On racial discrimination - from a personal recount
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10 October, 2016

  Most of us have had our fair share of experiencing racial discrimination. Being an Indian in Malaysia inadvertently places me and all other fellow Malaysian Indians in a very small and often a time marginalized 7.1% of the total population of this so-called multiracial country. We are often subject to senseless racial and religious sentiments spewed forward by the more 'purer, upper-class' races, who are incidentally the ones given more rights and freedom to bargain for better lives regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

I personally had spasmodic encounters with racism from preschool until lower primary and a little more during my upper primary school years. Being the sensitive lass that I was, I would often come running home with teary eyes and would gibberishly recount the awful instances the best I could to my mother. She was like my superhero during my growing-up years. Emotional though I was, I was most of the time absent-minded whilst my whole blurry and small world revolved around me. That said, I usually took no heed of what some nasty schoolmates had to say about me. I've heard the common racial slur directed at us Indians all too often - the 'Keling' word. I guess I had developed some sort of tolerance for it back then when I heard of that word every so often - directed towards my Indian teachers, fellow Indian friends, and myself. Besides, it didn't take me long to realise that the word had little to absolutely no meaning at all. I like to think of it as an 'empty' word.

There were two instances however, that really affected me and sent me home tearing for the rest of the day. I still occasionally think of those unpleasant days and would tailor words in my mind and recreate that bloody moment virtually with a bolder me in the picture.

I'll start with the lesser unpleasant one. One quotidian school day when I was in Year 4(10-year-old), I entered my class to a bunch of classmates playing their flutes to a discordant melody. The second period was Music lesson and my music teacher had assigned each of us to get ourselves flutes for that day's music lesson. I sat down next to my classmate who was busying herself with her own Yamaha flute. I pulled out my purple, translucent flute from my bag and started scrutinying it with my 10-year-old sense of awe and wisdom to not play the flute and add to the cacophony. The girl next to me,well let's call her Iman. Iman turned to take a pause and look at my flute. Seemingly curious, she asked if she could have a look at my oh-so-fancy instrument. I obliged and handed her my flute. She then proceeded to place her mouth at the tip of the flute and begin playing a note. Another guy, let's call him Izzul, who was seated in front of Iman turned around and gaped at Iman. His face was contorted in some sort of disgust. Well I would have to admit that maybe Iman didn't have a knack for flutes. But that was not the case. Izzul went on to jeer at Iman for being silly to place her mouth on a flute that tentatively had my saliva in it. Well, really I wouldn't mind if he was apparently concerned over Iman's hygiene. I was wrong yet again. He went on to tell Iman that she was actually playing a flute that had some Keling's saliva in it and that it was dirty, for that reason and not in a more general fact that anything with another person's saliva is unhygienic. Iman then went all dramatic in drinking and gargling her mouth with water. She went so far as to call me "najis". Having little knowledge in the Malay language back then, I could hardly fathom what she had meant. I asked her to Barney the meaning of the word to me. She nonchalantly explained that najis meant feces. I was perturbed. She gave little to no regard about my feelings and how it would tear part of my confidence as soon as I understood what she had meant. I tried to muster a bit of boldness to knock some sense into her head but with my gibberish language, I don't know if I had anything more than a mesh of hand-signs and nervous errs enter her head. Needless to say, I sulked with her for the rest of the day. We did end up becoming close classmates though through Year 4 and Year 5 after an instance where I had sensed her seeping guilt and blatant suppressing of the need to apologize to me.

