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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The wilting waltz - Part 2

* Read Part 1 here

Su Chen was never one to cry.

Even in her younger days, where other children would bawl their lungs out if they had their toys taken away from them or if they were denied from savouring a favourite tasty treat, she would just stare blankly back at the adults that tended to her. It was as if nothing would faze her.

In fact, her face rarely betrayed her emotion. Most times, it carried a cool, calm look which cleverly masked the turmoil of feelings that she wrestled with beneath the surface.

If anyone were to have asked her why this was, she would have blamed her parents for it.

She learned very early in her life that wearing her heart on her sleeve would not be acceptable to her parents. Especially if the emotions concerned were of the negative sort. Crying or throwing a tantrum when her parents denied her a request would only land her in worser punishment.

So she wisened up and devised other ways to get what she wanted. One of her main tactics was to feign indifference, regardless of what she really felt.

Subsequent trials for this new tactic yielded great results. It worked not only with her parents, but practically anyone and everyone she met.

The best friend who later turned out to be her worst enemy.

The teacher who punished her for a crime she did not commit.

The boy whom she loved more than anything in the world but who left for greater pursuits, inadvertently excluding her - or so it seemed at the time.

The mystery of her real emotions have never ceased to baffle the other people in her life, often driving those that sought to make her suffer experience a different sort of torture of their own.

So she decided since way back then to keep this modus operandi.

But there was one person from whom she could not hide neither her thoughts or feelings.

Tien Keat was in reality eight years older than Su Chen. Those eight years made for two very different personalities, even though they were siblings.

While Tien Keat was an indefatigable benevolent optimist who revelled in every enchantment and adventure that this life had to offer him, Su Chen was cautious, suspicious of everything and for the most part a recluse who believed that life would so much sweeter if everyone would leave everybody else alone.

It seemed somewhat impossible that the two of them could even be blood related since their personalities are worlds apart. Su Chen once pondered the possibilty that she may have been an adopted child.

But then there were certain undeniable similarities.

Their wavy hair. The greyish glint in their eye colour that would only be visible up close. The way they walked. Shrugged. Laughed. Argued.

They were each other's best friend in a family of absent parents. And for Su Chen, that's all she needed really needed to stay happy.

The wilting waltz - Part 1

I felt a need to write fiction lately, so I decided to grab a picture prompt and give it a try. I have to dash off for a late dinner with my family now, so I suppose I'll come back later to finish this. Meanwhile, try reading through this and drop me a comment if this piques your interest to know what happens next:

Source: 365 Pictures Prompts  (24 July 2011)

She stared silently as the blackbird flew past her window against the backdrop of the shady trees. The air was calm and cool all around her, but inside her, thoughts were stirring.

She recalled suddenly that blackbirds were birds of ill omen. For some strange reason, she couldn't remember where she had gotten that notion, but the moment the thought came to her, it made her squirm slightly in her seat.

She stood and began pacing around the room.

What had been merely peaceful a moment ago evoked a sense of uneasiness. The confines of her bedroom now felt somewhat stifling.

Stealing a glance at her watch, she noted that it was only 4 o'clock. Usually, no one would come looking for her until around 6 o'clock when it was time to start preparing dinner.

For a moment, she ambled aimlessly considering the possibility of a walk outside. A rising uncomfortable feeling had already started to grow in her chest. She clenched her fists. Then her jaw.

It was barely a minute later when she was already at the front door of the inn, shutting the door quietly behind her as she went.

The sky was grey and large, black clouds loomed ominously above her.

But her steps were sure and steady. For some reason, it was as if she knew where she must go.

* Read Part 2 here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Starting with a clean slate?

Today is 9 July 2011 and the local time is 4.48pm.

It is quiet over here as I type my post into my laptop while seated on my bed with the windows open. There is only the occasional sound of birds chirping from the nearby trees outside and the sporadic roar of cars as they make their way in and out of this peaceful neighbourhood.

