Thursday, April 27, 2006

Talking about Tea

My mother is making tea. I inch closer to the pot and let the steam waft into my face. It is the most comforting smell in the world for me. It reminds me always of quiet evenings after school when dad came home after work and I finished my homework on the dining table. I wasn't allowed to drink tea till I was much older but on some days, mom would let me have a sip. Those sips were like a peek into all things grown up, a glimpse to all the freedom that will come soon.

I am 13 when I am finally allowed to drink tea properly, still not too much, just a small cup in the evening. I dunk the sweet raisin bun bought for a few sen from the roti man and watch the tea rivulets trickle down the side of my hands as I gobble the bun.

I remember the pots and pots of tea brewed on Divali day for the streaming guests. And the tea shared after a favourite uncle's wedding, amidst the teary spectacle of goodbyes, noisy children, wilting flowers and messy decorations still strewn along the aisle.

Teh tarik, those floating creamy concoctions, a glistening yellow-brown in the air. Often overly sweet, the frothy air bubbles brim from the cheap plastic glass. Cooling parched throats on swelteringly hot days.

Tea my mother wakes up to make on nights that I stay up to study for an exam. The tea of elation when we gathered to celebrate exam results. The tea of relief we all drank the morning the much delayed letter saying that I was accepted at university arrived.

Jasmine, oolong, assamese, darjeeling, earl gray and green tea. Tea infused with ginger, raspberry, lemon, almonds, peppermint, camomile. Friendships built over tea and curry puff. Late night tea at the Bangsar mamak where I smoke my first cigarette and decide that I don't like it after all. But smoke anyway because it is cool to do so.

It is my first winter in England and I am trying to make my own masala tea. I pound the ginger and boil it with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. I add more sugar but it just doesn't taste right. It imbues my heart with the gnawing loneliness of harsh and cold days.

Tea that was all wrong. The brackish tea that was handed over the day my grandma died and strange women stood making the brew in the kitchen. A watery tea, a sloshing brown mud coloured tea. All wrong, wrong. Like the tea left undrunk, when hot tears streamed furiously after the exchange of the most hurtful words. And the tea that I never made the day you left in a huff and we had our first major row.

Milky tea at a road side hillstation tucked at the Himalayan foothills which I hold with hands still adorned with bridal mehendi. Realizing that I didn't want to keep my mind shut from you anymore. Posh afternoon tea to be had while nibbling dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream. Chai Tea Latte to unburden the mind and feel light again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Down the murukku trail

Caution: Rant and parenthesis galore

Gallivanting around KL down the murukku trail is a long story.

See, before I left, there were earnest requests for murukku/mixture whatchamacalit. A particular real life Celebrity Blogger (CB) told me about the best place in KL to get this stuff and deciding to be very smart about time management (considering that I had so little of it left), we agreed to meet at the location for lunch. So, we can buy the murukku as well-lah. The problem with going out with a CB is that they get accosted by people of all walks of life even at lunch. The biggest shock was when the restaurant manager came up to welcome CB and informed CB that a particular big honcho was to lunch there soon, pointing furtively at a table marked as 'reserved'. CB gave me and restaurant manager equal measures of alarmed looks. 'If we stay here Jane, we will end up eating with big honcho', she said, becoming increasingly agitated. I began envisioning all the tears of boredom that would be shed over such an encounter. How to have a proper chitter chatter like that?

RUNNNNNNNNNNNN...we grabbed our bags and literally ran, the staccato bursts of our shoes leaving a hurried trail down the muted ambience. We moved on to a quieter place for plenty of natter and what we both realized was a meeting of true kindred spirits (awww...). It was only about half an hour later, when we had well and truly left the place that I realised that I had entirely forgotten all about the murukku. Duh.

So, the next day, I get my sister to take a day off from work (it's not everyday that I, big sis, am in town, okay). I needed to buy a few things in Mid Valley after all. I ended up with 5 pairs of shoes, one plate of char kweh teow at Little Penang Cafe (RM10 or so a plate, shocking, shocking. How come everything in KL is so expensive these days? I just can't believe that I paid so much for a plate of noodles. And worst, roti canai is more expensive now because of petrol prices? What next? ooo I digress), a few books from MPH, new charger for camera and a hair wash (How I miss having my wash&blow at the salon. The one that comes with those divine head/shoulder massages as well. Hmmmmm. Once upon a time when I lived in KL, I never washed my hair myself. I just washed it at the salon near the office during lunch time. Seems like another life away : oh KL, land of great hair washes and domestic help).

