Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An offer I could ultimately refuse

I am writing this from my hometown. I'm not back for a holiday, I'm back for good. I've said my farewell, cleared my last few tasks at the office, cleaned my office, packed up my things, and moved back, one year and one month to the day I first started working in Jeli, Kelantan. I guess that their offer was something that I could refuse, in the end. Just to recap, the deal was for me to come work there for a maximum of one year, then further my studies abroad under their full sponsorship, before finally returning to continue working for them for seven more years.

So what made me change my mind, after spending almost a year there? After all, it's not everyday that you're gonna run into such a lucrative (although one which requires a huge sacrifice) offer. 

First of all, Jeli. I have lived there for almost a year, in what amounted to almost total seclusion. It's a small town to begin with, and I have always kept mostly to myself, even before moving there. A typical day would consist of me waking up, eating brunch at the least busy stall, going to the office, locking the door behind me, doing work until it's quitting time, then back home and to my room. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Now living there might sound like a suitable arrangement for me, but I ended up wanting both company and even more privacy, strangely enough. On some days, I would intentionally avoid going to the grocers with the better service for my groceries, just to avoid having to make small talk with the friendlier grocers. and when I ate out, I would almost always pick a place without too many people. I don't know whether it was just me, but I always got the feeling that the people there were eyeballing me when I was around. I only wanted to be ignored. During weekends, I would get my supplies beforehand, and then shut myself in for the next two days. Nothing to do, nowhere to go to. The nearest cinema is 200km away in Ipoh. The people I considered friends were not in visiting distance. I would surf the internet on the very slow connection the whole time until it's work day again. God it was awful. 

Secondly, I started feeling that the place I was working at wasn't a good place for me to advance my career. I had my primary job scope, but I found myself tasked with doing things that are not my responsibilities a little too often. Now I don't want to sound like your typical entitled, fussy, 20-something, I understand that sometimes that's what having a job is about; doing things that you don't like doing. But the thing is, the unrelated and irrelevant tasks popped up quite often, to the point that they got in the way of my primary tasks. And most of these secondary tasks had to be done near the city, 100km from Jeli. So having to fulfill these secondary tasks almost always meant losing a full day's work. So what's the big deal? It's not like I can't do my actual work on the next day, can I? Well, the nature my job was somewhat time-sensitive, because it also involved other people. I know it's kind of vague, but what can I do? NDA and all that jazz. Just to make it clearer, imagine that my job was to dig out holes in the ground. But I can only move the soil out of the holes with a torn sack. And worse still, my immediate superior's official job is to kick the earth I had just dug up back into the hole. He is not being an asshole, and he sure as hell doesn't like doing it, but somewhere higher up, either through a royal fuck up or just sheer ineptitude, a higher authority figure had decided that holes need to be dug up with a torn sack, but someone also needs to kick the soil back in.

Dear lord, I sound like a little bitch with all this moaning. Boohoo.

Well, now I am back home, trying my darnedest best not to get on my parents' bad side, doing my best to toe the line and playing at being a model, religious, clean-shaven, first son. So far so good. The thing is, now that I am back at home, I feel a lot better. I always have things to amuse and occupy myself with, and I don't feel cooped up anymore. It's so nice just to be able to drive around in my car with the window rolled down, a cigarette in my hand, and my favourite tunes playing on the radio. It feels so liberating, it makes me feel five years younger, and somehow it makes me feel invincible, like I am going to live forever.

But of course I am still jobless at the moment, and my savings are running out, fast. So I have to find a suitable employment soon, although I have turned quite anxious at the thought of holding another nine to five job. But that's for another post.

Talking about future posts, what's going happen to this blog? I imagine that I'm going to update it with two or three or more posts, with an epilogue of some sort thrown in to wrap some loose ends up, before its quittin' time. I've never been one to kiss and tell, especially on the internet, except when I think that what I'm going through is a unique experience that some people might be interested in reading about. I mean, another vague post on missing your ex? That almost makes your kitsch, poorly-Instagrammed pictures of overpriced food seem professional by comparison.

