You are a medical student, surely you know this's harmful to you?! What about finances? Who's gonna give you the bloody cash? No ones going to print money for you to burn mate. The older you grow, the wiser you get? Hmmm, the older you grow, the worrier you get sounds more realistic.

Why do we grow more cautious the older we get? Sounds like a stupid question I hear you say... Well, I don't know the answer my friends. Seems like more is at stake now than when we were younger. No room for mistakes mate. One wrong move, one step out of line and you're done for it. The higher we climb the harder we fall I suppose. So we climb cautiously... But can we see where we are climbing to and what we are climbing for?

Friends, especially, female ones have entered the workforce. Unbelieveable. It was only yesterday that they were dressed in prim and proper school dresses. Now, corporate demands and image rule the way they dress. Comfy sports shoes replaced with pointy high heels. In a few more years, it will come to the guys' turn.

Things change when people go to work. Everything seems to be geared towards work... Sleep late? Cannot, got work tomorrow. Play football on sat? Cannot, got to do OT. Come out for dinner on a weekday night? Cannot, got a report to prepare. People run on a tight, organised schedule when they join the workforce. Why is it like this? I don't know, I guess it's just the way things are in the working world. And when you enter, you either conform or be condemed. Are humans meant to live like this?

Rats you say? Running in the rat race? What are the prizes at the end of the race? A pat on the back by the boss? A hefty pay rise? An irresitible promotion? How much do you care about all this?

Thoughts.... They change like the number of candles you place on your birthday cake. The growing number of candles brighten up the room but they also show the vast corners of darkness in existence. Cynism grows on you in tandem with maturity. Optimism gives way to caution then to persimmism and reluctant acceptance and conforming to the status quo.
Play, fun, laughter.... These used to fill our time and our hearts, our minds, our souls. Work, money, sleep... These now seem to be a constant worry at the foremost and backmost of our minds, taking away our souls, dampening our minds and occupying all of our time.

What does the future holds then? Succumb to this relentless torrent of pressure to conform and further entrench the status quo? Join in the long, cold and numbing climb to the top that never seem to be in sight?

Don't, my friends... Say no to this temptation to join in the production line of robots that is being churned out endlessly. Set your own path. Remember the days when you were younger and saw the world through untinted glasses? What happened to them? It's time to wipe away the dust and dirt that has accumulated on our glasses with time.

It seems funny that the older we grow, the more we tend to look back at our past and reminisce about the good old days. Is the future that bleak that we have to look for comforts from the past? Hmmm, I don't know again but I'm sure guilty of this habit as well.

What are the things you look forward to nowadays? Do they outnumber the things you dread waking up to? Or are they being outnumbered? Do you wake up with a sigh or with an eager anticipation for the day to start?

Questions. Thoughts. Actions?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Food For Thought...

You may fool the world down the pathway of life

and get pats on your back as you pass,

But your final reward will be heartaches and tears

if you have cheated the man in the glass.

Dale Wimbrow

Monday, April 23, 2007

3 Years On...

23 April ...
A date carved on the back of the ring...
A date to mark the distance the journey had taken...

3 years on and it is still going strong...
Keep believing and things will never go wrong...

Memories there are aplenty...
Filled with highs, lows and the more ordinary...
Every bit cherished dearly...

Lets hold on tightly...
And continue to embrace the past, the present, and the future...

The faith stands,
unwavering in the wind...
Come what may...
Two hearts will always be one.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Glimpse into the World Underneath Us

'Sir, wo de tong xi leh? What if someone took them liao? then how? The other time I came out, wo de tong xi all kena stolen leh! Then I asked encik for help but in the end also nothing...' the boyish looking inmate, with a clean shaven head and dragons and phoenixes dancing around his body or what is affectionately known as ang gong, blurted out.

I was stumped for a moment, not knowing what to say to calm his anxieties. All I could offer was a pair of attentive ears. This was not the only occasion where I was lost for words in the time that I had spent in the interview room.

Snippets of the lives of the inmates that I interviewed were sufficient to amaze me. Parents divorced; Dad ran away with another woman; Mum left to shoulder the burden of the family; Got involved in the wrong company; Joined gangs; Had animals and chinese characters drawn on body; Dropped out of school to work to help out with the family expenses; Got girlfriend pregnant; Some kept the child and married the girl; Others decided to end it prematurely...

How do you react when you hear of these stories? These stories were from a world so foreign. A world that I had not had any contact with before I entered the army. Sheltered in a world where the pursuits of of academic excellence, fame and fortune dictated the lives of everyone, I was ignorant of the harsh realities that faced the people living in the lower rungs of society.

That was until I joined the infantry, as a commander. Here, majority of the men came from rough, humble backgrounds. Being conscripted into the army at the tender age of 18 brought another challenge to their lives. No longer could they work to contribute to the family's income. The meagre allowances given by the army would prove to be largely insufficient. No longer could they enjoy the company of their buddies and girlfriends or tend to their newly formed families. The ideals of patriotism and of defending the country that belonged to them were far-fetched and alien. Survival was the only thing on their minds.

