The things they say

Just live your life well. They say that’s the best revenge.

Sometimes the things I hear about other people’s lives make me think about how nice and undramatic my growing up was. No aunties in our noses telling us we’re doomed, no uncles tattling about seeing us in the park too late doing whoknowswhat. No not so horrible things like snarky kids charming the hairnet off everyone around them and then when it comes to you, a suitable degrading meanness, like why do you wear such disgusting shoes? I’m telling. No horrible things like ugly hearted strangers in the dark. You’re too pretty, you’re ugly, you’re too ugly, you’re not smart enough. No lies that become like smoke for a fire to people you care about, no random bans from houses based on a ton of belief in lies simply because so and so said it.

No aftermath of mistakes, or becoming an item on the grapevine, doomed to be a wasted backslider who can only turn up dirt on the soles of her shoes or spout foolish non sequiturs, in perpetuity. Having people gossip about the mess in the cupboard in the bedroom or what I wouldn’t eat. No becoming a nonentity, with a I-do-not-know-you snub in the supermarket, Aisle 53, Fresh Vegetables over a cartload of eyebrow raising processed carbs. No having to say sorry even when it wasn’t you, no having to be nice with a super stiff face. No having your future robbed from you just because they bear a grudge. “Oh that girl? No, no. She’s too much, you’re better off alone.”

As they say, just live your life well. That is the best revenge.

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KL life

When I doodle I often draw unplanned, direct pen, and never use erasers. The mistakes are incorporated into the picture. It’s not really confidence, more like a kind of laziness, like I just want a picture that I enjoy, no stress.

When I was a seven year old in SLC, Utah, a girl in the same grade came back after a year on an archaeological trip with her parents in Egypt. The family shared stuff about it all with the school, and it was all so exciting, far off lands and the magic feeling of something quite different from the sunny suburby laid back super outdoorsy vibe mixed with a spring or too of passionate politics and ideology that life seemed to carry in Utah back then. I think we felt ordinary and a little like man our white bread jelly and peanut butter sandwich culture is just so so bland.

I was different from most of the other kids, being brown with Bangladeshi roots. But I was also then very much just another SLC kid. Desperately trying-too-hard so. We moved to Malaysia soon after that, and even though its been more than 20 years and I’ve met and known people from many more countries and cultures than I ever dreamed possible in SLC, my KL life still feels like that wonderful fresh dream of far away warm tropical places and richness (of the soul, food, trees and people) that never ends. I think, now, if I were to walk again on those sunny streets around Utah State, I’d stand out a mile, physically, mentally and spiritually and not be able to connect with anyone without feeling like I’m undeniably different and irrevocably changed. Its like whatever of the SLC kid I had in me became the roots of a tree that just turned out unexpectedly unpredictably different from where it began.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. My heart is in KL, always.

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The best tastes

There’s this thing we used to do as kids, semi-fight over who gets to wipe the chicken/fish/vegetable pot clean with rice. It tasted better than the same food ladled out normally. There was this covert thing about staying up late, enjoying a read or a bit of Age of Empires, with the pot and rice all to yourself. Or eating an early breakfast or a really late one when everyone’s already gone off and you’ve been left behind for some reason or other. Perhaps you were a bit of a rule bender and had requested a day off from life, needing a bit of time to catch your breath. A sleep-in and then that stronger flavor of the heaviest slightly burnt spices on the floor of the pot mixed with the ever-cushioning rice.

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The Arch

Until the emptiness becomes so huge that one has to search for the truth again.

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Time and that one platform game

Inspired, just a little, by my childhood memories of Aladdin, Nasira’s revenge

A few years ago we stumbled across Aladdin, Nasira’s revenge, again, the PC platform game that gripped us as young teens. Unsurprisingly it was a bit like, what? Why did I like this so much? Its shoddy. And why is it so hard? And the graphics seemed pretty terrible, but that’s just due to the age we live in. Yet… I can still remember that beautiful hot sunny excitement, almost like this dear little secret only we were in on, as we rushed home, tossed our bags and sat around the PC, waiting for the eldest to play (none of us really could play it besides her), all of us cheering her on, even my mom. I’d panic and rush up and down the living room making frantic prayers for her to succeed during the difficult parts that took life after life. The bursts of fear, romance, desert calm, adrenaline rushes and the journey that seemed too real of Aladdin through the city, the palace, imprisonment and then various desert and oasis settings-they haunted my dreams at night. It was like we were all rooting for or in love with Aladdin and it was us, not him, flying on the carpets or sliding down the impossible ice slide in the cave, or swinging from vine to vine in a later count down level. No PC game, not even Neverwinter had the same living effect on me. Sometimes I feel the world inside the game will always exist in me. Yet, I never actually played it much. I just watched from the sidelines and hoped she would play just one more level, just one more. Perhaps my elder sister got sick of it as the years went on-it took her years to finish.

