04 December 2014

La Arsey Eye

The recent RCI findings on the illegal immigrant issue in Sabah were made public yesterday, to the dismay of many with patriotic interest in the massive influx of these non indigenous peoples which has managed to permanently alter the demographic landscape of a state that I hold most dear to my heart. 
 
Though it is expedient to claim that the alternative media provides new found omniscience over all matters affecting Malaysians, I have baulked at every temptation to afford my tenor aria to the crescendo of condemnation over this particular national scourge. We have statesmen and alternative media journalists proposing that "Project IC" was part of a Semenanjung colonial social-reengineering assault, while omitting that the trans-maritime relationship between the East and West Malaysian leadership has for most part, as all things else political, been about the brokering and honouring of deals, not ideals.
Moi, one knee down extreme right. Form 1A1 La Salle Secondary Kota Kinabalu
I  set foot into Kota Kinabalu as a tender nine-and-a-half year old, bewildered by the terse immigrations-card interrogation that the stewardess put me through as I waited to be picked up by my auntie at the airport. Though I would like to blame her (stewardess) for the kind of childhood trauma which has effectively prolonged that bewilderment into my current geriatric years, Sabah provided me with a foundation of colour blindness that contrasted with the kulitfication awareness I was exposed to in the Semenanjung schools I had attended, both before and after my seven-year stay in Kota Kinabalu. Therefore my perspective here is one of fondness for the state and her peoples, as well as the awareness that a ten-year old and onward could glean living in this wonderful state where a majority race was never the dominant one.
Form 2A, front seated 4th from right
I hold the lads and lasses of La Salle, especially the class of 1981, as the dearest lot of scoundrels anyone could have the great fortune to befriend. I love them much and I did dream many times during my days in Sabah Air that I would be flying these richer-than-I friends around the state, seeing that almost all the mentionables were Datuks and Datins. More than three-quarters of the Class Of '81's table at the La Salle reunion of 2010 were Datuks. However, of my entire class, I can recall but one whose eyes have been opened by his exposure to Semenanjung idiosyncrasies and the ravages of government service. He lives now the better for it.
Form 3A, school Parliamentarian, Opposition Party. Back row 5th from right.
Datuk Donald Mojuntin is middle row first right marker.
In short, I grew up in a state that was very kind on the mind of a young boy of mixed parentage with no larger race umbrella beneath which to fall. I have come to look upon Sabah as my version of Middle Earth, where races have learned to live together. I wouldn't say that it has always been this idyllic nation-state, for warring factions evidence themselves in the tradition of the headhunters, allaying such benign beliefs. But it was for all her pasts and presents, a state quite happy to ignore and be ignored by the larger turmoil of 1970s politics. Apart from its races that had settled for peace between them, she is a littoral state and thereby a porous one. News of pirate-led abductions on the coastal town of Kudat, Sandakan and Tawau, while terrifying, were also staple. Thus has it been before the name Abu Sayyaf became a buzzword. Physical barriers in the waters especially on the east coast of Sabah are nigh ridiculous to execute unless you speak of militarisation and the planting of mines, leading to unaffordable collateral damage. Most of the Nusantara in fact has been a place rife with the tradition of sea-gypsy and pirate raids, so we need to set aside this idea that Sabah was once an impervious land mass.
Datuk Donald Mojuntin teasing me to tears over my schoolday impressions of Donny Osmond
The illegal immigrant influx that most Sabahans are alarmed at began with the ones from the Philippines, but has evolved to mirror the racial cocktail you would find choking the Kuala Lumpur city traffic from Dataran Merdeka to Puduraya on Sundays, albeit less visibly. The influx en masse began when the late Tun Datu Haji Mustapha, who in the spirit of Moslem brotherhood and humanity opened the gates of Sabah to runaways and rebels from his home state of Sulu during the insurgency against President Ferdinand Marcos' declaration of martial law over all of the Philippines. The state immigration department at the time made it such that Malaysian citizens not from Sabahan stock residing in Sabah did so on a visa renewal in their Malaysian passport. Therefore, the "refugees" had to face the inconvenience and harrassment of producing travel documents during immigration and police checks. A number of my classmates and friends who were connected managed a red Identity Card. However, no Philippino immigrant felt they were there illegally. As far as they were concerned, especially those from Sulu, Sabah was theirs under an agreement with an earlier Sultan of Brunei who had survived a vicious coup, whose provinces once comprised all of Borneo. In return for preserving the peace secured after his assent following the demise of his brother and contender for the throne, "half his kingdom" was given to the Sultan of Sulu. Tale has it that Borneo is in fact an adulterated pronunciation of Brunei, much as Gibraltar is from Jabal-Al Tariq. So you can see, this whole immigrant situation is a tad more complicated than establishing the popularly-believed influx time point of the mid-to-late 90s  as the execution of "project IC'.
 
