Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Seniors

A notification popped up on my Facebook earlier today. It was a friend commenting on an old video made and posted on facebook by a friend of mine. It was a video of our seniors saying farewell to us juniors since their time in Macquarie University, Sydney was up and they had to get on planes back to Malaysia. The whole content of the video was them either at the airport or just heading to the airport, just saying goodbye and giving us their final pieces of advice.

Watching it reminded me of how close we had grown to each other during that short year of being around each other. This was especially true for me since from the get go, I had stayed with nine of them up until their final days in uni. I had started as a super-introverted guy, really really shy with all of them since I wasn’t all that close to them during the teacher training institute days. Some might have seen me as a sombong guy, and I don’t blame them since I barely spoke around them in the early days. In truth, I was afraid of them. They were my seniors and they knew so many things that I didn’t know, and were so close to each other that when I was thrown into the mix, I felt like such an outsider, not worthy of mingling with them since I would just be a nuisance.

But as time went on, I warmed up to them and they warmed up to me. We got close to each other through time spent with each other and just going through problems as a unit. We had our troubled days, yes, but in the bigger scheme of things, those problems ended up bringing us closer together and opened up doors for us to trust each other more. We’d have late night talks, either at home or at the Auburn Macca’s. They helped me a lot in a lot of regards, from giving advice on assignments to trying to retrieve stolen property, among other things. I am very grateful I was blessed with their company.

It was a bit weird to see them again in light of today. What I mean is, back then, they were so much wiser than us in comparison. How much just one more year in a university in a foreign country can make to people. I still view them as wise people today. But as both cohorts have grown into the teaching profession now, we aren’t seen as that much different from each other anymore. It wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that we can now be considered equals. We have both gone through teacher training, which included a couple of years overseas, and are now relatively new teachers in all our schools. If a senior teacher who’d been in the profession for 20 years already took a look at both our cohorts, they’d say we were the same.

To me, they’ll always be my seniors. The ones that helped me through a lot during my years overseas especially. But it just struck me while thinking about it how everyone else who weren’t with us during those years would ever know how we have affected each others’ lives, how much hardships we’ve been through together, how much fun we’ve had together. Some of us have kept in touch, while some others have fizzled out of contact with each other. Despite that fact, there will always be that special place in both our memories and our hearts of Macquarie University, Sydney in the year 2011.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tak Pakai Otak

So earlier today I retweeted something about people’s attitudes towards GST, and I got a reply from a person who was offended by the opinion. In their reply, they said (among other things) that I was not using my brain at all. Tak pakai otak, katanya. I’d like to attack this idea of saying that other people aren’t using their brains.

See, I don’t think they meant it literally. I don’t think that they actually believe that my brain was dead upon retweeting and replying to the initial tweet, because if I wasn’t using my brain at all, I would even have retweeted the tweet in the first place. I would most probably have been dead. Or asleep. Whichever way, still disabling me from acting at all the way I did.

What I think the person actually meant was that I was using my brain wrongly. I was thinking about it the wrong way, according to them. That I didn’t have access to the truth that they had, thus I came out with the malicious retweet in support of the said tweet. Because I didn’t hold the same opinion that they did, I must have a defect in my brain, or at least in how I was using it, since I didn’t arrive at the truth that they did.

Here’s how it is: different people think differently. You can’t help that, since different people were raised differently and have different circumstances surrounding them. For example, one growing up as a son of a mildly successful restaurant owner in the city, and one growing up as a daughter of two public school teachers. Can you say that one worldview is better than the other. No. Neither of them are superior nor inferior. They’re just different. It can’t be helped.

Now, who is to say that any opinion held by the son is invalid? Who is to say any opinion held by the daughter is invalid? Just because their opinions don’t match on certain issues, does that mean that one of them isn’t using their brains properly? No, because they are both informed by different things. One person thinks about it this way, and the other person thinks about it the other way. Neither one of them have any right to accuse the other of not using their brains properly. They’re both using it in the unique way they were taught or shown how to use it.

Running with that logic, the one where a person who doesn’t think the way you think is using their brains wrong, would it be such a leap of the imagination to accuse you of the same. If all it takes for one to be using their brains wrongly is by thinking differently from the other, than everyone in the whole wide world is using their brains wrongly. And that can’t be right, can it?

Real talk: different people think differently. Sure, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but open up your heart to understanding that it’s a fundamental thing to hold on to in order for us to be open to learning new things and grow and prosper. Be kind, and let yourself be wrong sometimes. Ask yourself on the regular, “what if I’m wrong?” and be open to discovering a different truth that might just be better and make more sense to you than the one you hold on to at the moment. Be humble enough to admit that you sometimes make mistakes, and be forgiving enough towards yourself to say “that’s okay”. 

Or not.

Words On Love

I’ve been on a mini-writing hiatus of about (let’s see) four days now, and wanting to get back to typing, I thought about what I was going to write about. None immediately came to mind, so I checked my idea-bank (which I store in my twitter drafts place). It was empty. a little frazzled, but not to give up on myself, I asked myself, “what do people usually write about?”

I quick stroll through the Malaysian-published books in your local bookstore would suggest that the most popular thing to write about is love, followed closely by religion, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll concentrate on love being a topic people write about. 

There have been novels upon novels with the word “cinta” on them for the majority of literary works produced by local authors throughout the years (this trend is currently being superseded by having “suamiku” in the titles) until at one point, I even asked myself if any author could get published if their book-titles were to be without that word, or similarly themed words such as “rindu”. 

Of course, there are definitely a handful of books that go on to be pretty popular that are without those words in the title such as the works of Hlovate and Ramli Awang Mursyid, but they make the minority. Everybody seemed to want to write about love. 

