China-made Kitchen Knive

China-made, all steel kitchen knife–checked it for sharpness and bite durability; very good! Back in the day (50s, even 60s) knives and parang, especially factory-made were hard to come buy; most were kampong-made, built from salvaged steel. The most-coveted parangs were those made from leaf springs originally in American Jeeps.

Kids were not allowed to handle the parang, not because parents and adults were afraid that they would hurt themselves with them but that the kids will “hurt” the knives and parang. They were most definitely not allowed to sharpen them.

Now, consumer society has brought this China knive, all for only RM7! Times have indeed changed.

Beauty Pageant, ok?

I WAS BORN 60 years ago in a place that used to be called North Borneo, a backwater colony in the mighty British Empire. For all practical purposes–and probably legally, if my parents had wanted it–I could have become a British citizen.

I watched Malaysia came into nationhood in 1963. I was a witness as Malaysia grew and prospered, happy and progressive as a young nation. In time I had chances to attend sumptuous and expensive state banquets in honour of kings and sultans. I have watched awesome displays of fireworks worth hundreds of thousands of ringgits in celebration of the National Day or other big anniversaries. I have attended government opening ceremonies adorned with glitter and elaborate staging worth millions of ringgit.

We, as a nation, could do this because we are now a country of means–no, make that a country of extras; we have disposable income, enough to afford expenses for celebrations. And that’s ok; we should celebrate as can be afforded by our prosperity and peace. Unlike some countries far older than ours, which do not only have disposable income but are at war and suffering from abject hardships and poverty, even famine.

But we are at war now. We do not know when we will defeat the invisible enemy, if at all.

And people are suffering as collateral damages, and as incidental and consequential victims. Not to mention the actual sick and dead ones. We all suffer, some more than others; they are many who lost their incomes. The government has spent billions of ringgits–they call it stimulus packages but we know better; those are survival handouts–as unproductive money that are not going in as investments that will multiply. We can not pray in our mosques, churches, temples and other places of worship as yet. We could not go home for Raya if our kampongs are in another state.

And so it is pretty hard to get excited to about a beauty pageant (never mind that the top prize is worth RM150,000) in these hard times, no?

Pay Forward

I AM HAPPY TODAY–I managed to do a “pay-forward”.

I was the only person in front of a guy who was doing his business at the RHB ATM. When he finished and walked away, I took sometime to take my turn, then noticed a card was still in the slot. Ooops, somebody’s perlupa. I ran after the guy (some ways already), hollered and wave the card. Of course he was very grateful. Small thing maybe but you know how much is the hassle of replacing a card. The thing is, the same situation happened to me at that SAME MACHINE some years ago. A pretty girl came rushing to me when I was already walking away from the bank outside, shouting, “You forgot your card!”.

There are people who do acts of kindness for nothing more it is the right thing to do. I have lived for more than 60 years now and through the years I can say I have been a recipient of people’s good deeds too. Many times.

One day when I was still working for the government as the Director of a biggish department, I was at my office when a guy called to say he was on the way to the airport, but he asked if it is all right to pop over and see me. Sure.

He arrived, I invited him to the sofa, and I inquired, “What can I do you for?” Of all the staff, the head of the department must the most willing to serve, right?

He said, “I am flying to Sandakan. I am on the way to the airport. I heard your wife is sick.” And he took out an envelope and said, “Here, I hope this can help your wife a bit.” Needless to say I was speechless; I thought he was there to ask me or the department for something.

Later when he left I found out inside the envelope were a lot of money. I wanted to cry.

One month later my wife died.

That was not the end of the story. For years later, on many occasions, he will manage to slip in money together with some Sandakan anchovies or crackers whenever he flew in to KK. I tried, I implored to pay back but he always said, “It’s a gift.” How do you counter that but say THANK YOU.”

Now, the most cynical of us will say that he owed me a lot before this. No…he is more of an acquaintance than a friend, who probably I meet once or twice a year. Never did anything for him more than introducing some business contacts.