Aaaaaanyway, the decision to start writing this blog was made after I had realised that uprooting my life to go live in a rural part of this country is a somewhat unique experience that not too many people can relate to. But now that I'm back home in Klang Valley, I'm just another nondescript 20-something who's trying to find a gainful employment, make himself and his parents proud and find his peace of mind. Nothing worth shouting about. Now I can get back to reviewing movies on my other blog, which has been left unattended for quite some time.

Until next time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Lelaki berkebolehan

I’m almost 30 years old of age. I’ve done a number of things, some I’m proud of, some totally cringeworthy. However, there are three things that I’ve done that I am very proud of. 

I’ll start off the list with something that I can’t even recall completely. I was in university at that time, in a meeting. What essentially happened was that what I had said earlier was quoted by a friend in the meeting. The thing is, I don’t even remember what it was that I had said. I’m pretty sure that it was something original and I remember feeling impressed with myself for being verbally quoted by someone. Anyone from back then still remember what it actually was? 

The second thing had happened earlier, but I remember it a lot more clearly. I was seventeen and home from boarding school during a gap between the SPM papers. The cistern in one the toilets wasn’t working properly, so my mother got a new one. The problem was my father wasn’t around, so I had to install it, even though I wasn’t the handiest person around with tools and plumbing. Seriously, my Kemahiran Hidup PMR project was so lousy. It was one of those tacky wooden shelves with a lid that lights up and plays songs when it is opened, only that somehow the lid on mine could only be opened partially and it didn’t light up and play songs. It was THAT shoddily-made. Anyway, back to the cistern. To make things more complicated, the new cistern didn’t come with an installation manual. But I didn’t feel like disappointing my mother at that time, so I took the plastic bag apart and started tinkering with the parts. And what do you know. After half an hour of “Maybe this goes there...” and “now what the hell is this?!”, I finally managed to put the whole thing together, and it worked fine, too! I was really proud of myself at that time. And I still am. I’m a man, and admittedly society requires men to be handy with tools and repairs. We can debate until the cows come home about how gender stereotypes are just a social construct, but for me personally, that is one demand towards men that I must be able to fulfil for me to feel like a proper man. It might not sound like much, but hey, no manuals. Maybe one of these days I should get a plaque made to commemorate that event, and get it pasted on the toilet door. Maybe if I’m famous sometime in the future, my fans (or my devotees. Oooohhhh...) will flock in droves to pay respect to that particular toilet. What should I write on the plaque? 

“He got his hands dirty to make this toilet clean“ 

I should probably keep working on it. 

The last thing in the list happened in 2011. I can’t tell too much about it, although this time it isn’t because of my prematurely-failing memory. It’s due to privacy and safety. Basically put, what happened was I jumped five FRUs who were jumping a guy whom I didn’t even know. How I came to be in that situation I can’t explain. But suffice to say we weren’t doing anything illegal, it’s not like I was a Mat Rempit helping his buddy escape a roadblock or anything like that. However, the raw and unbridled threat posed by my imposing physique was quickly and rather effortlessly neutralised by the rest of the FRUs who weren’t jumping the guy I was supposedly trying to save. I mean come on, I’m 55 kg and 170 cm; what do you think was going to happen? I was restrained and one cowardly senior officer then even took the chance to sock it to me. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt at all. I had expected more from a member of the armed forces. I guess that’s what happens when you only take cheap shots, and at restrained adversaries. You turn into a weakling. Also: Pigs go oink oink. But later the dude I was trying to save and I managed to slink away from custody because the cops then had their hands full with other things. Or they just didn’t feel like coming up with the paperwork needed to charge the two of us. 

So why am I proud of this particularly thuggish episode in my life? First of all, like I explained earlier, the people I was with at the time weren’t up to anything illegal. The dude I was supposedly trying to rescue, had not committed any offence. In fact, it came to light later that day that the FRUs were only stopping us because they had thought we were about to get into a fight. Couldn’t they just have asked first?! But then again if they had the smarts to ask first, they wouldn’t need to become cops for a living, to begin with. But more importantly, I am very proud of this moment because I have always read about people who risk their own safety and even lives to rescue complete strangers who are facing danger without thinking twice, and I’d like to think that I’m made of the same stuff as these selfless heroes, after that incident. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who is brave enough to help others who are in dire need by putting aside my own needs and safety. I hope I don’t sound like I’m bragging. That’s not my intention. I just want to share with you how I function. 