My by-far-the-worst discrimination came when I had least expected. The long-awaited ring of the school bell marked the end of class lessons for the day. I was in Year 5, one more year and I'll be graduating from primary school. One could already call themselves 'semi-senior' or so once they're in Year 5, I guess. It could be said that my upper primary school years were generally a blur but relatively peaceful. Peaceful was not what it seemed on that particular day, however. I walked to my school van with my twin sister and settle in an old seat on the second row of the van. We were exhausted and sweaty and the stuffiness inside the van only exacerbated the uneasiness we felt. Not long after, a group of Year 6 guys that were well-known for their talkativeness in our small van community enter and sit in the the row directly behind us. There was one peculiar guy in the group who always stared blankly at my sisters and I. I think it's worthy to note that my sisters and I were the only Indians in the van. We usually dimissed the guy as being strange and maybe just maybe curious about us in some odd ways of his own. Just as the van started moving, one of the five who was right behind me put out his entire arm through a sliding window and held up the formidable middle finger on my side of the window whilst bellowing "fuck, fuck, fuck..". It went on like a mantra. Bear in mind my sister and I have not been exposed much to this word or any other profanity prior to this but exposed enough to know that it was a bad word. It immediately struck my 11-year-old mind that it was a horrible word and that that guy was evil for saying it. I retaliated by mustering some courage to back my sister and I. I apparently did what I would call now, " turning the other cheek". I naively told the verbal abuser that he shouldn't be doing so and that it was a sin to use such profanity, in hopes that he would repent. Instead of retreating like what I had expected, his other members joined him in jeering at the two of us with a myriad of racial slurs. I turned to look behind and the guy whom I thought was quiet and peculiar was showing up a middle finger and yelling profanities at my direction. It was unbearable. No one bothered to back us up or offer to knock some sense into those offenders. Not even the van driver. My whole journey back home that day was a living hell.

Another thing I would like anyone to note is that my sisters and I were very, very quiet and needless to say, peaceful individuals. In retrospect, I think it was that quality about us that had made way for informal truces between us and the notable racists we had in our lives. None of the aforementioned instances or whatever racial discrimination experiences in between and henceforth have been prolonged any longer than an hour by the same individual. There were random spikes of racism by different individuals across different situations, to put it concisely.

In hindsight, I don't know what to make out of the racial intolerances I experienced as a kid. Those unduly racism I had experienced in the later stages of my childhood had a considerable mar on the already thin sheet of confidence I trumpeted around as a child blossoming into the early days of my teenhood. I would often find myself obsessing over a lighter skin shade so I can be likened to a person of a more 'dignified' race, similar to those of my lighter-skinned counterparts. I tried ways to hide my identity as an Indian, making use of the unintelligible fact that most of my peers bought into, that is the notion that Christianity, is a race. I knew for a fact, that this was, as obvious as it sounds, a stupid belief. This is sadly, still a widespread notion. And as sadder as it gets, racism is still on the rise, incongruent with the trend that statistics show of Malaysians today, that there are more literates today as compared to yesterday.

  This leads one to wonder, what is the cause of the widespread racism among society today, especially among Malaysians who have long witnessed a heterogeneous society? What is this deep-seethed, directionless hatred that our younger generations are harbouring toward their brothers of different races? Where is it coming from? What measures are the older generations taking to curb racism and nurture goodwill and promote unity instead?

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Adventures in attempted caring for a newborn kitten
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08 September, 2016

  It was actually yesterday, but Today I Learnt(TIL) sounds more familiar(FIY, a subreddit in Reddit) and as though I hit my keyboard there and there as I experienced the best...and the worst of caring for not just a kitten, but a newborn kitten. Yes, a baby kitten with closed eyes, similar to the picture on the left. It was practically a two day ordeal, not much of a thing, especially with a kitten, you might think but lo and behold I was dealing with such a fragile little soul.

  I was having dinner with my friends, enjoying the tangible atmosphere of relief after having completed our computing assignment, a presentation. Speaking formally and presenting has always been my worst fear. I was chilling a bit when I received a phone call from my housemate. She told me to get *any* milk and that it was urgent. I knew at the back of my mind that it was a kitten, as we have "kittennapped" a few kittens prior, together as partners in crime .
Haha oh well, that's what happens I guess when two bored and boring persons get together. Just so you know, no kittens have stayed longer than two days with us. All I know is the kittens were fed some ungodly foods, got stomach upset, purged and the next thing we knew was, the cat was out, back at the dumpster.

  Back to the phone call, I thought to myself, why not another chance to prove ourselves good caretakers of kittens, right? I obliged to get a packet of milk powder on the way back to my hostel. I was surprised to see that it was a freakin' newborn kitten. Of course, I fell for its cuteness at first sight. My roommate was all dramatic in her recount about her first-hand experience on rescuing the kitten from a ".. viscious, big fat murderer cat who was biting at the poor little thing's neck". It hit me that it was very likely the mother cat but being the equally dunce person as my roomie, I found an excuse to keep the kitten.

