April 14, 2014

What is your idea of an easy life?

Since I stop working permanently several years ago, I have been telling people that I am taking things easy ... indeed I am living an easy life. My son said to me while I was driving him to school ... “Daddy, your life is very easy ... every morning you go look for nice place to enjoy breakfast and after that you are free to do whatever you like”. I said to my son (like what I always said to others) ... “YES, I am living an easy life”

Is this your idea of an easy life?
But what exactly is taking things easy and living an easy life? Millions stashed in the banks? Don’t have to work? Having fun every day? No worries whatsoever at all?

Look, in my book, taking things easy and living an easy life doesn’t mean that I am without financial woes, doesn’t mean that I have no worries and though I don’t have to go to work, it doesn’t mean that I have nothing to do. Like most people, I have my fair share of all types of problems and worries. The difference is ... I try to make my life easier for me. But how?

I don’t have millions stashed away somewhere ...  I don’t believe that people should stashed up millions for later years. Yes of course we all plan and save for our later years but you don’t really need millions to live an easy life. You will need millions if you want to live a luxury life. You don’t need a lot really ... if you simply make do with whatever you already have and maybe sometime you even have to settle for less ... if you can accept that, you will be able to make your life easier. 

You see, I chose to let go of things that I think will make my life difficult ... like when the petrol price goes up, I sold my Korean made 2-Litre SUV and make do with a low consumption, low maintenance second hand local car ... I made my life easier without having to worry about maintaining a high end petrol guzzler.

Like when the utility company (TNB) decided to raise the electricity tariff, I cancelled cable TV (Astro). It is whether I want to enjoy the air conditioning or I want to watch my favorite sports live ... if I want both, I will have to really worry about the increase on my household expenses ... so, I have to let one go and that made my life easier without having to fork out extra expenses.

People tell me ... “Hey, your life is so easy, you don’t have to work”  ... yes, I don’t go to work for an income ... I don’t have meetings, reports and the frustration of traffic jams every morning but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to do. I have to repair the roof, refurbish the furniture, paint the house, re-wire the electrical system, do the gardening, groom the dogs, fix the appliances and I have to build a storeroom from scratch. I have to do all that by myself ... at times it can be quite tiring and exhausting but I am not complaining. You see, my life is easy not because I have nothing to do ... I have plenty to do. I made my life easier because I don't have to pay people to do it.

But what about our children, people asked? Their schooling needs, their education fees ... you want to give “the best” to your kids, right? Oh yes, I am concern about this too because “the best” doesn’t come cheap. But I cannot give my kids “the best”, I don’t have the ability to give them “the best” ... so I gave them “my best” and they have to settle for that ... that is a lot easier for me to do.

What about leaving some wealth for the kids? Many parents intend to leave much of what they have saved and accumulated for their children so that their children won’t have to struggle financially when they come out to make it on their own. Wow, how nice! I am happy for their children ... I can already hear the children saying ... “saving is the best thing, especially if your parents have done it for you”.

Tell you what ... I don’t intend to leave anything for my kids. My logic is ... I will give “my best” (the best I can afford) upfront to my kids until a time that they should be able to make it on their own ... that is all they will get. What I have saved and accumulated is for myself and my wife ... as selfish as it may sound, this is to make my life and my wife’s a lot easier especially in our later years. Errrr ... maybe I will leave something for my kids ... that is if there is anything left by the time me and my old lady kicked the bucket.

Hey what about healthcare? Oh yes, healthcare cost is extremely high ... the joke is, if you ask the doctor what do your problem is, the doctor will ask you what can you afford. People worry about their health ... they worry more as they grow older when problems start to surface. Some may just be common ailments, some may be troublesome diseases and unfortunately there are some that are terminal. I worry about my health too ... so, what do I do about it?

When you are sick, you can’t really make things easier ... now, if you can afford it, you can make it more comfortable while seeking treatment. Life is never easy for anyone when faced with unfortunate health issues.

Maybe in certain cases one can choose to face it in a different manner that in my personal opinion will be an easier way to deal with the outcome. Let me tell you what I will do ... let me stress that this is strictly my views and you don’t have to agree with me. If I am terminally ill, I will not look for a cure (really, I am serious) because looking for a cure will create a huge financial and mental burden which will make life very difficult for me and also my family. Instead, I will look for strength to face and accept the tragic result that cannot be avoided ... I think this will make it a lot easier for me and for my family.

Now, let me ask you ... what is your idea of an easy life?

Really, looking for an easy life of having millions, work free, forever healthy, absolutely no worries and no uncertainties whatsoever ... that is like looking for something next to impossible ... but strangely, some people believe they will find it.

