你还有九岁的记忆吗?

你是常赤脚在草地上跑,还是骑着脚车乱窜?你是坏得每天被罚站,还是乖到老师见你就疼?

我对自己的九岁没什么印象。

但每两年,我都会想起那一个晚上。

我妈那时候驾着一辆很旧的二手车。那时的我总是很嫌弃它,觉得很丢脸,下课的话总是不想让同学看到妈用它来载我。

长大后我再想起它,总是很想见到那蓝色的龟壳。

就在我九岁的一个傍晚,在离我家差不多10公里处,它累垮了。

打开它的铁肚皮,原来是高烧过热,被逼跪下来歇息。

[快点叫穆都来修吧,又要等上两三个小时。] 妈在喃喃自语。

说实话我忘了自己那时有多累,也不知道我是吃了什么药,听到妈这么说,我拔腿就跑。

我妈应该是被我吓坏了,当时她也还年轻,就在后头追赶我。

被追到以后,不用什么爱因斯坦的脑袋,你也猜到我被训得够惨。

终于,漫漫两个小时后,我回到家了。

唉。

汤杯第一单打已经打了一半。

拉锡在主场观众的声援之下,擒下了阿迪。

第一双打的西迪两兄弟,在接下来的第一双打,败给了当时很勇的印尼男双。

接着上场的傅国强,和男双谢顺吉与苏明强,是我的汤杯英雄。

九岁的我不了解运动是什么,也不知道运动精神的可贵。

但我看到的,是他们在处于下风,却没有投械屈服的迹象。

我记得傅国强很多次飞身救球,总是被魏仁芳扣杀,然后在爬起来,接着又跌跌撞撞的保住每一分。

在马哈迪夫人和全国人民的期盼和欢呼中,第二双打的拼劲也是让人难以忘怀。

就这样,马来西亚羽球队三分到手,阔别25年,重夺汤杯。

这是我的九岁。

礼拜天的汤杯决赛,我虽然没办法重温失去了二十二年的感觉,但我却很自然的回想起那年那晚的高昂情绪。

那时候,我国的汤杯队虽然实力不是最强,但是却很平均。

那时候,我不知道很多年以后的我,还是会每天以看球为乐。

更重要的是,那时候,没有社会化媒体,没有人在网上乱弹输了的球员,更没有人把羽球、荣誉、运动精神政治化。

一个热爱自己国家,爱运动的人,希望看到的究竟是怎样的羽坛?什么样的表现?

扪心自问,不是现在的样子。

我们几时会重夺汤杯是个未知数,但一味指责也不会解决青黄不接的现象。

我们几时会看到另一个李宗伟,没有人预测得到,但下一个李宗伟,肯定也需要全民的支持,而不是更多的怀疑与指责。

造就一个世界冠军,不止需要他的天分和努力,如果没有外界的鼓励和支持,林丹也只不过是一个球员。

世界冠军不纯粹是个球员。他有团结我们每个人的力量。

还有,让我们看见希望。

是时候,为我们共同的希望,努力欢呼。

 

 

That tough night continued with me holding on to my dying iPhone and listening to those repeated songs in my iPod. The multiple stops from Ipoh to Taiping North and South made the trip a little rougher. I stopped drinking as the arrogant and rude driver was reluctant to stop for toilet breaks. It took 4 hours to reach “Penang”. Okay, by saying Penang, I mean Butterworth, where I needed to wait for a ferry at 1030pm with a couple of strangers.

Once the wind stopped howling, the rain started. This day couldn’t be better. Shane’s iPhone has a 5% battery life. I made a phone call to someone I used to call for more than 6 months, almost everyday. It lasted for a couple of minutes as another call went in. I made another few calls. 2 failed to get picked up and 1 was engaged. Then it went dead.

I hanged on to my last piece of positivity. It is the faith that was implanted in me after I lived for 6 months in India. I have nothing to be afraid of. If I can survive living in India, enjoying India, then I can dig deep and find the solution for myself no matter how bad the situation is. The ferry was like a plastic bag floating in the wind. The wind was terrorizing my contorted face.