In fact, I don’t exactly know why I wanted to write about these so-called achievements of mine. Maybe it’s because I’ve quit my current job and needed to remind myself of what I am capable of doing. Oh, haven’t I told you? I’m leaving Jeli and Kelantan at the end of this month.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The lonely becomes the surly

Sorry I've been away yadayadayada. I'm a busy man, deal with it. I mean, why bother apologising when I know I will make the same mistake again, am I right? An apology brings with it the promise that the transgression will not be committed again. But some mistakes, you just know you'll do again, intentionally or not. Then, not only I'll be guilty of screwing up, but I'll also be guilty of lying. Anyway I think that that brand of logical reasoning is one of the reasons why I can't hold a steady relationship. "But, honey, I'm PRETTY SURE I'm gonna do it again. That's why I don't want to say sorry! Then you're gonna accuse me of lying!" Hey if being upfront only turns a guy into cannon-fodder to the women-folk, I estimate a protracted bachelorhood for myself. 

It's now almost a year since I uprooted my life to move to Kelantan. Hold the confetti though. Plus I'm pretty sure confetti and party horns and hats are deemed illegal here for being unIslamic, or I'm just confusing Saudi Arabia for Kelantan. Anyone miss me back home? Anyone? No? Well fuck you too, orang kampung.

As I've repeatedly told, implied, insinuated to you, Jeli is a quiet place. I go the office in the morning, close the door, do my thing, drive home when it's quitting time, and lock the door behind me when I get home. People don't bother me, and more importantly, I avoid getting in other people's hair. Sweet deal, and I like it just the way it is. Perfect. Almost too perfect.

The last time I was sent to somewhere a lot closer to the city for a few days, I found myself getting very irate. There were too many people around, my co-workers annoyed me, and the clients were getting on my nerves with their inane chittering and inconsiderate requests. I didn't feel like talking to people, and I would do my job just so people would avoid trying to talk with me. And when other people eventually stopped trying to talk with me, I would be irate at finding myself actually doing work.

When I go back to my hometown, I would find friends to catch up with, but even then I can't stay long. It would be awkward as hell. Unless there are adult beverages served, of course.

I just wanted to be left alone.

I was never the friendliest guy around, but I think I'm getting surlier here by the day, shutting myself in my cocoon. But it's really comfortable and hassle-free, y'know?

At least for now, I still smile at colleagues and people I pass by, but God forbid they stop and chat. So what's the problem? I don't know. On one hand, it's comfortable. But on the other, I sort of have this feeling that this is not the right way to live. Like, I have an inkling that that's how most serial killers, or Malaysian taxi-drivers start out. 

Anyway, come on science, you're long overdue on that active camouflage.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A long distance relationship

My previous two entries have focused solely on me complaining and being insecure like a bitch. Wah wah wah, blah blah blah. Fair enough. I admit it. But the truth is, I haven’t been completely honest with you. It’s not just the loneliness, sheer and utter boredom that get to me. It’s also the fact that I have been away from my love.

Before I came here, I was very much involved with her. Once a week I would go see her, along with a bunch of friends. We liked to think of it as some sort of a charity work. Sometimes being with her means travelling to other faraway places, spending a lot of money and time and effort. Foolish, you say? No, not exactly. For one, the reclusive me found company in other people who also love her, far and few they might be. Secondly, they found me committed enough to let me within their ranks, and they seemed to respect me for my commitment. And respect is a highly-valued currency in the world of men, especially since what I do for a living is quite a rare talent that not many people possess, surprisingly. Let me tell you, every other aspect of my life had improved because I was happy being with her. My work was top notch, and I was more sociable and diplomatic. This coming from a guy who was borderline suicidal before she took me in. And thirdly and most importantly, I simply love her, without rhyme and reason, the kind of love that defies professional commitment and parents’ disapproval. The kind of love that leads a man to spend most of his hard-earned money, and be punched by a bunch of cowardly cops.

