December 19, 2012


(Many may not like what is written in this article especially those whose faith and belief encourages praying … so, please read at your own discretion and approach with an open mind)

While talking to a family friend, she asked me did I go pray to my late father (at the temple where his ashes are kept) on the recent anniversary of his passing … my father passed away 4 years ago last month.  I said … “No, I did not”. She was surprised by my reply and she then asked … “Do you remember the date he passed away?” I said … “YES, of course”.

“Then why you didn’t go pray to your father?” … she asked again. And before I could reply, she teasingly said to me in Cantonese … “Lei tou ng how soon yau ng chuin chung lei low tou” … loosely translated, it means that I don’t have a sense of filial piety and respect for my father. Then she went on to say I should have at least go pray to my father on the anniversary of his passing.

I did not say anything then but let me say this now … I DISAGREE.

I totally disagree with the opinion that to show I am a good filial son and to show respect to my father, I will have to go pray to him on the anniversary of his passing … as well as on other traditionally observed days and events too.

I don’t believe that praying to my father will show anything … he is dead. What can I show him? What can I tell him? Maybe you will say I have no respect for him … oh no, I respect my dad, I just don’t think that respect is to be shown by praying in front of his ashes at a temple.

If it was solely my decision, I would have had my father’s ashes washed away by the waves of the ocean. … I don’t need any ashes to remember or respect anyone. OK, I did not go pray to my father … so, I am a bad unfilial son? So be it … my father is not here anymore … do you think it makes any difference?

Hey, you want to show you are a filial son? Show it when your old folks are alive. You want to show that you respect them when they are gone? You do whatever they taught you and you do it well … that is the greatest respect you can show.

I have done whatever I need to do for my father … maybe not a lot but I have done whatever that is in my capacity as a son for his father. I have done it for him when he was alive. Now that he is no longer with us … I don’t think whatever I do now can show anything good for him … least of all, pray.

I DON’T PRAY … I don't believe in praying. To me, praying is just a way of doing absolutely NOTHING but still think you have helped.

December 05, 2012

Life's too f**king short?

In the last “boy’s night out” with my good friends … as usual, plenty of beers, jokes and laughter but amidst all that, we also talked casually about the many challenges of life. And (what I think is) the most common question people asked about life … “what is life?” became a point of discussion. Though we made a few attempts to discuss it seriously but in a state of alcohol induced mind, we never really get to anything serious … instead, we got carried away with a variety of whimsical views and opinions about life.

The next day (and very much sober) I thought of it again, this time seriously … what is life? Let me share my thoughts here.

I have heard people ask this question too many times … from listening to many people and reading from so many sources, I have not come across anything close enough that can offer a fitting answer on what is life. Many have tried to provide their views … some made a bit of sense but most just gave a few sentences of generalized opinions.

Do you ask … “what is life?” Are you hoping that the answer can be found in an expressive sentence or in a few meaningful words? Have you found the answer you are looking for? Don’t look for it … I don’t think you will find anything searching the internet nor do you get any answers from inspirational books and you definitely won’t get it from what I am writing here. Yes, there are many meaningful life quotes written or said by famous people but don’t take their words for it … go live it yourself.

What is life? Don’t ask … if you are asking then you are not living life. Why? Life is not meant to be asked … it is meant to be lived, it demands to be lived. It can be good, can be bad … some days it is easy, other days it can be very painful. But live it … bit by bit, moment by moment and day by day … THAT, is life.

Very often life passes by unknowingly and too quickly … then it is too late to start searching for what you have missed knowing very well that you cannot replace lost time. Maybe you can seek solace in some life quotes. Maybe that few words can provide a bit of consolation but more likely in frustration and desperation, you curse in anguish … life’s too f**king short!

No … life is not short, you just waited too f**king long to start living it. 

November 19, 2012

What happened?