We may well be creating our own Palestinian situation here. Tun Datu Haji Mustapha had his own designs to amass these refugees into a guerrilla force to destabilise Sabah and secede to Sulu, circa 1975. He was after all, Sulu royalty before he became Sabah's first ever Tuan Yang Terutama. However, the plot was sniffed by the then Prime Minister. All support went to a newbie party, Berjaya, leading to a historic yet resounding defeat for Tun Mustapha's USNO in the state general elections of 1976. Again, during Berjaya's tenuous defeat by PBS in 1985, the immigrants were galvanised to create a week-long ruckus in the streets of KK, albeit followed with a clampdown by the authorities and that was just that. I wonder, should anything get out of hand, who will stand responsible for the damage and recovery in the aftermath of a truly stateless people merely obeying the manipulations by all sides, both domestic and foreign?
 
In any case, it is time that the cloistered world view that urbanites and provincial peoples of this state alike be lifted so that it is visible in the unpleasant cold light of the living day, that Sabah could not have reached its present situation without inside help.
 
Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan's party, PBS, took the reins of the state in 1985 and entered the Barisan Nasional fold in 1986. Chummy isn't it? This honeymoon was to last till 1990, when sensing cracks in the coalition over the unregistered UMNO members and branches lawsuit brought on by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Datuk Kitingan placed his bet on Semangat 46. Whatever he had hoped for by such an alliance, it went awry. This was the second time a Sabah Chief minister had tried to undo the Prime Minister of Malaysia, discounting the pre-Malaysia formation manouvres. I would neither blame nor put it past anyone in the seat of Prime Minister, overseeing the political survival of his party and his premiership, for retaliation although I wince to think of any "project IC" as the means by which such retaliation is achieved. 
 
Thereafter and therefore you have an UMNO Sabah, with no scent of UMNO Sarawak. There has been oversimplification by Sabahan netizens treating this as a marriage, and that Semenanjung upon reneging the relationship, should allow in fact for the annulment of said marriage. Should this lame simile be the foundation you build on, you have on the other hand, the case of a spouse that has kept up her end of the relationship in providing sires for her betrothed, in the form of a promising electorate and there has been no prominent incursion into that particular state's affairs. Can it not be then that the many times that Sabah's political elite has tried to outplay and outwit the Federal Government in fact be a show of a two-timing wife? There is therefore, a more delicate relationship to consider when attempting to play victim to Semenanjung 'colonists'. There is also cause as well as effect.
 
We have, after all, two East Malaysian states which had entered into a federation to forge a nation. It is indeed for better or for worse, and may I be so audaciously tongue-in-cheek to suggest that Malaysia in fact has strong shades of a Catholic union of bodies, as in without divorce as a conveniently amicable settlement of irreconcilable differences!!!
 
Allow me then in conclusion to say that all this yakking about secession, is a load of mischievous codswallop. The desire to bring about a change of Malaysian government is well within the rights of the citizenry but  I doubt that myopic parochialism in this East-versus-West  perspective is the means by which it can be achieved. Leastways, not unless we move as one nation.

Indeed it is folly to so easily trade off the responsibility that comes with your democratic vote by blaming colonial conspiracies for your lack of self determination. Should you yield to the crisp aroma of 500 ringgit to vote the way your paymasters have cajoled you to, then that choice and its consequential dilution of your democratic rights merely reflects your aforementioned choice. Should mass conversions to any religion take place with you placing an X on a dotted line and helping yourself a lunch ticket, reconsider your integrity and depth of the faith you profess for having accepted a free lunch. Truly, it is less than the indignation you should feel over a price parity lower than thirty pieces of silver.

