Monday, August 31, 2015

What If It Is?

I find pink puke all over the toilet bowl. Dadda ate old Onam fare and upchucked. He doesn't tell me anything about it though. And I don't mention it. He doesn't bother to put the dog's food to cook as he normally does. So I do it. The dogs are fed properly. Not the paltry amounts that he thinks are enough for them despite the fact that he does not pay for their food.

It is a strange situation. He is getting deliberately crueller to them. Tells me to give them away, put them to sleep. I think he wants me out. And in the next breath, he demonstrates some form of frailty. This push-pull thing I have lived with my whole life. Co-dependent is how someone characterised the whole relationship. And I know, once I have left, I will not be coming back. For any reason.

Sick? In hospital? Dying?

Too bad. Why is that supposed to be my problem?

Yes, I'm mad.

But mostly at myself for being so sluggish and staying for this long. I should have moved out by now. Instead, here I am on the sofa, bout the only thing I can say I achieved for today is to feed and walk the dogs. My phone battery is almost dead as the charger is in the office. I was supposed to go get that early this morning. Instead, I slept till noon.

The other thing I finishing Joan Didion's Blue Nights. Which I loved. I love how she repeats certain words and phrases throughout the book. You can tell she was crying when she wrote it. This incredibly painful memoir about the death of her only child. 20 months after the death of her husband.

There was no warning for one. And 20 months of warning for the other.

But death, that great emptiness, that great bourne from which there is no return, that great silence, that great nothingness beyond....we tell ourselves fairy stories to believe it is not the end.

But what if it is?

The Yellow Sea Rises Up And Swallows Everyone In Its Wake

I should tell you how my first Bersih went. But I just don't feel like it. My mind is a confused tangle of impressions. Too many things at the same time. I would like to pause and separate the strands. I know something momentous has happened, is in fact, happening, and things will play out the way they are supposed to be played out.

You can't avoid consequences forever.

But perhaps, not surprisingly, what I think about most these days, are the little kittens who have now been fostered, my dogs who are being increasingly abused in this house (I have to rescue them...I cannot allow this). The three of them are spread out in various attitudes in the hall. Bruno comes over and whimpers...he lies on my foot for a while and then goes back and curls up. I have switched on the aircon because although it rained quite heavily's now so hot that I can smell myself. Though it's way past midnight, I will have a cold shower and scrub myself. I hate feeling this hot.

I can't sleep. Maybe it's because we slept in late today. Maybe it's because my mind is buzzing...but I can read Joan Didion's Blue Nights and allow myself to drift off.

Sylvie has walked over...she is itching...another bath so soon?

The air is buzzing with mosquitoes. It makes things quite uncomfortable. I keep squishing them (most are bloody which means I have been bitten) and they keep coming back.

It's exactly 2.22am. Maybe I should sign off now and try to get some sleep. Maybe I'll tell you about my experiences tomorrow.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

When 4 is 1

It's half past two in the morning and I am sitting at my place waiting for my two compatriots. We are going for the Bersih first ever. I think I am adequately prepared. It's funny how people talk so matter-of-factly about needing to have salt on hand for the tear gas. You will choke, so you need to put some in your mouth and after a while it will clear. But not on the first or second teargassing...that you will still be able to take. More like, the third time.

I got home at midnight and woke Dadda up to tell him I was going for Bersih. He was understandably upset and tried to dissuade me, though not too hard. But then, when I was actually leaving, he woke up and staggered out in his sarong, to lock the gate and wave goodbye. I had Sylvie and Bruno with me in the house.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to go. The thing that pushed me over the edge was the circular making it an offence for anyone to wear yellow or anything with Bersih 4 on it. Really? Seriously? You're going to bully us to this extent?

The worm turned.

Mostly I had wanted to enjoy my weekend, relax and do nothing or maybe, move some of my stuff out of the house. More books. Also hang with the dogs. My colleague Jacqui who had agreed to babysit the kittens until Tuesday has now decided to take them on until they get adopted. She has her sister and her sister's husband staying with her so they can take care of the kits while she is at work. Prayer answered. Problem solved.