The majority of the men took this new challenge on their chins and quickly adapted to the rules and orders of life in the service. Credit to these men, for life in the army for them was largely harsh and monotonous, with few, if any, rewards at all. A few, unfortunately, fell by the wayside. These men broke rules in their barracks, designated homes for their period of service in the army, to tend to problems that erupted in their real homes; homes that they would eventually return to no matter how tattered and torn... Some were lucky for they had understanding commanders who turned a blind eye to their excursions that broke the rules and regulations cast in stone. The less fortunate ones were severely punished for their rule-breaking behaviour. Some were sent to the detention barracks, the so called prison for military personnel.

And this was the place that I had to visit on the resumption of my military service during the last month of my university holidays. I was to interview the men from my unit who were detained in this place as a show of concern; an act that was supposed to say to them: you have not been forgotten.

Alas, reality lives in a different world from idealism. Listening to anecdotes from the men, I chuckled as some recounted how they were made to wait for a vehicle to pick them up on the day of release during their previous stay in the detention barracks. Apparently, no one had remembered that they were to be returning. Of all the men that I interviewed, majority were in there for going AWOL, or Absent Without Official Leave. Of these, many were there not for the first time. On their previous release, the men had difficulties intergrating back into their unit as their comrades had moved on without them and their commanders often gave them cold or little support, imposing on them strict restrictions to adhere to. Besides, their problems at home were not settled yet and soon, they were back on their excursions again. Many wanted to escape to find a job so that they could contribute to repaying the debts that were mounting at home. Most ended up in illicit jobs that paid well but offered little security. For some, wife and baby were waiting to be fed at home; For others, Mums and siblings were awaiting assistance at home; How could they not answer the call of duty? But answering that call would mean that the call of duty to their country would have to be disrupted. And that would mean serious consequences.

Financial assistance schemes are available for the men but the criteria are so strict that it is difficult for most of them to fall within the requirements. Even if they were poor enough to fall within the criteria, the enormous waiting time for all the red tape to be cut would prove to be another giant obstacle. By the time assistance was rendered, much damage would already have been done.

I always had a soft spot for these people. There is hardly anything in their lives that they could look forward to. Indeed the future looks bleak for them. With only a secondary school education, the types of jobs that they could apply for are few and far between. Competition with cheaper foreign workers would drive them further down the pecking order. How are they going to survive in the future, let alone start and keep a family going? Do they even know what a family means, having come from broken and empty homes?

I wanted to do something for them. But my hands were tied. Tied by the strict regulations in the service; tied by the limitations of my appointment and rank; tied by the restrictions of realities... All I could do was to provide a listening ear, and jot down their grievances on a sheet of paper. Hopefully, one day, someone can pick it up to read and do something to improve the lives of these men... These men who live in a world so close yet so far away from the world that the rest of us belong to...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Kallang Wave Theatrical Trailer

Fans of local football, this is one film you don't want to miss! Catch it at Cathay when it's released, I think around mid-april... Do hope that the mass media will continue to have more productions on local football. More publicity is needed to take it up to the next level and eventually achieve our dream on the world stage.

Life's Little Ironies

'What?! You're going back to KL? Are you a bloody fool or what?!' these words rang loud and clear in my head. It wasn't just him that said it. It seemed that the whole world was mouthing the same words in perfect cohesion. But all I could think of was ' Why not?'

I was set on making the switch. For reasons that my head and heart were well aware of. It seemed that proximity to my love one, friends and family was the ultimate factor that drove me back. I didn't want to miss out on the family functions and the weekly gatherings with my marist brothers. And of course I didn't want my little princess to be left all alone again. Once you lose these young, golden years of your life, you would never get them back again. I don't want to look back at my younger days in the future, when I'm old and haggard, with a tinge of regret at not spending enough time with the people who mean the world to me. Somethings, you've to admit, can only be done when you're young and carefree. And I wanted to make sure that I seized all opportunities that came by my way.

My heart gave a good account of itself. However, it was not the only one speaking. Only half the story was told.

My head said that it would be a good option as well and continued...

For one, I would save my parents a substantial amount of money. Although they insist that money is not an issue with them, I still feel better knowing that they have more cash at their disposal to spend. Ma and Pa have been working hard a good part of their lives and it is time that they start to relax and enjoy life's pleasures. A little bit of spare cash would certainly come in handy. Next, I don't need to elaborate on the countless similarities that Malaysia and Singapore share in terms of their population, climate and the prevalence of diseases. That would give me a sneak preview of the experience that I would have in the future. The cohort size in Malaysia is also much smaller, allowing greater flexibility and attention given to the students. Lectures would be more intimate and interaction between students and lecturer can flow freely. Tutorials would be more enjoyable as you know everyone in the group. I would also have the opportunity to learn Bahasa Melayu. At least when the abangs and mak ciks communicate in their mother tongue back home, I wouldn't be scratching my head cluelessly. Quality would not be compromised as well. If the AMC is willing to put it's reputation on the chopping block and give the course the honour of being the 1st overseas-accreditated medical degree, things shouldn't go too wrong.