And upon looking back at my own blog, that theme is one of the themes that I touch very little on (at least in my non-fictional kind of writing). It’s a topic that I’ve seemed to always want to steer clear of, and that is the case because, firstly, I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing for the sake of doing it because everyone else is doing it (hipster teroxxx), but secondly, and more importantly, I don’t feel adept at explaining it.

So many people go around expressing their views about love as if their views of it is gospel and like there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to love and any problems you may have with it. I’m sure many of them learn new things as they go about their lives and end up changing their views about it several times throughout, which isn’t a bad thing at all, since we’re all humans and we make mistakes and growth doesn’t come without change. To that effect, any view that we have of the world is bound to evolve and change somehow, so it’s acceptable to not hold on to just one view for too long.

But I don’t talk about love (at least that ewwy mushy kind) because of cooties. No, I’m just kidding. It’s because I don’t see myself as any kind of authority in it. What I do know is that what works for some people doesn’t necessarily work for others, and that’s basically a general rule for everything in life, not just love.

I do, however, believe that love is one of the most beautiful emotions bestowed upon us, and I only use the word “beautiful” to describe it because of the lack of a better word in my limited vocabulary. It is the emotion that every parent feels towards their children. It is the feeling we have towards our siblings (or at least the one I have for mine). It is the only word on your mind when we finally discover our soul-mates. It is what drives us through hard times. It is what makes us smile. It is what makes us cry. It is what makes us human. It is our common denominator. 

I have written love stories before, for sure. A perusal of the fiction-section of my book would make that obvious. But to say I’ve figured love out? No. I have so much more to learn.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Question of Holidays

Have you ever been so glad that a holiday has arrived, but by the end of it feel so unsatisfied with it? I've had several, and a lot of people have also expressed such a feeling either to their closest friends or online. Mostly online though.

I noticed that I wished that the holiday period could be extended. Admittedly, sometimes I do find that by the end of the holiday, I am looking forward to going back to work/school/college, but more often than not, I'd rather continue taking time off from the stresses that serious stuff puts on my plate.

I had a think about why I felt such a way. There could be a multitude of reasons, but for the purpose of this post, I'd like to zero in on one reason in particular: that I feel like I haven't made the best out of my time off. I'd want more time to not do work stuff and more time to do stuff that I'd only have time for during the holidays. But what are those things?

I've never actually outlined what I look for in a holiday. Whenever a holiday comes, I just revel in the fact that I don't have to go to work for a period of time, and I rarely go beyond that thought. But to spend the holidays in a way that will leave me satisfied by the end of it, I need to make clear what it is I want satisfied. That is, what are my goals for the holidays? Why does having all this free time matter to me? If I weren't at work, what would I rather be doing?

So I first have to define what a holiday means to me. Side-note: this is starting to sound very much like work. Padahal nak sembang pasai cuti kot. Side-side-note: but I'm discussing this so that I can start to spend my holidays in a productive manner. Takmaw dah buang masa not knowing what I'm doing with my time, nor what I'm even supposed to be doing.

What is a holiday? It's time off from work. Sure, that definition is a general definition for everyone, but what does it mean to me, specifically. Why do I, Noor Anwar Hadi, value holidays?

One of the reasons I value it is because I get all this time to do stuff that I am passionate about but aren't work-related. They include (but are not limited to) spending time with my family, learning new things, taking on new experiences, reading, writing and making music.

So there you go. Holidays for me is a time when I can and should spend time with my family, learn new things, experience new things, read, write and make music. A now have a general list which I can tick whenever the holidays come around. Keeping it general like that is a bad idea for a procrastinator like myself, so whenever a new holiday rolls around, I should specify exactly what it is I'm going to do within each of those categories. For example:

- Spend time with family: from this date to this date, balik kampung.
- Learn new thing: watch three documentaries about hip-hop on Youtube.
- Experience new thing: volunteer for soup kitchen at this location on this date.
- Read: *Book title* by *author*.
- Write: Three short stories.
- Make music: One three-minute-long rap song.

Once I have all these tangible goals set, I can start doing each of them. And if by the end of the holiday I can tick all of them off the list, then I'd be satisfied with myself and not feel guilty about wasting my holiday doing what also I don't know.

I think that's a good way to approach a holiday, at least for me. By the end of it, I'd be able to feel a sense of achievement that I've spent my holiday doing something meaningful and fulfilling.

But of course, to each their own. What works for me might not work for you, dear reader. If you find yourself dissatisfied by the end of most holidays, then I suggest you find out what works for you by asking yourself the initial questions and set out to make holidays more fulfilling for yourself.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hi Former Teacher

The other day I went to an open mic event to be a spectator. About halfway through the event, a person I knew walked in the room. 

She was a retired teacher trainer whom I've volunteered with for a two-day art event as one of her assistance. I smiled at her, but it was obvious from the way she looked at me and her body language that she didn't recognise me. I let it go and didn't pursue it.

It turned out that she was performing as the closer of the event that night. She read some of her original poetry.

When she went up on stage, I told my friend that was sitting beside me that I knew her.

"I know her. She's a retired teacher trainer." I said. "I worked with her in an event last year. But she doesn't remember me anymore."

My friend glanced at her, then looked at me and said, "But she's definitely glad that you remember her."

That hit me in the feels because of how true that was. She was an educator, and as people who go through hundreds of students year after year, remembering each and every one of your students after you cease to see them daily is a monumental ask.

But teachers always get a warm fuzzy feeling within themselves when former students make themselves known to the their teacher. One feels appreciated, even loved by this simple gesture. Both my parents are experienced teachers, so watching them meeting former students makes this obvious to me. That friend who pointed this out to me at the open mic is also a much more experienced teacher than I am, so that friend knew what she was talking about.