For me, in my life there are no millions stashed away but there is enough, I don't have to go to work but there are lots of things to do and there will always be worries and uncertainties. Really, I have never look for a life that comes on a silver platter ... instead, I look at how I make do with what I already have, I look for means to lessen the worries and I look for strength to face and accept the uncertainties ... I believe that will make my life a lot easier ... that is my idea of an easy life. 

March 31, 2014

Just STFU !!!

Recently I voiced my dissatisfaction, disappointment and displeasure on some of the sarcastic comments and insults I read on the various social media about the recent unfortunate incident involving our national airline.

Yes, many are not happy on how the relevant authority is handling the unfortunate incident ... in some instances, there were some “kelam kabut” (confusion) in handling of certain issues. Hey look, the people handling this situation is facing something they have not seen before, really they have no experience in the crisis management of an incident of this magnitude. It is not like every other year or so that they crash a plane so they should have plenty of experience in plane crash crisis ... this is an unprecedented aviation event for them.

When something like this happened, there are bound to be confusion, anger, frustration, annoyance and disappointment ... especially for those who are directly affected by the incident. Of course these people will take frustration to the various social media ... it is understandable.

But what I cannot tolerate are those Toms, Dicks and Harrys  ... who think they are smarter than everybody by just reading whatever thrown at them from their TVs and computers and start to wag their acerbic tongues spewing sarcastic remarks, inconsiderate insults and abuses on the various issues of the incident.

Everyone wants to have a say in this mysterious incident ... it is a huge unprecedented (and rather strange) aviation incident and the whole world is watching it closely. Of course everyone have the right to offer their opinions ... that is OK. But what is not OK for me is when people start insulting our national airline, our nation and even the innocent Malaysians are not spared the insults, sarcasms and abuses ... this I cannot tolerate.

OK if you want to mock the guys with the coconuts, bamboo binoculars and their so called 'magic' carpet ... that I don’t care. But hey, anyone with a sound mind would not be bothered by these jokers really.

But don’t blame Malaysian Airline ... you think they want a plane to crash? The last thing they want is a crisis like this. Don’t blame Malaysia ... the country is not responsible for this incident. Don’t blame the innocent Malaysians ... we have absolutely nothing to do with it ... on the contrary, we are saddened by this incident too.

Don’t politicize the incident ... this has nothing to do with politics. Don’t point the finger too soon ... for now no one knows what actually happened. Don’t try be an expert if you don’t actually know anything ... if you do know something, please give your suggestions directly to the relevant authority handling the incident. Don’t guess what happened ... let the real experts figure it out what is most likely to be the real cause.

So, to those who are quick to wag their acerbic tongues ... please look at the gravity of the situation ... there are already a lot of confusion, misunderstanding, mix-ups and uncertainties. If you cannot offer any REAL assistance, if you cannot offer any good words ... you can help if you could just STFU !!!

March 10, 2014

You should be glad if you have cunning, crafty and mischievous kids

I have two kids ...  my son is 15 and my daughter is 13. Both are now in secondary school doing IGCSE ... well, academically I must admit they are not as good as I hope they can be but that is OK because I don’t believe that exams results should determine their futures.

But if they are not up to mark academically, they definitely made it up with the traits of cunningness, craftiness, mischievous and disobedience ... so don’t be fool by their innocently naughty and playful nature.

Now, I am not worried about them having these traits ... I will be very worried if they don’t. Look, they are normal teenagers ... so, it is very normal for them to pick up these traits as they grow. The way I see it, cunning doesn’t mean one have to lie, crafty doesn’t demand one to be deceitful, mischievous is not necessary ill-behaving and disobedience means knowing how to say no ... these traits are not so bad actually ... so long as these traits are not being used underhandedly, deceitfully or dishonestly.

(Example of a cunning, crafty and mischievous kid ... cartoon image sourced from the internet)

OK, this is my personal opinion and you don’t have to agree  ... the way I see it, these traits can be good for the kids. I think kids who display cunningness, craftiness, mischievous and maybe playful disobedience are the more resourceful ones and quite likely will be successful (I am not saying this because my kids have similar traits) in whatever they do in the future. ... that is, if these traits are channeled constructively ... 'put to good use' so to say.

I am not saying that the good, obedient and well behaved kids who followed the book and played by the rules are not going to be successful ... I am sure they will flourish and will do very well too. What I am saying is ... it is OK if kids bend the rules a bit or twist the story a little or maybe wily in approaching or cunningly calculative ... this means that they know how to get around things, get to what they want, putting things in their perspectives and using alternative methods ... that is creativity at work. 

If managed and channeled properly, the cunningness, craftiness, mischievous, scheming and conspiring ways of the kids can be constructively developed into what I called “street smartness” that will provide them with an added advantage when they go out to make a life on their own.