When I left my full time job a few years ago, I occasionally do freelance jobs (of all sorts) ...  to earn me some extra pocket money. One of the many ‘odd’ jobs that I do is providing transport ...  some call it “private taxi” but I still like to call it “providing transport”. I send people everywhere ... to airports, train stations and sometimes I drive people outstation. I do it every now and then catering to a handful of regular customers.

On one occasion ... more than a year ago, I got a call from a lady for a trip to the airport. When I picked her at her house, I immediately recognized her and she too recognized me ... I worked with her once on a marketing event some years ago. She was surprised to see me now working freelance providing transport. On the way to the airport we chatted and I found out that she is now a top executive of a well known international cosmetic company ... told me she is going overseas for a conference.

We chatted casually for a long while and then she asked me (I cannot remember the exact words but something to this effect) ... “Shiek, you were a well paid senior manager in a big MNC ... now you are just making a couple of hundred bucks driving and carrying luggage for people ... what happened?”

At first, I thought I detected a note of mockery in the question ... well, maybe not, maybe I am just a bit sensitive ... anyway, told her I simply had enough of the corporate world and one day I just decided to give it all up ... that’s it, nothing happened!

And disbelievingly she said ... REALLY? Now, the tone and manner she replied told me I was right in the first place, she did intend to inject a bit of sarcasm in the question. Not sure why but I guessed in her opinion, one just don’t walk away from a well paid job in the corporate world to do odd jobs ... something must have happened. 

Then the conversation shifted back to her career and she told me how she worked her way up the corporate ladder over the last several years, how busy she is now with the travelling and meetings and the corporate jargons lasted all the way to the airport. On the way back, I thought to myself ... good for her, she is now a high flying corporate hotshot, enjoying a great career ... she is very likely to go far.

After that, I forgot all about this lady ... until recently ... when I saw her again. This time she was in the waiting area of a private hospital. This time, I saw a very different person. When I greeted her, I could hardly hear her voice ... from what I see, she was quite sick. I spoke to her friend who was accompanying her and though we did not say much of what is actually happening to her ... the baldness, the pale face and the skeletal frame suggested the side effects from chemotherapy treatment of a terminal illness. I felt sorry for her and I am sure those who know her felt the same but that is all one can offer.

As I drove away from the hospital ... I recalled the conversation that I had with her (when I was sending her to the airport) ... she was a top executive of a large company, a high flying corporate hotshot who was doing so well, a great career and so much to look forward to ... all that doesn’t matter anymore. Ironically I thought to myself ... what happened?

(Later I was told that she passed away due to cancer)

Too many times I have heard of similar stories ... life throws a hard curve and strike without warning. Almost in all of these situations, it is always too fast, too late. By the time one realizes it ... nothing matters anymore and by then there is no point asking ... "what happened?"

If someone ask me again ... “what happened?” ... let me say this ... what happened to me is my choice ... I chose to leave the fast lane for a simpler life. For the last several years, I chose the way I want to live ... I like it this way. I like to choose “what happened” to my life ... for as long as I can. 

November 06, 2012

I will go to heaven ...

I believe in a lot of things … all sorts of things. Many people don’t agree with what I believe in … it is perfectly OK … I am not going to lose sleep if people don't share my beliefs.

Then again I don’t believe in a lot of things. I always tell people … please don’t be upset when I tell you that I don’t share your beliefs and I am not at all concerned about what your beliefs are.

I think we can all get along well based on who we are not what we believe in. I have a lot of friends, everyone with their own beliefs. I accept my friends for what they are, not for what they believe in even though I may think what some of my friends believed in is an outdated dogma. And on the same notion, these same friends may think that what I believe in (aliens) is a big joke and they too accept me for what I am.

But recently a couple of very stubborn people (one is my ex-college mate) got a bit disappointed when I refuse to acknowledge what they are trying advocate … they tried very hard to convince me to accept their views and beliefs.