Even with the less-than-one-year of teaching experience I have right now, I am able to catch a glimpse of how that feels like when students that I no longer teach still call me out "Mister Anwar!" when walking around the school compound. I can only imagine how the feeling is compounded when off campus.

Point is, I guess, when you see a former teacher of yours when you're out and about, try to make the effort to say hi to them (but only if it's not an imposition to them). You don't need to sit down and chat for hours recounting the good old days or anything. Just two minutes of asking what's up is more than enough. Chances are, you'll end up making their day.

Every Person A Story

The world is a sphere full of stories.
There are 6 billion people round the Earth.
Each and every one of them different.
Each and every one of them unique.
Each and every one of them a story.

And that's not to even mention the
102 billion that have come before the six.
Just imagine, every individual, a walking book
just waiting to be told.
Just waiting to be read.
Just waiting to unfold.

And all those six billion stories
that tread the ground are bound
by one timeline.
They are all being unraveled
Isn't that crazy?

To think that
right now, two brand new people
are being born into this world.
You can't help but imagine
both sets of parents jubilant 
to have witnessed the miracle of miracles
occur right in front of their very eyes.

Yet, by the time it took for me to finish that sentence
twenty other people have reached the end of their time
here on Earth.

It's crazy to think that right at this very moment
people are waking up and sleeping at the same time,
falling in love and falling apart, or maybe just falling, at the same time,
doing their first open mic and selling out stadiums, at the same time,
watching football and tanam padi at the same time.

Mind-boggling how that's our reality.
And yet most of the time we're trapped in our heads,
worrying about ourselves, yourself, myself,
without the awareness of our own uniqueness,
and our insignificance.

You're having a bad day?
Believe that someone has it worse.
You're having an awesome one?
Knowledge is a curse 
that won't let you be the happiest bear
because you know somewhere out there
someone's doing infinitely better
paralleled by yet another cracking under pressure.

This puts us in a middle zone,
an area of awareness that reminds us 
to at all times, be mindblown,
and chill.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar released his second full-length commercial album, "To Pimp A Butterfly" recently, and I've been spending some quality time with it. 

There are many reviews of this album circulating the internet already, many saying that it's the new benchmark for works of art in the world of hiphop, so I won't be adding anything to that since I'm pretty much in agreement with it.

What I will say though is how I admire the vision Kendrick has in his works and he makes this vision just obvious enough for the listener to understand what he's trying to do with his pieces of work. It's tough to listen to only one song of Kendrick's. Yes, the individual singles are amazing as they are, but when one understands that it was made to fit into the bigger picture of the album, one can't help but feel an urgent need to listen to the album from front to back.

Whenever I listen to any of Kendrick joints, it's really tough for me to concentrate on anything else. His pieces of work have this affect on me that demands my attention, not allowing me to just have it playing in the background. It demands to be my main preoccupation. It could just be that I am terrible at multitasking (and I am), but I can put other albums on and be able to do other things at the same time (with some exceptions, of course). 

But up until now, any Kendrick album/song that reaches my ears will almost definitely make me sit down, drop everything else and listen. I don't know what it is about his work, but I hope to one day find out, and emulate. Hopefully.

I guess what I find most attractive about Kendrick's work is that it is so apparent that he is trying to make the world a better place using his art, without compromising on the art. The effort stands out and is undeniable, thus making it much easier to appreciate.

Of course, I won't be able to even get anywhere close to that if the effort I put into the craft is like it is now. I haven't written anything new in, like, two months now. And that's saddening. I can throw excuses such as being too busy or tired with school stuff and other preoccupations, but we all know it's because I don't want it enough. I'm not hungry enough when it comes to this path. I need to retain that hunger. Hopefully with this new Kendrick record dropping, it'll make me get back on the horse and start writing and recording again. Hopefully.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What About 25

I'll be turning 25 this year. That age seemed to be so large to me back when I was still in school. But when I'm in the here and now, looking around to my peers and even those beyond my age, I find that not much has changed, and yet, everything has.

I've seen those younger than me mature and become such good thinkers I never thought was possible for a person of such age. I've also seen those much older than me that have still even asked the question of what maturity means, let alone go along the path towards it.

I've seen those younger than me take on marriage and become parents. And I've seen those much older than me who still can't imagine themselves being attached to just one person, let alone commit to a lifetime with a sole human being.

I've seen those younger than me tread their career paths and make an immense amount of money to support not only themselves but their families. And I've seen those older than me still scraping to make ends meet, some even living off the streets depending on the kindness of strangers for sustenance.

I've seen those younger than me much more spiritually developed, having knowledge of their religion within themselves and work everyday to get closer and closer to their Creator. And I've seen those much older than me still struggling to rest their foreheads on the ground even twice a year.

The question I asked myself earlier today for apparently no reason was, "what is a 25 year old supposed to be concerned about?" 

Some concern themselves with the news. Some with their business. Some with movies. Some with music. Some with making sure they go to heaven. Some with making sure that they tell other people that they're going to hell. Some with making sure they have a good time. Some with making the world a better place. Some with having a laugh. Some with fitting in. Some with standing out. Some with making money. Some with making friends. Some with creating experiences. Some with politics. Some with comic books. Some with teaching. Some with learning. Some with being superior to others. Some with working hard. Some with making others feel bad about working hard. Some with telling off the government. Some with telling off Wak Doyok. Some with getting girls. Some with getting accepted. Some with themselves. Some with everyone else.

I suppose there's really no right and wrong. There's just reasonable, and unreasonable. There's decent, and indecent. There's kind, and unkind. There's beneficial, and detrimental.

