Maiden Book is on Its Way!

 

31 Days of Rain

 

This not the real cover, but that’s the title of my maiden book!

Received the Final Artwork (FA) today so I am spending the weekend proofreading this. It won’t be available til 2016, but that’s just two months (and change) away.

I am quite worried about the content because 31 Days of Rain (DoR) is written in a non-linear format so it is not going to be the kind of book that you read from page 1 til its last. Approaching it that way will make the book seems jumpy and disjointed. But, during the initial stage of writing I realized that I wanted the stories to evoke the different feelings you get at different stages of love. So I wrote one story per day, and each one reflects the way I feel on that particular day itself, depending on which man that crosses my mind.

These stories are meant to make you talk — you may hate or identify with them; much like how they affected Nemo that he wrote a commentary that corresponded with each one (which I cleverly named  “31 Nights of Rain”).

The stories borrow heavily from past experience, though I didn’t have the heart to name these men. Some of them deserves no name to begin with. Days set the scene; Nights provide a male point of view. Obviously I had a lot of anger when I wrote this. But I am a girl, I am allowed to be dramatic! You may disagree with Nemo, or you may disagree with me — but that is the whole point; we dissected these pieces based on our individual yardsticks and how we think we would act/react if we happen to be in the same situation.

 DoR will be a limited edition release, so keep watching this space for updates!

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Siti Britney Sayang

sitibritney-2

I am in the midst of writing 3 books simultaneously under the moniker Siti Britney.

It’s a long, slow process because I write with my mobile phone whenever the muse strikes me, mostly during taxi or train rides.

Look me up on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sitibritneysayang/

Here’s an excerpt, from *** MENCARI YAMAZAKI ***

What does Mr Pink Shirt do?

Well…he used to build airports. Not anymore. But his work takes him to and through a lot of airports.

He likes sending me photos of airports that he happens to be in and explaining to me the beauty in each one. The curvature of the roof, the way light and air flows through the structure, how the foot traffic is designed. Kansai airport is his favourite. I have been in love with it for twenty years, he told me.

He loves Towers – Tokyo, Twin, Eiffel. The first time we met, as he was leaving, he told me he was heading to Paris that night for a bespoke dinner at the Louvre. I replied, I hate you. The group laughed. I don’t know if they saw or realized that as we shook our hands good bye, he ruffled my messy hair like I was a child and said we should have dinner there someday. I am short, it’s not very hard to do that.

It would be 4 months after that first meeting before he sent me a text to say he only realized he was in a seafood restaurant in Subang when he passed by my office.

Did you send this text to me in error, sir? I replied, puzzled at the sudden appearance of the uninvited text. Because if this was intentional, then I am highly offended that you would talk about seafood restaurants and not invite me along for dinner.

He speaks several languages. He switches mid-sentence sometimes, the show-off. I know who he is, his legacy, the burden of the name that he carries. I don’t remember how I know, but I knew right from the beginning. It is intimidating, he said, now I am back in my kampong where I am judged not just by how well I do my job, but mostly by how well I carry my name. We don’t talk about it all that much. He is not comfortable and I don’t pry. Maybe you could write a book about it someday, he joked. Hah. Little did he know….

He wears colors. Orange, blue, pink, green, mustard. He is so skinny and fit he makes me sick (not really). One time as he kissed my cheeks goodbye and his scruffy 5-o’clock shadow scratched my face, I whispered, comel sangat. I have never seen him clean-shaven since.

He says I am naughty. Madam creative genius, he once called me from across the room. I don’t take photographs with old people, I told him when he tried to take my pic. Especially old people with iphone6s.

(He is not old. If we fill up a form, we tick the same box.)

I know he steals a look whenever we are in the same room. When I catch him, he doesn’t look away. He just breaks into a smile in the middle of whatever yarn he is spinning to whomever he is talking to.

He lightly touched my hand once as I sat across him at the dinner table. I was trying to catch the eye of the waiter to ask him to refill my glass. He lightly touched my hand to get my attention and then poured half of his drink into my empty glass and simply said, share. Then he stole the sous vide chicken from my plate.

Mama sends her love, he texted the night that I did not turn up for the waltz concert. Can I please arrange for tea, at least?

(Hell no).

He once offered, if you’ll allow me, I’ll speak to someone to make sure that no harm will come to you. I can have someone look out for you to make sure you will be alright.

(We were talking in the context of work).

No, I told him. I don’t need anyone to save me. If I sink, I sink.

The only thing he knows about me is that I like to eat chicken rice.

It’s not fair, he protested. You know so much about me.

That’s how it works, I told him. Everything you need to know about me, you have to learn. I will not tell you.

Wakarimashita, he replied. Understood.

We’re not in a relationship. We are not in any —-ship. We don’t talk, meet or text that often. Please. Lots of planes to catch and bills to pay. What we have is an understanding. When we are in public, we don’t even talk to each other. I mean, we do. But respectfully and sparingly. Listen, this is not antara dua darjat nonsense. The simple fact is, in our individual, official capacity, we are defined by the title on our business cards. That’s the kind of world that we operate in. I am fine with that.