Perhaps you may have to learn how to take the lunch which you have already paid for by other laborious means and continue doing as you will as some of us "orang Malaya" whom you scoff at have. Literacy notwithstanding, surely you still have a nose with which to smell a rat. Coercions in colleges and polytechnics will ever be present as they were for me when I was in school, as nobody could fathom my skin colour in concentricity to my name and faith, but none of this was a musket to my temple, and neither is it to yours.

I recommend that the statesmen concerned and their PR mechanisms gain some credibility by addressing the right issues to pick at to sore point. Because as far as I can see, this is till death do you part. Or so it seems to a 50-year old hobbit, and I wager this will still be the doldrums we sit in if you don't get your act together by the time I am Eleventy-One.
 
I suggest the following accompanied reading:
A.  When we lost some key 20 pointshttp://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read.cfm?NewsID=1004
 
 

26 November 2014

Let The Games Begin!

I had expected some amount of fanfare and swashbuckling antics as I entered my new phase of flying life a hop across the fence, being a marketable 1200-hours offshore pilot, but it turned out to be more of squirming and struggling over my misunderstood medical status for a season yet before the ball finally began rolling this month.

It began, with the much anticipated ground school in the Agusta Westland Malaysia Academy at the Sapura Hangar in Subang, once known as D'Nest Hangar. The joining instructions I received had the name as Agusta Westland Training Academy AWTA, and I chuckled that none of the Malaysian staff had advised against such an acronym. However, later on in the course, it was referred to as AWM, Agusta Westland Malaysia Academy.
 
I remembered the D'Nest hangar well, having taken my Bell206B Type Rating under Sabah Air in situ. I remembered the canteen, and the level of security in the area had now been tightened up to reflect the presence of some very costly aircraft including the famous one that serves as alternative media fodder, the Airbus ACJ319. For clarity and as an aide memoir to alternative media bashings, here is an image I gleaned from bigdogdotcom.
Pretty bird, this one.
The Agusta Academy ran a tight ship. Classes began on time at 0830H, and I suspect that this had to do with the fact that the other 6 coursemates I had were all foreigners, the lineup of which with the right rhythm and tune sounded vaguely familiar at this end of the year. There were two Indonesians, two French guys, two Australians and the sole Malaysian was me.
In the reading sense, Greg and Ben, from Oz
I may have been lucky with all this. The whole bunch was an incorrigible lot, with all the racist jokes and slurs thrown in for good measure, keeping boredom well at bay in spite of how information-laden our lectures were. I have since been re-educated into seeing that around the world, from Europe to Down Under, we all have derogatory jokes about our neighbours, whether across the gutter or across the national boundaries, and there was a time when these jokes were cracked in good humour without invoking racial sensitivities. But here, we had enough humour to move within a trust that nobody was out to get anybody. There was not a single coffee break where we were not yakking over the very good but insufficient brew and nyonya cakes, enjoyed during the only fully-waking moments of our course. Being the only local, I had my ten cents worth doing the Gordon Ramsay, discussing the cakes' names and contents as I chewed into them, to the amusement and approval of the Caucasians. The Indonesians of course, just spent their energies eating as they were well familiar with our food. They were stationed up in Kota Bharu anyways.
 
And I love how just a spattering of five foreign words can build bridges that endured two weeks. On the very first coffee break I marched briskly along with Pierre (oh can it ever get more French than that?), hoping for the first cuppa as I was so caffeine depleted. I lost out of course to the taller Pierre, who being the first to grab the flask, was so Continentally polite as to offer to fill my cup for me. When I quipped, "Merci beacoup", he gasped, jaw-dropped. "You speak French?"
 
While I confessed that I most certainly did not, my avid attention to Inspector Clouseau helped me get by in Marseilles, and once again in the company of this Gallic pair. Chacha (as in Shasha, not the ballroom dance) was quick to quiz me on which was the first non-French city that the contestants in the Paris-Dakkar Rally barged into after crossing from Africa. Yes, Marseilles. While Pierre was reticent about his French pride, Chacha made it clear that I had not enjoyed the more pristine and civilised portions of his country. I did agree, especially as I had missed out on fine wine counties by being planted in immigrant-infested Marseilles where seeking kebabs and coffee gave me the creeps.
 