So It reached Port Swettenham. It was 1105pm. I ran almost hysterically towards the exit. There were a few public phones but I really couldn’t figure out a number to call. I just did not feel like asking a favor on such a rainy night. I ran towards the far end and saw 2 taxis were still stopping at the waiting area. The first one got its passengers before I managed to step forward and ask. With no choice but tons of luck, I got the last cab to send me home. The driver is a 70 year-old man.

He ignited the engine rather slowly and drove off from the port. I saw him pushing himself in front just to see clearer road condition, I guess. [God bless.] 5 minutes was what we took before entering the downpour. If I was driving I bet I couldn’t make it home. So I asked Uncle if he is ok to drive or should we just stop. He insisted that he had to send his customer home. It is his responsibility, he said. I was rather sad when he expressed his frustration of being a taxi driver at the port for almost 40 years now. “Useless, earn little” was his words.

When reaching the gate of the place I stay, he couldn’t even find the entrance. He made a few turns and stopped as near as possible to the block I live. I took out 3 10-ringgit notes and passed to him. “Uncle, thanks for sending. You keep the change.” Before getting down, I reminded him to stop the car somewhere if it was too bad a condition to drive. He nodded and returned with a smile.

I stepped into the lift with some mixed emotions. But I was glad. I was home safely and came across strangers who made me think and enrich my experience. I don’t want to live in a cage or a well. At that instance I realized why I love traveling. It is the gift of fate I appreciate the most, which I am able to know someone, exchange thoughts and experience, accepting each others’ differences. Then I found out, my dream of having my own “story exchange” place is really the thing comes from the inside.

One day, I will have my dream come true. One fine day.

[END]

This comes at a time so relevant that I thought it’s a God’s plan. 

I woke up this morning with an intense back pain suffered from 2 falls I have got myself within 1 year. The luxury of immersing myself in the bathtub and falling asleep for a mere 15 minutes in the hot water soothed the discomfort a little. Then it came the lunch that I have gulped down with no sign of missing appetite anymore, good sign I guess? 

The story started with a true last-minute bus ticket purchase that saw me ended up with a melancholic west-coast travel. It was supposed to leave the station at 230pm but to fill up all the empty seats it took off at 4pm. To make it worse the bus was actually heading to Alor Star. So for sure it will be stopping in Butterworth but not the station in Penang island. In between, it had to stop at Gopeng, Ipoh, North and South of Taiping too. A sarcastic voice unavoidably blamed myself for the lack of planning that caused myself so much troubles in the end. 

Before departing from KL, my phone has a 50% battery level and nothing I could do to revive it. When the bus almost started to move, it halted and the door slided open. A lady in her 60’s with thick glasses and gray hair came on board. I observed that she had trouble walking properly on the deck. She stopped beside me and took her seat. 

As usual I made small talks. She told me she was kind of frustrated as her bus from Larkin dropped her in KL and then she had to take this back to Gopeng. The dude who sold her the ticket convinced her that she will be arriving at Gopeng Central. [In my heart I thought “Damn I’m luckier than this Aunty at least I am able to walk and take care of myself if anything happens.] 

Apparently this was the 2nd time she came back to Malaysia after residing in Singapore for more than 50 years. She is going to visit her elder sister in Gopeng. In between chats, she asked me where I have been in KL and I did not hide and tell her that I am looking for a job. Her eyes narrowed and raised the question WHY. If you are going to get a good life you must head to Singapore she said. You’ll be paid handsomely and “fairly” she uttered the last word with a smile on her face. I could see her hands shaking while trying to fix her glasses. 

