Speak out

When you speak out about something that you care about, beautiful things are bound to happen.

You can ignite conversations on a topic that ordinarily wouldn’t be talked about, probably because it’s too sensitive, big or complex. However once the conversation is sparked, even the biggest and most complex issue can break down into million little pieces, then they won’t seem as intimidating anymore. This burden is much easier to carry when we carry it together.

You can empower, inform or entertain. You can provide a solution to someone else’s problem. Even if the only thing you manage to do is make one person relate to whatever you’re feeling or experiencing, you have done a great deal to that one human being. This life is much easier to go through when we go through it together.

Once in a while, there’ll be whispers calling you to quit. Some of them are well-intended, some are misled and some are self-inflicted.

Stay strong. You might think you’re not smart enough, not original enough, not right all the time, your grammar and sentence structure are all over the place. But you have your own voice, and there is nothing else like it in the world. No matter how small the voice is, you have the duty and power to use it to serve God (or the universe, if you may).

As Idris Jala said it, everyone has a passable point of view to teach. Find yours, and fight for it.

Preconceptions

When I was small (I mean, smaller), dad used to drive down to grandma’s house in Pahang, passing by a small church and a Chinese cemetery.

Pahang people were very sempoi and laid back so nobody did any ‘peaceful’ church protest nor did any Muslims fell down to their knees, transfixed, started shaking and eventually proselytized due to the irresistible aura of the cross. Not that I know of, at least.

BUT PERSONALLY, I WAS AFFECTED. Not in the way that you think. But rather, I remember having so much resentment over the cross and the Chinese cemetery. When the cross entered my line of sight, I wanted to get a sniper and shoot it down. When the Chinese cemetery invaded my peripheral vision, I wanted to acquire a bomb and drop it like it was hot (a friend later commented that that didn’t help with the terrorist stereotype, I chuckled).

How did all these anger and resentment stemmed from a 7 year-old? Looking back, it was a product of an all-Malay environment. Growing up in that little bubble, I was told by families, neighbours, and teachers that everyone else is an outsider. If they’re not Muslims, then they are out there to get us, to cheat us, to attack our faith. Nothing good could possibly come out of a person who’s not Muslims.

Not until I started working that these preconceptions were disproved, one by one. Two people whom I value the most are a Chinese Christian and an atheist Vietnamese, and they practice kindness and empathy more than anyone else I have ever encountered. They impacted my life in a big way. Yet here I am, still a Muslim. A struggling one, but still a Muslim.

Labels aren’t entirely bad. As much as I label myself as a Malay Muslim, I also label myself as a human being. And these people regardless of their gender, ethnicity and faith are also human beings. As complex and as unique. These people are not ‘they’ anymore, but ‘us’.

Yet when I told this story to my dad, he was sceptical. He told me my friends aren’t going to be there when I need them. I was heartbroken. Not because I believe him, but because I could understand where he came from.

He’s a great man, but he also came from that little all-Malay bubble I was once in, a place of ignorance and apathy towards everyone else. I’m only lucky to get out of that place by a simple act of… making friends.

That’s what I’m gonna keep doing. Making friends with people regardless of their gender, ethnicity, upbringing, social status, sexual orientation, faith, their decisions to have kids or not, or musical taste; then break whatever preconceptions I’m still having.

Hopefully, as I’ll drive down to dad’s house in Pahang, passing by the small church and the Chinese cemetery, my children are gonna have a completely different view of the world. A much better one.

How are you

There are two kinds of “how are you”. The first one uttered as a morning greeting with a wide Darlie smile and nothing behind the eyes before asking for a favour from a colleague you’ve probably talked to once during last Christmas party.

The second one is when you really mean it, when you’re ready to lend your ears to a potpourri of emotions. For every person is but a collection of stories, concerns, worries, excitement, all bottled up inside tiny clay bodies wanting to be vulnerable for a change. And the least you can do is listen.
Next time you have an alone time with someone you care for, ask that human being, “How are you?” And actually mean it.

Love

Sunset

For a single, late-twenties salaryman like myself, there’s no greater joy then hearing my sisters getting pregnant or my best friends getting engaged.

Early this year, a close friend sent me a photo of a ring on her finger. Ordinarily I would’ve burst out in tears, but at that time I was unglamorously sitting on a toilet bowl, so I quickly finished the business and went outside to cry appropriately.

Last weekend, I got to witness a declaration of love towards another person that I treasure. The proposal took place on a beach, under the sunset, surrounded by her closest darlings. She said yes of course (else we would have to throw her out into the sea).

Love is inspiring. Two person decide to commit into a relationship not just to fill emptiness and avoid loneliness, but to empower each other, creating something bigger than themselves. Something that they couldn’t have achieved separately. That the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Having someone to go home to, sharing your petty office problems and your radical life philosophies with. It’s highly reciprocal. Romantic relationship is like a perfect team formed to handle… life itself.

There will be conflicts. Sometimes even the most trivial, seemingly unrelated matters (you keep leaving laundry on the floor!) can lead to break ups. That’s why a healthy relationship needs honesty, tolerance and good communication. And if you can handle the communication in your home, you’ll be more prepared to handle communication out there in the workplace, churches, communities. A romantic couple, later a family, is the most basic unit that forms a society, so any kind of human interaction at home will affect how humans interact in a larger scale.

Then there’s platonic love. One that I’m proud to experience to such a high degree. I’m surrounded by an abundance of love from my close friends. It’s less reciprocal, we might meet only once a year, but the conversation flows so naturally as if we have just talked yesterday. I love them and I will do whatever in my capability to make them happy. Sometimes the love is so strong that I have go back to my solitary space and say thanks to God, cause I can’t contain it on my own. And then I don’t have to do anything anymore, because to have love itself, is a blessing.

