Monday, August 20, 2007

Bleary Dawn

July 2007
Towards Bukit Damansara Toll
North-South Highway

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Road Works

We were very happy when the Public Works Department decided to repair the main road that led to our kampung. It was a withered stretch of road frequently used by lorries, massive trailers carrying construction vehicles and tractors and many cars because one could avoid the North-South Highway without much penalty in terms of distance, time or cost. Some used it to bypass the North-South Highway when traffic got too heavy and when there was jam at the tolls. Some used it to save cost, especially the lorries and the trailers. And because there were still kampung houses on both sides of the road, it was not uncommon to see old men or young student girls riding bicycles on them sometiems even beneath the blazing afternoon sun.

Early Monday morning, a team of constructions workers cordoned off a stretch of one side of the road with an unbroken line of orange traffic cones with a white stripe that ringed the top part of the cone. They spent the day digging up the surface of the road, exposing the concrete foundation beneath, until the day grew dark. When night fell they tarred and steam rolled the road completing one side of the road.

Early the next day, they proceeded do the precisely the same thing they did the day before but for the other side of the road.

On Wednesday, both sides of the road were complete. The road looked so new, its black was almost lustrous like the deepest and darkest night made luminous by the fullness of the moon. The cars, lorries, motorcycles and bicycles looked almost happy to be treading the freshly tarred road. Next to the road was a white wooden board which read: 'Satu lagi projek pembangunan di bawah kerajaan Barisan Nasional bagi manfaat rakyat.' Though the day was bright and hot, there was a torrential downpour in the evening that lasted until the wee hours of

Thursday morning which saw the sides of the road starting to fray. Bits of loose tar had managed to break free and were stumbling their way down the sides. Some areas of the road had little indentations which made the rides more bumpy.

In the late morning of Friday, another team of constructions workers arrived at the stretch of road. They looked quite different from the ones that came on Monday and Tuesday. Nobody seemed to know quite who they were, but they brought many pipes. They started to dig up about 200 meters of one side of the road. After they had completed their trenching which was carried out in the middle, they proceeded to lay the pipes into the trench. They worked late into the night and until the early hours of the morning to re-tar the road they had dug up.

On Saturday morning, it was clear that the night had perhaps impeded their ability to resurface the road properly. A large keloid ran along the part of the road they had dug up. The passengers in the cars who went over the dug up portion of the road fast could be seen to be bouncing in their seats. The lorries and trailers rumbled more noisily and clumsily too. By the evening, one could see shallow holes appearing on both sides of the stretch of road.

It rained on Sunday morning which lasted until late in the afternoon. The holes that were shallow the night before grew deeper and fiercer with its jagged and crumbling edges. Its depths could not be told with the brown water filling them. The fraying edges of the road now reached a stage of deterioration where the sides now dipped at a severe angle. Vehicles now had to avoid certain portions of the road and hit the dirt shoulder tracks at the side.

When I went out to look at the road the next day, it looked not very different than how it did the week before. Only the tar looked a little darker than it did previously.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Road Block

Inspector Kareem stored the last of the orange traffic cones into the back of the pick-up truck which was entirely a deep pensive blue except for the white coloured insignia of the RMPF which sat squarely in the middle of the door on both sides.
Man (pronounced 'Ma'-n), he called out to his partner, Inspector Azmanin. What's the time?
It's seven sixteen, replied Man. How did we do?
Kareem turned to Man and gave him a broad smile. He made the 'good' sign with his right hand for emphasis.
Haha! That's good. Number Three will be happy. It should more than cover dinner, said Man then continued excitedly, which means we have extra left over for after dinner! So how much did we score?
About eighteen thousand.
Wow. That was pretty fast for four hours.
One of the best. It's like real estate. Location, location, location.
They both got in the car. Kareem took the wheel.
So where's dinner supposed to be anyway? asked Kareem as he started the car and pulled it away from the curb.
We're going to some fancy Thai restaurant in Puchong. I forgot the name of it. But I think I know where it is, replied Man. There's a pretty good karaoke joint in that area also. With this kind of haul, we'll sure go after dinner.
Just then a loud searing guitar riff tore through the car.
Your volume is so loud! shouted Kareem over the high wall of sound.
Man silenced it with a press and lifted the phone to his ear.
Dato'. We are on the way. Yes. We did quite well tonight. We... we. Eighteen. Thank you, Dato'. Thank you but it was a team effort Dato'. Yes. I know the way there. Yes, I do. Oh, of course Dato'. Yes, I have the number. Don't worry. I will sort it out, said Man finally before he put away his phone in the compartment in the dashboard of his car.
That was Number Three. I'm making the booking for the karaoke! Told you that would happen, said Man proudly.
One thing good about this Number Three is he is more generous. Especially compared to the last one. At least this one shares with all of us. Don't eat all for himself, Kareem replied.
Yup. Guess we're lucky for now, said Man.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Telekom can thank my arse

