Sunday, March 09, 2008

NOW is the time for change!

When I read that the song below, (Jentayu, Phoenix) was a poem written by poet Usman Awang for Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah, its political overtones were buried under the fact that I just liked the song, it appealed to me for some strange reason. And it's not one of the typical Malay love songs either. Listening to the lyrics carefully, I realised it's about holding on when every hope seems to be lost and they are breaking you, breaking you until there's nearly nothing left. (But there's always something left until you actually die, and even then there's something left in those you leave behind)

Wow. The elections yesterday. I mean, what an upset!

I woke up at noon without having voted (but meaning to), had a leisurely breakfast, and wondered about how to get to the Sri Aman school, which was my voting centre. I had registered to vote in 1995, and so far, that had been the only elections I had voted in. The next two, I was conveniently out of the country and didn't really care. I mean, the government would remain the government, corrupt and oppressive as ever, and there was nothing a little Jane Bloggs like me could do about it.

This year, however, I was determined to vote. Unlike the Americans, who listen carefully to the debates between candidates etc, our votes are usually foregone conclusions. If you're a government supporter, you'll vote for the government (or national alliance) candidate no matter who it is. If you think the country needs a good opposition, you'll vote opposition, no matter who is standing.

So there I was lingering over breakfast. I had received a text message asking me not to vote until after 2. I didn't rightly understand why, but hey, I trusted the friend who sent me the text message, and besides, I was busy sleeping in the morning, after a night playing several hundred rounds of Spider Solitaire and listening to Jentayu over and over again (spliced for fun with Mariah Carey's Touch My Body which I find real catchy).

I took a shower and dripping in my towel, decided to call my good friend Mary Z to see if she needed help getting to her polling centre. She did. I said I need to go vote first (we have different polling centres) and then I'd come get her and take her to hers. She was ecstatic. I said I'd call once I was done and heading over hers. But wouldn't you know, I left my mobile at home. Since there was only one and half hours of voting left, I decided not to go home to get it, but rushed over to her house. She was not expecting me yet, and thrown into a tizzy, throwing everything into her handbag and rushing out.

The thing about it is that we had both dressed up to vote, complete with nice clothes, nice shoes (her, not me, I was in my crummy sneakers) and nice hair (I was wearing the flowers again, but I took it off because it was giving me a headache).

Anyway we found her polling centre with little difficulty. Now, when I had gone to vote, it was such a civilized process (our seat not being a hotseat) that I was in and out of there in five minutes (really, I kid you not!). Now Mary was voting where Shahrizat, our Women and Community Development Minister (her posters kissing babies and hugging old women have to be seen to be believed) and Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah were contesting. It was a VERY hot seat. Mary struggled through the two bands of supporters who stared at each other from across the tiny street, obstructing traffic waving and giving thumbs-ups to both equally (we're Malaysian, we don't like to offend anybody) and so it took a while to get to the school (I had parked some distance off because of the mad traffic). When she finally got back to the car after voting, she said she felt saintly for having fulfilled her democratic obligation. Yeah, me too.

I was hungry (not having had lunch) so we took off for Raju's to repair the tissues (Mary didn't want to go as I couldn't have the luscious curry puffs but I twisted her arms). Then we went on a pirated DVD search for classics (she is looking for the top 100 movies on the British and American lists) and I just picked at romantic comedies and some other stuff (I managed to get a box set of Twin Peaks which I can't wait to watch!).

Then we went to Backyard which was across the road. Our friend Vijay was playing and Mary said, I bet he won't remember me. What do you want to bet? I had been just about to dig into my vegetarian fried rice when I snapped up with a we shall see about that look upon my face and made my way into Backyard before Mary had time to gape. Vijay was all togged up in a cowboy costume and talking to some people when I went up to him and said, would you come out and meet my friend? He followed me out without a word.

When he saw Mares, his face lit up and he leaned over and kissed her. He not only remembered her, he had been wildly attracted to her that first meeting so many months ago, when we had come for the finale of the JAM (Jairus Anthony Music) festival. It's one of my favourite stories. We had just met Vij and were leaving before the second set. So I went to say goodbye.

You're going? he asked, then practically shoved me aside in his eagerness to get to Mary and kiss her goodbye. Every time I told that story I added a little more. Till finally, there was a Jennifer-shaped hole in the wall, where he had shoved me and I died. But then resurrected a while later to make our way out of Backyard.

Mary's usually response to this (amidst gales of laughter) was: "Nonsen! How you exaggerate child!"

OK Vijay stuck to us like chewing gum on the bottom of a seat. No matter how many others came over to claim his attention (he was never gone for long). When we told him our version of that story, laughing, he didn't laugh.

He looked a little embarrassed. And he didn't deny shoving me out of the way to get to Mary (so I exaggerated a little, but not a lot). Mary looked uncomfortable. But it was nice getting all that attention.

In between listening to the music etc, we were watching the large TV with the election results. Every time the Opposition scored a seat we would crow wildly. (The band naturally thought we were cheering for them and we did the thumbs-up thing again, not wanting to disabuse them of the notion).

Other election watchers kept coming over to update us on the news. Penang fallen to the Opposition. BN trounced in Kedah. Kelantan, foregone conclusion. And now it looked like Perak and Selangor were also going the Opposition way. Nurul Izzah beat Shahrizat (Mary cheered loud and long over that). Samy Vellu lost in Sungai Siput. Koh Tsu Koon lost. At first they said Khairy had lost and asked for a recount. Then the flashing results informed us that Khairy had won by a majority of over 5,000 seats. Darn!

Wow. Malaysians, that silent, disenfranchised majority had spoken. We left Backyard at three in the morning. I dropped Mary at home, came back, had a shower and turned on the TV. Dadda, who had been sleeping woke up to come sit with me. I told him that Kedah, Penang, Kelantan had gone over to the Opposition and now it looked like Perak and Selangor were heading that way too. I also told him that BN had failed to get the two thirds majority in Parliament. He grinned cheerfully, sleepy as he was.

What about Petaling Jaya? I didn't know. So far, I hadn't seen any results for our constituency. But this morning I saw in the papers that the Opposition had won our seat by a majority of some 19,000.

Ahmad Talib, a former NST group editor came on TV. He called it an elections tsunami. They cut to the press conference given by our surprisingly-not-sleeping but grey-faced Prime Minister Pak Lah. The mood was somber. Amid flashing lights, he shrugged his shoulders and said, if this was what the people wanted...

Of course someone asked if he would step down because of this barely victory that was almost like a crushing defeat. He said nobody had pressured him to. When asked about his Cabinet Ministers who had lost their seats, he said, lose, loselar!

Then he stood up to fend off further questions.

I would have liked them to cut to former Prime Minister and to all those politicians who had lost their seats. But Malaysian TV is ever demure and would leave those clowns to mourn in private.

And CNN and Al-Jazeera had better things to cover than our elections.

I fell asleep in front of the TV.

All in all, an interesting day.


Rider on the Storm said...

Interesting! Breakfast, Elections, Malay Love Songs, Backyard All Rolled into One!

Anonymous said...

wish i was there to bask in all this election glory...seemed like a great day for all...:)

Anonymous said...

that was me jen...dandelion...u've taken ur blog off the sign in thingy?

Jenn said...

Rider: Yes. I lead an interesting life sometimes. Frenzied activity between deserts of nothing.

Jenn said...

Praby: You should have been there. We should have been together cheering each Opposition victory and BN losing seats. Like Uncle Sam's. Poor chappie!