Altered perception...


Written on 12/22/2005 04:52:00 pm by sikapitan

It has been a hectic 7 days for me, starting from last Thursday. I was involved in Nikki’s unique album launching project, which was an interesting and unforgettable experience. Not least the fact that for the entire weekend, I was surrounded by gays. Heck, even the girls aren’t straight!

I used to be a bit homophobic, and I guess a lot of straight guys out there are generally wary when it comes to dealing with gays. But the weekend sojourn to Bukit Bintang really opened my eyes to the fact that they’re really great to hang out with. I mean, there’s always this awkwardness with knowing that you’re talking to guys who would like to get into your pants, or girls who wouldn’t, but I had a good time.

And hey, after hanging out (not to mention sharing a room) with them for 3 days, I can positively say that I am straight. How many so-called macho men out there could really say that? You never know unless you’ve been tempted right?

At the end of the day, I am glad that I met them, and made friends with them. I can’t say for sure that I have now completely removed my prejudice against homosexuals, but I know with these guys, I have nothing but the most profound respect and could safely consider them as good friends. Period. Not gay friends, just friends.

I took this picture when I was walking along Lot 10. It’s a sad reflection on our society, on our nation, when in the midst of development, poverty still exist. I am not a big fan of beggars, especially those who suddenly appear along the roads leading to a Muslim cemetery during Hari Raya, but in this case I cannot help but give a ringgit every day. He can’t fend for himself; he definitely can’t work…where else could he turn to?

I used to really hate beggars, and the whole concept of begging. I was pragmatic, always thinking that if other people can work, why can’t they? But as years go by, I have seen that in life, it’s not always about choice. Choice is but an illusion, to a certain extent. Society shapes you in more ways than you can imagine. Who your parents are, what are they working as, where do you grow up, which school did you go to, how were you raised…this will ultimately shape who you are.

Which can only explain why, despite the fact that they watch TV, follow the entertainment scene, have seen pictures of people who dress well, and generally seeing other people dress well, mat rempits still choose to wear oversized striped fake Polo with tight jeans, boots and caps. Having a mullet is a fashion catastrophe, and yet there they are proudly looking like the estate version of Joe Dirt. In their mind, that looks good. They’ve been brought up, surrounded by, elements which says that looks good. Who could blame them then?

Back to beggars. I mean, I’m sure some beggars out there really are junkies and losers who would love nothing better than to earn some easy money looking sad at sidewalks. But I’m pretty sure as well that some of them are simply there because they’re motivated by desperation. The desperation to survive no matter what. Life is not always rosy, and when push comes to shove, you have to do what you have to do. What we as members of society should try to do is understand the root cause of poverty, how wealth should be distributed evenly to correct the social-economic imbalance, and ultimately, learn what it means to be human again.


Lessons from the cubicle...


Written on 12/10/2005 04:11:00 pm by sikapitan

The Malaysian public toilets are not only famed for its repugnant stench and visual aids on what constitutes shit and puke but also for its art. Art you say? Yes, art. No public toilet worthy of the term “public toilet” can escape from Malaysia’s very own Andy Warhols and Picassos. These artistic expressions come in the form of neatly CARVED engraving or, for those on “art-lite” mode, permanent marker pens.

Interestingly, I realized that these “artists” seems to attack only public toilets which offer the most-necessary “water-pipe” service. I might have missed a few cubicles here and there, but generally the toilets in Megamall and KLCC seemed to have escaped the wrath of these “artists”. Both these malls do not offer “water-pipes”. Instead, we have to put up with the very-cumbersome and messy bidet experience. It’s so non-Malaysian (or rather non-Malay) that I think most people when presented with these sorts of toilet prefer to just keep the horses in the stable, if you catch my drift.

Could this be the reason why they’re relatively free from graffiti?

In my humble experience pissing and taking craps at public toilets, I’ve seen all sorts of messages left for all to see. Most common is the “If you want sex, call…” followed by the phone number of their ex-gf, ex-bf, ex-friend, enemy, or maybe sometimes, their own number. Heck, I seriously think only fools would take the bait and give any of thought to calling the numbers. But since we’ve got fools who put them up in the first place, I won’t be surprised if the offer for free sex is taken up.

Next is the “Mamat was here…” message, perhaps the most innocent of all. Mankind is preoccupied with stamping their territory, and “x was here” or sometimes “x wuz ere” is another form of planting a flag on a piece of land that you’ve visited. Just like Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon. Maybe there’s a “Neil was here…” somewhere on the moon, who knows?

Last but not least is the political message, usually short and succinct, punctuated by plenty of exclamation marks. “UMNO SUX…”, “Dr. M kroni rasuah…”, “Hidup Anuar….” – at least these used to be quite popular. But in the days of Pak Lah, there’s less political dissatisfaction amongst the “artists”. Usually the political nature of the message will lead to the most serious form of “art” – racists’ remarks.

I took this photo at a cubicle in One Utama. It might touch on a few raw nerves, and most people will dismiss it simply as idiots calling each other idiots. But I always view such unique ‘non-mainstream’ expression of individuality as an indication of a deeper, underlying social problem. You just have to hang out with a bunch of kampung kids to see where this whole thing is headed. Heck, even amongst my friends, who have been fortunate enough to experience the whole Sekolah Kebangsaan spirit of multi-racialism will somehow carry with them a certain tendency to regard others by the color of their skin.