So if I love her, why did I uproot my life to move to Jeli?, you might ask. I don’t know myself. Maybe I foolishly thought a life of solitude would be easy. Maybe I thought a long-distance relationship could work for us. That watching her from afar and seeing her only once in awhile would be enough. Oh the naivety. Maybe it was vanity, the desire to prove that I could be a better a person professionally than she is. Here I am now, 10 months into my tenure in Kelantan, and nowhere closer to that PhD than I was in the beginning. Maybe the idea of having to be away from my love for seven years of my post-study bond terrifies me. I don’t want to simply be a bystander. I want to be in the middle of the action, fucking and burning shit up, and being sucker-punched by middle-aged, armed, uniformed criminals we call Malaysian cops. And the fact that the guys constantly keep posting about me being away from her, almost mockingly even, on my Facebook wall doesn’t help. I guess I’m not as big a recluse as I often make myself seem to other people. I want to come home to her. 

All I can say for sure now is that a man with no passion, for his family, for a cause, or for a woman, is a soon to be dead man. Another thing; kasih sayang is a responsibility which is more or less reciprocal. Cinta on the other hand is almost always one-sided, unfair, but always voluntary in nature, obsessive even, but ultimately more rewarding in the end, even in its one-sidedness. If you find this entry cryptic, I apologise. I want to write about how things are going with me, but I kinda hate expressing all of my feelings. If you don’t understand Bahasa Melayu, then tough luck. Learn it. It’s not that hard. Anyway, sleep on it, friends. I have a job application to fill up.

Fraternity in mortality

There were two men. One I didn’t know as well I should. The other a complete stranger, I am not even sure that he was male. But somehow, in the dead of this rainy Jeli night, I feel a strange affinity to both.

The first one was a relative. He was my mother’s cousin. I called him Pak Su, as he was the youngest among his siblings. Being on my mother’s side, he came from Kedah, But he moved to KL when he started working (as an engineer I think). Soft spoken, dark skinned, gaunt, willowy, almost effeminate. He used to drive a black two-seater Honda. But the keyword here is ‘was’. He passed away almost ten years ago, rather prematurely. Wasn’t married, and obviously had no kid. I remember the day I learnt of his death. In fact, I was the first to learn about it in my immediate family, as my family was supposed to come back from an overseas vacation which I decided not to go with, the day he died. Leukaemia or something. Sickly-looking, that’s the word I was looking for. He was buried, and that’s about it. I know about him now as much as I knew back then. All that’s left of him, as far as I know, is his Honda, which I had last seen in front of his mother, my grand-aunt’s house, around a month ago went I visited my mother’s hometown. Shit, even his mother is still alive. But sometimes, that’s how life is, with the old outliving, and burying, the young.

The other, to say that I know less of him would be outright lying. I never met him. Let’s just say that he’s the former tenant of the house next to mine. I’ve explained about him in an earlier entry. He’s also dead, and when he died, it took people a few days to realise that he was dead. When he died, he died alone. Now his house is abandoned, with a wall missing and facing my kitchen window. But that’s besides the point. He was ill and rarely went out, and lived alone. So it was no surprise, I guess, that he also died alone.

This is where I’m supposed to segue into the point I’m trying to make. But it’s 1.30 in the morning, I’m sleepy and I’ve been drinking a little (fine, a lot), so fuck subtleness. The long-winded point I am trying to make here is I think I am going to share the demise of the two people I just described. Alone, premature or due to a fatal illness. I’m putting my money on lung cancer. Or aneurysm. Or heart attack. Or stroke. One of those illnesses which used to only afflict the elderly, but are now starting to affect the younger generation. I smoke to keep myself distracted from the dreariness of my nights. I don’t exercise at all, because I have been reduced to chasing down instant gratification from the internet, Playstation and cheap booze, and I don’t see myself wanting and being able to commit to the kind of women I am into as long as I’m in Jeli. Wooing a woman has been rendered nigh impossible these days, and I am not a man with a lot of patience to begin with. So if I were to suffer a heart attack while I’m alone at home, that’s it from me.