Look, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there ... I am sure you will agree that a street smart kid will fare a lot better when it is time for him/her to come face to face with the real world.

Let me share with you a true story to support my point ...  I know of a very successful person who started working under me when he finished his studies ... we were working together in a large international company in the early 90s. He is a smart guy ... today, he owns and operates a multi-million dollar company. Picture this ... the CEO of the international company that we used worked in is now working for him.

Now here is what I really want to tell you ... when he first started his company, he told me he was going into a business venture with a financial service broker that I knew. I was a bit concern and ask why he decided to go into a business venture with this broker knowing very well he (the broker) is a very cunning and shrewd man. What he told me made a lot of sense.

He said this (not in exact words but something along the line) ... “I know the guy is very cunning and shrewd ... that is why it is good for the business venture ... I know how to manage him and channel his cunningness and shrewdness to my advantage ... really, I am not worried at all”. What he really meant was that as long as he did not allow his partner to take underhand advantage of him, he can make use of his (partner’s) cunningness and shrewdness to generate revenue for the business venture.

You see, we meet all sorts of of cunning, crafty, sneaky and sly people ...  in work or in our personal lives. Many will avoid these people, not wanting to deal with them ... but hey, why not think of how we can manage and channel the cunningness, craftiness, sneakiness and slyness to become something constructive?

OK, back to the kids ... do your kids bend the rules a bit or twist the story a little and full of tactics? Are you worried?  But really, you should be glad if you have cunning, crafty and mischievous kids.

February 06, 2014

I don't have dreams

I have a car but it is not my dream car, I have a house and it is not my dream house either. I don’t have a job now but my last job wasn’t my dream job too ... errrr, so what am I trying to say?

What I am saying is ... I don’t have dreams.

Many believe that people must have dreams ... to be millionaires or billionaires, to own a private jet, become famous stars or singers. Of course not all people dream of riches and extravagances ... some may just have simple dreams but surely one must have dreams ... right?

Well, I am not disagreeing with that. But for me now, I don’t have dreams ... really, doubtfully as it may sound but I am done with dreaming.

You see, I think I can make do with what I have for the rest of my life ... I may not have a lot but I am not dreaming for more. Should I needed more, it probably will be some basic neccessities and common essentials ... so I wouldn’t consider those as dreams ... agree?

Then people ask me ... so, if not dreams, what do you live for? To them it seems like one cannot live without dreams. I beg to be differ ... I don’t want dreams, I want memories.

I am seeking memories ... like memories of things that I was fond of during my growing years ...  going into the jungle, swimming in rivers, catching birds, plucking fruits and making kites. I like these memories, so I am trying to do the same again and enjoy the same amusements that I remember so well.

I have tasty memories of the butter scones that my mother used to make, the fragranced aroma of the ‘nasi lemak’ (rice with coconut milk) steam-cooked in a wooden tub that the ‘pak cik’ (elderly Malay man) sells near my old primary school and not forgetting  the drooling sweetness of the ‘ais bola with gula melaka’ (ball of ice flakes soaked with liquid palm sugar) sold by the Indian ‘cendol’ (local Indian desert) seller who made it from ice flakes created by scrapping an ice block from a stool-like wooden device. Last but not least, I remember the distinct “ting ting” sound of the Chinese peddler chipping away small pieces of yellow pineapple sweet at the back of his bicycle. I am constantly looking for these treats and may or may not find them again but I remember their tastes so well, so much so that every time I think about these treats, strangely, I feel like I can taste them.

I will always remember how I met my wife on the last day of 1988 and her suspicious smile when I gave her my phone number ... the bliss and joys on the day we got married, the day we move into our very own house, the day my son was born and the day when I first saw the ultra-sound scan of my daughter. I like to remember all these special days ... these are the good memories that made me feel good every time I think about them.

Though it was not one of those good moments of my life but I cannot forget the day I was pushed into the operating room with a collapsed lung ... I was very scared and worried but I remember my wife was with me all the time during this unfortunate incident ... I remember how gratified I was (and still is) knowing that my wife was (and will always be) at my side, rain or shine.

Looking at the many photos of my kids I can recall the anxious moments of watching them crawl, then trying to stand, then fall and finally making the first step. I remember taking them to swimming lessons, teaching them how to ride bicycles, watching them dance in competitions and seeing them covered in mud while trekking. Looking and comparing old photos with recent ones, I remember how small they were and how much they have grown and changed ... these photos bring sweet memories, these photos bring tears of joy.

Almost every week, I will meet with my old school mates ... most of them are now my best of friends. We talked about the good old days, the places we went to, the spiders we caught, the tents we set up, the games we played and the truants that got us into trouble. We are still arguing like we used to many years ago ... in some instances, we are still like a bunch of school boys enjoying the carefree days. The good memories of our younger days bring lots of laughter and joy to all of us.