On which side of the coin do we choose to fall? And it is, of course, a choice.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Quite Simple

A person tweeted a comment concerning the writings in my book the other day, saying that it was "quite simple" and that they were expecting more from me. I thanked her for her honesty and added "expectation is the root of all disappointment".

I'm unsure of which part the commenter was referring to when that person said that my writing was simplistic, so I'll just take it to mean that both sides were equally simplistic. The person did, however, specify that the language was what was simplistic. The content, in that person's opinion, was good. I thanked her for her kind words.

Pieces of writing that uses simple language is something that I find appealing. I remember reading Dr Mahathir's The Malay Dilemma and was struck by how effectively he delivered his message by only using very simple, everyday English. Bombastic jargon was kept to a mere minimum, and I felt that it helped in the overall relatable-ness of the piece of writing. He wouldn't be winning any creative writing awards anytime soon with language like that, but, as I said before, it was effective and relatable.

Another one of my favourite authors, Jeffrey Archer, also uses the same approach. He's far from the most fanciful writers out there. He's pretty straight forward in his use of language, and we can imagine him saying all these words out loud in our head when we read his books (at least I can). I'm pretty sure that his purpose in writing is telling a story, and the more people can understand and follow it, the better.

But of course, big and fancy words do have their place in prose. I have nothing against it or the people that use such language. I respect them highly for being able to use such language in an effective and creative manner. I admire their wide vocabulary and wish I had the same range of words to choose from when I write.

But truth be told, the people who have influenced me the most in my writing, namely Jeffrey Archer and Haruki Murakami more often than not use simple everyday language to convey their stories. The strength of their writing is not in their choice of little known words and complex and dense sentence structures, but rather the plot, characters and effect their pieces have on their readership.

My main aim, particularly in "I'm OK" was to get the reader to feel something after every piece. They are free to interpret the story as they wish, but if I could get them, you to feel moved in some way, then I will regard it as mission accomplished. For every piece I try to bring out a different feeling, or a variation of the same feeling. I guess it was an experiment in seeing how many feels I could touch within a reader in one collection of short stories.

Good content is what I strive for. I'm nowhere near as good as I want to be, but Imm working towards it. And hopefully, I'll be close enough to where I want to be in terms of writing ability, one day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Saying Yes

The first thing I heard upon waking up this morning was "Abang, nak pi Kota Bharu ka dak?" and my immediate response was "Nak!" I hadn't even digested who asked me the question, yet without a moment's hesitation, I agreed. Now that I think about who asked me the question, it was definitely one of my aunts. I just can't remember which.

That occurence triggered a train of thought in my mind, mostly centered around the phrase "say yes to life!" like in that Jim Carrey movie you may or may not have watched.

Why i thought about that phrase is that upon reflecting on myself and my general attitude towards stuff and things, I find that I say yes to a lot of things. At least I say yes a lot more than I say no. And I find that comforting.

People can tell me to do stuff and more often than not, I'd say "sure, why not?" or something along those lines. I like being able to say yes to things and taking on things that are either new experiences or that helps other people from whatever trouble they're having.

Like earlier today, when asked if I wanted to go to Kota Bharu, I could have said no because I still had a book to finish reading (I've been reading it for three months now) as well as some exam papers to mark, but I disregarded them for the opportunity to say yes. I wouldn't say no to a chance to broaden my horizons by going out into the world, to places I don't usually go for the slightest of chances that something interesting might happen that would enrich my life even ever so slightly.

Sometimes I say yes just because I have no good reason to say no. A fictional example would be that if a teacher asked me to take over a relief slip for her/his class during which I don't have any classes to go to, I'd say yes. Some teachers I know would chime in with an "ehhh, baiknyaaa," at this, but the truth of the matter is, the only reason I said yes to it is because I couldn't answer the question "why not?" If I don't have a reason to say no, I'd say yes. Not because I'm baik (far from it), but because I really don't have any real reasons to decline.

Saying yes to things may have taken away my time from the things that I'd rather focus on, but it's been within my nature to do that ever since I don't know when. I was definitely made consciously aware of this trait when I watched Jim Carrey's Yes movie. And it's not like I'm begrudging this or anything. It's a God-given inclination within me that I'm hopeful will lead to good things.

Monday, March 16, 2015

School Holiday in Kelantan

I'm in Kelantan for a few days for the school holidays, so updating the blog will be a bit of a challenge for yours truly. I'll still try though. As we speak, I am typing this blogpost on the phone in a hair saloon in the town of Kuala Krai. My kampung area doesn't get any reception, so I won't post anything from there.

My grandparents' house post-flood is doing alright. They're in good spirits, maybe because so many of their children and grandchildren have come back to the house for the holidays, but they're in good spirits, and that's always good. 

One can still see the residue of the flood around. Dried up mud is still in a lot of nooks inside the house, whereas outside of it, dust is quite obviously in the air, especially when a vehicle passes by. Dried up mud is still makes up a lot of the ground. It's dry season over here, as it is in West Malaysia I suppose. Good thing clean water and electricity has now been readily available to the house for a while now.

Earlier today, we cleaned up what was left of the uncleaned stack of pots and pans outside the house and put up new curtains to the house. It's looking more and more like it was before the flood every day.

But it won't be the same. For better or for worse, it won't ever be the same anymore. We keep praying for the best, and that's all we can do. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Hashtag Deep

Today, a twitter account criticised most of our young-uns’  understanding of deep. We’re talking about deepness in terms of a work of art, whether they be in the form of movies or song lyrics or poetry, not deep as in the physical sense. 

