Sunday, December 25, 2011

The river flowed in tranquility ... and the thought came randomly ... If guns kill people, do pencils misspell words?

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong. - Lao-Tzu

December 2011

This has been one month that dished out varying trying times and moments but as has been said, " the heart would have no rainbows if the eyes had no tears". The smiles and joy of celebration captured on paper, for us to sit back alone and enjoy with nostalgia, a moment that has passed and never would return. Captured on paper.

L-R: Mrs Ignatius, me, Nithiya holding Manesh, (Standing L-R)
Raymond Tate, Mrs Tate, Shyla Thomas, Alexine at Janice's
wedding reception

Captured on paper? What else is captured on paper, that comes back with a haunting echo and eats into your soul at night, snatching away your sleep, pricking your conscience, tormenting your very being, for the words that you have written? Words that will affect the joys, contentment, emotions and lives of others. Others who trust you to stand up for them in honesty and fairness. The words of Nelson Mandela can be modified to speak for my teachers.

"I regard it as a duty which I owed, not just to my teachers, but also to my profession, to the practice of education, and to the justice for all mankind, to cry out against any form of discrimination which is essentially unjust and opposed to the whole basis of the attitude towards justice which is part of the tradition of education worldwide. I believed that in taking up a stand against this injustice I was upholding the dignity of what should be an honorable profession." 

You are holding up the ... 
My ears were saturated with words describing the inadequacies of everyone except two or three.
Is this justice?
Give her an ___ (tongue in cheek)
Yes, it was accepted. No words of inadequacies spewed forth.

Have mercy on me, dear lord. I looked back at great teachers to find out what they had to say:

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." Bishop Desmond Tutu

Another view

"Cowardice asks the question: is it safe?
Expediency asks the question: is it politic?
Vanity asks the question: is it popular?
But conscience asks the question: is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.” - Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968


In 1965 I was in Form 3. I studied Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and I had to memorize the speech made by Portia. Each passing year as I re-read the speech I learnt something new, something profound. Today, I go back to Portia seeking an answer.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. --Shakespeare

Christmas eve has come and both Nithiya and I are quite alone in our respective homes. In the evening we decide to go somewhere. We grab two sandwiches from Caltex, some drinks and I drive her car as she cuddles Manesh in the back seat. We drive out to Kuala Kangsar. I want to show her my favourite place.  We pass the beautiful mosque, come up to the palace, turn left into a car park and come to the river and jetty.

We take our food and drinks, place Manesh in the stroller and walk to the jetty and find a place to sit. There are two Malay men and some children. The men are fishing using their fishing rods. The children play quietly. The white cat is fast asleep. The river flows in all its grand tranquility. We are each immersed in our thoughts and bound by our friendship.

The man talks to us. His father had worked in the palace. This is his hometown. After a long while, he sits next to Nithiya and speaks about Manesh. He is not intrusive. He shows a caring nature. The cat sleeps.

A couple come with the professional photographer and assistant to snap pictures, to capture moments on paper for future nostalgic moments. They move on. Another couple come with another photographer and assistant. They too move on. The cat sleeps.

I look at Nithiya. She is holding Manesh close to her chest. A quote comes to mind.

Once in your life, whatever he was to the world, he becomes everthing to you. When you look him in the eyes, traveling to the depths of his soul, and you say a million things without a sound, you know that your own life is inevitably consumed within the rythmic beatings for his very heart. I love him for a million reasons. No paper would do it justice. It is a thing not of the mind, but of the heart. A feeling only felt.

We leave the man, his children, his fishing rod and the river and drive home before it gets too dark. Our Christmas eve was made special by the river, a Malay family and our friendship. The Muslim Malay personified the spirit of goodwill, kindness, joy and care that is quintessentially Christmas. The river brought us back to where we belong - a part of nature.

A good leader knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way.--Unknown

Manesh Johan and cat


  1. Beautiful, Mrs have captured my feelings for Manesh in words! He does not speak but words are unnecessary between us; holding him the way I do, I feel his heartbeat as he does mine.

    I must describe how the people on the jetty allowed us to intrude into their space and moved to accommodate us. They even moved their things for us to sit comfortably. In fact, we too, were whispering, as if not to intrude into their ‘sport’. It was that tranquil. Only upon confirmation did we speak normally. There were neither irritated faces nor the curious looks that I get every time I am out with Manesh.
    We sat, immersed in the majestic nature around us; in the distance we saw the destruction of the hills...we even spoke about it (and the fate of the ex-menteri besar)to our new found 'team mates' and felt a camaraderie. We shared a scene.

    Only much later, did one of the men ask very gently about Manesh. Yes, the cat still slept and the couples in wedded bliss took their photographs. The other man had left in the quietly as not to disturb the peace that the nature provided.

    Minutes later, we heard that loud thumping of steps and noisy chatter of a family. They came, looked, pointed here and there and stood a while, then left as noisily as they intruded. Nothing worthy here, they probably thought.

    We sat, was hard to let go of the place and the feeling of peace and calm but it was getting late, we needed to drive back to Ipoh. It was heavy traffic and we crawled on our way to the river. Manesh, too needed his dinner. We promised we will go back often and …take a book, pack a lunch, spread a mat and lie still to bond with the nature.
    That evening at Sungai Perak, Bukit Chandan, was the most beautiful moment of peace and tranquility and a recognition on the kindness of mankind irrespective of race, culture, language and religion. It was Christmas eve and we shared the peace and joy.


  2. Yes Nithiya, whoever the anonymous person is who penned those words, they put into words the unspoken bond that you share with Manesh and which he shares with you.

    The Malays there on the jetty took me back to my growing days in Johore Bahru - they used to be the kindest souls and rarely a harsh words to their children or friends. Time and modernization has changed the way man treats man but the people on the jetty showed us that there are people who are kind.

    We must do this again and take Michelle with us. Thanks for reading and for commenting.