The debonaire Pierre, and behind him the ever delightfully salacious Chacha
On the first day, the chief lecturer Rajoo was gracious enough to end the class early at 1530H, taking into account that jet lag must have overwhelmed the Caucasian half of the attendees. In fact, I began to believe that jet lag was contagious. Over the days I grew sleepier and sleepier in class. There was a point where mints were of no help. Reaching for coffee would hold me up for 5 minutes, just enough for the preamble of the new chapter and insistent slumber during the content proper. The daily grind of early mornings to beat the jam in pursuit of the queue for security passes and back at day's end to return them merely added to the unpleasantries of  crawling through interminable jams incurring a toll on my wakefulness. The weekend and its late mornings did help revive me for the following three days of the second week terminating in a depressingly tricky written examination.
 
On the examinations day, we were set to join another class of students in the exam hall. It was peculiar being placed alongside the uncreased faces of youth with an invisible line running down the middle of the hall past which we seasoned aviation dogs sat, almost certain the young chaps would outscore us. Save that is, for the Aussies who were already current on the Agusta 109, thereby being familiar with the manufacturer's design architecture and philosophies. Along with their youth were the typical manifestations of examinationitis that only the young exhibit: parade-dressing pencils along the desk, chewing gum and sweets, sharpening pencils at the last minute....sigh. The older ones were resigned to whatever the examiners told us, and we knew nothing we did at this hour would save us from our irreversible fate. One by defeated one, we called in a reluctant truce.
 
We were instructed to wait in the canteen after we finished our exams to wait for those of us valiantly scribbling to the final seconds of the exam period and to adjourn once everyone had conceded defeat, together to the classroom to receive our results. I took comfort in a hot cup of coffee with a generous dose of condensed milk.
 
A woebegone Pierre joined me at the table for coffee. "You know," he said ruefully. "Before the exam I would have been happy to get 85 percent. But now I am thinking, if I get 75 percent, I would be very happy!!" Right, and he as a Heli Union candidate had to sit for the 100 questions, while I faced 60, and yet I felt exactly as he did.
 
Anyway, it was the last day. A half hour later we were gathered in the classroom, and a beaming Rajoo came in with our results. Nobody looked at anyone else's results. But without question everybody passed, evidenced by the handout of graduation certificates. At this stage of the game, that was all that mattered.
 
Photography sessions were spartanly unceremonious. The cameraman was an accosted technical student armed with almost everyone's cellphones.
 
It is almost with certainty that I felt nobody would use any of the exchanged e-mail addresses to write to each other. It is wafer-thin enough a commitment to keep afloat even with our workmates let alone people whom we know will be inundated with the scourges of everyday worklife, me included. It was with this thought that I decided to lead all 6 of them on a merry treacle chase through the Friday mosque jams to a dingy mamak shop in TTDI Jaya, intending for a true-blue Indian food shop with delectable dishes but it had vanished in my many years of absence from their patronage. So Restoran Subhani it was in lieu. And to my surprise, this joint was scalp-sweatingly good!
 
This round of indulgent consumption they did appreciate after having "ain't nothing but maggoty bread for ten stinkin' days". Our goodbyes thereafter were brief.
 
And thus passed my two weeks of ground school in Agusta Westland Training Academy, Subang. I can only conclude that with their current stock of lecturers, being counted amongst the brotherhood of AW Academies is well deserved. My coursemates will agree most heartily.

08 September 2014

It Is To Drown With My Hands Bound In Vines

Operating theatres are cold. My blood  pressure had shot up to 170, and my anesthetist wanted my ECG taken to determine if surgery was still a go. As I lay down virtually chilling in the ward awaiting her verdict, my overseeing nurse came to check on my pressure. It was dwindling, now at 165. After three more periodic checks I was wheeled in with the ECG printout clamped to the clipboard at my footboard. Then came the anesthetist, marching briskly with her air of seniority and experience.
 
"Your ECG is fine, so I will proceed ya. I am Dr Ang, I am  your anesthetist." She paused for effect. I already knew anesthetists were real doctors but often were mistaken for common nurses and sometimes had baggage with that lack of recognition. So as not to waste her introduction of distinction, I cheerfully said, "Good morning doctor!!!"
 