The tweeter said that in order for a piece to be trvly deep, it needs to affect the consumer somehow. Kena bagi kesan kat diri sendiri, bak kata beliau. According to the curator, whether or not a piece of work is deep or not is placed in the hands of the reader or consumer of the piece. The consumer needs to be changed or affected by the composition, then and only then can it be deemed deep. 

I take a differing slant on the matter. A “deep” piece, to me, is a work that has an undercurrent, that says one thing in terms of another thing. The composition often times uses the language of metaphor to deliver its content, and if a piece successfully does that, it can be deemed deep, whether or not the consumer gets what is being delivered or not. In my interpretation of it, deepness is self-sufficient.

The way I see deepness is that I liken it to the deep ocean. On the surface of the ocean you see some things. Waves, dead fish, driftwood, a message in a bottle making its way from one shore to another. But below that surface, you can see a rich environment, totally full of life with choral reefs, schools and schools of fish, whales, and probably a tie-wearing sponge. So what you see on the surface is not necessarily the same as what is going on beneath the surface. And that’s the way I see deepness.

Through my observation, a lot of people seem to mistake deepness with “hitting the nail on the head” kind of things. If one were to say something that is SO TRUE (in the suburban white girl sense), then a lot of people would jump to the word “deep” to describe it. I’m all for variety of language, but when one uses one word that doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to mean, and when a lot of people around the world have a different interpretation towards the word too, then it’s downright confusing. The mistake cripples my ability to navigate through content that is actually deep and things that are not actually deep but are just SO TRUE.

Such a phrase that a lot would say is deep is “the only constant is change”. It’s a very literal phrase, meant to be taken at face value. But when someone ascribes the adjective “deep” to it, I get confused as to what I am actually missing. Is there something else that I should be aware of? Is there something going on under the surface of those words. After mulling it over for several moments, I’d come to the conclusion that says no, there is nothing more to the phrase than exactly what it is saying. Of course it is SO TRUE, but there’s nothing deep about it. And making me look for something that isn’t there is very annoying, and I’d rather not be annoyed, thank you very much.

Now, take this line from Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said”. He says early on in the first verse “How much money does it take to really make a full clip?” with the word “clip” possibly referring to three things at the same: money clip, bullet clip and/or video clip. Because this song is a politically charged on where Lupe is criticising (among other things) the US government, mass media being used as a tool to keep us ignorant, and the masses for not doing enough to fight their oppressors, you can come up with these interpretations because these ideas are connected, and the words connect them. We come closer to what "deepness" means through looking at this line.

Satire has always been a good example of deepness. One only needs to see how Orwell used Animal Farm (the novel) as a critique on communism to see how one narrative can be a tool to say something else, although not entirely different, but still requires an imaginative mind and eye to see what the author was doing. The reader needs to be aware of the social conditions and prevalent issues of the time in order to fully grasp what had been written.Pieces like these ones are the ones that are closer to being described as “deep”, at least in my understanding of it.

Thus, if we could all agree on what is meant by deep, that’d be great.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Leadership Positions

Just now on my Facebook feed, I saw a friend of mine, Aiman Azlan, post a question that he got from a person (most probably through email) which sounded something like:

Why aren’t guys stepping up to take up leadership positions in class?

I know what the asker of the question meant. I’ve had similar thoughts throughout my days of studying as well, but I couldn’t really limit my view to men alone since out of the 62 in my class, only 8 were male. I am compelled to share with you, dear reader, one of my own experiences with the issue of stepping up to accept responsibility in the form of leadership positions.

I don’t exactly remember why, but I do remember during my very first class meeting in the teacher training institute (we were TESOL 2, 20 strong, 2 males, 18 females), I immediately voiced my desire to be the class representative. When the issue arose, I raised my hand and said (I’m paraphrasing here) “I came here to grow and be a leader, so if I become the class representative, that’d be swell.” Douchey, I know. Gimme a break, I was 18.

Like I said, I don’t remember the exact reason I said those things, but there were a few factors that made me volunteer for a leadership position for the first time in my life. One, I perceived that everyone else in the class wasn’t comfortable with the notion of being a class representative so early in their tertiary education experience (except for one other person. Natural leader, that girl). Two, and more importantly, I thought I was better than everyone else. Me volunteering had more to do with my arrogance than anything else. I didn’t really “want to grow”. I just felt that I was the most competent of the bunch. Humility takdak langsung, Anwat tu. I felt that a lot of my classmates could detect that arrogance in me, and immediately rolled their eyes. I don’t blame them, I would have done the very same thing. 

I now realise the error of my ways. The function of a leader is to facilitate, organise and inspire people to accomplish set goals. What I did was hoard the responsibility, doing as much of it as I could on my own, and when I couldn’t handle the workload, internally criticise my classmates for not helping me at all. If I could slap the 18 year-old Anwar, I would. I would say “dude, you’re the one who’s doing a terrible job at delegating the work and organising the class that you represent. Hang nak blame depa pasaipa?”

I’ve learned to become weary of power, because its tendency to corrupt the people in those positions is very high, almost to an irredeemable extent. Power should not be sought. It should be carefully placed, for if given to those that cannot handle it, may cause the person’s downfall. Being a leader and being in a position of power mean different things, and one does not bring about the other. A leader need not be in a position of power to prove their leadership capabilities, and just because a person is in a position of power doesn’t mean that person has any leadership ability to speak of.

In the end it’s about what being a leader is trying to achieve. And it need not be limited to the sex of a person. If one is capable, and more capable than the others, the others have a responsibility towards themselves to enable that person to help them accomplish what needs to be done. And when a responsibility is given to any person, they should not shy away from it, feeling incapable of getting the job done. Your feelings have little to do with it, unfortunately. The responsibility has been handed to you, so it is your job to fulfil what is asked of you to the best of your ability.