But there’s also this cousin of mine on my father’s side, who used to be single and lived with his rich mother, and honestly looked kinda sad without having a lot going in his life, until he surprisingly (at least to me) married a Kelantanese woman, took over some of his mother’s enterprise and now has two kids of his own.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

All turn to ash

As a kid, I wasn’t much to look at. Scrawny as a stick insect, short-cropped hair and pimples that somehow decided that my face was a really sweet place to hang out on. And due to the fact that being in all-boys boarding school meant that there were no girls that needed impressing, I certainly didn’t dress to impress.
In university, of course there were girls (and surprise, surprise, I had a girlfriend too), so I did dress and look after myself better, but I still wasn’t one of the guys people considered good looking. Just less shabby. The thing is, me being me, I could never quite comprehend this fascination and single-minded obsession with looking good.

The way I see it, you try your damndest hard to look good, spending your money on straightening your hair, getting new clothes every month, hunting through the town for bundle stores for that particular pair of shoes, only for your good looks to wither away from that inescapable disease that is called middle-age. All for nothing. Also, this attention to what’s outside sounds a bit too much like we are trying to hide the terrible aspects of ourselves that is contained within by our mortal body. A misrepresentation of the personal, if you will. But I’m not saying that I’m right and they should wake up, sheeple. No, it could be that I’m just a misanthrope and bitter towards the better-looking population.

And that’s not to say that I dont put any effort into how I look, either. I do. Now that I’m a responsible, working, adult member of the society (supposedly), I can afford to and do spend my money on better attire. But whatever I buy, they are still relatively conservative articles of clothing. You won’t catch me wearing a fedora hat or a fur coat, no sir. I can’t pull fabulous. And my hair, it used to symbolise me really well, in the sense that it was really stubborn and refused to be styled according to the way I wanted. Now that it (and me) is approaching 30s, it seems that it has mellowed out somewhat (also like me?)  and is now more acquiescing towards me.

And you know what? I am now quite good-looking.

it’s just not me. Sometimes I catch the womenfolk just sneaking glances at me when I am in town, and some rather, err, effeminate men doing double-takes at me. Well to be fair I won’t get to tell the ladies to please form an orderly line and contain their excitement anytime soon, but what little visual attention of the feminine variety that I’m starting to receive now is comparatively more than how it used to be.

Even if they are just my imagination, it’s still fine. Why? Because even I myself think that I look good now. I am my worst critique, and my looks is one of the most frequent topics of criticism. But now, I would see the reflection of myself in the car windows of the car that I pass by, just to inspect the angle that my hair is standing at, at that particular moment. And the guy in the window who is looking back at me would be such a handsome SOAB that I could kiss him. No homo.

So how did this transformation came to be? I haven’t had any cosmetic surgeries performed on me, and I most certainly have not read anyone of those ‘love yourself’ self-help books, if you think that the change is just a matter of my perception. If you’ve watched the movie Benjamin Button, there is a scene whereby the title character stands in front of a mirror with his wife, discussing about how that moment is when they are at their physical peak; that’s it’s downhill from there. I think that’s what’s happening to me. I am nearing 30, and all the changes in my physique have converged and congregated at this moment to make me into how I look today; better than how I looked a few years ago. And it’s not just me. This also happens to everyone that has ever lived and walked on this fine earth. We get a small time-window during which, even the ugliest of us look our best. But as hinted by the movie, this also means that it’s downhill from now on for us. For me. And this scares me.

Now that I have this gift of being better looking after spending most of my life not looking much, the idea of having the gift taken away from me in a few years’ time is a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t want to end up looking like the many middle-aged men in their dowdy, ill-fitting work clothes and rotund figure. And it’s not like you can fix it just by wearing young people’s clothes. When you’re old but are dressed up like young, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. You’ll just look weird. And guess what? After all these years of me thinking of the effort to be physically attractive as hypocritical, it seems that I now like what little attention I get due to my looks. Funny, huh? Well, I’m not laughing.

The only consolation I have to temper my worries with is the fact that I have more of my mother’s genes and the men on their side, my uncles and cousins, when they grow older, don’t grow fat or pot-bellied. They stay lanky and they don’t lose their hair. Whereas men on my father’s side, although they are fair-skinned and quite well-built in their youth, when they hit 40, they’ll start losing hair and gaining weight. Chills!
So think about that, friends. Use this time-window well. To philander, become a model, actor, whatever you want to. You are not good-looking for long and it’s all shit from then on. Bye friends, until the next entry. Sleep tight tonight.