It was reported in the newspapers today that Menara TM was going to be transformed into an inspirational wall. We are told that in order to do this, Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) will use 28 large format projectors and beam images between 8pm and midnight. Those images will comprise of the country's 5 Prime Ministers, 'unsung heroes' and 'ordinary Malaysians'. As if all this were not enough, 'inspiring messages to people who have contributed to the nation' will also be shone onto the wall of inspiration. Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar, the TM Group Chief Executive, explained this complete and utter waste of money, 'This initiative is aimed at fostering a sense of nationhood as well as to show gratitude to all Malaysians who have helped to build a beautiful nation.' It is not quite clear what psychological, sociological or even economic study they relied on in coming to the conclusion that beaming images of those people would result in 'fostering a sense of nationhood' much less how spending obscene amounts of money in that manner would 'show gratitude to all Malaysians...' Tell you what Datuk Abdul Wahid, why don't you show your gratitude by making sure we get our money's worth for that sham broadband package called 'Streamyx' that TM is offering instead of spending all that money on advertising and initiatives like this?

But it's so exciting to hear that TM has kicked off 'TM Merdeka Millionaire', 'the reward programme where a lucky customer could walk away with RM 1 million in cash.' I mean celebrate our country's 50th year from the colonial yoke and you could win RM 1 million in cash. I'm not quite sure how this programme has any relation to Merdeka aside from the fact that the word Merdeka is used in this programme which reinforces the mentality here that to make your fortune is a matter of plain stupid luck, but like we like to say, 'Malaysia boleh!'

As if that were not enough, TM is also publishing a commemorative book reflecting its proud history of growth and achievements as a government linked company. Wow. Just what we needed (like a sodomy without the lube)! And the fun doesn't stop there. They're going to give away national flags at TM Points for free! It's so inspiring how TM values the symbol of the flag that they make cheap replicas and give them freely to anyone who wanted one. If that is not the symbol of corporate patriotism, I don't know what is (and to be honest, wouldn't want to know either).

All this is to fit into the theme for TM's Merdeka celebrations this year which is 'Thanking Malaysians.' And TM should not just be thanking us, they should be licking our arses. Check out these numbers from Datamonitor: "The group recorded revenues of MYR16,399.2 million (approximately $4,648.5 million) during the fiscal year ended December 2006, an increase of 17.6% over 2005. The operating profit of the group was MYR3,490.6 million (approximately $989.4 million) during fiscal year 2006, an increase of 97.3% over 2005. The net profit was MYR2,302.3 million (approximately $652.6 million) in fiscal year 2006, as compared to net profit of MYR855.5 (approximately $242.5 million) in 2005."

TM made an operating profit of almost RM 3.5 billion which is an increase of 97.3% over their operating profit for the year ending 2005. And you can bet your shitty streamyx connection that all those events are going to be organized by a bunch of cronies and people/companies with vested interests. If TM really wanted to thank Malaysians then (i) make less profit of us you bastards (ii) constantly improve and maintain your service and (iii) don't waste money like you are on these Merdeka celebrations because you are a corporate entity, not a goddamned individual and were not even around during Merdeka.

TM is not celebrating Merdeka. It's cheapened it by making it an excuse to pour astounding sums of money to no good purpose, meaning or significance.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Oh why were you born so beautiful.....?

Crap! Bloody and utter crap!

20 people died when an express bus dived into a ravine, the bus having no permit to ply the relevant route, being 20 years old, the driver having 13 traffic summonses and 2 warrant of arrest, the aged chassis was evident when the roof was wholly severed from the main chassis and what did our government do? The PM was quoted as saying something to this effect, " I am sorry to hear about the loss of lives and I hope something would be done to ensure that this will not happen again!" You are sorry Pak Lah? And you hope something will be done to ensure that it will not happen again? Excuse me! Haven't I heard that before? That's it? Nobody is fired? First of all, how about firing the Minister of Transport? Or at the bloody least, fuck him in public? Reprimand him for a job NOT fucking done! How many times have this happened? Tell me please. Because I have lost count. Drunken driver. Sleepy driver. Stoned driver. Old vehicle. Buses in bad shape. No permit.