Making Time

A friend of mine once told me, and I’m paraphrasing here, “You can’t find time. You have to make time.” It was a bit of a blow to my ego when he said that, because I was mulling over something and giving excuses as to why I couldn’t do it, ending the whole thing is “tengoklah dulu, if I find the time.” It was certainly a sentap moment for me, but a welcome one.

We’re all given equal amounts of time. As a picture on the internet said, “Even BeyoncĂ© gets only 24 hours a day”. It’s what you choose to do with that time that matters, that separates mere mortals to Queen Bee.

It’s rather easy to manage time when you only have one preoccupation. Let’s say that it’s writing. If you only care about writing, then all your free time should automatically go to writing. Anytime you find yourself on the verge of boredom, you write. Every time you find yourself asking “nak bust spa taktaw?” you write. No other option, so the decision becomes easy.

However, it becomes more and more challenging the more things you decide to put on your plate. You add “hanging out with friends” to your priority list and the time you can spend on writing will most definitely take a hit. Add in “make songs every week” into the mix, and your time for all three preoccupations shrink, because there’s nowhere to add time in between those 24 hours.

In order to make that time, you have to steal from something else on your list of things you need to do. You may need to take time away from sleeping in order to fit in your writing. You may need to do away with watching television in order to get in that time to make those songs. It’s a matter of getting yourself organised, and sticking to what you’ve set for yourself.

In the end, you have to ask yourself what you really want to do. And that will be reflected by the things that you actually undertake. If you spend a lot of time sleeping, then you really want to sleep. No matter what you say orally, your actions are what matters and are your true answers.

What do you really want to do, Anwar?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Bring Meaning To Exhaustion

Have you ever been in bed so much that you feel tired. Like getting really exhausted from resting? I feel that all the time on mornings of weekends in which I have no plans. So I’d usually just roll around in bed for copious amounts of time, feeling drained throughout. Then I’d fall back asleep, then I’d wake up feeling even worse.

Come to think of it, I haven’t not felt tired in quite a while now. I think I’ve been in a constant state of tiredness since I turned 20. Doesn’t matter whether I’m at home, the institute, the mall or at school, tired has been my default setting.

I wrote down in my drafts folder, “you know what’s tiring? Being alive, man.” That came from the thought that no matter what we do, or rather, I did, I’d still end up feeling tired, even if I did nothing. So the outcome of everything for me, so long as I’m alive, is being tired.

The question is: do I want to make my exhaustion meaningful or meaningless? Am I going to good about being tired or feel crappy about it? 

If I want to feel crappy about it, I can do absolutely nothing, and I’m no stranger to that. I can lie around doing nothing all day without breaking a sweat. I can just click on some links and scroll through 9gag and bring nothing of benefit to the people around me, or even myself, much less the world. I can even procrastinate going to the toilet and bring harm to myself in the process by developing some kidney stones.

If I want to feel good about it, then I’m going to have to do stuff that is meaningful, that helps people in the end, that helps me too, that brings benefit something or someone, that makes the world  slightly better place than it was before I did that thing.

So what is your exhaustion going to mean, Anwar?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Learning From The Past

The other day I met up for the first time with a person I have been following online for a while now. He was in town for some work-related stuff, so we went out and got some dinner and had a very enjoyable conversation about a multitude of things, ranging from Youtube-videos to the book about Islam I was reading at the moment and even rap. Lots of hip-hop and rap.

Throughout the conversation, I was struck by how much I admired what this friend had to say about everything. He was well-versed in a lot of things, exposing that he’d been reading a lot, and for a long time too, it seemed. He made sharp observations and asked questions that made my brain sweat more than it was used to, and he was funny too. You could see that he was passionate about the things that he talked about, and that demanded my attention without him having to do much but share his thoughts with me.

At the end of the night, when I had to send him back to his hotel, I asked him what his age was. He said he was born in 1989, which is a year before I was born. He added that he was born in December, which makes him closer to being a 1990-born person that most of his batch-mates. This dazed me a bit, because he came off as such a wise and knowledgeable person that it was hard to digest that he had only been in this world 8 months longer than I have. 

It made me feel like I had wasted a lot of time, being on this Earth almost as long as he has, yet, only really knowing less than half of the things he knows and is well-versed about. It was a humbling experience, talking to a peer in age, but far more senior in the thinking department. It kinda sorta made me feel bad, not to the discredit of that friend, but on my own account, it made me realise that I have such a long long way to go and so many more things to learn and explore.

I think a lot of the time I spent during my younger days (amboi sembang macam orang tua sangat dah ni) was essentially wasted with excessive naps and doing, basically, nothing. I could spend two hours on 9gag like it was nothing at all, yet feel that time is creeping by SO slowly when I’m reading a book. Although today I find myself on 9gag almost never, I can never really re-do that time in the past when I could have spent researching the origins of rap music or actually getting my assignments done.

Having said all this, I realise that it is pointless to regret the past. One can never really change it, no matter how long one dwells on it. What one can do, however, is learn from it, and do better. Make improvements in how I use my time, now and in the future. Progress to become a better human being before the eternal afterward. That’s all one has to do, really.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Reflective Writing

Last weekend, I went to the EJ Camp having supposed to deliver a “talk” (I never like doing those) on “expressing yourself”. I was saved by Jamal Raslan, because his talk was awesome enough that they could afford to not listen to mine. Besides, listening to what I had to say would have been so anti-climactic, so I’m glad I didn’t have to deliver the talk I had prepared that night. 