Then the bus did not stop at Gopeng. I could see worries grow in her. She took out her phone and tried to call her relatives. It did not get through because it is with a SG SIM. “My sis is going to worry about me. She is at Gopeng Central right now.” I did not blink and offer her to use my phone. She showed me the number and I helped her to dial. It went through but because lack of information she was on the phone for more than 10 minutes making about 3 separate phone calls. When she passed me back the phone, she was apologetic and kept mentioning: “I’m sorry your phone battery drained. I pay you back?” I took over the phone and looked at the battery level, it was 18%. And I was 5 hours away from home, I didn’t know that. 

The heartwarming moment came when the bus stopped at the roadside. The driver asked those who are supposed to descend in Gopeng to wait at a bus stop instead. I took over the luggage of aunty and led her down the bus. She was shivering in cold and I was half wet with the drizzles hitting my face. “When you come to Singapore please pay me a visit”, aunty said with a relieved smile on her face this time. “I will, aunty. You wait under the shade, OK?” I pointed her towards the bus stop and she moved slowly there. When I was about to clamber up to the bus, I heard her voice. I turned and she talked with the loudest voice I’ve heard from her. “Just be careful it will be late when you reach Penang.” I waved and smiled.

I did not have her SG number. I don’t know really if my phone could survive when I reach Seberang Prai. But thank God. It was a little something that I have experienced that warmed my heart.

We live day in and day out, working to feed ourselves and families; studying to get good grades and graduate; searching for happiness in a thousand possible ways. Actually happiness can be as simple as a smile on someone’s face. He or she might be someone you may not know prior to that encounter, or might just be with you for less than a couple of minutes in your life. 

I want to say thank you, Aunty. Your smile made my tough day a little lighter. I’m happy to make a small change in your life and be myself again. 

[To be continued]

 

 

HEART

I think I am just a kid that is easily electrified by new things. How Ms. Priti understands me just by talking to me for a couple of minutes everyday I do not know, but there was a time I felt guilty and swore to be less adventurous. The reply I got from her was pretty damn quick: Please don’t. Be yourself. Perhaps I was a little sadistic to laugh when she said I was stupid by attempting to travel in a guys’ compartment that ended up with my body and laptop bag separated in and outside of the train.

Being away at some point, other than suffering from homesickness, you will have the advantage to connect to people whom you don’t usually interact with back at home. Close friends are more concerned with your daily life with viber-ing and whatsapp-ing (thanks to Steve’s iPhone) starting from around 6am everyday. My address here is also another piece of hot cake and sometimes I thought eventually someone will send me some cash, if I really ask for it!

I was supposed to pen these down on Oct 6 2011. However the passing of Steve made me postpone it. I thought partially God knows I will be sharing another getaway with a truly heartwarming family. I was sick for the past whole week which started with a really bad throat infection. It was so nasty that I could barely do without a Soresil (Strepsil in India) in my mouth, even when I was sleeping. That one night I was in pain and I wasn’t even sure that i was dreaming. Ms. Priti was at my bedside and she was holding my hand. The next day I woke up and my sore throat was gone. Before I managed to say a prayer of appreciation, I started coughing, at least for 10 minutes. So here the day went by. I tried the easier way out and the cough syrup I got from the pharmacy put the cough to death. The next day I woke up with a lighter heart. Then the 3rd wave came. I found a patch of blisters on my left armpit. I started to get really panicked by the sight of it, thinking about few days back when I traveled downtown and on the train I was cramped between the wall and the lady beside me. Unable to describe my situation to the pharmacist and feeling awkward, I called the helpful Dr. Seema and she diagnosed that might be caused by some spider bites. How perfect! On the same day, I called home and found out that mom was sick. The helplessness started to sink in. I was so far away and I couldn’t even help myself out of this mess. As I always do, I talked to a couple of friends and sent a short message to Ms. Priti. I was actually weeping in contrast with the loud Dussehra music outside with the local people were celebrating the festival. In fact, it was the first night I didn’t feel great but dreadful.