But if this was a friendship, he’s putting in a lot of work to keep it alive while I giddily share his texts with friends and discuss challenges that we would throw him or things we’d like him to buy the next time he flies to Japan. I have only been speaking about him recently, but the truth is I have known him for a year.

I like him. Can you tell?

He is my Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013. Hard to find. But not impossible. Just elusive.

Di mana kan ku cari? I don’t know. But if Mr Pink Shirt exists, there must be more from the tribe.

In the meantime, I’ll worry about what to wear next week. Meet or hide, buying new clothes is always a very nice thing to do for myself. Duit banyak2 nak buat apa? Shopping la.

Don’t you agree?

…to be continued.

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The Kind of Love Where You Can Be Sure

Puisi Akhir Musim Bunga

I finished writing 31 Days (Nights) of Rain. Apart from some final editing work and feedback from my counterpart who is located halfway across the world, the book is done — a good two years after I decided to write it.

Funnily enough, the thought of writing this book was sparked when I reconnected with tenshi after an absence of about five years. The original post was based on an actual conversation that we had during one of those nights when we decided to make a pit stop at Vintry before making our separate ways home.

Since then tenshi has moved on – he has made a decision about his on-off relationship (it’s on, or maybe it is off again now, I am not sure), he has changed jobs (from red to green), he has stopped smoking (he doesn’t vape, thank God) and he has traded his T3 with a shinier, faster car.

As for me, everything seemed to be at a standstill. Very few things have changed. However, a man did walk into my life, in the most mundane and boring circumstance. He made me want to finish this book and let these stories go so that I would no longer feel beholden to them.

I told the man not too long ago that in living the kind of life that I want, something’s gotta give. Though I have never wanted the house in the suburbs and a loving husband who would cook me paella during weekends and chubby children who would squeal with laughter when I dump them in the bathtub with yellow rubber duckies and boats that float — though none of these were part of the future that I wanted for me — the fact remains that these were not in that future because their existence would mean I would have to walk a completely different path.

I stand by what I said to tenshi. I may not understand how it feels to be overcome by feelings and emotions for another person. But I have seen it — I recognize it. I have been the recipient of it. I have stood by that threshold a thousand times before.

The days pass in a blur looking for
certainty – which season will God bring us
together again?

There is the kind of love out there where you can be sure. I believe.

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Filed under Conversations/Arguments, Ijah's Own Stuff, Special Mentions

Bon Jovi 2015

 

Pink leather cuffs

I went to their concert 20 years ago.

So ready to rock and rose, one more time, with feelings!

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I’ll Be Seeing You

The Solianos, Majestic KL

Will you wait for me?

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Malay-Shaming ~ Battlecry of Our Affected Youths?

THIS IS MY PERSONAL OPINION. PLEASE DO NOT REPOST OR SHARE, THANK YOU.

““For readers who can’t fathom the personal lives of the Malays, this book will expose them to the inner secret, if you will, of growing up Malay.”

I re-read the Young and Malay book edited by Ooi Kee Beng and Wan Hamidi Hamid twice.

I am not taking away anything from the authors’ experience; but I wonder about the selection of authors as all of them are pro-oppo from privileged background and consider themselves as “second-class malays” (their words, not mine). Perhaps a more balanced book would have included a piece from an actual recipient of NEP who did not grow up having access to George Orwell or Sex Pistols or live 1km away from KLCC.

But I digress. The content does not bother me. But the evident self-hatred at being a Malay makes me wonder — how did Malaysia’s history become re-interpreted as Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) and Mahathirism? When did we buy into the political spin and fulfill the prophecy of becoming self-entitled Malays who believe (ironically) that affirmative action is a given (“no big deal, everyone gets it, so should I”)? Why is it now trendy to denounce being a Malay? Why is this is equated as being inclusive and open-minded and fair?

So, this is my problem:

I have been told many times that I am not a typical Malay. But what is a typical Malay? And who is the typical Malay?

And a side question: Isn’t telling me that I am not a “typical Malay”, which in itself is a derogatory and insulting term to describe Malays as a race, a clear form of racial stigmatizing too?

If I can choose my own form of “Malay Dilemma”, to quote Tun M, this would be it. Affirmative action is a big deal. It should not be taken lightly. By that I mean, it should be continuously looked at, criticized and improved. Old policies should be updated to keep up with the times. Do we need a new economic model as a progressive rollback to the New Economic Policy so that we can wean the Malays off the crutch they have been leaning on for the last 40 years? Absolutely. However, I also believe affirmative action can stand side by side a meritocracy policy that provides financial, healthcare and education assistance to all Malaysians. The two does not have to be mutually exclusive. We need them both.

If affirmative action is removed, thus significantly decreasing the chances of the majority of the rural population to improve their socio-economic conditions, the poor will become poorer and the rich will become richer. It is not the Bumiputera’s fault that they make up the majority of the rural population. Hardcore poor is not the same as urban poor. Both are important segments of the society that we need to look after and they require a different set of thinking and tools to address.

And, more importantly, these are the people that we should not be mad at. They cannot help the fact that they were born as Bumiputeras or the fact that they are poor.