With her satisfaction intact, then came the litany of questions, over my allergies, if I had been under surgery before, if I had asthma, diabetes, delivered a baby, et cetera et cetera, all to which I said, "No, doctor."
 
"I am going to put a needle into your hand," then she turned to the male nurse, where is that one with the yellow end? No, it's just that I like the one with the yellow end. Right. My anesthetist has a colour fetish in needles. Then back to me she said, " Through this, I will give you your anesthetics."
 
She did her work almost painlessly, which is a first ever for me because I hate needles and most medical practitioners find it difficult to harness onto any of my veins, even for a blood test. I was then left to my devices till Dr Ravi came in, dressed in scrubs, and we greeted each other. He assured me not to worry as this procedure would leave very little post surgery pain. I wondered then, had my meek as a lamb to the slaughter face turned into my OMG I am gonna die bleeding face?
 
Then the moment came. I was wheeled into the operating theatre. I anticipated the theatrical countdown to my loss of consciousness, just as they were with George Clooney. Instead, a mask was put over me. I could hear the anesthetist and the nurses chattering. In hardly three seconds, it hit me. I said aloud, "Wow, this feels like taking down a litre of tequila in two seconds!!" And then, I was blissfully out.

I probably looked like this during the op. But less pretty. Pic courtesy of medical websites.
I knew I had come to when I was being wheeled back to the ward. My throat hurt like I had just finished my hundredth act in a circus as a sword swallower. I desperately wanted to ask for my phone, but the nurses ignored me altogether. The only companionship I had was the automated blood pressure device inflating flirtatiously around my arm every five minutes. I realised that I could hear the nurses' gossip. I had rejoined the living world, although everything had an mp3-like quality to it. 
 
As  soon as I was discharged, I predictably headed straight for food. Belly filled, I pondered the next two days to obtaining the verdict over the biopsy. It was first to drive back to Kerteh and do the necessary at the company admin, then drive down again on Thursday, one night prior my follow up.
 
Brenda suggested being early for my appointment.

 
When my name was called, we both went in. I tried scanning Dr Ravi's countenance for any tell, but he kept the poker face up till we were both seated. He began with, "The good news is.....". We remained politely quiet while he went through the diagnosis, heaving many sighs of internal relief that it was not naso-pharyngeal cancer. It was instead, enlarged adenoids caused by reflux or infection, and could be controlled by diet and medication. He showed me by way of scope, the grommets inserted into the eardrum incisions. Follow-up to examine the healing of my eardrums was set for 25th September. Yes, and with the compliments of the good doctor, I was gifted with a Medic-TV styled video recording of the surgery and biopsy. What else could I ask for? We have since watched that video, and it has the effect of making the girls' eyes tearful, in an "ouch" way.
That there, is what a grommet looks like, sitting in the eardrum
It was still early in the day and the worst of it was behind us. Rowena was with us all the while, and she was in on the facts of my surgery but not the biopsy. By the time we were done with the hospital, she knew what the biopsy could have meant. However, it was time to now let Ethan and Ellen know.
 
We went on a wild drive down to Nilai to get Ethan first, then to get Ellen before heading to Jaya One. Lunch was all the time Ellen could spare as she was in the middle of her exams, as was Ethan, save his test papers were better spaced out. We trudged to Brussels Café for an indulgent round of pasta, bratwurst in bacon, Hoegaarden and Magners, and family talk over the significant events of the week. There was some amount of indignation over not being informed, but the hindsight of being made to worry only of it came to having to worry was acknowledged. All in all it was good, on all fronts.
 
Yes, I am grateful that this episode did not turn out to be life-altering. I was stopped at the sooty gates and told to go back for another shot at living, likely because my personal lake of brimstone had not been remodeled to fit my calibre. I am glad nobody has to shoulder a yoke owing to my physical failings. I cannot yet fathom the forbearance and tenacity of those who have to live with cancer or the pained courage of those who love them and care for them, wrung from their guts day after living day.
 