It took me almost two days to get over the stitching pain on my arm and for doctor to confirm mom is at least ok. On Saturday morning I have got 3 messages on my mobile. 0600, 0630 and 0720. The third one literally made me jump out of bed. I was offered an extended trip to Ms. Priti’s house (with the originally planned walk to the train station together). Her son was turning 6, the family and friends will be celebrating for him. The feeling of being part of something really lightened me up. If I have come to India and just stick to being alone, that will be a great loss for me, comparable to losing a big chunk of my savings. It was also the first time I got onto a train headed north from Andheri. I was greeted by the two adorable kids, Nathan in fact reminded me so much of my brother. His smile, his lanky figure and of course his bossy sister. 🙂

It was a pleasant afternoon, followed by a pleasant evening. We chatted on the front steps of the house, which brought me back to my childhood memories when I sat on the long bench in front of our now-demolished kampong house, chatting with my late grandpa and grandma. Then I took a short walk with Ms.Priti for some groceries, some puris and some badminton with the kids. At night I joined all the family members and friends to sing the birthday song, share some jokes, enjoy the food and alcohol (breeze, homemade wine and whisky oh yes!) before going to bed. I was actually fast asleep, totally drained because all my energy was spent on being happy and smiling all the time. I got back the next day, after a trip to the church, and I started this after my lunch, which was around 3 o’clock, 9 hours ago.

It has been an amazing ride. It amazed me how people can be really helpful to you even they don’t know you. Sometimes I admired the people here who can be truly happy and their smiles are always so real and heartfelt. Expressions. Gestures. Just like every pat at the back of me from Ms. Priti, so much of encouragement, affection and truly sincere. I guess that’s why I always tried to make her annoy, just to get her to hit me. Perhaps I have been living in a transparent shell before this, well-protected by the rules and perceptions which even myself was not aware of. There were a few moments when I closed my eyes at night that I found all these too surreal. I was actually afraid of the feeling of satisfaction and wanting for more just went dead when I woke up. How stupid. I have already lived that once. It will not change and even if tomorrow there are less adventures, inspiration and satisfaction, my heart will know what’s next.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

And my heart has led me here. 

ESCAPADE

At this point, I am torn between explaining the bonding between me and Ms. Priti, and the footsteps I have left behind in my adventure so far. (Mark the word “adventure”). After a few minutes I realized that they complement each other. Salt and pepper, kind of.

It all started with a little walk to the train station. In fact, my story in India is closely related to the most popular transport in India. I was quite persistent in asking Ms. Priti to show me the way there. For this matter I have approached her 3 times and with a min of 5 visits a day to her desk for the 1st week there, it didn’t mean that much of disturbance, I hope. We started off with a map drawn by her showing the way from the school to Andheri station. Even though the map is so simple and less complicated compared to a primary school drawing I had totally no idea of how to get there. Anyway I told her that I got it, kept the map and reminded her to wait for me for an afternoon walk there. It turned out that Dr. Nabsiah was also a fan of the amazing race and the three of us spent some good time walking in the drizzle. At the station I was told about the do’s and don’ts before Ms. Priti handed me my first ever ticket booklet. We waved goodbyes to Ms. Priti when she took the train headed north home. What I remember next (which I had openly discussed on Facebook) is muddy water and potholes. The rain was perfectly timed and it’s my first encounter with mind-and-body endurance in Mumbai. When I look back, it amused me how feeble I was, as it is the same route I take everyday now, just a mere 20-minute walk. The big luggage with 14 pieces of kurta cloths makes the difference on that rainy afternoon. Dr. Nabsiah played a part in the minor awakening, when she mentioned our generation was really a pampered bunch.

So my engagement with train actually started with a really pleasant ride with Deepti, another good friend of mine in the school. She is always caring and another shining star of mine. As I was a rookie in transiting by train, she has spent the morning of my first working day with me, traveled south to Bandra. The fast train happened to be easy to hop on. I managed to push some ladies into the compartment and got down easily at the destination. Little that I know I would become the infamous student from Malaysia in the same afternoon, who restlessly tried 5 times before making it into a ladies compartment. Nevertheless the pride of successfully making it onto the coach is amazingly satisfying. It’s like you are able to solve a secondary mathematic questions but you are just a 10-year-old, even today I’m still feeling it. Bitter sweet.