And today (meaning yesterday) was Onam. The Malayalee harvest festival. When my grandmother was alive she would make something special for it. Apparently it is a big deal in Kerala. Over here, not so much, although celebration during this time, is growing. I have been fighting with Dadda and I thought I would do something nice for him. Nice, but not nice enough.

I used the Go Get service for the first time, and put up a job to get someone to go to a restaurant serving Kerala cuisine in Aman Suria and pick up two thali meals and deliver it to his house. Now ideally, I should have gone home to share the meal with him. It is supposed to be a celebration, after all. Instead I stayed and had McDonald's with my colleagues. But feeling guilty, I called Chubs and asked him to go over instead. I should have called earlier. He was out having dinner...if I had caught him in time, he could have gone and shared the Onam meal with Dadda. Instead, he just had some payasam.

Dadda saved some payasam for me and insisted I eat it...I ate a little and then left it on the table to go bathe. When I came back, I found it had been licked clean. Haha, Bruno and Sylvie were in the house after all, I should have realised.

I feel so tired now. What I most want to do is sleep.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Miles To Go Before I Sleep

A colleague is babysitting the kittens for me over this long weekend. I have already delivered the three mewling little things to her. She's really good at the newborns. She has already installed them in a fetching basket and taken this picture which she put on Facebook. So much better than any I have taken so far:

Which means I'm off the hook for the moment and I can actually concentrate on getting some work done. But I miss them so.I keep hearing them cry but it's only in my mind. For the most part they are good little kittens. They only make noise when they have soiled themselves or when they need to be fed. Also, when they want a cuddle. What baby doesn't?

I asked for a miracle. I love the kitties already but I'm tired and there is this constant tension at home where everyone - from Dadda to the doggies, hates them. Dadda actually let Sylvie in today and luckily my door was locked. She threw herself against the door scratching it and whimpering, and I waited for Dadda to send her out. He has punished her before for much less. But no, he didn't. And the blows became more urgent.

So I opened the door and chased her out.

When I asked him why he had let her in, he said, "if she wants to eat them, so what? Let her."

I was glad I was leaving and taking the kitties with me, glad that my kind colleague had offered to babysit them. They are so young and fragile and sweet; they had already been abandoned once by cruel, heartless people. They didn't need anymore of that. And I certainly didn't either.

But after delivering them to her...I feel listless. There is a whole bunch of work I am supposed to do, things I let slide...but I can't seem to be getting my head around it. My thoughts are scattered, scattered. I want to cuddle them, feel their soft warmth against me, purring like quiet motors. (when they're not screaming of course, but I even think the screaming is cute, as long as it is not in my office, where it disturbs the other writers, and gets me stern warnings from my boss).

I feel so very sad now. And it's late. I have stuff to do, stuff to do...

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
(Robert Frost)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kitten tales

You start a day with one expectation and then something happens...I found three tiny kittens dumped by the side of a monsoon drain. They were in a box, sort of striped greyish, about two weeks old. Read that again! Two weeks old. Which means, not even old enough to be separated from their mother. They need to be fed with a dropper. They need to have their asses and peeing equipment rubbed with a wet wipe after feeding to stimulate the pee and poo. They're babies. And just like babies, you have to sleep lightly at night so as not to miss their hungry mews should they wake up.

I brought them in to the office today. Yesterday, I was too busy getting their feeding equipment and taking them to the vet, etc.

They were pretty well-behaved. After their last feed at night, they didn't wake up until after my alarm went off. That's about six hours. When they woke up I first gave them some glucose and water (the vet suggested that I alternate the milk with glucose and water). They didn't like that much. It didn't fill them and they still had to be given milk after as a supplement.

Anyway my cat loving colleagues crowded around me to see and touch and carry the kittens. Many wanted to adopt them but could not. But could not do the two-hour feeding/pooping/peeing thingy. The vet, Dr Prem, told me that only a hardcore cat lover would be willing. We have those here. Except that they have full-time jobs. So how?

