July 22, 2017

Maid of Honour

It all started with a picture shared in a private WhatsApp message from my cousin. The picture said, "Side by side or miles apart, we are cousins connected at heart. Will you be my bridesmaid?" The caption asked if I would be the sole maid of honour/bridesmaid. I must say, it came as a surprise...but a very PLEASANT surprise.

My cousin was going to have her wedding ceremony in Penang having gotten registered last November, and I was to serve as the maid of honour. While I was excited at the thought of being a first time maid of honour, my plans of wearing pants for the ceremony were dashed. 

While my cousin was sweet and generous enough to NOT have any pre-wedding duties nor colour theme for me, I began to worry as my mum and sis insisted that I have to wear a dress especially since I would be walking down the aisle as well! 

A 3-day weekend was spent roaming through almost ALL the malls on Penang island, and finally, after trying on more than 10 dresses and making my mum and sis walk on almost every floor of those malls we visited, we finally found a dress that was not only REAL nice and fitted me well, it was cheap too! In fact, we had seen a similar dress in a different colour which cost RM600!! 

Anyhow, once the dress was bought, I needed new shoes. Luckily, looking for the perfect pair did not take too long. The shoes however, were more expensive than the dress! 

The wedding ceremony was on a Saturday; so the bridal party met up for the first time on a Wednesday for dinner to discuss the programme, duties etc. The couple are from the US hence the really late meet up. 

Friday saw the ladies of the bridal party going for manicures and pedicures (my first!). That night, there was a party where cousins and friends hung out. I made new friends too i.e. My cousin's former school mates. Towards the end of the party, the couple decided to practice the surprise dance that they had planned for the end of the ceremony, much to the chagrin of the best man and me! But there we were, at 2am, learning and practicing dance steps to Shrek's "I'm a Believer".

Saturday - which was THE day - turned out to be quite relaxed much to everyone's surprise. I had my first make over i.e. professionally done make up and hair, wore my first dress in God knows how many years, walked down the aisle, danced in front of a crowd (although the wrong version of the song was played)...and I even got to sit at the main table! In addition to all that, I was part of the 'yam seng' group that went on stage! 

The icing on the cake was the fact that the WHOLE family was present; and the cousins finally got to wear our customised tshirts!!

I must say, this year has been a year of many firsts and it is only the 7th month of 2017! I wonder what else is in store for me. *wink*

June 24, 2017

What's been going on....

It is almost the end of June. Tomorrow it is Raya, which means the one month fasting for 
Ramadan ends. And everyone has commented that this year, Ramadan just flew by. 

In my last entry, I mentioned that it would be one year since I started my new job; and now, 
two months have almost passed since I celebrated my one-year work anniversary. 
And I must say, things are only getting better as time passes.

I am really happy where I am now. I admit that I miss my previous job and often wonder 
where I would be if I had stayed on. But when I look forward, I know that I made the right 
decision. I can feel that I have grown. 

Also, with Facebook, I am almost always kept updated with what's happening in the activist world, so I don't feel all too bad.

Now, enough about work. What I am now excited about and looking forward to is my trip to Vietnam! YES! I finally took the dive and bought the tickets. And my trusted sister is coming along (although I am still not sure if she is going willingly or because I literally 
blackmailed/guilt her into it). Nevertheless, since I got a bonus, I decided to pay for her 
tickets. That would mean that, for both her trips this year, it was all paid for i.e. she traveled 
for FREE.

We'll be traveling in September so we still have plenty of time to plan our itinerary for when we are in Vietnam. We'll be staying with Clara so I'm sure she will be of great help.

Next to plan is the family trip during Deepavali. The initial plan was to go to Bangkok, but 
now we're thinking of going on a cruise. Hmmm....

Oh yes....my birthday was about 3 weeks ago and I wore a legitimate bikini for the first time. I must say....I was very lucky that I recovered from my terrible sickness that afflicted me just days before my birthday. Surprisingly, the pictures came out great (if I say so myself) and 
there was no hint of my being sick despite me having a cold and cough still. Uncle Toning, 
Claire, grandma and uncle Peter came once again, just like last year.

