Wednesday, July 9, 2014 0 notes

where after this?

It's been a year since my official induction into journalism. Even within this span of the year, I don't feel comfortable with calling myself a journalist. Sure, there is a sense of pride when one confers the profession to me - but I'd closely abstain from calling myself one. Simply because if to compare myself to others on the field out there, I'm a neophyte if not only a shade light of what a journalist is.

Sure, I interview, inquire and probe people for a living. I dig out information, I cross-reference, investigate and research into issues but that doesn't necessarily make me a journalist. A reporter, perhaps. But I have a long way to go just yet. A network to expand, knowledge to build and a sense for the critical news. Nevertheless, a year in is still something worth celebrating, no?

It has been a fruitful one. I've met, grown and having looked back - it's a calling I've never regret taking on. Though the question of what next? does haunt me occasionally when I sit down and think of my career options. The pay isn't exceptional and the ladder for this field isn't incredibly high. In journalism, you do it because you love it - not for the money. For now, I can live with that but I cannot kid myself into thinking that I need to expand beyond this.

So I sit, I contemplate and of course, options change over the weeks as ideas mutate and options crop up and die down. In the end, I may choose the path my grandfather did before me: diplomacy. A strange choice, seeing I am provocative and hardly one with a civil tongue. I have no plans on leaving soon but I hope for my years in journalism to be a perfect training ground for the future. At least intellectually.

But the secrets the future holds can be cryptic - you never really know. I didn't.
Thursday, May 15, 2014 0 notes

graduation

"Come this way" he took my mortar board and led me past the door. Inside was two guys, no older than I was. One was brandishing a pair of scissors, dusting away the strands of hair from the previous customer. I knew what I was here for and why. Smiling grimly, I sat down on the chair and closed my eyes as I felt my neck-length hair fall off my head.

"No way they'd let you on stage with this" he told me. Or the guy next to me. I couldn't tell, my eyes were shut. Even down to the last moments, the university was exerting its brand of conformity onto me. In the end, all we ever churn out are individuals indistinguishable from one another. And this - this was my last message of resistance. I smiled to myself at the thought of my book hidden under my coat. At least there's that.

The haircut took no more than ten minutes before I walked out, head lighter but feeling slightly mangled. I joined the queue and walked into the hall.

"Number?"

"A168" I showed the woman the card handed to me earlier this morning. She nodded and led me into file. It wasn't my name she asked. It was my number. Because at the end of the day, we're all just numbers, memorised and institutionalised. We fall into conformity and only until the sunset of our years do we realise it.

As I shuffled down the line, I saw Azzman, my former classmate. He was now a stringer for the New Straits Times. We shook each others' hands and laughed as we exchanged formalities and our affairs. Last I met him was months ago at our alma mater's colloquium. We walked down the line and into the hall as we traded stories of local politics and just how much longer we had left before the country would crumble into the hands of racist and religious bigots.

It wasn't soon before long when the emcee called the crowd to silence and to stand up to respect the coming of the chancellor. For the next many hours, of course, I was already lost in my book.


John Ruskin's The Lamp of Memory is about architecture and how it plays a part in society. It was an hour or so before we were called out from our seats to take to stage. Finally, the moment of reckoning. The cumulation of five years all leading up to this exact moment when I was walk to the chancellor and receive my scroll. A piece of paper that means so much yet nothing all at the same time.

We were guided to a door leading to the stage. From behind the sea of mortar boards, I saw the chancellor, handing out the scrolls. I wondered if he ever remembered the faces he's ever handed those scrolls to. Did the graduates matter or were they just another number to the university statistics? I have spent my life breaking moulds and proving my salt's worth - to those who know me, I've indeed reached those standards. But to this one man who held all the power to the institution, did he?

"Alright, you ready?"

I felt my chest tighten. I took a deep breath. This was nothing. I had spent the past many months denying this moment, almost choosing to skip my convocation were it not for the persuasion of my family and friends. For all the denying, this moment felt harrowing. Suddenly, it meant something. I'm just not sure to who.

I nodded.

The man led me to the edge of the stage. He raised his hand slightly, I stopped. There were two before me. They walked to the chancellor as their names were read out aloud.

