Sunday, December 25, 2005

Remembrance Week

From World Wide Help
"Last year, on the 26th December, an earthquake, and then a tsunami, killed, wounded, or impoverished hundreds of thousands of people in South Asia.

During the course of the year, other disasters took their toll too. Most devastating of them: Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the South-East coast of the USA; and another enormous earthquake near Pakistan's border with India.

These disasters took their immediate toll, and, each time, the world tried to help. But as calamity piled upon calamity, there has been a certain amount of fatigue. Perhaps people's stock of goodwill has run low. Perhaps seeing too much suffering hardens us.

But, the fact is, the suffering from those disasters has not ceased. Parts of South Asia have still not recovered from December 26th, 2005. In the USA, normalcy hasn't returned to New Orleans. In Pakistan, thousands are still homeless, and may not survive the harsh Himalayan winter.

They need your help.

Last December and this January, the online community came together as never before to help in the aid efforts in South-East Asia. The lessons learned there were put to use, and improved upon, when the other tragic events of the year unfolded.

Can we harness that goodwill, that togetherness, that willingness to help once more? "
Here's a list of donation agencies that are still working on these projects:

Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC)

British Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders

Oxfam Earthquake and Floods Appeal


I'm spending the day with some of my favourite people. On boxing day, we will be lighting a single candle-in remembrance.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Warmest Wishes

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year everybody. In a way, I am glad that the year is coming to an end. Enough calamities, suffering and pain for one year, I must say. May 2006 bring us all a happier and more peaceful world.

Friday, December 23, 2005

2006, can you please slow down?

Aiks. Why can't 2006 slow down a wee bit? It's already faintly grazing my neck and I am not ready at all. I have so much to finish work-wise that I haven't had time to sit and do my annual 'the year in retrospect' thingy which is accompanied by loads of 'notes to self' and stuff. This is making me feel very edgy.

Hold on for a bit will you, 2006.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bah, Humbug!

Plan I am so NOT going to Oxford Street for some store-induced Christmas spirit. No way. I have a tree up in the living room and that's that. I am going to stay at home and do work. Yes. You heard me right. I have a great trip planned mid-Jan. So, I need to get cracking NOW in order to enjoy my trip.

Reality So, there I was- not planning to get into any of the year end festivities at all. Unfortunately, everybody ELSE is making plans and the phone keeps ringing.

The devil of consumerism comes-a-calling and I have succumbed. I am going away for the weekend with friends who for all intent and purpose are going to attack the boxing-day sale with great gusto.

If glee and guilt can mix, I have one heady cocktail in my hand now.

Monday, December 12, 2005

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

1. I should be doing my work but am more content to stare at the window and day-dream away. I am dreaming of waves crashing gently on a white-sand beach where I am reading without a care in the world with a hibiscus on my hair and Andrea Bocelli streaming in the background.

2. The only ambition I ever had since I was 10 years old was to be a lawyer (don’t ask me why, but my hunch is that it’s a middle-class parent mentality that is transferred, osmosis-like to the child ie myself). But I am not a practising one now, even though I have spent a great amount of time in law school. Whatever decisions that I have made in life, I am certainly quite glad about this one.

3. I am going to adopt a child in Africa in the New Year but M doesn’t know this yet. I want a little girl, who would benefit from a monthly stipend (It would be money I would spend on something random as in No.4 below anyway, and if it is going to make a small little difference in a child’s life, I will be very, very happy).

4. I have paid 40 quid in library fines (in 1 week) and I am not planning to tell M.

5. I felt really sad when Brenda was voted out of X-factor last Saturday. And I think Colin Jackson is going to win Strictly Come Dancing (Hey, this two shows really require talent…okay, yeah, I watch reality TV. So WHAT?).

6. I am thinking of opening a dinky little antique shop one day.

7. I cannot sing to save my life-I was born tone deaf. When I was a child, I thought that I would never be successful because I had no talent whatsoever. Now, my definition of 'successful' has changed.

8. I was an awfully serious child.

9. I wake up in the middle of the night fearing that I am not going to finish the goddam thesis and am going to be a failure.

10. On my 18th birthday, I sat and wrote down all that I wanted to achieve in life by the time I turn 30. I still carry that list, frayed and yellowing, in my purse everyday. It’s just that I am afraid to open it now that I am going to turn 30 very, very soon.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Of Salt and Saffron

I have been looking for a Kamila Shamsie book for aeons. So, when I finally found the acclaimed Salt and Saffron, I have been sneaking a read in between work. She is particularly appealing as a writer because she embodies a disparate voice: young, bold, woman, Muslim, Pakistani.