One of my colleagues offered to take them on Thursday night and bring them back on Tuesday morning. That will be a BIG help.

What can I say?

People at The Edge are kind. And they love animals.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Maybe Today

Some days you wake up and your tangle of thoughts say everything: "Jeez, Elliott is scratching again. I really, really need to remember the dog shampoo."

That's it. Not something about work or my lovely night out or to remember my walking shoes as Anna wants to walk Kiara and SA and C are coming along.

We went for a porky nasi lemak dinner last night in Aman Suria but the place was closed. So we ended up at a not very good restaurant serving Kerala cuisine which the other three (Anna, Addy, Cindy) didn't like. Really, the curries didn't taste like it was from Kerala (a mixture of sour and sweet) and the only good dish was one I ordered (aloo pepper fry) but I think that is more generic Indian than Keralite. I associate Kerala cuisine with my aunts's cooking. My mother was more "Malaysian" cooking, I think...though of course, I loved her food best. Especially her goreng pisang. (We called it goreng pisang all our lives; I'm not about to start calling it pisang goreng because that is accepted usage). And then we went to the Chinese place at the other end to have dessert. Dessert was pretty good.

I am so used to forgetting my phone that when I rifled through my bag yesterday and couldn't find it, I was convinced that I had forgotten it. And told all my friends that. But throughout the day I kept hearing the bell-like alerts issuing from somewhere...and at night, when I rifled through my bag again, whaddyaknow, I found my phone. Li Ming who thought earlier that I had a mental block against walking around with a handphone, decided that I am actually taking things to a whole new level with this. We all laughed immoderately.

Sarah is back at the office after her trip to the UK and her wisdom tooth surgery. She is still unable to eat any solid food and the painkillers are not working. She is one miserable puppy.

Adrian came over to sit by me and show me a book he is reading, he bought it because of the cover and the title and what it said on the back...but as he loves language and needs the book to be well written as well as interesting, he was not finding it very good. Reading for story, rather than for language and all that. I recommended Joan Didion. He'd never heard of her. Didion? He googled it and I asked him to start with Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I am reading Blue Nights now, about the death of her daughter...and I love it. Even the image of a blue night, or "the gloaming" is so evocative.

I wish life were filled with more than just discrete events that you strive to cohere. Nothing coheres anymore.

But...there is the walk today, the Impact Hub event tomorrow (after which I go to see Mary who is nursing a very broken heart) and there are a shitload of stories to clear.

I need to get myself in the mood.

Maybe today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's Six in the Morning and I'm Awake

I spent a lot of time lying around yesterday, which was not so good. Hangover from the great night before, I guess, although I only had one sparkling wine. There was a to-do list which I thought about from time to time, but resolutely ignored.

And it's Monday already. Sigh.

Well, on the bright side (haha, get it?) I have written and posted 12 letters (how's that for productive after a one-month letter-writing hiatus?).

Today a cleaning lady that Vas recommended comes for the first time.

I hope they turned our water back on.

Will have to think about writing a story and editing the stories already given to me for next month's issue now that the special pullout ones are done.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Night to Remember

And now that I have gotten that out of my system! Last night was sensational! I went out with Ian, Addy and Cindy, first to the Helipad to have a drink and watch the sunset over Menara KH (yeah, KL's best kept secret which is why Addy knows about it).

and then to Jalan Alor (who knew it was so happening? Doesn't Alor mean drain?) for dinner. And boy what a huge dinner that was. Oh Chien (I don't know how to spell that but it is basically oysters cooked in eggs and although Cindy and Addy thought it was not up to scratch, the memory of it makes my mouth water now), black pepper fried squid (now, I'm not usually a fan of squid, but this was sooooo good...Ian ordered it to do him credit and it was the best dish of the night, in fact a French couple sitting near us, eyed up the dish and ordered the same thing). We had kangkong garlic (the belacan would have been too spicy for Ian) and char kueh teow and fried carrot was a feast and then some. And as we moved through the dishes ooohing and ahhhhing...I had to stop after a while because I was stuffed to the gills but the others soldiered gamely on...these guys selling selfie sticks kept bothering us.