My stomach also chipped in with it's 2 cents' worth. Food glorious food! Cheap and good food would be a luxury that I can enjoy. Not to mention that it is avaible 24 hours a day with the mamak shop just a short walk away.

Indeed, it seemed like a perfect option.

Just that 3 things stood in the way. The fact that I was on the wrong continent. The fact that the Malaysian degree has not been recognised by Singapore yet and that the 2 countries have enjoyed a love-hate relationship with each other. The fact that the whole wide world, lest my love one, disagreed with me.

Still, you only live life once so you'd better go all out to get what you want and believe in. Even if you're against the flow.

The accreditation issue was very much in my mind. But there's still a way out. A review will be made again at the end of the year regarding SMC's decision and I will have options opened up for me to take again. That would be a time to sit down and think again.

My head was set. My heart was fixed. My stomach was growling. Pa and Ma reluctantly gave their support. Friends expressed astonishment first, and well-wishes later.

Days after, arrangements were made. I would be in KL to embark on the second week of school.

What a week that was. Singapore to Melbourne to Singapore to KL. A merry-go-round. One of life's little ironies perhaps?

A little irony with a happy ending.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Return of the Boy

3 years had passed since the Boy last stepped foot on the land of pho. During this period, he often reminisced about the magical experience he had in his previous visit. The Boy had long wanted to return to this land where hidden charms abound but the chance slipped by year after year as he was distracted with the duty of serving his nation and the demands of fulfilling his ambitions to be a doctor.

It had been an eventful 3 years ever since the Boy left the land of pho. The initial spark between the Boy and his Little Princess had surged into a huge ball of flames. Things were not as pretty and rosy as in all fairy tales though. This was a different fairy tale. It was a fairy tale in reality. The boy and his Little Princess were living out their fairy tale love story. And reality sometimes bites. It bit the Little Princess and she was hurt for a while. The Boy had made mistakes that were unforgivable. It tested the strength and the faith that the Little Princess had in this fairy tale love and she emerged victorious, with a few battle scars to show for her efforts. With her amazing strength and faith, the Little Princess forgave the Boy’s unforgivable mistakes and the flame between the two continued to shine brightly.

The Boy was ashamed of himself. Ashamed that he had caused so much hurt to the Girl that he loved so much. It was a great moment of folly. Hindsight taught the Boy to realize how unfair he had been to the Little Princess. He was grateful that the Little Princess had been magnanimous enough to accept his mistakes. The Boy promised himself not to hurt the Little Princess anymore. It was a promise that the Boy made with all his heart. Enough unhappiness had been created. No more time could be spared to unhappiness and hurt. Now, all that matters to the Boy was the Little Princess’s happiness.

Distance proved to be a persistent and intimidating challenge to the Boy’s promise. The Boy had to leave for another land hidden deep in the corner of the Earth to pursue his medical ambitions. It was a tough choice for the Boy to make. The thought of leaving his dear 1 constantly haunted him. In the midst of all these, the understanding displayed by the Little Princess was exceptional and it made the choice an easier one. Though distance was a challenge not to be taken lightly, the faith of the Boy and the Little Princess in their fairy tale love story was able to conquer all obstacles in sight. Though the Little Princess and the Boy had the fortune of being surrounded by loyal friends in each other’s absence, the desire of falling back into each other’s arms constantly emerged in their stream of thoughts. The Boy clutched tightly onto these thoughts. It was these thoughts that accompanied him throughout the cold, dark and lonely nights.

Amid the hustle and bustle of his academic pursuits, the Boy stumbled upon a queer looking box in his room one night. Curiosity persuaded the Boy to take a peek into the box and he did so, carefully and slowly. As the lid of the box opened, a brilliant flash shone from inside. The Boy was taken aback. It took him a few moments before he could gather his senses again. Peering into the box, he saw a film being played in the box, right before his very eyes. The Boy strained his eyes to have another look. It was unbelievable. The Boy was inside the film, together with his Little Princess and both of them appeared to be much older than they are now. It showed them living together. It was a peek into the future. The Boy was intrigued. He stayed glued to the inside of the box. As the film progressed, the Boy grew visibly shaken. Something in the film had touched him. Tears began to slowly stream down his face. Then, as quickly as it had started, the lid of the box slammed shut and silence took centre-stage.

The Boy was whirled up in a pool of emotions and thoughts. The box had transported him into his future. A future he did not desire. The Boy was determined not to let things happen as they did in the box. He was enlightened. And his love for the Little Princess grew ever stronger. The Boy remembered about the promise he had made. And he held it tightly to his heart, never wanting to let go.

As the Boy stepped off the plane, the familiar sights and sounds hit him in the face. It was a sight that had welcomed him 3 years ago and it was now opening its arms to him once again. The Boy was keen to revisit the places where the first sparks of love were created and see the people that he had met previously. It had been a long wait. Too long a wait, in fact. The Boy clutched the Little Princess’s hand tight. And strode off into the land where the seeds of this intriguing love were planted 3 years ago…

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tak Giu

Somehow, some of the scenes look familiar. =P Ai Tak Giu Mai? Enjoy.