Which is weird really, because there has never been a time when Malay, Chinese and Indian youths share so much in common. We all listen to the same music from the West, shop at practically the same stores, like the same football team, go clubbing at Zouk…and most importantly we are as detached from our real culture (example, how many Malays here still wear the baju Melayu other than during Hari Raya?) that assimilation seems the most likely conclusion. Yet, this is not so.

Maybe it’s because of these unrealized similarities we subconsciously want to stay attached to our identity as a Malay, Chinese or Indian. Our folks (just look at the friends who came by my grandma’s house in Penang during Hari Raya – Chinese and Indians in a true spirit of Muhibbah) learned to celebrate the differences in culture. They understood and see the different colors on the social fabric. “The belief that the character and abilities of individuals are correlated with their race is not necessarily racism, since this can be asserted without implying an inequality in value…”quoted from Wikipedia. I guess this is true for the previous generation. They recognized the dissimilarities, which made it easier to see the similarities. Confusing eih?

Anyway, back to toilets. Did you guys know that in a recent Durex Sex Survey, public toilets have been named as the most preferred sexual location for Malaysians??? Ironic isn’t it when public toilet is also the first thing that cropped up most of my friends’ mind when asked, “What’s the dirtiest place you’ve ever been to?”…I guess it’s true what they say, sex is best when it’s dirty. I just didn’t realize that Malaysians take it oh-so-literally…

Free service...


Written on 12/02/2005 01:37:00 am by sikapitan

Yeeehaaaa… I’ve never thought that the act of sleeping without worries can give so much joy. I’ve suddenly learned to appreciate why simple people, people who live as they please, last longer than corporate-powerbrokers, lawyers and even doctors. It was simply amazing, more liberating than going out with friends, more peaceful than hanging out with your girlfriends, more satisfying than playing football because simply put – those things do make you worry. You’re worried what to wear, where to bring her, how to handle that tough centre-forward.

Sleeping without worries is often said, but seldom practiced. Trust me. I’ve spent countless nights wondering what time I have to wake up the next morning, when to finish my assignment, or simply what to have for lunch. But last weekend, the weekend in which I finally finished my exams, I slept without thinking about anything…seriously, nothing! Heck, it was so relaxing that I don’t even bother wearing clothes. Too much detail perhaps.

But the joy didn’t last for long. By Monday I realized that my car was way overdue for some serious servicing. In two years, I’ve managed to clock up 42 000 kms, not bad considering that Shah Alam and Subang (which my mom believed the only route I ever took) is a mere 15 minutes away. I don’t actually calculate how far I drove every week, but basically I covered more than what my mom does going to the office. This is why she’s pretty pissed.

Regardless of that innocuous background drama, I drove to the nearest (and admittedly very impressive - from the facilities to their customer service) Honda service centre on Tuesday without any apprehension as previously; I spent an average of RM 8 per service. Yes, as part of Honda’s great after-service promotion for new vehicles, users get free service for 2 years or 40 000 km, whichever comes first. This pretty much successful carrot for car buyers have been duplicated by other makes – Volvo, Alfa…they all now come with free service. But do believe that FREE is relative.

The guys processing the paperwork remarked that I’ve finished my free-service benefit, and since the car has reached 40 000, there’s plenty of work to be done. Changing of this filter and that, brake pads and what-nots. He said it’s going to be a bit expensive. And I figured since I’ve always paid less than RM 10, a bit expensive should probably be around RM 400-500 – expensive yet not unexpected.

“Hmmm…semua RM 1, 126…kita kena tukar ini, ini…” and as he pointed out the very expensive OEM-parts my brain stopped functioning. A GRAND! F*Ck! That’s like paying for the car’s monthly installment!!! I’m definitely not saying Honda is trying to cheat me of “my parents’ hard-earned money”, and I was kind of expecting this…but it still caused my heart to skip a beat. “Ermmm…okay okay…petang nanti saya ambik…”

And as I stood in line at the ATM (after a frantic call for an emergency Maybank2U third-party transfer), I wondered how the hell I’m supposed to afford paying for this sort of service plus paying the monthly installment if I’m a junior lawyer earning at most RM 2 000+ per month. I just can’t. My lifestyle, at this current moment, without trying to sound pretentious, is more than I could handle if I were to get a job as a graduate – even the most capable of graduates earn not more than RM 3, 500 working for someone other than their parents and cronies. It makes you wonder, it made ME wonder, if I would finally have to bite my tongue, and turn over to the dark side ie. work for my dad!

This is where dreams, and aspirations, have to be tempered with reality. On the one hand, I would love nothing more than to live life as a rock star, lauded at AIMs and Juara Lagu. I would love to direct a film, win some awards. I would simply love writing shit, and dirt, that people love to read. But alas, even the most successful of directors cannot compete with the financial might of a corporate giant. Even the most celebrated of rock stars must ask sponsorship for their concerts from big corporations. Let’s not talk about column writers, who are probably doing it part-time anyway. And let’s face it; if there were one thing I have learned to enjoy, it would be having money. Lots of it.

It might sound stupid; it might sound immoral and it most definitely sound like I’ve been spoiled. But at the end of the day, it makes perfect sense to me. Riches require sacrifices. Even if it's your dream.