We should be mad at the politicians and Malay-supremacy activists who want the crutch to remain forever because they have been so comfortable earning their keeps by taking advantage of it.

We should be mad at the sons and daughters of beneficiaries of affirmative action who grew up thinking affirmative action is their birthright while they pose for glamour shots in Marie Claire and drink bespoke concoctions at trendy coffee bars with supplementary credit cards that their parents pay for and then decry that the policy is biased and unfair after generations of their families benefited so much from it thus affording them with the kind of lifestyle that 70% of the population could not even fathom.

And we should be mad at those who abuse affirmative action — rich and urban Malays who still expect the Govt to give their children a seat in government-assisted boarding schools, full scholarships for studying overseas, preferential placements in local public universities, good jobs in GLCs and plum contracts for their companies because “I am a Bumiputera”.

Please.

The policy is not the problem. These ungrateful lots are. But the thing is, bad people are everywhere. With or without NEP.

Today we don’t want to learn from our forefathers.  We love criticizing them (with the enormous benefit of hindsight) yet we refuse to see or accept the lesson. We feel these long-gone nationalists are old-fashioned and outdated. Instead, we learn from google, which could lead us to a place full of lies and garbage instead of truth and enlightenment. We read arguments for one side and then discount the others. We “learn” from historians or academicians or columnists whose interpretation of current politics and administration are colored by their own prejudice and oft, what they perceived as their less-than-fortunate experience being a non-Malay. Yes, it is always good to approach everything we see, read or hear with a healthy amount of skepticism and to remember that humans, first and foremost, are are motivated by self-interest. At the same time, we also need to develop our critical thinking; to look at things from a helicopter view and its implications in the short and long run, to balance our prejudices and experiences against those of other people even if we disagree vehemently with them, and to find a compromise where the good of the nation triumphs the need of the few even if the compromise is not what we want at the first place. We cannot judge policies based on our yardstick as we are no longer the people who need or are worthy of NEP. But there are those who do. Do we leave them behind because the popular belief is that it is not fair to assist them?

These brilliant and articulate authors – they need to read more, talk to more people, go down to the ground, learn how the 70% of the population lives, volunteer at hospitals or hospices, teach at disadvantaged youth centers – see Malaysians as they are, not just the 30% that they identify with. ​Come up with ideas and framework, discuss them, argue about them, do pilot projects to see if they work. But first, go to the ground. Just like any business, you need to start from the ground up.

A young man asked me recently why does his parents hate PM Najib so much? I told him to speak to  them to get the answers.  I love that he is asking questions and seeking answers. But I do not love that he is exposed to the emotional reaction but not to the the arguments for and against PM Najib. My objections to Najib’s administrations and his political manouvers are my own. I certainly do not want to influence this young man’s attitude and opinion based on my interpretation of the situation. What I want to do is to encourage him to ask instead of just accepting certain manifesto simply because the people around him or the people he loves and respects believe in a certain point of view.

This I know — I am not twisted and bitter (angry yes, and it is always good to have some fire in you at all times). Certainly I am not ashamed of who I am and the fact that I was born a Malay because I truly believe it is my responsibility, not the Government’s, to prove that I am as capable as the next person to compete and earn my stripes based on merits and competency.

I have said this before and will say it again: it would be naieve to expect NEP to work 100%. Greed, stupidity, prejudice, sense of entitlement, ignorance – all these will continue to exist and seep into the minds of the people, with or without NEP. But if you could pull out one child from a situation where he would otherwise not been able to get out of without better education and financial assistance, wouldn’t you? I am sure I would have been happy working at the rubber glove factory as a production operator as long as I am able to earn an honest living. In fact I know I would be happy, because I have worked as one during school holidays. But had that been my path due to the circumstance that I was in, what a waste it would have been to my talent and intellect.

Would my hypothetical, non-existent children be NEP children? No. They don’t have the right to. I am now in a position where I am able to independently finance their education without relying on Government resources or assistance. The system is not there to be taken advantage of, and I believe to do so is disrespectful and ungrateful.

And trust me, there are more people like me than you’d think. The non-typical Malays. We just don’t take our battles to facebook or malaysiakini or Dataran Merdeka or by wearing yellow or red shirts.

Lastly, I especially do not agree that in order to show your love for the country and for your fellow Malaysians you need to hate and be embarrassed about who you are and denounce your “Malay-ness”. Championing inclusiveness does not mean you have to exclude Malays to prove your sincerity as a bangsa Malaysia, and be particularly mean and vicious to the Malays who do not think or believe in the same things as you do.

Politicians spin because they are in the position to do so and they will blame (or champion) race to fit their agenda.

I love and fully support political awakening. I love that people are now discussing and expressing their opinions and asking why and demanding explanation.

But the real danger lies in believing the hype without proper understanding of the framework and why policies were put in place. Somehow, I find that the slogan “bangsa Malaysia” almost always denote “bangsa bukan Melayu” as if being a Malay makes you less of a Malaysian.

That is not true and this lie needs to stop being perpetuated right now.

Feel free to disagree.

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Turning In My Wings

Photo by James Katz

It was fun while it lasted.

I am ready for new things now.

Bye bye Orange, may you always fly high.

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