While these are all exciting things happening, I am still struggling to accept that it is ok to 
splurge once in a while. I have not been able to save the same amount of money every 
month; although I make sure I save at least a bit. So far, there's been more expenditure than savings and I am nervous to see my bank balance at the end of the year. Oh well...I guess I just have to cross that bridge when it comes.

Till then....I'm just going to be positive and enjoy every day as it comes!

March 28, 2017

3 months into 2017

In a couple of days, March will end. That means ¼ of the year has gone by. And as cliché as it sounds, time just flew by. So what has happened since my New Year entry?

Well, not much sadly. My desktop at home has died. I’m not sure if it’s because of the power supply or the motherboard or whatever computer related problems that renders a desktop dead. Anyhow, I have decided not to get it fixed as: 1) it’s really old; 2) it was a second hand desktop; 3) I think it is high time I upgraded to a laptop. After all, it saves space and is easier to carry around. But the decision to get a laptop is a whole other story – while I have decided that it is indeed a laptop that would be purchased, the WHEN is the problem. But that deserves an entry all on its own (which I will not do). Suffice to say, the Scrooge in me is calling the shots.

Oh…before I forget, one unbelievable thing that happened in January, that I can tick off my bucket list is: I WORE A DRESS!! Yes!! No big deal to most of the female population but for me, my mum and my sis…WHOA it was as though history was made! Apart from my childhood and pinafore-wearing days, I have not worn a dress or skirt. Somehow, I’m more of a tomboy when it comes to this; adding to the fact that I have extremely thin legs and arms (read: twig-like), nope…no dresses for me. Weirdly, I don’t consider a saree or baju kurung a dress (if you get what I mean) so I have no qualms wearing those.

And so, for my company’s CNY luncheon this year, I was sort of “pressured” into wearing a Cheongsam. And oh my God…I suffered. I actually wore tights underneath the cheongsam so that I felt “secured”. Lo and behold, my discomfort and suffering sort of balanced out with the amount of praises I got (*perasan). And my mum could not wait to post my pictures on Facebook!! Hahaha!! Nevertheless, I think I’ll stick to pants for the next couple of months, until and unless there is a “dire” situation where a dress is required to be worn.

I attended another wedding in early March. So that’s one wedding done; another in July. Sighs. Not that I’m sad but weddings make me reflective. I’m not dying to get married but it is tiresome having to deflect all the questions and insinuations. Oh well…

My sister went on her maiden trip with her friends to Korea. It was a full expense-paid trip (I still can’t get over this). She got back a couple of days ago and brought back facial masks that will probably last us for months. I hope my complexion improves and I will be as glowing as those Korean girls. Lol! I’m still jealous that she went to Korea; and this is spurring me to plan my holiday in Vietnam. While the Scrooge in me is doing real well in this game of ‘thug-of-war’ (i.e. spend vs save) I’m determined to go on a holiday (or two) this year.

One change in me that I have noticed since the year started is that, I’m beginning to want to enjoy. I have always practiced the ‘save first, spend later’ philisophy and it has been good for my bank balance. However, I do feel left out, jealous, frustrated even, when I see my friends travelling, having a good time etc. And so, this year, I told myself that I would do the opposite i.e. ‘spend first, save later’. And how has it been so far? DIFFICULT! It is always at the back of my mind that I need to save; that this expenditure is not necessary; it is expensive…etc. But, I have had numerous signs, reminders, telling offs from family and friends, telling me to go and enjoy; have fun; DON’T DIE RICH and REGRETFUL.

I’ll be reaching my mid-30s soon and while there is still a long way to go, I need to start enjoying NOW. I’m at one end of the spectrum where spending is a NO-NO; and I am beginning to come to terms with having to let go of something to be able to enjoy and live life to the fullest. For the past 9 years of my working life, I have always set a target of how much I should have in my bank balance at the end of the year; and I have fulfilled this every single year. But 2017 will be different. I will continue to save as much as I can without sacrificing my enjoyment. I’m not exactly sure how I will feel at the end of the year when I see my bank balance, but that is a bridge to be crossed later.