So, as you can see, my life now is mostly about memories, plenty of them ... I want memories and as I move on I want to gather more good and meaningful memories and remember them for as long as I may live.

So, I said earlier ... I don’t have dreams ... why? Because I don’t want to die with dreams ... I want to die with memories.

January 16, 2014

What Susie says ...

Susie :   You know, Sally told me she enrolled her son in the private school near her house. 

Friend : Good for her. 

Susie :   But the school in not very good ... I sent my son to XYZ international school. It cost a bit more but it has better facilities and my daughter will go to the same school next year.  

Friend : Then good for you too. 

Susie :   And Sally’s husband just changed job. He now travels to work in KL everyday. 

Friend : I know, Sally told me. 

Susie :   Don’t know why Sally’s husband wants to change his job. My husband joined of ABC Bank for almost 30 years now. He started as an executive and now he is a senior manager and it never crossed his mind to change job. He will stay with the bank until he retires in 3 years’ time. 

Friend : He likes his job a lot. 

Susie :   You know what, I saw Sally’s husband driving a new car. I think it must be the company’s car. 

Friend : That is good, his company provided him a car. 

Susie :   Ya, but I think it is better to own a car yourself. We own both our cars. I bought my SUV two years ago and my husband’s MPV is less than a year old. We also tendered for special registration numbers so both our cars have the same numeral digits. 

Friend : Wow, that’s very nice.

OK, quite obvious one can see the above short conversation is exaggerated and fictitious. I am just creating the whole conversation to illustrate a point which I would like to emphasize.

As you can see, the fictitious conversation is about Susie talking to a friend about Sally. This happens every day ... people talked about people ... gossips, tattlers, rumors and hearsays.

Now, many people are affected by what others say about them ... they get agitated, some insulted while there are those who felt offended. My advice is ... take it with a pinch of salt. We can’t stop people from gossiping, rumor mongering and bad mouthing others ... some even worse, even though they did not see it with their eyes, they invent it with their mouths. Put it this way ... if people want to talk behind our backs, that is exactly where they will be ... behind us.

Though the above is a fictitious conversation I created ... more often than not, the notion is quite similar in many everyday situations. So, Susie was talking about Sally but from the whole conversation we don’t really know much about Sally ... do we? Instead, we know which school Susie’s kids goes to, which bank Susie’s husband works in, what post Susie’s husband holds, how old Susie’s husband is and what type of cars Susie and her husband drives ... right? And more or less we have an idea what kind of person Susie is.

So, my point is ... what Susie says about Sally says more of Susie than Sally.

December 31, 2013

Is it difficult to be simple?

I am sure you have heard of this ... “It is simple to be happy but it is difficult to be simple”.

Errrrr, let’s see ... to be happy, it is simple but to be simple, it is difficult ... what is it really? The way I see it ... it is really about being simple ... right? So what is being simple and why is it so difficult to be simple?

First, let’s not be mistaken ... I am not talking in the context that by being simple, one have to live in poverty and getting by with very little or being simple is living as a hermit, cast away from the material world ... agree ya?

Well, here are a few of my thoughts and opinions, my two cents worth about what is being simple and why it is difficult to be simple in a regular setting. 

Being simple is not to worry about how people look at you
It doesn’t matter if you are successful or still struggling to make a living but if you are worried about how others look at what you are doing, what you have (or don’t have) and where you are at, then it is difficult for you to be simple. Because being simple is being able to be confident with what you are doing, contented with whatever you have and comfortable in wherever you are at. 

Being simple is not to worry about having less
You see, the sad fact is people are always chasing for more ... even though they already have more than enough. Why? They are worried about having less (than others) so they are constantly comparing for they must have what others have. So, they are always chasing at a pace that is getting more and more stressful. They don’t want to be simple because being simple means they will have less (than others). It is difficult for them to be simple ... much more difficult than the stressful pace of chasing and getting more. 

Being simple is not to worry about going back to your past
Many people comes a long way from a humble beginning and made it in life. The sad thing is too many were spoilt by abundance that came with their successes and somehow they find it difficult to relate to their humble past ... some conveniently forgotten about it, some don’t want be reminded and some refuse to acknowledge where they begin. So, it is not easy for these people to be simple because being simple is being able to roll up your sleeves and walk barefooted along the way where you came from. 

Being simple is not to worry about letting go.
Many people refuse to let go ... not even when they are at a point in life where they really need to let go ... why? Not because there is no one capable of succeeding them but because they are afraid of losing the absolute control of being in the driver seat, losing the addictive power of being the “Numero Uno” and  losing the supreme authority of being the one who call all the shots. So, it is very difficult for them to be simple because being simple is being able to let go and say ... “It is OK, I have been there, done that” ... it is time to take a back seat and enjoy the rest of the journey. 

