Saturday, December 22, 2012
REFSA Rojak is our weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia. We trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.
Monday, December 3, 2012
She treads lightly with hands open,
Soft skin brushing soft grass.
Her touch banishing frosty dew;
Her warmth, a spell is cast.
Like a blossom past a winter,
Red rose on bed of snow;
Clad in scarlet and white colors,
She walks with the river flow.
The old azalea sun did rise,
A gentle light setting life free.
Yet one more sun that day was seen,
Amaterasu, blinding to see.
Its warmth too warm, its light too bright;
Outshone, the bloodied sun did flee.
Surrounded in unnatural fire,
She closes her blinded eyes, hands unfurled.
Color fading from her cloth,
Lips and cheeks graying like a moth
“I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”
Grass in blazes, black from green,
Rivers dry, dew turned to steam,
Kimono burned off soft skin,
A wrath like never before seen.
Now, body charred, color gone, there she lies.
Once a beauty, now less than food for flies.
Kami= Japanese for deity
Amaterasu= Japanese goddess of the sun
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has always disturbed me. I took some liberties with the season:: August 1945 was in fact in the midst of summer. I made such a choice to portray the power of life, its touch and beauty manifested in the magical walk of a kimono-clad woman.
The poem may be a mix of fact and fiction, but I hope that the poem successfully conveys a sense of loss and grief. More than a rail against just nuclear weapons, I wrote it with the intent of reexamining the justifications humans often give at acts of aggression: be it in the name of ending a war, avenging a war, or defending a country.
Such immense powers of destruction at the hands of reckless man may one day be the deaths of us all.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Who am I?
The truth is, I don't really know.
The past two years has been an incredible journey of self-discovery and change for me. My involvement with the amazing people at various NGOs, research institutes, schools, and conferences have shaped, bent, demolished and rebuilt my conception of self again and again, so much so that I am truly not the person I was two years, or even one year ago.
In a short two years, I've gone through various crises of faith: I started out as a Buddhist, briefly became an atheist, and now I'm agnostic. My political beliefs have been a roller-coaster: from right wing free marketeer to left wing social liberal and now a centrist and moderate. Even my opinion of food, one thing I always thought would be constant, has been challenged: I find myself meeting people who have turned vegetarian for one reason or another and I question whether I can continue eating away with a guilty conscience.
People who know me from my Wesley days call me an idealistic, melodramatic chatterbox. Those who know me from my early ISKL days might call me a reserved, skeptical realist. Those who know me now probably say I'm a mixture of both. I used to think I was pretty knowledgeable about the world, and I frequently made assumptions about people. But now it seems the more I learn, the more I realise that I know so little.
Man, I must sound like a really funky cocktail gone wrong. But in truth, I don't think that's a bad thing. I try to reconcile the differences, to recognise the conflicts that are happening within me, so that I can know myself a little bit better.
And so to answer the question: Who am I?
I still don't know. And I may never really know.
But I plan to find out. =)
P.S. How have you changed these past years? Who are you? I'd like to hear, and thank you so much for reading!
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Friday, July 13, 2012
The canteen is a place of moderated chaos – students walking, moving, laughing, munching, chomping, grabbing, laughing, shouting.
The bell rings. The buzz dies down gradually, crowds, heading like sharks to blood to the end of the hall.
Students push, pull, squeeze, walk, shuffle. A bottleneck towards their destination. There is a presence, tension rising as it awaits in anticipation.
Plates are thrown, unfinished food is dumped, forks and spoons clang against yolk yellow plastic trays. There is a blur spot in the background.
Spaghetti sauce splatters, drops of curry ooze into bins, bones with bits of meat slide down from plate to tray, an oily surface acting like a slime ski. The entity is now actively reaching in, turning the messy into the orderly.
Cities begin to form – metal foundations of clanging cutlery, towers of plates, built on the soil of meat and rice, interspersed with rivers of tom yam. The architect, the builder, and demolisher are at work.
A rogue plate is thrown instead of placed. The character shouts an undignified ‘Oi!’. The perpetrator walks away, hands stained with the curry of his crime, continues laughing, chatting, talking, sparing one thought for the presence: Bitch.
The city has crumbled. And the pieces have to be picked up.
I walk toward the ruins. And I pick up the plates. I look up, and hand them to her. She smiles for the first time that day.
‘Terima kasih, adik.’
Walking away, I half whisper, ‘No, thank you mak cik.’
|Santa's in town!|
Signature dish: Chapati, sambal sardine
Location: 15, Jalan Sarikei, 53000 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours: All days except Sunday, Mon-Fri 6.30am-6.30pm; Sat 6.30am-3pm
Contact: 0169958819 ( Kulwant Singh)
No, this is not Mr. Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas Santa! However, I can guarantee you that Santa Singh certainly does not lack for delectable gifts and culinary delights! Santa is a very famous chapati stall- he's been featured in many a paper and I've been an avid fan of his chapati for years now. All the chapatis I've tried have thus far paled in comparison to his. Read on and find out why!
|Fuyoh, motion blur man!|
|Don't underestimate the power of a fluffy chapati.|
|A bit like bitter gourd chips!|
The dhal is very decent as well, but when fresh ( around 8-9 am), it is GREAT. You've never really tasted dhal till you've tasted it fresh.
|Makes you feel like going MOOOOOO.|
Taste: 8.5/10- Best chapati in town.
