Tuesday, February 26, 2013


What actually defines us? Is it our work? Family? Friends? Faith?..... Of late I've wondered quite a bit about that.

Having changed my work environment, I've had to go through a period of adjustments and it's still ongoing. I traded the known for the unknown, the familiar for the unfamiliar. And I didn't realise that the one moment of conviction actually unsettled quite a bit in me... and so here I am, at this mid point of my life, in a new working environment. And wondering whether I should have embarked on this change. 

Yet, for once in many years, I actually teach more than babysit. For once too, I seem to be concentrating less on remedial work. I waste far less hours at meetings so far too.... Students are more responsive.... though, they are a 'numbed' lot. Something about our education is all wrong. And I've spent far less time chasing and doing the mundane... well, it might change. I don't know. A lot in the our system is regressing.

I've also had flattering moments never experienced before. I shall call them my teaching moments... I'm teaching a subject which was my major but never really got to teach after more than 20 years. And yet sometimes I wonder why I did that when the subject that I have been teaching for the last 20 years is very easy for me now. It's so familiar that I can do it with one eye closed. Yet I am embarking on a new challenge. Why do a subject which required new preparations and mindset? And after having started on it, I find myself asking myself whether I really want that sort of challenge? ... at my age where the easy is what most only age would want. 

And every new place has its own culture too... I find myself missing a lot of the familiar old; friend... the space that I had, familiarity too. I find myself questioning about what is important to me and I have come to realize it's the same old things. Life is still about relationships... everything we have, the things that we achieve... actually they can be quite meaningless when not shared. 

Changes... I find myself not so gung ho actually about changes anymore. It is actually more unsettling than exciting now. I am actually feeling more tired, more hard pressed and at times wondering. Yet I also realised that changes are sometimes necessary. It forces us do some soul searching... It makes us realise what is important. And changes change us too... 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in A Mumbai Undercity ...by Katherine Boo

Finished this book about a week ago. Took me a long time to complete this one. Reading is mostly done on the treadmill for this one. This is one of those books which keeps reminding me how fortunate I am. Set in Mumbai, in an undercity as the title depicts, it's a story that is kinda eye opening in some ways.

Bro and sis were in India around the same time I was reading the book and when they got back, I had firsthand experiences to compare. Sis stayed for a month in Delhi and spent quite a bit of time checking out all the different places. Bro was there on a business trip. He spent time with my sis and also had an eye-opening experience in that he said he saw 2 different worlds in a city...

And as they regaled their experiences, especially sis... there was so much I could identify with because the book had already described them. The slum, Annawadi is set in the shadow of the luxuries of Mumbai, where big glitzy hotels stand. It tells the tales of its inhabitants, the Muslim scavengers; the slum dwellers who make a living out of recycling. Garbage is their life source. It spins a story out of a place with noxious fumes, brackish water and fetid garbage; scenes which I think many of us are most unfamiliar with.... a thriving community in that place with its successes, comedies and tragedies.

The story centres around the Hussains, with Abdul their son being the star scavenger. There is drama when Fatima their neighbout tries to kill herself by setting herself on fire. Rat poison seems to be the handy choice for one to commit suicide in other incidents. One also reads about Manju the only slum girl with a college education, efforts to get out of the life she knew. Then there is Kalu, a spunky boy who steals scraps to sell to Abdul. Life is also cheap in the slum. It's easy to turn up dead and no one really bothers. Bodies are sold by doctors to supplement their income. Such is the life in India.

But no matter how much success the slum dwellers may achieve, their ultimate fortune lies in the hands of the rich, as can be seen by how it's tied to the arbitrary goodwill. This is India, where power still lies with the powerful and the poor can only but hope for arbitrary handouts from them.

It's a good read, one which would make any reader appreciate what they have.

Friday, February 1, 2013

February Is Here

It feels like a wink of an eye.... A month of school has just ended and with it the first month of 2013. The month went by way too fast. New school which translates to adjustments. I realise that I don't take to changes too readily these days, though it's still quite manageable. Work load has increased by quite a bit with the change plus I am teaching a 'new' subject too. The pace feels faster and more intense but I supposed it'll be a matter of time before I adjust. There's always a settling in period... Work is more fun though, mainly because I have better sets of students now, kids with whom I can relate to, quite different from my old school. Teaching is actually quite fun again. But it also reminds me how big of a divide between schools can be too.

Chinese New Year is just around the corner. The mood of CNY has not set in yet. Maybe it's my harried life these days. The equilibrium got disturbed... So much I want and so little time. But am looking forward to see family members...

Meaning... of late am asking more. But I wonder too whether the revelations would shed more light on life's meaning. Would success, happiness or even bettering ourselves make life more meaningful? I don't know. Most of us seek those things... Some of us seek meaning by trying to offer something back to humanity. Life is after all unpredictable, even brief. Am reminded of Shakespeare's Life Is A Brief Candle Poem.

Life is short. Life is precious. Dreams... we should try to make them happen despite the fears we might feel. See the world perhaps too. Have not travelled much. For me, I've never felt the urge partly because I am usually quite easily contented. Maybe it's time to start. 8) Grudges. Many of us hang on to old grudges. Most of us have one or two in our closets. But perhaps too sometimes, they're better left where they are. Responsibilities... I guess everyone has them. Love... I guess this is perhaps the most important thing. Life is about relationships. Love for self, the people around us, our work and even the experiences in life... I guess those are what give meaning to our life in the end.

Life is supposed to be simple but these days, I think we make it complicated. February has come and will go too like the February(s) of yesteryears. The weather has turned dry and hot. I miss the rains. The months ahead will bring the usual knowns and unknowns.

Election is probably in the air. Tried going to school for sports practice yesterday. The usual 15 minutes took me more than 1.5 hours.... and I only got half way before giving up and making a U-turn. Apparently there was a gathering at the Stadium and the PM was here... Himpun. We have so many gatherings these days... Himpunan Hijau, Himpun, Bersih, etc, etc....


Time flies... that's when days are filled with things to do. 24 hours feel rather short now but some day, I guess 24 hours in a day will...