My logic is quite simple … if you want me to believe in something, you have to answer some of my questions. But I was told that I don’t have to ask questions … just believe and I will have the answers. Errrrr … sorry, I just cannot accept that,

I believe in asking questions that need to be answered … not just be given answers that cannot be questioned at all. I believe that there is no certainty of anything so it needs proof of everything … I just cannot accept a belief that is certain of everything and don’t need proof of anything.

I choose to live my life free from religious indoctrination since I was in my early teens … I am very comfortable with it … please let it be.

So I told my stubborn ex-college mate (and his friend) this … I won’t bore them to tears with my theories of little gray beings with large protruding eyes, so please don’t come tell me those you will not go to heaven stories if I don’t accept their belief. Hey, I don’t believe there is a heaven (or hell), so it doesn’t apply to me. But they still insist that I am wrong and they say I will know when I die.

OK, OK ... even if I am wrong, when I die and found out that there is a heaven (so very likely I will be in hell, right?) but let me tell you this … I will go to heaven … ILLEGALLY!

October 25, 2012

You think I have a good life?

Time and time again people said to me (in Cantonese) …”Wah, lei ng sai cho … ho maeng!” which means … “Wow, you don’t have to work … good life!”

So, you think I have a good life?

OK, let’s see … while many of my peers are driving luxury cars worth a couple of hundred thousand bucks, I am driving a used Perodua which I bought for less than forty grand. While many of my ex-colleagues are buying posh condos and superlink houses in classy residential areas, I am staying in the same 1400 sq. ft. house for almost 20 years ... very likely for the rest of my life.

While many can afford fancy electronic gadgets for their kids, my kids have to make do with used or cloned devices that I sourced from online discount stores. While most people I know treat their families to exclusive holiday packages half way around the world, I scour off-season cheap tickets from budgeted airlines to neighboring countries for a short break with the family.  And while you and your family go to fancy restaurants over the weekend, we have to make do at food courts and coffee shops.

And you think I don’t need to work? I worked already  ... I worked my ass off for many years and I don’t want to go on working my ass off forever. So what do I do? I work at my own pace, make some small money and spend on small things. I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be. I told myself I can live with what I don’t have and make do with what I already have. 

And back to the question … you think I have a good life?

I don’t know what is your idea of a good life … for me even though I don’t drive a luxury car but then I don’t have to get stuck in the traffic every morning rushing to work, worrying about meetings, reports, sales and budgets … I can do things leisurely at my own pace. I may not own a posh condo but then I don’t have to worry about mortgages, bank loans, monthly installments and the ever rising interest rates … I sleep easy every night with no financial worries.

My kids may not have fancy gadgets to play with but they have time to be involved in many outdoor activities and enjoy the nature. My family doesn’t get to travel far for holidays because I rather save the money to give the kids a better education platform. And even though we seldom go out for fancy meals, I am glad we are all able to sit together and chat over a simple home cook meal almost every day. 

That, is my idea of a good life … so, YES! … I have damn good life.

October 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Seas

Not too long ago I wrote “Are you making a good living by what you get” … in the article I said if you are making a good living by what you get, don’t forget to make a good life by what you can give.

Then recently I read an article titled “A Tale of Two Seas” … it speaks of a natural phenomenon about the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. And you know what? This phenomenon emphasized exactly my point about making a good life by giving. Let me share it with you.

On the north of the Dead Sea is the Sea of Galilee and both seas receive water from the Jordan River. While they take in water from the same river in the same region, they are very different. The Sea of Galilee is glittering with rich and colorful marine life, plants and lots of fish but the Dead Sea has ten times more salt that any other ocean, so salty that no marine animals, vegetation and fish can live in it … it is ‘dead’ … hence the name.

Why? You see, water from the Jordan River flows into Sea of Galilee and then flows out ... meaning, the Sea of Galilee takes in water and gives it out … whereas, the Dead Sea (situated at a very low point and does not have any outlets) is just taking and collecting the water that is flowing in. Over time, more and more water keeps flowing in and then evaporates leaving tons of salt and other minerals in it, making it unable to sustain marine life.