My name was called out. I took a deep breath, smiled and put my best foot forward. For all the five years I've spent in this place between heaven and hell, maybe a minute under the sun wouldn't be so bad after all.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014 0 notes

truth is in the details

People ask me what I do. I tell them I’m a journalist. One who digs past papers and numbers to make sense of the World around him. An investigator, informer and historian. There’s no greater pleasure than pulling the threads of history together as it unfolds, documenting it to the finest detail. There is no greater desire than to know; to devour facts and tidbits of knowledge. To talk to everyone, to know their story, what scares and gives them hope. To become a intermediary for voices you’d otherwise will not hear. Because stories make who we are. Because our narratives shape the World. There’s nothing else I’m more in love being than who I am: a journalist.


photo credits to: Abram Goglanian
Saturday, May 10, 2014 0 notes

come swift

There's something about death that's inviting, enticing and intriguing. It's the drive past midnight when all that's present is just you, street lights and an infinite stretch ahead. You're tempted. Close your eyes, let go of the steering wheel and press down on the gas. The back of your mind nags at the pain you're leaving behind but at this point, that's all afterthought.

I've always imagine two scenarios of death. One is where I meet it in my twenties. An accident, caught in crossfire or death by beating. Gruesome, tragic but in my line of work, I can hope only for the best. The other is where I live my life to ripe old age, content and weathered.

It's funny but were I to die tomorrow, I'd be ready enough to approach it with open arms. Apart from intentions that I've never reached, words I'd never say and ties I've strangled - I'm all good. Do not cry when I'm gone. Celebrate the highs, lows and what I've behind.


Send me off with a eulogy and a song to remember me by.
Saturday, April 26, 2014 0 notes

unkindest ceremony

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that.” Fucking operators. I replied a cordial thank you and hung up. It’s almost three weeks to my graduation and I am nowhere prepared for it. Let alone even looking forward to the ceremony. If it wasn’t for Heidi, I wouldn’t even consider showing up in the thick robes they strangle you with for the last time before you leave the university gates.

My five years in university was bittersweet. Though I left with important lessons burned to both mind and heart, it is not a chapter I would easily return to. Even in my final hours, the university spared no pleasure in making my life a little bit more unbearable. The paperwork, backlogged fines and back-and-forth with unkind operators was just one of their forms of bureaucratic hell.

“I don’t want to go,” I told my mother just the other night.

“Then don’t.” No negotiations, no convincing argument. The past five years was not something she found to be a bed of roses either. I wondered if my parents would turn up to my graduation if I asked.

The significance of the ceremony is lost to me. You are crammed into a sweltering hall with a thousand other students. You wait for hours before you name is called. You climb up the stage, smile at your educators. This is what your five years have been building up to: a brief moment in the spotlight, a broad smile for the crowd and professors and a scroll pressed to your hand.

You become another among the millions who have stood in the same platform you did, under the glaring lights. Your five years summarized in the empty scroll you now hold in your hands. You ask yourself, what next? More importantly: was it all worth it?
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 0 notes

englufment

The letter curled into ashes as the tendrils of flame swallowed it. The fragments of expression floated into the air as it disintegrated into nothingness. These are words you wouldn't read.

"I daren't."
Sunday, March 2, 2014 0 notes

akimbo

“Nobody is telling you to care.”

“Yeah, but you want me to. Funny how that works huh?”

“Very.”

There’s a silence between the both of them. For a moment, her face looks like she wanted to say something. It was always so obvious, her nose scrounged and eyes glossing over. But she ends up silent, hesitant. Nothing changes.

“I’m just tired, see? Tired that I’m sitting here in silence not saying anything. Just hoping you’d look up and notice.”

“And you think I don’t care?”

She shrugs. It was dangerous to answer that. And she could expect the reply as it were. He sighed and looked away. There was an expression written on his face, one that speaks of tiredness. One that plays annoyance, exasperation but also pity. She wondered, for a moment, how much did he care.

“You can’t expect me to do that. I cannot do that.”

“I’m not expecting you to. I feel guilty that I feel this way. That I somehow wish you’d care. But I can’t – I can’t keep this… Burdensome thing in me.”

“Then don’t.”

“You speak like it’s so damned simple.”

“Maybe it is. Maybe it’s just you who refuses to accept it.”

“Because I fucking wished you would care!”

He stepped back, astonished. Clearly, this wasn’t expected. Her sudden outburst. The bubbling waters over spilled, the vase broken. She sighs and sits down cross-legged. She didn’t look at him and neither did he. His arms were already crossed.

“I’m sorry.”

It was a while before he replied, his voice sad. “I can’t.”
 
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