Every time it happens, the authorities will come up with steps to improve things. Like "drivers will be asked to take refresher courses". And there must be 2 drivers. And one driver can only drive for not more than 8 hours. Now they want to make CEO of transport companies personally liable and guilty of an offence too. And suddenly, there must be some compliance with some European standard! Haven't we all fucking heard it before?

And what the blinking fuck was the police doing? And RIMV too? Busy catching people with tinted windows huh? 13 traffic summonses and 2 warrant of arrest and the driver was happily driving a bus loaded with university students, kids, pregnant women and what have you? Busy raiding houses of blog owners are we?

Dear Mr Prime Minister. Please la. Don't la you go around saying sorry and hope that things will be done to ensure that it will not happen again. Because IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN JUST AS THE FUCKING SUN RISES EVERY MORNING!!! Please la do something happening Mr Pak Lah. Read my lips...H.A.P.P.E.N.I.N.G. And by that I don't mean you should establish a 80 member committee to look into the problems or some shit like that. Because that is oh so 30 minutes ago my man.

When I was a freshie in the university, and when we lost a football match to another college, the seniors would line up the whole college to greet us with a song. It goes like this...

Oh why were you born so beautiful
Oh why were you born at all
You ain't of no use
You ain't of no use at all
Go back you fool
Go back you fool
Go back you bloody fools!

Uh, erm...take a wild guess why I suddenly remember that song...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Once upon a time, I used to have a circle of close friends. There were about six of us, including myself. We would go out for lunches and dinners at least two or three times a month. And we would go any and everywhere, because we enjoyed searching out some new restaurant, or dish, or menu to savour.

One day, it was my turn to propose our venue for lunch. As I was recently told about the delights of a beef ball noodle soup place that was located around Leboh Ampang, I proposed it by email to all of them in the morning. By noon, I had received confirmations of attendance from all but two of my friends. I remembered that day distinctly because it was the first time that any of us had replied after noon.

I admit that I was used to the customary enthusiastic and excited confirmations. Both their replies however came the next morning. Both were declines without reasons. This was the first time in fourteen years of knowing each other that such an invitation was declined without profuse apologies, heavy regrets and a reason. It was at this precise moment I think the perfect circle of our little group began to fracture and disintegrate.

When I called them up, after a great deal of avoidance, they confessed that they could not join us because the place was not halal. Their husbands forbade them from going. When they tried to insist their husbands spat a taalik at them. They would stand divorced if they stepped out of the house to eat at a non-halal restaurant. They wanted very much to join us for lunch but they did not want it tear their family apart. They said that now they could only eat at restaurants which was certified halal.

After I explained this to our other friends they sympathised. We resolved to stand by our friends and so agreed to only eat at halal places only. I managed to arrange a lunch at a suitable venue at the appointed time. We were all quite taken by surprise to see that both those friends had taken to the tudung. They seemed a little embarrassed at first especially since one of them had even proclaimed that she would never put it on. But after the conversation began, things were as before and we just about forgot about the latest turn of developments.

The next time we arranged lunch at a halal restaurant which was owned by a Chinese restaurant owner. I am not quite sure how they knew this but my friends said that they could not eat there, halal approved sticker notwithstanding. When I pressed them on this they mentioned that their husbands had told them that Chinese always ate pork and would have touched the utensils in the kitchen. That would make it not halal. So we did not go in and eventually ate at a place they deemed suitable.

They could not come the next time because they had to go for a ceramah held by someone, so the four of us had lunch together without them.

The next time they came with their own utensils and their own pre-packed halal food because there may be non-Muslim staff that cooked the food and even though the meat may be halal, the pots, pans and the air would not be. Conversation which used to flow stagnated to stutters of dialogue that soon dissolved into the tinkling of forks and spoons with the plates. They looked like they endured lunch more than they ate.

The last time we tried to arrange lunch ended in painful accusations. I think I accused them of being unreasonable and stupid about their religion. And they accused me with the others for not understanding and accommodating them. I think their parting shot was that we were all sinners destined for hell.

We have not heard from them since. Those angry words are still suspended in our email boxes and our hearts its poison still seeping even though it has been three years since.

Next year, my husband and I have finally booked our haj package. We have been meaning to do it for some time now and finally have the time and money.

I am still not sure whether I would be happy to bump into them.