Being simple is not to worry about what comes naturally
People worry about getting old. Yes, they don’t want to get old ... many are constantly at war against aging ... some using common cosmetic surgeries and supplements while others resort to bizarre rituals and practices. Maybe they think they can delay it but they know very well that they are fighting a more and more difficult war that they cannot win. It is not going to be simple for them because being simple is being able to accept what comes naturally ... gray hair, wrinkles, menopause, memory loss, disability, deteriorating eyesight, sickness and finally, death.

So, those are my thoughts of being simple. I am sure others will have their own views and opinions on being simple but I think many will share the few same thoughts I have mentioned above.

OK, let’s look at it again ... to be happy, it is simple but to be simple, it is difficult ... do you agree?

For me, I always say that I am a simple man and I am still working on being simple. I agree that it is simple to be happy but I don't think it is difficult to be simple.

What say you?

December 11, 2013

Let go, move on

Let me tell you a story of a young monk and his old master. One day, while the two monks were walking back to their monastery, they came across a lady waiting beside a bridge. As they approach the bridge, the lady asked the old monk if he can carry her across the narrow bridge and the old monk immediately offered to help. And so he carried the lady across the bridge and then let her go.

Now the young monk was quite annoyed because according to their teachings, they are supposed to avoid direct contact with the opposite sex but he kept quiet because he did not want to confront his master then. They continued walking and all the while the young monk was thinking why his master had direct contact with the opposite sex ... the more he thought about it, the angrier he became. The young monk was really disturbed throughout the whole journey back to the monastery.

When they reached the monastery, the young monk was still very unhappy and he was unable to sleep the whole night. The next morning he can no longer suppress his anger, so he went to his master and ask his master why did he carry the lady across bridge? And the master said to the young monk ... “I have already let go of the lady a long time ago. It seems like you are still hanging on to it and letting it makes you unhappy and angry. Why don’t you let it go?”

The moral of the story ... we have to learn to let go. Not just letting go the feeling of detest, despise or dislike but as we move along with our lives, we have to be able to let go of many other things too. Now, many people will deny it ... but really, one of the hardest things to do in life is letting go.

For example ... when people grow older especially when they are moving towards midlife, many will try to look younger... some do it subtly by the way they dress, some a bit obvious like dyeing their hair while others may go a bit further with cosmetic procedures. And a large majority of these people suddenly develop the urge to engage in various endurance and performance sports trying to be as robust as those many years younger than them.

Why? Simply because they refuse to let go of their youth ... they want to hang on to it for as long as they can. But really, they know that dressing up to look younger doesn’t make them any younger ... neither will dyeing their hair black. And maybe they can still compete in endurance and performance sports but I am sure they realize that it takes whole lot more to get themselves to it and way much longer to recover afterwards. That is a fact that they cannot deny.

Like I said earlier ... one of the hardest thing in to do in life is to let go. Maybe that is why many find it hard to let go of their youth and accept the fact that they are growing old.

I have met many who have stopped working (they have reached retirement age) but they are so afraid to say that they are retired. They always say that they are some sort of consultants or freelance specialists or what not ... seems like they still cannot let go of the ‘working phase’ of their lives. Or maybe, it is their way of saying ... “Hey, I am no that old OK?” Somehow they don’t like the word ‘retired’ ... to them ‘retired’ is like sitting at home waiting for death to come.

I beg to differ ... I don’t try to look younger or more youthful because I am not ... mentally not, perceptually not and physically not. I don’t hang on to my youth ... as a matter of fact, I let it go quite some time ago and already moved on to another phase of my life. I can accept the fact that I am growing old, my hair is turning grey, wrinkles are fast appearing and I am lacking behind in my physical capabilities  ... that is OK with me.

The way I see it ... it is OK to slow down and take things easy. Take a back seat and say ... “Hey, I have come this far ... time to let go and move on”. It is not that bad really ... on the contrary, there are new things to learn, new friends to make and new environments to explore.

Really, need not worry about letting go and moving on ... there are still plenty of exciting things in the later phases of our lives.

November 27, 2013

Do I want to run a marathon?

Hey Shiek, you want to run a marathon? ... my friend asked me. Wow! Me? Marathon? 42.195km? Errrr ... I don't know if I can do that. How about a Half-Marathon? Emmmm ... maybe, with several months of solid torturous training, I can ... but I don't think I will do that.

Then some asked me to trek the Himalayas ... the ABC and EBC circuits in Nepal ... take up the challenge, so they say. There are many in my age group or even a lot older, who trained very hard and took the challenge ... they successfully completed the ABC or EBC or both the circuits and have proven to themselves and to others that they can still do it. I am glad for them but I am NOT them.