I am sure you can see the point here … to make a good life, take and give … like the Sea of Galilee. If we are just taking in more and more without giving like the Dead Sea … at the end of the day, everything will just evaporates away.

Though it is just a geographical formation … the natural phenomenon of the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee exemplified the saying “you make a good life by what you give”.

September 25, 2012

Life is unfair … so, go save some “f**k off” money

My daughter came home from school rather sad and asked me … “Daddy, when my friend and I chatted in class, the class monitor reported us to the teacher and we were punished but when the class monitor did the same, it is OK … she (the class monitor) was not punished … why?” I asked her did anyone report it to the teacher … my daughter said no as they were all afraid of reprisal from the class monitor and worse, the class monitor is the teacher’s favorite.

So, what will you tell your daughter to do? Go seek justice … be brave … stand your ground? No, I told my daughter … “Life is unfair … there are times, in fact most of the time, we just have to swallow it and get on”. 

Almost two years ago I wrote an article titled “It is not fair!” (click to read) … in it, I said that the moment you were born, you were crying while everyone else is smiling … you know very well that life is not going to be fair.

Let me tell you something … an episode of my life not many people know about … maybe it is good to tell now and see what comments I will get. 

In my younger days, I worked as a marketing manager in the automobile industry and my boss was the Director of the Marketing Department. I was enjoying a great career with a well known international company but after a year and a half, things started to change. My boss employed a woman (who was from the agency handling our PR campaigns) to take up a newly created marketing position in the department. Very soon favoritism towards the woman was obvious … to the dissatisfaction of many in the department. Really, it was very obvious that there was something going on between my boss and the woman.

Because it directly affects me, I decided to seek clarification … had a talk with my boss and told him that he is bias towards the woman in many ways at work and I think there is something going on between him and her. This was what he told me … his exact words “Shiek, you are just jealous that someone is doing a better job than you”. I can feel the resentment from my boss from that moment onwards. I was seeking fairness but got nothing. I struggled to carry on because I wanted to get to the bottom of things.

Very soon the “hanky panky” was an open secret, everyone was talking about it but no one dares to do anything. I then decide to escalate it … brought my dissatisfaction to the MD (my boss’s boss), a female expatriate. I thought I could get some sort of payback. And what did I get? Absolutely nothing ... the MD told me that if I am not happy, I have to sort it out directly with my boss.

Then I knew I can start counting my days in the company so I went to “sort it out” with my boss. Reluctantly he admits that he is sleeping with the woman but said it is personal and he is not at all biased during work. Oh really? Not bias? Believing that is as good as believing there is a genie in the magic lamp. Anyway, I already had my resignation letter typed out … was not in the mood to say much when I handed him my resignation but I am sure he gets the message loud and clear that I am f**king him off. 

 Maybe at that time, I have enough of what I called “f**k off” money … so I can f**k someone off without financial worries. YES, I redeemed a bit of pride, a bit of consolation but no matter what, I was at the losing end and that ended my career in the automobile industry.

I worked hard, played by the rules and all I wanted was a fair deal … I thought I can get a bit of justice but I was so wrong .

So what did I learn? I was David trying to fight Goliath … I so wanted it to be like the David versus Goliath from ancient writings, the one time in the biblical era where David won. But really, you can’t fight Goliath and you don’t want to fight Goliath. In the real world … almost every time in those cases in the likes of David versus Goliath, David lost.

Of course people want to seek fairness when they are being bullied, when they lost out to favoritism and when they suffered at the hands of those with power and influence. But the sad reality is … many just can’t do anything because they have no financial foothold, they needed the monthly salary so they have no choice but to keep quiet and tolerate the unfair, prejudiced and biased situation. 

Look, life is unfair … sometimes you just have to swallow it and tell yourself it is OK to walk away with a bruised ego. But if you want a bit of consolation, go save enough “f**k off” money … at least with that you get to fire a last shot to show some pride and get some satisfaction.