Value: 8.5/10- It's mamak prices, a meal for one with condiments should cost no more than RM8
Health: 8.5/10- Chapati is a really healthy bread!
Overall: 4.5 durians!
*Susu lembu- cow's milk- when fresh, has a really strong, milky smell and taste, perfect for a cuppa!
Friday, June 15, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
The Malaysian media encourages the misguided view that differences of opinion among members of political parties are unhealthy. Differing views are often portrayed as ‘squabbling’ or ‘spats’ or ‘rifts’ between members of the fraternity and indicative of weakness and disunity.
The contrary is true. Firstly, the ability to accept differing opinions is a sign of maturity in political parties or coalitions. Every person is unique, and that uniqueness includes our worldviews and of course, our opinions on matters. Even people in the most intimate of relationships do not agree on everything. Lovers fight. Married couples argue.
Some of us are more opinionated (or if you prefer, stubborn) than others, and when it comes to political parties... well you can expect a much higher concentration of strong-willed, passionate people who have their own take on things. The important thing is that the disagreements are in pursuit of a higher cause. The point of debate goes beyond demolishing the other person’s arguments and proving yours are better. Constructive debate and discourse which involves different viewpoints often results in a compromise that is agreeable to most. And isn’t that the point of a democracy - to reflect the views of the majority?
But even when the middle path is not taken, and when different factions with irreconcilable differences emerge, it can be for the better. Take for example the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States. The business-friendly Republicans believe people should be as free as possible to pursue their own best interests and government should play a minimal role in the economy. The Democrats have a broader social agenda and believe government is crucial in creating a fairer society.
Many would be surprised to learn that these polar-opposites today share the same roots in the Democratic-Republican Party founded by Thomas Jefferson. Differences of opinion within led to a schism in the 19th century. In the short term, this split certainly was destructive - the Democratic-Republican party ceased to exist. But in the long term, it created two powerful parties that now dominate politics in the richest country in the world.
Disagreements still rumble internally within the parties. Just consider the race to be the Republican candidate for president of the United States. Rick Santorum, the previous front-runner who recently pulled out, is a very conservative Christian focused on social issues. Mitt Romney, the present front-runner, was a successful venture capitalist and presents a more moderate face. All the candidates have hotly debated, and indeed, attacked each other. But the internal competition creates a dynamic in which the strongest, most ‘winnable’ candidate survives, behind which the entire party then closes ranks.
Notice the difference between these mature parties and the immature, insecure ones in our country? The losing candidate is not demonised as a traitor to the party, ostracised or expelled. Neither does he storm off if a huff or retreat to sulk in a corner. He and his followers are absorbed back into the fold and continue the fight for the greater good as the party sees it. The different opinions expressed during the campaign are not viewed as detrimental or bad for the party. Rather, they are recognised for what they are: just different viewpoints. And the winning candidate may well absorb some of these viewpoints.
This brings us to the very important point that successful political parties recognise constructive dissent as not only natural, but also necessary for rejuvenation. The Democratic and Republican parties in the United States have now been in existence for nearly two hundred years. The fact that they are still relevant is testimony to their ability to absorb and accept new ideas and evolve to meet the changing needs and demands of the people they seek to govern. New ideas, and change, by definition, require freedom to dissent and debate.
The real problem is not dissent. It is suppressing dissent. UMNO for example, has not seen a contest for its presidency for a quarter of a century - ever since the titanic battle in 1987 between Tunku Razaleigh and Dr Mahathir which lead to Tengku Razaleigh leaving UMNO to form Semangat 46 and a sycophantic culture developing in the new UMNO. Dr Mahathir recently admitted that UMNO faces a scarcity of competent leaders at the top. The shortage is so severe that the UMNO now cannot find a woman capable enough to helm the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
Take this test yourself. Name the vibrant young leaders in UMNO, MCA and the MIC, the bulwarks of conformity and ‘unity’. Next, name the vibrant young leaders in DAP and PAS, the parties often portrayed by the mainstream media as riven by disagreements.
Differing opinions are simply a natural democratic process, are in the bigger picture constructive, and a mark of a mature, strong parties. So the next time the mainstream media highlights another intra-party ‘spat’ within Pakatan Rakyat, think of it as Ginseng- it is bitter-sweet but is natural and rejuvenating!
 Dr M: Field talented outsiders. The Star, 29 Mar 2012.
 We deliberately avoid mentioning PKR as it is a relatively young party.
Originally published on REFSA, an independent think tank's website.