I like to ask ... whatever you are doing, are you doing it because you really enjoy doing it or are you doing it just because others are doing it and you want to prove that you can also do it?

OK, like I always say ... don’t get me wrong, I am not against people going for tough sports or other challenges ... I am sure many are doing it simply because they really enjoy doing it ... they have found true passion in whatever they do. I wish them great success and would be very glad if they can share the photos of their adventures with me.

Really, at this point of my life ... it is not about proving that I can still take up tough sports or other challenges. I have nothing to prove and I don’t need to show anything. I just have a life to live ... an active, comfortable, safe, healthy, happy and simple life to live.

Believe me, there was a time where I was doing things just to prove to myself and others that I can do it. I thought I could change the world and bask in the glories ... then I realized it is a lot easier to change myself because I found out that every glory will have to be paid in full with equal amount of misery.

So now, I am all for simple things ... no hassles, straight forward and easy stuffs. I jog a bit, cycle around my neighborhood and play some racket games. If I want to trek a jungle trail ... I look for a safe trail to provide a few hours of good exercise in the midst of the wonderful nature with a bunch of good friends ... I like that a lot.

I am not those hardcore mountaineers ... if I want to hike up a mountain, I will go for hikes that will not strain my knees, burst my lungs, or break my back ... I don’t mind a few leech bites, thorns or scratches and stings from insects in exchange for a good day of cool mountain breeze, the happy bird chirpings, the nice surrounding views and the fresh clean air ... this is good enough for my weekends. On weekdays, I like to cook, do a bit of carpentry and lately trying to be creative with recycled wood. The important thing is, I really enjoy what I am doing.

So, do I want to run a marathon or challenge the Himalayas? NO ... I don't think so.

I have said this before and I like to say it again ... sometimes people want to show and prove to others so that they can walk proudly as if they rule the world. But really, maybe they don’t have to show anything or to prove anything but still they can walk proudly too ... if they don’t care who rules the world.

November 08, 2013

Lat tali lat ...

Lat tali lat ... and then what? Of course ... TAM POM! Does this phrase rings a bell to you? If it does, you are probably in my generation or definitely older. Maybe some who is a little bit younger than me can still remember this phrase which is from a method used for selection (or exclusion) of participants in games we used to play ... well, I will not try to explain how it works here ... I am sure those who knows it remember how it works.

But then, do you remember the following phrases? Maybe your ‘kampung’ (village) have different following phrases but from where I grew up ...  the complete phrases are as follows:-

Lat tali lat tam pom’ ... really, I am not sure what language it is or what is the meaning.

Sik fan em sai soong’ (Cantonese) ... meaning having rice without any dishes.

Ah ma ta ngor ta em tung’ (Cantonese) ... meaning when my mother beats me, not too painful.

Ah pa ta ngor see futt tung’ (Cantonese) ... meaning when my father beats me, the backside hurts.

Selection methods like “Lat tali lat tam pom” will be forgotten very soon if not forgotten by many already. I have not seen anyone playing or even heard anyone mention the phrases for a very long time. And what about 'Whose shoe is the dirtiest?' The last time I saw children playing this was at least 10 years ago.

Another selection method was “tim chee ping ping” ... yes, remember? This method was used to choose who gets to be the ‘ping’ (meaning the soldier or the good guy) and who will be the ‘chak’ (meaning thief or the bad guy). Participants will hold each other’s thumbs to join hands and then the ‘tim chee ping ping’ phrase will be said out loud and one will count the hands up and down from syllable to syllable ... now, I am not going to explain how exactly it works because I am sure old boys like me will remember ... but I will tell you the two phrases just in case you have forgotten them ... they goes like this :-

Tim chee ping ping ... yat tim chung lei, lei cho ping

'Tim chee chak chak ... yat tim chung lei, lei cho chak

Loosely translated, the first phrase means ... touch and point to the soldier (ping), once it touches you, you be the soldier (ping). And in the second phrase, just change the ‘ping’ (soldier) to ‘chak’ (thief).

Anyone remember ‘kunci kunta’? The game played with two sticks or small branches (one long and one short) and a small hole in the ground ... this game is long forgotten ... I can’t remember exactly how it was played ... can someone refresh my memory?

What about ‘tai chi’? Not the ‘Tai Chi” kungfu but in Cantonese ‘tai chi’ means the letter (pronounced ‘tai' ... meaning big). We played this game at the badminton court where players have to spread out their arms and legs (which resembled the Chinese letter   ... hence the name) to block your opponents from crossing the certain lines ... I remember I always took the first available bus in the morning so I can get to school early to play a few games before the school starts.