Thing is, I did somewhat prepare for it, so if you’ll indulge me for the length of this blogpost, I’ll write out what I intended to say the other day at the camp. Because reasons.

When I first got the assignment from EJ, I thought about how I express myself most of the time (yes, I actually did some thinking). From the beginning of me starting to express myself either through the blog or through video is that I do this thing where I reflect a lot on the things around me, and I post those reflections online, because I’m an attention-craver.

Thing about it is, I hadn’t always been a reflective kind of person. Even if I did dabble in a bit of reflective thinking every now and again, I never really expressed those reflections anywhere, mainly because I didn’t know how. Doing and writing reflections was a skill that was taught to me when I was in teacher training. Our lecturers would have us write page-long reflections and submit them to their desks the following day or the following week, depending on the lecturer. We all felt like it was just another piece of homework, and we grew to despise the word “reflections”, because not only did it take up our free time, we weren’t at all good at it, meaning that more often than not, we’d get an earful from lecturers telling us that what we’ve written wasn’t good enough.

In the beginning, we all gravitated towards writing reports of what happened and what this person said and what that person said. We’d say “first, this happened. Secondly, that happened. Then another thing happened. Finally, the end.” I can understand now why the lecturers were dismayed by our reflections; because they weren’t reflections at all. They were merely minutes of what had happened and a record of who said what. All of the writings turned out the same, thus making very boring reads for the lecturers, no doubt.

What I didn’t understand and never questioned or even examined back then was the word used to describe the piece of work that we were supposed to be doing. A “reflection” is what you see in the mirror, an image of yourself. The events that take place (such as an activity or a lesson or a poem) act as the mirror and what us writers had to do was to create that image of ourselves as best we could using those events as the mirrors. The more clearly you saw yourself in the mirror (all your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections), the better that reflection is. If only I had grasped this concept when I was still studying, I would have produced much better reading material for my lecturers to go through.

And so the question goes, how does one write a good reflection? Like any skill in the world, you can only get better through practice. You want to be this awesome, insightful writer with a unique and original perspective on things, kan? Becoming that type of writer (and that type of person, for that matter) does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of time, and making mistakes and falling down and getting back up. If you’re anywhere near as untalented as I am, then you’re going to have to take those baby steps towards improving as a reflector. 

Do you remember back when you were a wee little person learning how to write alphabets? We got those basic alphabet-writing books, where we learned how to write each individual letter of the alphabet by connecting lines or dots to write letters. Those lines and dots acted as a guide to what you ultimately wanted to achieve, and that is to write letters independently of them. When following those lines, your alphabet-writing resembled just about everyone else who was doing the same thing as you, since everyone was following those guides so strictly. It doesn’t make for very original handwriting, but they do provide you with the basic building blocks for your own handwriting. Then as you go along, you ween yourself or are weened off the guides and start writing freehand, and pretty soon you start to develop a stroke of your own. By the time you’re twenty, you’ve developed a handwriting that is unmistakably yours and only yours.

I think the same applies with reflective writing. You want to get to a spot where you can snap your fingers and boom, have an opinion or perspective and voice that is all your own (that is what I want too), but much like handwriting, you have to start with the basic building blocks, those guiding lines and dots. And those guides, to me, are questions. I have a set of specific questions that I asked myself, which were provided to me by my lecturers. Asking and answering these questions will set you on your way to developing your own writing style and voice (sembang kencang; macam aku ni ada style and voice lah sangat).

The questions are:
1.    What happened?
2.    What did you feel about it? 
            - What about it made you feel good? (What did you like about it?)
            - What about it made you feel not so good/bad? (What didn’t you like about it?)
3.    What did you learn from it?

So I started off all of my reflections in the early stages with those questions already on the page. All I had to do was produce 500 or more words through answering those questions, preferably having the answer to question number 1 kept to a bare minimum.

And that forms the basis for my reflective writing. I still in one way or another answer those questions in my thinking and my writing (although I don’t stick to them as rigidly as I did), and I do try to write as freely as I can nowadays, but I cannot deny that those questions form the foundation of my thinking about events, and in effect, my expressing them through writing.

It has to be stressed that after years of doing it consistently have I been able to improve at all in my writing and expressing myself. And I still have a lot more improving to do, so we have to work on it and keep on working on it in order to be better than our previous selves, because that's our real competition: ourselves.

Of course, this way of doing it would not and should not fit everyone. I am here sharing with all of you how I came to write and express myself the way I do. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them, and if you want to share how you do it, I’d be thrilled to hear/read about them.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Positive Reinforcement vs Negative Criticism

Earlier today, I was asked by a friend who was curating a twitter account (as people tend to do, apparently) the question, "between positive reinforcement vs negative criticism, which is more effective?" and so my answer went as follows (I'll also add a few things to my original answer, since the original answer was made on twitter and I could only type so much).

The thing about teaching that teachers need to remember (and I try to remind myself of this all the time) is that you're not teaching English or Math or History or really any specific subject. You are first and foremost teaching people. And people are unique, each and every one of them, so naturally, different people respond differently to different things. 

There's no one-size-fits-all solution to problems that arise during the teaching and learning process, so saying that one way is inherently better than the other cannot be said. The most that can be said is "it depends", really. Every classroom is different and  every student in that classroom is different, so the teacher needs to manoeuvre the people in the classroom the best way they can in order to achieve the learning objective, and ultimately, fulfil the students' potentials.

Having said that, there has been a trend in the education world that encourages and advocates positive reinforcement. Noticing, emphasising and encouraging the good things that the students do will in one way or another get students to behave in that way more often. Ignoring or not encouraging (which isn't the same as prohibiting) will get the students to behave that way less and less. The underlying assumption of this whole theory being that students want attention and have an inherent desire to be viewed as "good" in the eyes of other people, be it the teacher or their peers.