"Selfie stick, miss? Selfie stick, sir?"

After a while, Ian, who has to be the most patient person on the planet (he was down with my haphazard driving and wrong turns and our figuring things out as we moved along) started to get annoyed:

"Yeah, you disturb me when I'm eating and ask if I want a selfie stick, of course I'm gonna say yes."

He thought their business model was somewhat flawed. Ian is a business professor from a university in Melbourne and we became friends after I interviewed him. And no, he's not from Melbourne, but from Chicago, home of Oprah and Obama's wife. He instructed his brother Eli to take me out when I was in Chicago, which Eli did, on Easter Sunday. Ian told me Eli is the wildest in the family. I didn't see none of that though, cos Eli was on his best behaviour. He also said Eli was the musician in the family and used to go busk down a street corner when he was in the service, just to make some money...and actually managed to acquire a following. After a while he took himself to one of the nearby bars and asked, how much will you pay me to come sing here? And here's the clincher...the bar agreed.

Eli, said Ian, is good at anything he does. It's just that he gets bored quickly. He's trying to get him to come out to Malaysia for a visit. Why? Because the place is nice, the food is nice and the people are wonderful and warm. I think it's because someone like Ian would bring it out in us. He's just so easy to be with. I've known us not to be warm, with people who are cold and contemptuous. They put us off instinctively and nobody has time for them after a while. You're lucky if you have a local friend who lugs you around and insists that everyone else puts up with you. But after a while, if you're really a piece of work, even that sputters out. We're a tolerant people but not that tolerant. Nobody could be that tolerant, anywhere in the world.

Anyway, there we were eating and being harassed by people who wanted to sell us all manner of different wares (selfie sticks, ornamental wooden bowls, laser pointers - no, they don't have to make sense) - when suddenly a band set up right in front of our table and started to belt out numbers. I turned to Ian: "This is all your fault!" He laughed.

Anyway, the first singer, a pint-sized woman with powerful lungs, belted out three numbers...all of which were really well-received, she clearly had talent...and then this guy on a guitar took over. He didn't have much of a voice and he sang two songs - No Woman, No Cry and Dream by the Everly Brothers. It was one song too many. One of the waiters, whom I am convinced is one of the gangsters of the area, glared at the fat guy who had gone around asking for money for the band. Everyone at our table had put in something. Anyway, it took him a while to make the rounds and that was why we were "treated" to an extra song. So there was a staring match.

Gangster: Pack up and leave. You've been singing long enough.

Fat guy: Fuck off.

Gangster: I'm warning you.

New gangster joins in: Did you hear the guy?

Fat guy: I'll leave when I'm good and ready.

Gangster: All you have is your protruding stomach. If we hit you we'll make mincemeat.

Fat guy: Hmmmmm.......

New gangster: Here, have a cigarette (places one between fat guy's lips). And do as he says and fuck off. You're interrupting our business. Five songs! You've collected your money. Now scat.

Fat guy: Shakes him tambourine meaningfully at the end of the song (Dream) in a way that is clearly a signal. Woman singer steps forward to thank the crowd. They pack up and leave.

The exchange between on-site gangsters and band tough guy were all silent. You had to have been there to imagine the dialogue.

Oh I forgot. We also had the smoked chicken wings. Which was pretty good, but we ordered too much.

Soon, even Ian couldn't eat another bite. So we settled the bill and left. To the car? Not quite yet.

There was still a matter of artisan coconut ice cream to eat. I was out. But the other three were game. And Ian, who is lactose intolerant and cannot eat anything with milk (including ice cream) could have this, because it was made out of coconut milk. Yay!

So they each had a scoop on a cone...and then we got to the car...and made our sloooooooow way out in a street that was completely chock a block (it wasn't even slow-moving traffic, it was standing traffic).

And then I drove them back to the hotel where Ian was staying and Addy had parked her car (Cindy had parked at Addy's house) and we called it a night.