Other curricular activities in India are loss of directions with a combination of language incapability that rules out any chances of asking for directions, and to tell the auto drivers the exact place that I wanted to go. For the first week traveling to work, I have lost my way for not less than five times and has reached the hostel gate as late as the minute it supposed to be locked up. Sometimes when luck wasn’t with me even the auto that I hopped on broke down in the middle of road, the most unforgettable experience I had is the one I got down from the dead auto in front of the JW Marriott Hotel at Juhu. Anyway, it’s the rainbow after the rain which got me eagerly anticipating the next thrill. I failed to hop onto a train and here she came, a physician volunteered to share an auto ride with me. When I was confused because of some ladies pointing fingers at me there were another group of kind passengers advised me not to block their way out of the train (yes they spoke English). On the night I have changed 3 autos because they were not able to understand where I headed for, God sent an auto with an English-speaking driver. Because of all these constant setbacks and faithful bunch of good people came along, my definition of hardship has changed. It’s just a process before we get there and the process is what makes the whole thing worthwhile. All my silly adventures were usually reported on almost a daily basis at the desk of Ms. Priti. That same corner which I passed every morning before going to cafe for sandwich and a cup of masala chai, has been my favorite corner to visit in the campus. It’s not hard to realize that worries started to grow on her face and it was that one ridiculous night which I was lost outside for 3 hours that made her raise her voice. The usually calm Ms. Priti has lost her cool, I thought. She looked into my eyes and vowed to cancel my VISA if I continued to risk my own safety by choosing unorthodox ways of commuting and lacking sense of security. That priceless expression of hers will remain with me for the rest of my life, just like how I always remember the first time I met my mentor one fine morning in Arizona. The weather was freezing cold and those were a pair of warm hands. 🙂

This is a piece of writing I’ve done for myself, just a little celebration of golden month in my life. I’ve got the manuscript of this “trilogy” with me, just a little too long to post them all at once.

ALIVE

It’s over a month now. I place my palm in front of my face and I breathe. Hey, I survive. 🙂

In the evening of September 6, Riza and I touched down at Mumbai with the rain drizzling and welcoming us to the alpha world city. When the car drove into the suburb through the bustling streets, the scenes took my breath away, literally. This is not Thailand, it’s extraordinary . Autos. If one night in your dream there are an army of autos(rickshaws) surrounding you in the traffic, that must be India, and yeah, that could be Mumbai.

It was dark. From the main streets the driver led us to our school where our hostel is located, through some narrow lanes with potholes and human beings. From that moment I believe this city is in fact inhabited by almost 21 million of Homo Sapiens, almost 1-Malaysia (population – 27 million). It’s almost impossible that you walk out from your room, your hostel, your school compound and you don’t cross path with someone else.

I remember the water was ice-cold. It’s our first shower in India. The first phone call I made is to Ms. Priti Miranda, the school assistant registrar before we went to bed. I am not really sure if my voice was a little shell-shocked but she asked if we were comfortable with our place. She told us to meet her in the office the next day. That was the first conversation, in proper English, comforting one, without any self-defined sign language. Right from my heart I can tell you that I was afraid. Fear grew inside me and I questioned myself of the decision I made to come to India. When we are weak, we question about everything we’ve done. I remember I’ve sent some messages back to Malaysia, other than announcing I have reached in one piece I’ve also wondered if I will leave in January, one piece. Total days to come, 147. Yeah, the number sticks with me because of some insurance I got for myself, you know, just in case.

