Friday, January 7, 2011

Those Were The Days

A chat with a fellow blogger set me writing this post.  We were chatting about life during our varsity days.  I remember vividly till today this part of my days in Melbourne.

I am from an average working class family.  There was enough food on the table each day.  Though there wasn't any luxury and nothing left to splash around.  Whatever was available was saved for our education.

I remember being very careful with my money.  There was only so much available.  I did not want to stress my parents up with more than was necessary.

I lived on a budget of  less than AUD100 budget a week for everything from rent to food and transport.  Those days were trying.  It was hard and maybe harsh.  I remember jotting down everything that I spent every single day to keep tab of the spending so that I did not burst my budget.

I used to buy those no frills brand groceries.  No frills rice doesn't taste nice for sure.  This much I can say. The no frills instant noodles were as you would have guessed, made in Bolehland. The rest would be bought based on what is on sale.  Sometimes I'll get a good bargain when they marked down substantially those items that were about to expire or has just expired.  Yes, I used to live on those.

Meat and vegetables were bought from the market at about noon.  This is when they try to dispose them off cheaply.  Meat was chicken, chicken and more chicken. And it was always the cheapest cut, Maryland.

While the rest had their wheels, I traveled by public transport.  Occasionally I would give myself a treat by going downtown for some window shopping.  I normally don't have anyone moving around with me then.  Friends invite you to come along now and again.  But after you have turned them down a few times, they no longer ask.  I simply couldn't because I worked.  The other reason was because I did not have the dough they had.  It would be odd when they go eat at some Chinese restaurants while I excuse myself.

During my second year I was able to give myself a weekly treat.  I used to eat Chinese at the Union Cafeteria once a week.  Just to perk my spirit up.  But this did not last long.  Before the second semester started, I lost all my money.  The bank went bust and I had all my money there.  Everything.  And the Government did nothing about it till very very much later.  From my summer break earnings to my second semester tuition fees, I lost everything.  I didn't tell them at home because I did not want them to worry.  Besides there isn't much to go around.  And it would be really unfair to my other siblings.

\So from having one four hour part time job a week, I now had three.  At one point in time I remember having four jobs.  I worked in a local Malaysian Chinese restaurant.  I worked as a night filler in a supermarket.  I worked as a research assistant with one of my lecturers and I worked as a cleaner at the university flats.  Yes, I do a far better job than those shoddy cleaners here.  Imagine having to clean up the refuse strewn by those China mature students who chuck their wet garbage from the doorways. The building manager liked me because I made sure that it would be cleaned spick and span before his bosses and the directors come to inspect the next morning.  And the only way to make sure of that is to clean it at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning!

I skipped the lectures and tutorials of one of the core subjects. The class was really early and I had to work till the wee hours of the morning at the supermarket.   I talked to the tutor who was very understanding.  He let me off.   Reading up before entering the rest of the other lectures were essential because I hardly had time to revise.  The lectures were also the only times I had for that topic of the subject.

Failing was not an option at all. That would have meant staying back another semester or year. That simply means more money!  I remember having one paper which carried a full 100 marks.  You sit in the exam hall for two hours. If you screwed up, the whole year's effort would have gone down the gutter.  That included two big assignments which carried no marks.  And if you did not do the assignments, you would be failed no matter how well you scored in the two hour examination.  If you break, we'll see you next year.  One whole year.  There ain't no such thing as referred papers over here.

Things slowly changed.  By the end of my studies, I had saved a bit. So much so I could treat my family when they came over for my graduation.  Except for their flight tickets I covered all the expenses for their one week stay Down Under.

Yeah.  I never got it easy.  It was tough.  Given another chance I would not want to go through it again.  This is not the normal experience many of us would go through during our undergraduate days.  I wish it was not like this.  But it served it's purpose.  It helped build character, personality and resilience.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I have known this friend for a while now.  Let's just call him Darcy.  I know him as a closeted person.  Coming from a conservative family, I think the idea of getting married would have been put across to him by his parents many times. 

A few months back, I bumped into him at the LCCT.  He was with a girl.  Darcy was waiting for his flight.  The gal was sending him off.  I was taken by surprised.  I asked if that was his gal which he acknowledged.  We chat at great length through text while I was in BKK.

I knew who he was and what he really wanted.  I was really taken aback.  If he was not being truthful to himself, he surely will be living in misery. Worse still people will get hurt.  I got to know how he met the gal. Darcy also told me how long they have been together.  I asked if this is what he really wants?  He was silent and the text stopped.

During the eve of this New Year he was online.  This time he initiated the conversation.  Darcy is holed up at somewhere in Vietnam.  He will be there for a good six month at least.  He was entrusted to start up the operation of his company there.  Darcy told me how lonely he was there.  As usual, after exchanging a few pleasantries and some ice breaking conversation, I asked when he was going to get married.  He said soon.  I asked if he was sure this was what he wanted.  He hung up.

I bet my last dollar this is not what he wanted.  But he wants to be the goody boy to please his parents.  This gal was also introduced to him by his parents.  Besides his parents, he probably was under pressure from his friends who by now are either married or attached already.

I feel sorry for him.  This is not what he wants.  BUT only he can stand up for himself.  Without which, Darcy will have to suffer the consequences.  I can understand if he was not and are not sure of himself.  But in this case he knows.  Darcy is smart. He should make a stand and stick with his gun,  bite the bullet and live his life. So he hurt no one.

Sometimes we just have to be cruel to be kind.   We have to be selfless and think of others.  This may seem like a paradox.  How can I think of others when I do not give them what they want?  BUT we fail to realize that we are just putting up a front and kidding them, the very people we are trying to please.  Making them believe that there will be happiness ever after.

When the curtain comes down, when it finally dawn upon us that this is not what we really want, all hell will break loose.  Think of their misery when the innocent catch us with our pants down.  Whichever way and however we try to justify our actions it still can never be right.

I hope Darcy comes to his senses and be truthful to himself .  He owes this to the innocent gal.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year

While many of you may be celebrating and counting down, I was just too tired on the eve. 

The suddenly announced public holiday disrupted my plans.  I would be away and unavailable from 3 January 2011 onwards till I don't know when.  So the last working day of the year was really crucial for me.  I of course sighed in my heart, not daring to let it out.  I was sure the rest of the work force would be asking for my blood had they known that I was not too happy with the holiday.

Anyway I retired and slept at about 10.30pm after wishing a friend Happy New Year.  It was a pretty long text message.  Woke up again by the noisy fireworks at 12ish.  Tossed and turned in bed and slept again till the next morning.

I was slightly late but the contractor I engaged to work on Legolas' palace arrived even later.  Checked my text messages while waiting for the contractor. There were quite a number of New Year greetings.  Yes.  My friend did wish me at 12.06am.  As usual, a person of little words the message was simple but sweet.

Met the contractor.  Got hold of the Elf. We later went for lunch after a stop at the electrical shop which I  normally go. 

It may be a bit too late but anyway, better late than never. Happy New Year folks.  May this year be a better one and I wish you all all the wonderful and great things you all wished for.