Well, three of us did.

Addy was due to meet up with friends for a drinking session after our night out.

I just got a call from Vas to ask if I knew her whereabouts as she had missed an 11am lunch appointment. I suggested that considering how late she was up last night, she would probably be asleep.

Now I have to take the dogs out for a walk (long overdue) and take myself off to the hairdressers (he's been sending me polite text messages for a while now).

Later for you.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I Miss Her Everyday

I miss my mother every day. It's no longer an ache in the centre of my chest, just an awareness of an absence in my life. So much left unresolved.

Yesterday was surprisingly productive. It's as if this fog has lifted over me and I could do stuff again. Not clean my room. Oh no. But I did manage the get all of six letters written. I kept adding to the list of people I wanted to write to, given the great hiatus, and now my list has swelled to 10. Which means I have four letters to go. I have booked a maid for Monday. I need to do an initial clean before she comes. Especially of my room. I do at some point need to colour my hair.

I woke up early today (OK not when the alarm went off because it goes off at fricking 4 in the morning) but a few hours later, and took the dogs for a walk. I have to be out of the house early today.

Last night, while the rush of energy lasted, I wrote letters, did some grocery shopping, made asparagus belachan, sayanged the dogs (giving them asparagus stalks to chew). And then around midnight I started getting tired, so I went to bed, read some Spirit Junkie and fell fast asleep. Elliott, of course, slept with me, first under the bed and then, in his own green bed which I have spread out on the floor once again.

Anyway, I will probably be out for most of today, so luckily Dadda has some asparagus belachan in the fridge for his lunch and dinner...there is also chicken if he wants to make curry. I need to buy lemons because the honey lemon drink seems to help him and we're down to our last half lemon now.

Later for you.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Quotidian Concerns

The three dogs are bathed now. They are all slightly damp as all three towels (somehow or other) were not quite dry. One of them (Elliott's) had been pulled to the floor so the doggie could sleep on it. When I arrived home at close to three in the morning yesterday, Elliott was inexplicably outside. His fur looked ruffled and sticking out oddly (as if the other doggies had had a go at him, and their saliva hardened in his fur). Now Elliott cannot sleep on the floor (I bet I know what happened and Dadda had caught him sleeping on the sofa). So he pulled down a towel, his towel, and was sleeping on it. It has been raining. The towel was wet.

As for the other two dogs, I had put their towels on Mum's car because they kept pulling them down to bite. So, as I said, it rained. Two more towels wet. Which meant all three dogs have not been dried properly. I am relying on the sun to do it properly.

What quotidian worries, huh?

I wake up and look at Elliott and listen for the other two outside and know that I have to drag myself up to take them for their walks. That's just the way things are. Today's was a good walk. I let them go in the park and they ran and played with each like puppies. Well, Bruno and Sylvie did. Elliott hovered around, wanting and not wanting to get in on the game. He is an old doggie and the young-uns tend to get a little rough.

They were scratching and scratching and scratching...I had not bathed them over the last weekend, had not been in the mood, put it off, and I was feeling guiltier and guiltier every day. So when we got back from the walkies, gave them their water and then, dragged Bruno, who was in the kitchen next to me (he likes to keep close) into the bathroom and wet him thoroughly and scrubbed him down with doggie shampoo. (We have run out, I have to get some more, what quotidian worries, huh?)

And I bought two birthday cards for Dadda yesterday...and forgot to bring them home. The two girls had been at my place till late, late, late last night. I had intended to write a bunch of letters (seven in all) but was interrupted. So I only got the two four and a half more to go. And I have to edit the roundtable now that SD has come back with it at the very last minute possible. Yikes!

I don't feel like much of anything. I force myself to heed these quotidian worries, put one foot in front of another in a world bled of any joy or colour.

What quotidian thoughts, huh?