Acts of kindness–we all appreciate that, especially in time of need. I am still in arrears as far as pay-forward is concerned. I will pay; I just hope I have the chance. Hope you do too. And with that happy thought, I want to wish my Muslim relatives and friends, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri :-).

COVID-19–Am I Safe?

There have been quite strident opinions expressed in social media about the government’s decision to slowly open up the restrictions upon citizens to combat COVID-19. Some have been quite vocal about being against the lifting of the Movement Control Order. “It’s too early!” “The number of infections will rise!” “It’s not safe!”. Last week I saw a video on Whatsapp of a citizen who took it upon himself to give advice to the number one politician in the nation (Prime Minister) about the negative political consequences of lifting the MCO. As if the PM does not know.

I can understand their fears of course. But what is safe? More importantly, what are the measuring metrics for the government to use against which to gauge the balance between public health goals, and economic and social objectives?

As the government mulls the relaxation of the MCO and to effectively release us all from quarantine, I am reminded of a quote by the late Steven Jobs in a commencement speech which reads, “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” I love that speech. Someone called it the “How to Live Before You Die” speech.

I once wrote in my memoir thus:

Nobody wants to die.

Well, save for the martyrs and suicide bombers. That is the existential curse we all shoulder as the only sentient beings on this planet. Intellectually we know we will die someday…just not today. We refuse to look at our own mortality in the eye; we indulge ourselves in the hope that death is an amorphous wraith still in the far shadows; we quietly do not deny its inevitability but we clothe ourselves in the wishful assurance it is still in the hazy future. Like in a Greek tragic drama, sometimes we rail against the fates with Achillean angst. We fight.

Life is all about risks. We do not live in a perfect world. We wake up to the sun every morning and we know our day is a series of decision-making about what is safe. Or at least, what is an acceptable risk. You start your car, take the road and you know there is a risk that you may potentially be part of the statistics of about 8,000 road fatalities every year. You eat at a restaurant or hawker stand and you know you could end up as one of the 400 food poisoning victims in a MOH Yearly Report. Sometimes you may not even have a choice or influence at all, like the South London guy who was sunbathing in his back garden when a body fell from a plane and landed a mere 3 feet from where he was.

But those data and incidences do not stop us in our tracks. We do not cower in our bedrooms in trepidation. We are not terrified to drive or take public transport unless there are no more other vehicles on the road. Ditto with our lives. We fall in love and marry knowing full well there are horrible examples of broken marriages out there. We have kids despite knowing the fact that not all babies are born healthy and fully-formed. (I know of a married couple who held their 3 dying babies in their arms in succession).

Of course accepting that everything can not be guaranteed to be 100 % safe and still go about your business does not mean you have to be either be cavalier, foolhardy or fatalistic about making decisions that your affect heath. Or take ridiculous risks. You do not go stomping in the dark, barefooted and legs exposed, in your back garden when only yesterday you saw a 6 feet cobra slithering among the weeds there. Or go walkabout alone at three in the morning in a rough neighbourhood the very first night you arrived in a strange foreign city, all in the name of, “can’t wait until tomorrow to go sightseeing.”

And so tomorrow, as is my routine during this long lockdown, I will put on my baseball cap, sunglasses and a home-made bleach and alcohol-infused triple-layered mask and head to the pasar to buy food and essentials.

Is it going to safe? I hope so! I understand though that the government can not guarantee me that–which government can? I also understand that the government got bigger things to worry than just me. Like the health, economic and social well-being of the 34 million Malaysians as a whole, as a nation. And that if they fail there will be more deaths and suffering than what are caused by the coronavirus now. As I said before, I am not a germaphobe nor a cleanliness OCD freak. But this is different–this is a new virus of which the human body as yet do not recognise as a dangerous invader and therefore cannot mount a defence immediately. And it kills people, especially old people. People like me–the Golden Citizen (Warga Emas).

I will leave you with a quote from a movie (Will Smith’s character in “Hitch”), “Life is not the amount of breaths you take, it’s the moments that take your breath away.”

Think Steve Jobs. Stay safe, everyone❤.

~ Rayner