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Riverside picnic in the tropics

I’d be sitting on a checkered wool blanket I’d borrowed from my mom, with bought food, the kind that felt mall-ish yet poetic to me then-vanilla ice cream with some modernized exaggerated topping, hot coffee and a cinnamon bun, perhaps a roti boy bun. It would be shady and hot, and I’d pretend I was having a little picnic in the temperate parks of the fiction world where mosquitoes, flies, giant lizards, and too many huge ants and other questionable insects (all of which would intrude on my artificial calm every now and then) do not seem to exist, at least not so close to people. I think I’d hope unconsciously that the too hot sun would warm up the coldness in my soul, and the attempted replication of some Enid Blyton picnic would make my self whole as I used to be back when I thought her books were worth devouring in the school library during lunch. They had a miserable little collection of a few of the Deputy Principal’s old books- the ones she could bear to part with- and the Enid Blyton section was unsurprisingly large. I really don’t know how I fit all that- blanket, food, notebooks, novels, in my over strained bulging sling bag, or how I took the bus with such a heavy load. I was likely a messy, frumpy, in-denial walking adage to loneliness.

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Fifteen minutes before lunch

What really did go on, they wondered, in those four walls, of the house, and also, of her mind, in those hurried furtive moments just before lunch had to be started? Was it emptiness, or was it scandal, or was it just a little of something else?

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Just passing by

We were on the motorcycle, it was night time, and the lights, the signs, the stylized trees and the fruits in the truck-stall kind of looked like a bit of the past when pasar malams used to be much more of our thing.

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The Blame

Blame is kind of a wicked thing

I guess its pretty unglamorous in this day and age, or maybe its just a sort of friction that I’ve faced- that ‘household work is kind of demeaning, especially if you are a wife. Its noble if you are a daughter, as long as your brother is doing his fair share, but its not something for an adult independent woman. Your husband or a maid should be doing all of it without you, not you, and only then are you and your family amongst the enlightened ones’. Maybe its just the safest route for media to take, especially in this overly politically correct age, where nuance does not exist, but moral mobs do. But its also- years and years of formal schooling, years of books, years of just living, interacting with other lives, those small sideways snide little comments or insinuations by some people (often, in my life at least, women who were working the nine to five) about housework or housewives, its all that collaesced in my brain, to the extent its become a psychological force I have to contend with. Maybe its me, and my nature of argument, my nature of wanting to address the areas where, even if its small, I feel like a victim, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes its me seeking to blame when things get difficult.

So when theres that bit of reassurance, whether its from the latest studies, or big bodies out there, or even from beleif systems, it makes that bit of paint coming off the floor onto my dish cloth that bit less heavy, the act of cleaning the dishes and toys seem a bit freeing, the cooking of endless vegetable dishes and breads and cakes a little more fulfilling, the dust coming off the fan a bit satisfying and even spiritual instead of a demeaning chore. That reassurance that these small yet difficult acts are some of the most noble things, they are what keep our humanity going, they are worth more than all the world together. Not that the world isn’t worthy, just that this means more than all of that, irregardless of who we are, where we are from, what we do, how much we have, or where we are going.

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The Kayla effect part 2

We were bored, lonely, lost, and insecure, like a pop song.

Kayla left, after this whole fiasco of wanting desperately to marry some tall good looking big fine boned future model guy. (Forcibly removed by well-meaning family would have been a more astute description, in my opinion.) And that’s when the Kayla effect began, when her absence gave her a whole personality and presence she likely never really had. I started trying to copy all her so called flirty coolness and was judged as a bad girl as a result.

The most intrusive judgement was this tutor who was from the same country as me. I suppose I was disrupting the practice tutor class a little, and I never bothered going more than once, Kayla style, but he gave me that awful eyeball for years to come, even when I’d long forgotten him. You know, you are walking down a hallway, rushing to class, and you see him see you and kind of slow down, wear a disapproving expression, and make some low sound while looking at your eyes. I found it so damn intrusive and a little harrassing. I was acting silly in a student tutored first year class years ago, and I was just barely more than a kid. Why the hell did he still care? 

News came that Kayla, after years of feeling used, became very religious indeed.

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