I would imagine that teachers who criticise students in a negative manner (condescending tone, degrading choice of words, all that jazz) still do have the students' best interests in mind and are doing so out of love. Who knows? I have this assumption that maybe they are trying to prepare the students for "the real world" that isn't as kind and considerate as some might think, and they're trying to strengthen their students' figurative jaws so that they can handle that figurative punch when it comes to them. Conditioning the students for emotional pain, in other words.

The issue I have with this is that while a student might be getting a lot of "conditioning" through emotional abuse, how many people in the students' lives actually take the effort to try to lift them up and help them believe in themselves and get them to go for their dreams and to never give up what they love? Sure you have your occasional "motivational speaker" to come in and spit a few lines for the kids, but how effective are they within that couple of hours, to be able to combat against a lifetime of denigration and the subtle instilling of the belief that they cannot, no matter how hard they tried?

Some tweets have said that the "garang" teachers were the ones that pushed them to become the people that they are, and I can attest that firm-footedness and high expectations have their place in the raising of young minds. But again we go back to the discussion of what certain students need, and how they differ between people. Those that thrived under their strict teachers, it could be that that's just the best condition for them personally to become better people and improve as students. But what about those that didn't thrive because of their teacher's garangness? What of the students that gave up on their studies because their teachers never once showed that they believed in them? How many people like that are around compared to the ones that have "made it"? And who says that those who "made it" could not have been better if only the teacher would have gave her or him an thumbs up every once in a while, just for encouragement? Who put that limit to their possible success?

Teachers don't have it easy, I'll tell you that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Launch

So last Saturday, I attended my first-ever book launch, and it happened to be the launching of my own book. I don’t know how to feel about that sentence.

Among the people that came to the event was a reporter from, an awesome gossip-free news and information website dedicated to delivering content relevant to all Malaysian art consumers (I've already bookmarked the website for regular visits), and they wrote an awesome piece reporting how the book-launch went. You can go read it here:

I cannot possibly do any better in reporting about what happened throughout the event, so if you want to know how it went, please click on the link above.

I will, however, comment on the reporter’s comment of me being “composed, suave and charming”. To be honest, that made me giggle and blush a little bit. But personally, I just felt low on energy during the event, because I had yet to have lunch when the event was going on, and my adrenaline was wearing out, so that may have made me look more laid-back. I felt awkward the whole time I was on the microphone, and singing along to Suiko Takahara’s songs with her was my favourite part of the talky part of the event.

Being able to meet and talk to the people that bought the book was definitely a high point in the day too, because I got to express my gratitude towards them in person, and I am always thankful to be given that opportunity. And I thank all of you who are reading this right now, too. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read what I have to write here on this here blog, and thank you for all the support you’ve given me thus far, regardless of which parts of my endeavours you choose to support. I am very grateful and may God bless.

Monday, March 2, 2015

EnglishJer Camp

Last weekend was a bit of a roller coaster ride for me, but one of the high points of it was being able to attend the Englishjer Camp, organised by the not-for-profit organisation/youth development activist/ anonymous twitter account: @Englishjer. The camp was held in Ulu Yam, Selangor, was attended by about 50 people and spanned 3 days and two nights. The camp aimed to develop the attendees’ leadership abilities as well as their communicative capabilities while having loads of fun. And fun was indeed had. I could only join them for one night, but that was enough to thoroughly convince me that the camp was one of the best camping outings I’ve ever attended.

The night I attended was the night Jamal Raslan, a spoken word poet, was to deliver a talk. I came a little early and was fortunate enough to be able to join the campers for dinner. After dinner, we all assembled in the hall at the campsite for Jamal Raslan’s session with the campers. I had no prior knowledge of Jamal Raslan at that time, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

He started talking and it immediately became abundantly clear why he was invited to become a speaker for the programme. He was very passionate and knowledgeable about language, culture, communication as well as education. He started off by saying that learning a new language wasn’t about grammar or vocabulary; it was about fear and expressing yourself (I’m paraphrasing, of course. He said it waaaay more articulately). 

He also talked a lot about poetry and why poems and doing poetry mattered to him. He said that there’s poetry that’s meant to be read, and then there’s poetry that’s meant to be read (hashtag 3deep5me). He stressed on what the most important aspects of a piece of poetry are, which are “(something I can’t remember now), relevance, and resonance”, and elaborated on how resonance is what people take home with them after they listen to a piece of spoken poetry. It goes without saying that he performed some of his poems for us that night and made more than a few jaws drop. He was energetic, enthusiastic and passionate, all great ingredients to make for a wonderful public speaker. His fire was infectious and it captured our attentions as well as our hearts, so much so that we could have listened to him talking the whole night.

Afterwards, the camp masters set up bonfires at the campsite and we crowded around the fires, cooking hot-dogs as well as marshmallows deep into the night and early morning. We talked about things like why we like certain subjects over others, shared our experiences and sang and sang to our hearts’ content around the bonfire. 

The next morning, the campers went out for jungle trekking, but I couldn’t join them because I had to go back for school the next day. I hung out with those that weren’t up for the trekking the jungle and we talked and played a game called “Green Glass Door”. How do you play the game? We had to figure that out for ourselves. The main clue that was given was “can cannot, cannot can”. Good luck figuring that out. It took me collectively about an hour to get it. If you want to try your hand at playing that game with me, feel free to say “Green Glass Door” to me whenever you see me in real life. See can, real life cannot.

I met new awesome people, got to play awesome games, listened to an amazing speaker talk about his passion, and have loads of fun. Here’s to more EJcamps in the future.