Later that day:

Today seems to be fluid, it flows, like water in water. Like red water in clear water...where you can see the liquid shooting forward, unimpeded. I edited something. I have sent it to Kenneth. Came in to work. Anna, who has been cleaning and decluttering her apartment found a bunch of books that I lent her and brought them back today. And she brought another book too, called The Wednesday Letters which I can't wait to get stuck into. There are other things I need to do. But I left my phone at home. And without my phone - it will be hard.

So much to do.

Let's see what I can get done today.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Way Out

I realise that something inside me has broken and I am no longer functional. I plan to do this and this and this. And then I come home, look at the whole heap of things undone, curl up on a bed, not even my bed because my bed makes me itch uncontrollably, and let's not even talk about the mosquitoes, read for a few minutes and then fall asleep.

Avoidance. Is that a word?

I know denial is.

And I wake up late in the half dark caused by the early morning rain...have some stale bread for breakfast (note to self: buy a few new loaves), and Dadda quavers out from the bed: "Jenny, did you buy what I asked you to?"

And I say: "What?"

And he says: "The two birthday cards."

It's Francis's birthday on September 4. He came one month early next year. At first it was touch and go, but then he survived and grew strong and happy.

It's Uncle Solomon's birthday on September 14, a birthday he shares with someone else I have not talked to for four years. Well, I did send her a birthday card four years ago, but she didn't acknowledge it. I think that was the last card I sent her. No more. And now I know she's alive (for I would have heard if she died, maybe), but other than that, I know nothing.

Took the professor out last night (to Mum's Place because I think the food there is so good) and Addy and Cindy joined us at the end. It was a nice night. Thought Ian was looking quite rundown, ill even, and asked him if he was having any issues. No, he said, just travelling to a whole bunch of countries in a short space of time, as usual. Not something he can continue doing, he thinks. I agree. I ask him to go for a physical when he gets back to Australia. And cut down on the travel.

I have to gird my loins and take the dogs out for a walk. Elliott has scrambled under the bed, keeping me in sight, to remind me of my duties. The other two dogs are silent outside. Usually, Bruno would have started to whimper. But the thing is, the dogs outside can poop and pee behind the car. Elliott doesn't really have a place to do it except for the bathroom, and that's no good as Dadda usually goes completely insane when he does that.

Dadda is still sick. I came back last night to him coughing up a lung. I made him the honey lemon concoction (which reminds me, I have to do that again before I leave) and he sipped it and chatted with me about what is happening at work (yes, we have a digital edition, so there is still work to do, it's not a three-month holiday). His room is so dusty I need to get someone over to clean it.

I went to ESH to get the number of a plumber and an electrician. I called the plumber and he said he would come on Saturday, then he didn't answer his phone all Saturday and Sunday, then he called me on Monday to say he was coming over (could not, Dadda had gone to hospital and there would be no one in the house), then he called to say he could come on Tuesday and didn't. About this time, I have lost all faith in him and will try to get another plumber and electrician. No use sticking to the ones who can't be bothered to keep appointments.

There is so much to do. And when I see what needs doing, instead of doing it, I curl up in the bed that is not mine, and read strange books of fiction, or something on the Kindle.

I wish there was a way out of this mess and I wish I had the energy to take it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Me And That Old Man

It feels surreal. I'm losing so many parts of my life now. So many. I find myself tearing up at odd times. I don't feel particularly sad, the pain is not overwhelming. But it's just one long goodbye...and you know, people cry at goodbyes, they grieve.

I see everything slipping away and there is nothing I can do about it. So I just watch, go through the motions, try to show the people I love that I love I see them slipping away as well.

I have been happy here. I have. And despite all my angst, I've felt loved and accepted and appreciated. Everything has to change I suppose. Everyone has to move away.

Maybe one day, things will change because I made it happen. And not because I was a passive recipient of someone else's agency.


But still...there is this feeling of sadness that goes on in the background, this gentle weeping, the quiet sobs.

And I read these words today by Pooja Nansi and thought, yes, how apt.

He's my heart on a high wire, never making it across,
The name on a gravestone now covered in moss,
the smeared mascara and the wiped off gloss,

me, and that
old man,