Many old games, words and phrases will soon be forgotten. The same goes for many old terms and old name of places that are no longer use by the younger generation ... for example, I was partnering a young player in a badminton game not too long ago and when our opponents returned a high shot, I instinctively called out loud (to my younger partner) ... “square”. Look, to old school type of badminton players like me ... ‘square’ means retreat or move back to your own box (or square ... hence the term). But my younger partner was confused ... he looked at me and asked ... errrr Uncle ... what is ‘square’ ah? Later, I jested to myself ... nobody uses the term ‘square’ in badminton anymore you old fool!

Let me tell you a name of a place (in PJ) which no one uses anymore ... my friend and I were looking for a place to have lunch and I suggested that we go to ‘Sun Tow’ (in Cantonese). Puzzled at my suggestion, he asked ... Where is ‘Sun Tow’? I said ... State. Still a bit baffled, he asked me again ... Where is State? It did not occur to me that my young friend doesn't know the place which I called ‘State’ or  'Sun Tow’ in Cantonese ... the younger generation really don’t know that there is an old cinema called State Cinema in that area ... I am not sure if it is still called State now. Anyway, my friend told me that area is called PJ New Town.

Time flies, things changed, old names and phrases may have been forgotten by many but I still remember a lot of them. I like to talk and reminisce about the good old times we had, the old games we played, the old phrases we remembered, the old names we knew ... they bring back a lot of good memories  ... I like to remember them and I am glad I can still remember them.

October 15, 2013

"Bor Hu Hair Ya Hoh"

Recently I indulged in a new interest ... tea, I mean drinking tea ... Chinese tea to be exact. So, I am learning how to brew a pot of good “puer” tea. Experimenting with the rudiments of tea brewing ... the nature of the pot, the cups and saucers (porcelain, ceramics or clay), the water (tap, mineral or pure water), the water temperature, the type (and age) of tea leaves, the fire (from gas, charcoal or methylated spirits) and the various methods of making tea ... learning how to brew a good pot of tea.

A tea enthusiast said to me ... “Shiek ... just GOOD is not enough, you should learn how to brew a PERFECT pot of tea".

PERFECT? Or for that matter ... perfection. OK, let me stray away from tea for a while and say a few things on my mind about perfection. Striving for perfection is for those very particular people ... aptly called the perfectionists. In their determination to strive for the very best, they cannot be too compromising ... their need to be demanding, insistent, stubborn, adamant and obdurate will most likely cause a lot of inconvenience, uneasiness, discomfort and agitation in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against it ... just that I am not that determined generally. Maybe once a while I am adamant and stubborn (mostly for the wrong reasons) but most of the time I am a “never mind, chin chai lah” (meaning whatever) kind of person. I am ok with “this or that’ and there is no hard and fast rule for me. So, I have to (and I can) live with second best or even less. Really, I find it a lot easier for me being able to settle for less.

I cannot be a perfectionist ... I am happier being the opposite. As a trekker hiking up mountains, reaching the peak will be the perfect result. But for me, it was not really about reaching the peak ... my focus is on enjoying the journey. Waking up early, waiting and meeting fellow trekkers, the jokes during the easy morning drive, the breakfast at a quaint village along the way, casual chat while trekking, enjoying the breeze, listening to the birds, appreciating the wild faunas, stop to look at morning sun rays penetration the tree tops, thinking about where and what to eat after the tiring trek. Really, the last thing on my mind is the peak ... it is PERFECTLY ok if I don’t make it to the peak.

Now, back to tea ... a perfect pot of tea? I have heard and seen how people go about brewing (what I think is) a perfect pot of tea and I have great respect for these people. They are absolutely serious about their tea ... the elaborate process they observed involves stringent rules and procedures, specialized tools and trappings, clear sense and surroundings, deep technical and historical knowledge of tea ... plus, the unique skills and abilities garnered from years of experience.

WOW! That is serious stuff ... ask any tea master and they will say the same.

Look, for non-perfectionist like me ... I “play play” only ... I may not be able to make a perfect pot of tea but I am more than happy if I can make a good pot of tea with whatever I have. There is a saying in Hokkien ... "bor hu hair yah hoh” [也好] translated loosely it means “no fish, prawn is good enough” ... I am PERFECTLY alright with “good enough”.

September 24, 2013

Don't envy

Recently in a social gathering, I met a couple of those "show-off" kind of people. You know, those ... "Hey, notice the brand of car I am driving! Look at my watch! Did you see the platinum card I am using? My kids are smarter!" kind of people. I am sure you have met one or two of these characters before. I feel that nowadays people put a lot more emphasis on status than it used to be ... they want others to know they are living well and be envious of them.

Well, I don’t envy them ... for that matter, I don’t envy anyone. I don’t believe people should envy and wish they had what someone else have.