But it is by no means serene in other parts of the Klang Valley.

Downtown in Kuala Lumpur (KL), the capital city of Malaysia, things are abuzz as huge crowds have gathered in various spots around the city. Their aim: to march towards the famed Stadium Merdeka in protest of the lack of free and fair elections in Malaysia.

The catalyst? Bersih 2.0, a self-proclaimed civil society movement which was re-launched this year and has been at the forefront of championing this cause. (Bersih, in our national language, Malay, means "clean".)

National media has been peppered with reports of all kinds concerning Bersih for the past few weeks. News initially arose about a rally that Bersih planned to hold in KL on 9 July in order to march to the palace and present a memorandum to the Agong.

From then on, a chain of events ensued at an accelerated pace. Other opposing groups resorted to organising rallies of their own at the same venue and date to go against Bersih. Not long afterward, Bersih is outlawed and people in various locations around the nation start to be arrested for promoting the Bersih rally. The government began issuing warnings that those who persisted in wanting to attend any such rally would risk being dealt with.

The Agong stepped in to advise both Bersih and the ruling government, Barisan National (BN) to hold discussions and reach an amicable decision. Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, chairperson for Bersih, agrees to hold the rally in a stadium rather than taking to the streets amidst promises by the ruling government that this would be allowed.

However, the situation changed by the day and soon Bersih found that it is not even allowed to hold a rally in any stadium at all. Least of all Stadium Merdeka.

Yet Bersih and their opposers still stubbornly insist on carrying on with the rally.

The day of the rally has now come, and now in KL, throngs of Malaysians have gathered to brave water cannons, tear gas  and possible police violence to reach the rally's venue. It is both scary and exciting to be in the nation as these events unfold.

Although I do support Bersih's cause, I am not in KL for the rally because I do not really like the idea of street protests and am uncomfortable with the thought that not everyone out there is of the same mind although it may seem that way on the surface. There are political undertones to the event, some of which I also may not be in favour of.

Yet it is amazing to note that someone like me, who is for the most part politically apathetic, has actually started blogging about these current incidents taking place in my homeland.  It is a sign that recent events within the nation are starting to have a noticeable impact on its citizens. It is indeed impossible to be unaffected by the sentiments and circumstances as they unfold.

The truth of the matter is that Malaysia is by no means a first world country yet, and we've still a long way to go.

But change is good, in fact even necessary, in order for us to progress. It will probably take much more than this 9 July rally to transform our nation, but hope is budding in so many ways for us here. It is, after all, typically through struggles and difficulties and changes that we grow.

Proactiveness definitely has a place in driving this process. It would be a shame if no one in this country stood up for what they believe and risked doing something in order to make things better.

After all, looking back, we at times still suffer from the decisions of our forefathers, many of whom had been awfully apathetic about many aspects concerning the nation thus resulting in some of the ludicrous policies and practices that we now find ourselves stuck with today.

I look forward to a day when Malaysia will no longer be fighting corruption but will be living in integrity. For a time when fellow countrymen would see each other as Malaysians, and shed racial and religious labels. For a truly free economy that encourages businesses to thrive and which elevates excellence as the most respected and renowned value of the (national) brand Malaysia. For environmental awareness to influence town planning and development projects approved by the powers that be. For a country that truly keeps its word and puts its people first.

I am sure many out there have similar aspirations for the country - and possibly even more.

While Bersih's rally may trigger change in the electoral process, there is still much to be done in other spheres.

Let us - each and every Malaysian - do our part wherever we are to hasten the required changes in the spheres of society where we wield influence. Let us not get offended or sidetracked by the minute offenses around us but press firmly towards doing the right thing, being the conscience of the nation. 

Perhaps the day that we hope for may be drawing near. Much nearer than we realise. 

* If you are not Malaysian but have read this post, please pray for my nation or in whatever ways possible, support the voices here that uphold justice for all its citizens.