Salt and Safron has good moments. The legendary Mariam Apa (Aunty Mariam ) and her mouth watering orders to the cook are definitely highlights. The whole story centers around a woman’s search for a sense of self and love. The central character hails from an upper class family, leaves Karachi to study in London but has her heart in Pakistan. It is in London that she meets the handsome poor student from the other side of her hometown, who is salt, common, to her rarified saffron.

Yet. The search for self and all that is just a bit too pat. And all that talk about food throughout the book gave me indigestion.

Why is it that when I read books displaying Muslim women's voice, I generally come out disappointed? I feel as if something is missing. Like being invited into a house with no windows. A stifling house that encloses with too much clutter. I am being told too many things. And at the end of the day, nothing. I had the same feeling when I turned to the last page of Ahdaf Soueif's In the Eye of the Sun and Monica Ali's Brick Lane. Disappointment.

Perhaps, I should try the highly recommended Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days instead. Anybody can suggest a book that carries a Muslim woman's voice with greater sensitivity?


I didn’t realize I grew up on a diet of Marxist philosophy until I started teaching Rule of Law and Marxism.

When my fresh-faced students look at me with great earnest when the topic of Karl Marx comes up, I tell them what the syllabus says I should teach. That Marxist philosophy fundamentally opposed the concentration of power in the bourgeoisie (ruling class). The proletariat(working class) must obtain consciousness to revolt against the concentration of power in the hands of the bourgeoisie because the bourgeoisie relies on the proletariat to run his industry. Imagine, I tell them. A big fat bourgeoisie smoking a big, fat cigar behind a big, fat table. He does nothing the whole day because he squeezes the blood, sweat and tears of the Proletariat in his factory. The Proletariat must come to realize that the big, fat guy cannot survive without them and thus, revolt.

This I tell them.

What I really want to tell them is to get a B-grade Tamil/Hindi movie from the 80s which I used to watch. That’s where I learnt it all. Big factory. Bad boss. Mistreated workers. Revolt. See parallels? Plus this one has added bonus of one moustachioed hero and flimsy saried heroine. Look it up.

Oh, and I haven’t gone to Highgate to pay my tribute yet. For all his working class ideals, Marx ultimately appeals to the thinking class. I wonder what he thinks of that?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

How I miss KL

Musings in KL

Just between you and me, I must tell you
that I am no KL-ite. Home is tucked away
placidly up north. But KL is like a second
home, like your mother-in-law’s place,
a home that you marry into, something that
creeps into you with a perverse familiarity.
Like the traffic jam, the haze, Federal Highway,
the mamak stall near Sogo, the cacaphonic rush
of the lunch time crowd.

So, what right do I have to talk about KL?
Come onlah, people are all here to make a
living. I am one of the crowd.

If KL was a woman, she will be a whore.
A classy one at that. I am just the average
Malaysian, one of the clients she services.
I must say that she solicits with a randy
suggestiveness-all those palm fronds and
light strobes for this paradisical, touristy feel.
Just the way the orang puteh like it.

Looks very nice on the postcard, this
two dimensional cut-out. Then again,
the ringgit rolls in, so who is to say anything?

She has over the years taken to embellish
herself with these towering monstrosities.
Her crowning glory of course is that Twin Towers
which stick out like giant phalluses with a
self-righteous kiasu smirk. I must tell you that
it is all show and not much performance.
A lot of bluff really.

After all, she is not that nubile nymphet anymore.
There are lines under her eyes and the breasts are sagging.
That is why the need for this coarse touch-up:
to proffer this exotic, pseudo-rustic face.
Or else, she is wont to lose her clients.
But then again, these are modern times and
this is your archetypical modern woman. If you
want an anak dara you had better balik kampung.

But take heart.
I will share a secret. She really is
a very beautiful woman, inside and out.
After all she did not ask to look like this.
This was a fate thrust onto her by
those who Know Best.

Give her time.
As sweet and true as first kiss,
you will realise that the raunchy
side has a heart.

Most of all be patient.
Take time to journey into the marrow of her spirit.
Learn to understand her mood and colours.
Unravel that volatile chameleon, denude her off
that cosmetic face. Traverse into her and she will
take you into her folds.

And there, you will see a coy mistress. Quite
unsure of herself. Trembling and aching for an
honest lover. She will give you her soul with
so much trust, you can weep, man.
She will share with you hopes, dreams, fears.
Success and failures.
Laughter and tears.

Then you will want the whore
for a wife.To grow old and grey with.

I wish that she (and all women) came with an instruction

But maybe, you will find her amidst
the throng of humanity in Jalan Ampang,
jasmine garlands in Little India,
the crisp vigour of growth in Kampung Baru,
the strain of bargain in Petaling Street,
the deep rumble of the LRT,
the balik kampung exodus.

(c)Jane Sunshine (2001)

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