Only to realize after coming home that I had completely forgotten the murukku again!

So, the day before I was flying, amidst all the flurry of last minute buying (including the ikan bilis to be stashed in between my books. I swear its only because the ikan bilis here is such an assault to the Malaysian version, limp, flaky and tasteless, that I am resorting to smuggling guises.) I managed to grab some of those murukkus at Lotus Jln Gasing. Finally. Harumppph.

That apart, KL this time was really about work which went rather well (including a job offer from across the causeway...what is that saying about how things always happen when you are not looking? But still, feels good to be wanted by somebody. And that the work that I have been obsessing about does have some kind of worth. And immersed in lovely camaraderie with the others who are obsessing about it as well).

Its not been all hahahehe. Practically dragged a someone else in desperate need to offload the weighted worries that were constricting my mind. One of those now very dear friends who makes me feel light again. Always. No questions, no judgements, just support and warmth. Sweetheart, you deserve only the good things in life for your beautiful heart.

Now though, back to crazy number of deadlines. All together now. Aaaaargghhhhhhhhh.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

No Hellos and Goodbyes for You Kuala Lumpur

She returns now a woman with new cities in her spirit.

Hello again, she had wanted to say to this old-new city. Yet, somehow her hello tipped at the corner of her mouth. A stilted, unsaid word. Flailing amidst the soursweet throaty feeling that wrapped her.

She couldn't remember saying goodbye that time when she packed her bags and books to leave. Not for a short holiday. But for a proper, grown-up move. To battle another life. 'I'll be back in no time' was all she remembered saying amidst the hazy blur of hugs and I'll miss yous at the airport.

So how does she say hello again to this city that coursed in her veins? It was a vain and vexing city. Her well-travelled eye is now critical of this facade. Draped around a muddied confluence, the towering new buildings spiral with a nouveau rich kind-of-city smell. The streets are strewn with apathy, while a sense of hurriedness permeates, following the sweat and dust.

She had seen many grander ones, full of pageantry and oozing with old world charm. Always, she felt quickly at home in most cities. It was just a matter of time before she would embrace its particular rhythms. She would always be on the go, seeing a magnificent icon emerge from the travel brochures, unearthing a new treasure, sauntering down unknown alleys, chatting with a fellow traveller in a noisy cafe, watching the sun rise in new lands and crumble into strange seas. Doing something, going somewhere. Time always ticked furiously in such cities.

But in the old-new city? Time stood still here. Encasing the years. No other city had bottled her 18 year old bright eyed self. The happy glint amidst a shared laugh. A gentler time. Of naivety and kindness. And tears, of anguish and heartbreak. Everywhere she went, she saw pieces of her former self.

It is here, in the old-new city that she could let go. She could just be. She remembers the piquant dreams that they nurtured together. The cackling and fizzling many layered dreams. That her mature eyes now notice have burnt into sombre grey ashes. And rise again in many new forms. The wind has strewn them in various nooks and crannies. In the city with no hellos and goodbyes.

She will return soon. With promises and kisses true.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Too Tired for a Title

I've always maintained this blog as non-political, non-affiliated, non anything basically. You and me, we share some happy, nice times about love and life. Sure, there's pain and hurt which sometimes I talk about, sometimes I don't. Then, there are fat days, blonde days, mad days.

But when I read imbecile statements like this, I feel downright insulted. SUHAKAM is Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Malaysia (the Malaysian Human Rights Commission). I was so hopeful when the Commission was set up. I was looking forward to an impartial, honest and INDEPENDENT commission championing human rights. Over the years, we all realized that this was just not going to happen but the latest statement by a government minister takes the cake

Here's an excerpt (datedTuesday, 28 March 2006, 10:12)

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz said Suhakam's responsibility will be as that contained in the Suhakam Act, which states that it is involved in the promotion of human rights.
Replying to a suplementary question from Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh), Nazri said there were sufficient enforcement bodies to conduct prosecutions.
Complaints made against bodies and agencies or malpractice would be forwarded to the authorities which have the power to prosecute in courts and other avenues.
"I think Seputeh (Kok) is dreaming. We had no intention of giving Suhakam any fangs. It was not our intention," he said.

April Showers, May Flowers

April, pregnant with hope. Flower buds burst forth, green leaves uncurl with vigour and squirrels are scampering about. The sun is indulgent and casts a warm eye. Then, the sudden showers slant down. Light spurts of rain refresh the reclusive senses, tickling away all winter-induced doldrums. April showers promising the joys of May flowers