Finally, come March 31st, I will have officially been in my “new” job for one year. While I feel like I have learned a lot, I also know that there is more to come. But I have a good, encouraging boss, helpful colleagues, and wonderful family and friends. I’m positive the next ¾ of 2017 will be fantastic!

p.s. I’ve suddenly become addicted (again) to Korean dramas!   

January 1, 2017

The Year That Was 2016

And so another year has come and gone. And we sit at the beginning of a whole new journey. At least, that is what I would like to think. For many of us, although it is a new year, we’ll probably just continue doing the same old boring routine of work work work. Despite promising ourselves at every year end/new year that we will do something different, two months later, we find every reason and excuse for our failure.

But I digress. This entry is to reflect on the year that was 2016. A year that was filled with:

Ø  Brave Decisions for I left my old job without having the security of a new one; my  first task of 2016 was to tender my resignation
Ø  Bold Choices as I chose or rather I listened to my parents’ advice and took a job that I wasn’t too keen on; and I don’t regret it one bit!
Ø  Making New Friends - this was courtesy of my new job
Ø  Growing Up – I would say this is and always will be part of my life but by making the brave decision and bold choice, I grew up quite a bit;
Ø  Learning – This is an extension of the growing up part for when I left my job and was searching for a new one, I learned many things about myself. And when I finally started my new job, it was a whole new learning process.
Ø  Celebrating Marriages and Births – There were FOUR unions this year (four of my cousins begun the next stage of their lives); and there were also births!! One of my cousin’s who got married is expecting; while a couple friend of mine had their first kid!!
Ø  Mourning Lost Loved Ones – while the past year had mostly been positive, but like a heartbeat monitor, certain downs were peppered throughout the year. At my last count, 10 family members and close friends left the world last year. That makes it one almost every month. And while I was not close to some of them, nevertheless, the passing of a friend’s loved ones or relative does indeed affect me in some way, as it is a reminder that despite everything, good things come to an end.

2016 was a good year for me. I worked longer hours than I did in my last job and yet, I was ok with it. I started working with a different bunch of personalities and offiice politics (to which I am still learning how to adapt, cope and work my way through it sanely); I made friends; my family got a new car (huge plus point!!); and overall, there was this certain kind of satisfaction and happiness within me.

Perhaps the change of job was something that I needed. 8 years in an NGO; working on human rights; traveling and researching….I guess it does take its toll. I miss the activism; I miss the traveling; I miss the passion the people had for the job.

I am still in contact with my ex-colleagues in Germany and Philippines who keep me updated on the case that I was working on. I still get to go back to Berlin every year though I missed it this year.

Nevertheless, 2016 was a new year for me. A change. A new me.

Now onward I go in 2017. 

March 28, 2016

The perspicacious Warsan Shire and Michael Jackson

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

- excerpt from “what they did yesterday afternoon” by Warsan Shire

Nine lines. These nine lines perfectly encapsulate all that is going on in the world today. When I came upon these nine lines on a friend’s FB profile, it struck a chord within me. It just hit me. I kept re-reading the lines because it’s just so right. The WHOLE WORLD is indeed hurting EVERYWHERE.

To me, the words are profoundly haunting. I know that some people will call me crazy when I say that I feel the words; but just as how some people connect so deeply and emotionally with a song and its lyrics, similarly, I too sometimes become intensely absorbed in a book (or its character) or a piece of writing.

With the tragedies and catastrophes that the world has endured and will no doubt, continue to endure, I cannot help but envisage a time when, if the world was asked where it hurt, the answer would be “nowhere my child, for I am at peace.”

And while wait for that to one day happen…I shall continue to ask the same questions that MJ asked in the Earth Song:

What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain...
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said was yours and mine...
Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we've shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores?

What have we done to the world
Look what we've done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son...
What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine...
Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores


March 23, 2016

What’s in a name?