I have been tempted by the influences of both worlds. Of the rich and famous ... I have seen people living the lifestyle of luxury, pleasure, lavishness and affluence but I don’t envy them. And of the simple and humble ... I have read about the lives and teachings of distinguished masters, teachers, gurus and “sifus” but I don’t envy to be like them.

I learn from both worlds and gather what I think is good for me ... so, I choose to be content with an easy, simple life that is free from outdated beliefs and dogmas.

Envy is perceiving that you are always lack of something ... it get worse when it morphs into jealousy ... that is when it starts screwing with your thoughts, feelings and life. If you are not content with what you have ... hey, go strive harder for what you desire. Don’t envy ... if you do, you are counting other people’s blessings instead of your own and you will be miserable because you cannot be envious and happy at the same time.

September 02, 2013

We cannot afford “high class”

We were invited to a birthday party and on that day just as I was about to change, my daughter said to me ... “Daddy, we are going to a “high class” restaurant you know” ... she was hinting that I should dress up a bit and I answered cheekily ... “We cannot afford “high class you know”. My daughter gave me a blank stare ... she don’t understand what I meant, she was worried that I will go in my seasoned khaki pants, a fake sports shirt bought at my favorite pasar malam (night market) and my cheap pair of (dog chewed) sandals ... which is how I usually dress going out.
So, I did dress up a bit ... put on a weathered pair of jeans, a "still quite new wore a few times only” T-shirt I bought at a hypermarket (two CNYs ago) and my old pair of (Jusco Sale 70% discounted) sneakers ... really, that is me dressing up.

And indeed it was a “high class” restaurant ... I hope I did not “sutt lai” (embarrass) anyone.

Now, that is not what I intend to talk about here ... I am just giving a prelude to the term “high class”. What I want to talk about is managing the “high class” expectations of my kids.

You see, I am very reluctant to take my kids (or even let them go on invitations) to expensive fine dining restaurants or alfresco styled cafes or other swanky brasseries and bistros. We don’t need it ... more importantly, I don’t want my kids to be influenced by extravagance and overindulgence ... at least not until they make it out on their own. Even then, I hope they don’t get caught by the “high class” obsession ... getting into the habit of indulging on brands, trends and opulence ... hence that is why I am trying to manage their expectation now.

I once heard a mother telling her friends that she spent “kei pak mun che ma” (in Cantonese meaning a few hundred dollars only) on coloring and treatment for her daughter’s hair ... she sounded as if it is just small money out of the pocket. I am not against teenagers coloring their hair but spending “kei pak mun” to do it? That is not the way ... at least not for my kids. I am sure there are other “wallet friendly” options.

I can accept the need to pay several thousand dollars for a teenager’s dental braces but spending a few hundreds for a teenager’s hair coloring and treatment ... that is outlandish. I don’t think a teenage girl should be given that kind of luxury.

People tell me about birthday parties for their kids that cost several thousand dollars held at “high class” outlets. If these people tell me they are more than willing to spend thousands of dollars on good and proper education for their kids and maybe many times more when their kids are at tertiary level, I will be very happy for them but splashing thousands of dollars for a birthday do ... that is definitely out of the way for me. I think celebrations can be held in a simple and meaningful manner with those that matter most to you.

Some parents talked about their kids getting onto programs and getting involved in organizations to help the poor and unfortunates ... they tell me how their kids will learn to be a better person when they (their kids) witness how deprived and underprivileged the very poor people live. But on the other hand, I see the very same parents allowing their kids to live in extravagance, indulging in lavishness spending that directly contradicts every single word that they told me. Let me say this ... if their kids really did witness, learned and understood how important a few dollars can be to a very poor family, these kids will NEVER want their parents to spend hundreds of dollars just to do up their hair.

Call me old fashion or call me a “kedekut” (stingy) ... my kids can live comfortably learning to manage what they have and how they should spend. If they decide to go for good food, they have to settle for Jin Nan Fish Ball Noodle, State Wanton Mee, Ah Wa Hokkien Mee, Fatty Mee Hoon Kueh, Klang Bak Kut Teh, Chuan Kee Chicken Rice and the likes ... NOT the likes of Ole Ole Bali @ Kiara, Alexis @ BSC, Genji @ Hilton or Garibaldi @ Bangsar ... not even on special occasions.

I am not saying we have to live like a pauper ... I just don’t want my kids to think about Starbucks when they want a cup of coffee ... Starbucks is not a place for coffee ... it is place to for those who want “to be seen”. At their age, they don’t need the latest smart phones nor do they need on-the-go online access. If they want internet access they can wait till they get home ... we have high speed wifi at home ... THAT is already a luxury.

So, to my darling daughter (and my dear son), when you read this ... I hope you can understand what I meant when I said we cannot afford “high class”.