Lastly, there’s unconditional love. One you might only experience when you have a child. One that I feel bad not doing it enough to my parents. I mean, of course I can’t talk to them intellectually like how I talk to my peers, and for God’s sake they even support the Government. But they are my parents. They provided me and my sisters with education when they didn’t have much to eat themselves, they cared for us and they told us that we are beautiful. I need to go back. Even if it means I’ll be playing The Witcher 2 all day I’ll be doing it on the dinner table where all of us gather, so they can see me and I can see them. They are my family, you know.

Happy Chinese New Year, friends. Celebrate love.

Red Campaign

Red Campaign

Pardon the lighting. It’s 12 o’clock on a Saturday night and I’m stuck here in this advertising firm, supposedly doing work but instead downloading a movie while sipping on a cup of coffee. Coffee that I bought with this blood money.

But hey, I gotta survive somehow you know, doing what I do.

And you, you know I love you. Regardless of what do you do, what car do you drive, and which hotel would you have your wedding dinner in (won’t change the amount of money I’ll slip into the ang-pow, no sir).

Because no matter how different our life paths might be, we share a similar set of values: compassion, empathy, and a belief that the most powerful agent of change is education.

I tell ya, our Malaysian kids, they need to know that they can be anything they want to be.

They can be like you – an architect, a high school teacher, a salesperson, a marketer, a traveler, a writer, someone who works in Petronas, an actress, a Yoga instructor, a Rails programmer (cause PHP is so yesterday), an artist, a designer, a tai-tai. Heck they can even be a management consultant and use difficult words such as ‘synergy’.

Unfortunately, not all kids have an equal opportunity. Some are even pulled out of school by their parents to earn money. I don’t need to convince you more about this, you know how it goes.

So hey, let’s do what little we can ya? Donate half of your latte money to TFM, and I’m vouching for them no less because I’ve worked there, surrounded by the most amazing bunch of people I’ve met, yet.

Your donation won’t even be taxed with GST. I think.

www.redcampaign.my
#redcampaign

EPIC Homes

Epic Homes

Don’t panic, there’s no need to lodge a child abuse complaint. This is just me digging holes, volunteering for Epic Homes (https://epichome.org/).

It’s a noble thing that they’re doing really, building houses for the Orang Asli. You’ll understand when you go there and see how they currently live in a little square of a hut, smaller than your average meeting room that you have teh tarik and donuts in. And the Orang Asli aren’t even that far, only one hour drive away from the city.

It was humbling to have met people from different backgrounds coming in to help as well. There was an ex-designer who sold his company to join Epic full time, a lady captain from Territorial Army who could lift a concrete slab by herself, and an IT guy who packed such amount of muscle mass he looked as big as a house.

Then of course out of courtesy, I told them I work in advertising.

“You’re a sellout! You went to the dark side!” One of them blurted.

Welp, I guess no amount of hole digging can atone for my sins.

There’ll Always Be a MyTeksi (TM)

I woke up late this morning, took a shower, then plop my hair with a towel cause that’s just how I roll. Then I called a cab via MyTeksi and got to the office within 15 minutes. Life is good.

I really mean that, my life IS much better with MyTeksi around. You know that excited feeling when a new app comes out where you can finally make your horrible photo not so horrible anymore? Yes, MyTeksi is kinda like that, but it is actually useful in real life – outside of the smartphone.

There’s a need for me to say this because amidst all the sexy marketing and cutting-edge technology by Uber, their cars are hardly available. But I can always depend on MyTeksi. With MyTeksi, There Will Always Be A Cab ™

Even if I were to be at a taxi stop and there’s a line of cabs waiting to take my money, I still rather use MyTeksi and pay RM2 extra, because I can be certain that I’ll be paying honest men doing honest work.

Life in KL feels much better and safer with MyTeksi. If I have a car I’ll make that my bumper sticker.

Save the world

Work has been great so far. Not just good, but great. It has been five and half a month, nearing the end of its honeymoon period yet I still love it, so I take that as a good thing.

I love what I am doing. I don’t necessarily love the cause (we’ll talk about that in another post), but I love the job. To be able to write every single day as my life’s work, just bettering my craft, is a dream. A dream I’m living right now.

Of course I miss TFM. I miss the individuals that I was surrounded with. Overachieving, intense, politically correct, opinionated, thought provoking, sincere, full of warmth. All driven by the same mission. Even though we didn’t work directly together, their amazingness were contagious.

But here in VLT, I have a team. MY team. For once in my career I feel like I am taken care of. I have my leaders and my comrades, and we are all in this together. We are going to take care of each other. I learn and execute much more leadership in this advertising agency that I ever did back then in that corporate backed, education driven, non-profit organization.

Fortunately I’ve been blessed to be in places that practice clean politics. Or maybe it is just me because I noticed my peers always have something to complain about. Maybe it is just me, then be it. I have limited resources and energy as it is, to be spent on collaterals.

Life is about choices and sacrifices, this I figured out as much. At least at this particular point in my youth, I need to be good at something, to be proud of myself first before I can go out and save the world.

Talk

If we only stopped talking about other people’s work habits, oddities, and weaknesses. If we stopped talking about other people at all, what would that left us?

Only things that matter, I hope. Only meaningful conversations between you and me.

Tous Les Jours

So I stopped by Tous Les Jours this morning to get some food. I only wanted to pay for ONE bread but this hipster Malay couple in front of me were taking their sweet sweet time looking through the menu. The girl noticed and nicely asked me to go first, but then the boyfriend looked at me one kind and said:

“Eh Khairul, ko kat sini. Lama tak nampak?”

To which I answered, “Ya man, I work around here now” and hurriedly left because I couldn’t remember who the guy was and didn’t want to be awkward.