I have never really appreciated my name. My sister and I, and in fact, almost all of my cousins were named by my grandmother. When we were born, my grandmother would consult with the temple priest on our dates and times of birth, and after studying the positions of the stars and planets, the priest would then provide the tone in which our names should sound. For example, my tones were “Du”, “Da”, or “De”. And so, I was given the name Devi Shakunthala. However, my mother did not like ‘Devi’ to be pronounced first, and so she switched my second name to the front, making it Shakunthala Devi. My spelling differs slightly from the usual as I have the ‘H’ in my ‘thala’ and I don’t know if there is a significance or not.

My sister’s tones were “Vu”, “Va”, or “Vay”; and she was named Vayshnavee, much to my mother’s chagrin, because pronouncing it was and still is a mouthful. For the first days of my sister’s life, I think she was called dictionary. And till today, I sometimes call her that just to irritate her. J

Shakunthala Devi and Vayshnavee are long names and so our names were shortened to Shakun and Vayshna respectively. Just so that people could call our names without fumbling. Of course, we did and still do have our fair share of nicknames/pet names – like Kun for close family members on my mum’s side, while some on my dad’s side call me Girl. I’ve also been called “Jakun” which is not flattering at all. Jakuns are aboriginal people of the southern part of the Malay peninsula, and in no way am I disrespectful to them. It’s just that when people call me “Jakun”, it’s more of a teasing (insult?) to mean that I am backward, from the jungle etc.

Anyway, I’ve always wondered what the meaning of my name was as people constantly asked. When I asked my grandmother, she once told me that I was named after one of God’s favourite dancers. That left me perplexed, and I never asked her again. I did know however that there was an Indian lady who shared the same name as me: Shakuntala Devi (4 November 1929 – 21 April 2013) was an Indian writer and mental calculator, popularly known as the "human computer". A child prodigy, her talent earned her a place in the 1982 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records. And people just assumed that I was named after her.

I also knew that Shakuntala was the main character in Kalidasa’s plays. The name Shakuntaladevi generally means Wife of Dushyant or Brought up by birds, and is of Sanskrit, Indian origin. Meaning of Shakuntala: Derived from Sanskrit (shakunta) meaning “bird”. This is the name of the main character in the 5th-century play ‘Abhijnanashakuntalam’ by Kalidasa. It tells how Shakuntala, who was raised in the forest by birds, meets and marries the king Dushyanta. After a curse is laid upon them Dushyanta loses his memory and they are separated, but eventually the curse is broken after Shakuntala shows the king the ring he gave her.

My sister’s name, though harder to pronounce, has a more straightforward meaning. Vaishnavi (Vaishnodevi) is also a Matrika goddess, considered as the shakti of Vishnu/worshipper of Vishnu. Vaishnavi (or Vyshnavi) is also a given name, in the Hindu tradition of naming children after spiritual personalities.

I have for so long under appreciated the unique-ness (though I don’t know why people say it’s unique because I know at least two other people with the same name) and traditional value of my name. But I have now come to embrace it. I had once thought of giving myself an English name – Natasha; I have even asked my mother why she never included her surname as part of my name. Yes I know, how childish. But thank God, I have grown up enough to appreciate the beautiful gift that was given to me. Not forgetting the countless times where people from all walks of life have commented on my (and my sister’s) “beautiful, exotic, and completely traditional” name. (You can call me vain now). 

I guess our names do not really reflect how we look physically. My sister doesn’t look Indian at all and so, when she introduces herself, people are often surprised that not only is she Indian, but she has a unique, traditional (and tough to pronounce) name. I look Indian (hands down) but people still don’t expect me to have a name such as Shakunthala Devi. I guess it’s a really traditional name that in this day and age, is losing ground to names such as Sneha or Shreya.

From now on, I am going to proudly embrace and appreciate the gift that was given to me so lovingly all those years ago…

Maid of Honour

It all started with a picture shared in a private WhatsApp message from my cousin. The picture said, "Side by side or miles ...