  The first night(lol) was so-so as we were both a little pissed by how the kitten, whom we named Marmalade, would not drink it's milk. We had no syringe or teats to feed it milk and so we tried our best to feed it milk with a teaspoon, but to no avail, pathetically. We decided that we would go out the next morning to the nearest pet shop to get syringe or teats through which Marmalade can feed. The next morning came, we took a Uber to the nearest town where two pet shops were situated in. And to our disappointment, both pet shops were closed. What a bummer. We then thought that the next best thing to do would be getting a syringe from a clinic nearby. We couldn't afford to let our trip go waste.

 We returned with the syringe, beaming with a bit of hope on our way back. Marmalade did swallow the milk a bit when we force-fed it with the syringe. Not long after that, I found out that we were feeding it the wrong milk. We learnt that cow's milk gives it stomach upset and that orphaned kittens, or in this case, this 'orphaned' newborn kitten can be weaned earlier but it must be fed some formula milk, not ordinary milk that we humans consume.

  Long story short, I was soon hunting around the vicinity of my hostel, for the presumed mother-cat. From the eye-witness accounts that were my hm's, she recalled that there was a plump tabby by our apartment door on the night of the kidnapping. It was meow-ing loudly, as if it was asking for its baby back. I knew which cat she was referring to. I’ve seen her by the stairs often. Exam’s in 5 days time and I had to be plagued by the guilt and dread of bringing a newborn kitten back.

  Troubled, I embarked on a search for the queen cat, in hopes of reuniting her with her baby. Searched high and low, but to no avail. My mind then hatched the idea of leaving Marmalade down stairs in what I call the ‘maids coven’. Needless to say, the maids were distinctively hating me for having placed a noisy newborn kitten in their rest place. I felt bad for the very hasty move but I really had no other choice. My roomie had gone back for the weekend, leaving me alone to chaperone the kitten. I went downstairs not long after, to do my laundry at hostel block 3 when I found two girls cornering another kitten that bared a striking resemblance to Marmalade. But unlike Marmalade, it’s tail wasn’t stripped so I figured it was Marmalade’s sibling.

  The girls were looking for the mother cat too. I told them that I’ve seen a similar kitten at block 1 and that I know who the mother cat was. I was walking back to my apartment when I caught sight of the mother cat carrying Marmalade by the neck. I beckoned for the two girls who were carrying Marmalade’s sibling around to come over to where I stood. We then waked over to the mother cat to reunite yet another one of her litter but she was afraid we were after Marmalade and so she took off running with Marmalade dangling from her tiny mouth. The two girls seemed excited about going after the mother cat while I on the other hand had my mission accomplished – getting Marmalade united with her momma. I bid the two girls a bye and set off back to my apartment to resume studying.

That was the last time I would think of kittennapping ever again. Ever.


How to be cool
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09 August, 2016

Image result for cool tumblr

I'm no cool person in reality. These are just among the things that I do to mask the bundle of nerves that I am and trust me, these have worked out pretty well! 

  • Try to not over-apologize
Some of us often find ourselves apologizing, beyond the 'necessary' threshold. In most instances, when we resort to over-apologizing for the smallest mistakes we make, we unconsciously trick our mind into believing that we are indeed losers and inadvertently cause the individual we're dealing with to feel superior to us. Thereafter, you feel low in self-esteem and cringe at the thought of the uncool thing you had just did. This in turn casts a very uncool image of you in the eyes of most people. A common misconception held by some is that the more profusely you apologize, the more humble you are. But this is really just another untrue thing some of our uncool minds have in common. The truth is others would see you as being very vulnerable and -uncool. And that's just the point.

  • Dress for the occasion
While it's okay to wear flashy or eye-catching outfits sometimes, doing it often is not the best thing to do. Instead, try and dress appropriately for the occasion. This way, you'll be able to find your niche and and not catch too many unwanted attention to be the odd one out.

  • Try to be ahead of others but don't try too hard.
This is especially a win for me. Being ahead of others naturally invokes in the rest, a feeling of awe about you. You also get to be a little more relaxed in class or workspace compared to your peers or colleagues as you have prepped yourself for the challenges ahead of you. While the cramming and burning the midnight oil that happens backstage is nothing you want to tell others about, it's definitely worth it. People will envy you for your seemingly effortless charm and coolness.

  • Be yourself
Nothing beats the comfort in being in your own skin. But nobody is perfect, yes? So at the same time, try masking certain 'unpresentable' side of you like, take profanity for instance. As for the most part, just be yourself, as long as being what defines you is appropriate with the circumstances at hand.

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