Among the lessons learnt in India is about not being judgmental, especially at night. Stepping out of the hostel is refreshing, the next morning. Being a student again is something I have longed for. The sense gradually came to me that every difference you drive into your life, somehow will start with a cocktail of anxiety mix with fear.  The pleasant Ms. Priti made me feel at ease, especially the way she reacted to seeing my ID photos. I know from that instance, we are going to be friends. 🙂

The first week rolled by peacefully,  which I like to put it as lack of adventures. By the end of the week, USM sent Dr. Nabsiah to Mumbai for a brief visit and sent Riza away to Pune. Then I was alone. When you are singing solo, you are the driver of your life. You can either make yourself miserable by thinking oh dear, I’m too lonely and I’m gonna die or tell yourself hey, the world is yours now! Unbelievably, I found myself having this gung-ho spirit.

Man, this is gonna be one hell of a ride!

Hi Steve,

It’s sad that I can’t celebrate my 1-month at my new home because you had just left.
I do not know if you are afraid or disappointed before your last breath, as you’ve said time and time again, even people who want to go to heaven, are not willing to die for it.
To be honest, I have spent a whole lot of money in you and your company’s creations.
I first started off with a iPod Video which I have got it back in 2007 when I was excited about online shopping and the brand Apple. With the capacity of 80GB, my device is always with that 50 songs I’ve played again and again for 4 years now (and counting).
In April 2010, I bought something that changed my life completely. It allows me the access to so many different social medias and I have been absolutely a fanatic since then, and I believe I will be for the rest of my life, if I still can swipe using my right thumb as I always do. After practicing it a zillion times I have become so good at operating this thing even I was half asleep and a message came in I could move my arm to the study desk beside me and unlock it without looking at it. I am also quite professional in texting while I am driving. I can do it when my car is on the highway, at the traffic lights and of course in massive jams, which I always updated my status to tell the world I am stuck and hell please don’t come over and make it worse people. Of course all these sound like completely ridiculous ways to kill myself and all my friends who heard about my stunts scolded me like I have been suicidal (well at some point maybe yes) in doing so. That’s why when your successor revealed Siri yesterday that I was excited enough to think hey this time what can you people do?!
And because of the brand itself has meant so much in this new generation, I have been madly in love with it that I started to give your product as gift. I purchased a iPod-Nano online and mailed it to my friend because she just needed a simple MP3 player. Maybe you didn’t hear about it in 55 years of your life but in Malaysia, anything related to Apple cost a lot. I was an engineer and earning Malaysian Ringgit. I did not save much out of my salary and most of my money went to gadgets like cameras and your inventions. Other than my friend nobody knew about this and hey now you are the second one to share this secret with me. Flattered?
Before I resigned as an engineer, I burned another big hole in my pocket getting myself another products of your company, the MacBook Pro. God knows how long I have dreamed about owning this machine. I patrolled the Apple reseller stores for a few weeks before I decided to bring him home. I don’t mean to be arrogant but really I don’t think I will switch back to Windows after I got hitched like this. I clearly remember the first time this machine was booted at the Switch store and the screen came alive. Man, that kind of feeling is better than getting a 20% raise in your paycheck. Trust me. Because of him, I have spent another big chunk of money assuring no harm can be done to him. His perfect body and soul.
Perhaps now you thought “What?! All you gave me is about the materialism, the devil behind all evils.” You’ve got it wrong, just for once. In the first big slump of my life, which at this point I’m still not that old to discuss about it, I have watched your Stanford Commencement Speech and spent a long time wondering if I have done the right thing for myself and was that the kind of life I have always wanted to live. Then I remember when I was young, relatives came visiting and I was acting like a boss on the couch wearing my dad’s black-framed glasses. They asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. My answer has always been “I want to save the world by becoming a doctor”.
As I don’t think your words become the only motivator behind the change I had installed in my life, it’s you that always make me to be critical and asking questions about what I love and I wish to do. I will never be a doctor or save the world in this life. Yet, I chose to do something that’s closer to it, at least. I doubt you will be able to read this, or will this eventually reach you because there are millions out there who are writing to you now. I just want to tell you that your legacy and inspiration stay, even you have walked away. You have gave us the i-Citizens the kind of experience that we would never think about a few years ago. You told me not to regret what I have gone through, because life, is about connecting the dots.
Thank you for i.
With respect,
Yong Yee