I understand that in my absence from flight while awaiting my conversion to the new aircraft, friend and foe alike have been discussing my condition with surgically precise facts gleaned from goodness knows where over the operations area radio. As the news recirculates, there will be friends who will be overjoyed and relieved that not another one of their workmates and buddies yielded to the time bomb that the Big C is, especially those friends who have faced it. There will likewise, be those who feel that my sickness and the remedies I had to take were a matter of bad corporate timing. Inasmuch as I could not help the day and the manner in which this visited me, I suppose they cannot help their responses to my experience or the decisions I had to make. I alone am answerable as caretaker of my body, and other than for me, only Brenda faces the implications of suffering with the frailties of my ageing.
 
But having dodged the bullet, I will be greedy, and ask that He speed up the healing in my eardrums. I want to be up in the air as soon as He can allow it.

07 September 2014

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

It was the feeling of being submerged, of looking at the world from behind the anechoic glass plate of an aquarium that was slowly driving me to fear and despair. In my ever fore fronted sarcasm, I would have thought being unable to hear would contribute to my peace of mind as a husband. Instead, the deepening sense of isolation from her and those who matter to me made me worry that I was no longer a part of their world.
 
It was a long week over the Aidil Fitri holidays. My stuffy nose did not want to relent to antihistamines, while all it normally took me to self medicate and cure was a few rounds of vitamin C. I must have contracted a belligerent strain of the influenza virus from that car salesman, and what possessed me to seek his guidance around a car the likes of the Veloster I cannot now adequately justify. My head soon filled with fluid, and flying became physically painful on the eardrums. I know about the rule concerning flying under the influenza, but for all the years I had in the Nuri, it was never a worry as I could Valsalva my way out of it. What was different this time was, the Valsalva was completely dysfunctional. Which perplexed me beyond the point of anxiety.
 
It was also just about this time that I had to report to the new company's headquarters for an induction session and documentary registration. The pre-employment process involved an aircrew medical check-up at Twin Towers, which meant that I would fall under the scrutiny of the rather meticulous Dr Dalbir. I was nervous about the audiometry, as that was his pet area of concern.

True enough, even I could tell that the audiogram would show worse results than those of my previous visits. The doctor tsk-tsked at me and told me that my hearing had become worse than ever. I was thinking yeah, of course, I've got glue ear, but I knew better than to start anything with an aviation doctor. I watched in curiosity as he scratched out a remark on the audiogram. He turned to me and then said, as sober as any judge, "See an ENT specialist. As soon as possible. There might be something in there that's causing problems."

It took me a few more days after settling in to look up the list of panel hospitals and make enquiries over which of those had an ENT specialist. I thought Sime Darby would be alright; decently located and surrounded by reputable restaurants. If I was diagnosed with anything scary, at least I would have a place for a last supper.

Sigh. I do so hate hospitals.

It was Monday, and I was already tense from enduring a traffic jam just 5km long but enough to have consumed 45 minutes. I was not late for my appointment, but I had not reckoned the jam would be so sticky. Like my Eustachian tubes, yeah.

Dr Ravi was what any teenage girl would want in a man. Professional, new-age-cutesy and with a good tableside manner. Bald and tall, he greeted me cordially and motioned for me to be seated. I tried to provide him as comprehensive a preamble as possible, but he gazed at me without so much as a nod. Before I could reach halfway into my bulleted narrative, he summoned me into what looked like a barber's chair facing a display which made the home theatre enthusiast in me perk up. Then he used the optic probe first in my right ear, then my left. It was evident that my middle ears were completely filled with fluid. He described the fluid level behind my eardrums, and I too could see what looked like a front-loader's water line amidst much cilia and a few specks of wax. Then in went the probe through my nostrils. I was surprised at how painless it was. The LCD display continued showing what looked like the tunnel chase scene in Initial D, except this was into my nose. Then the probe stopped moving. I could hear Dr Ravi thinking certain Greek words belonging to Archimedes' infamous nude outburst.

Then he spoke. I too, could see that there was something not quite congruent with the many cross-sections of the ear I had studied the preceding week. "There is a mass, something there, blocking your Eustachian tubes. That is why your Eustachian tubes are not draining when you swallow." With such words and an image coming together, I felt a chill creep into my chest. Oh, I thought. This is how I get told I have cancer.

The probe was put away and as Dr Ravi walked to his chair, I did to mine. I sat stoically while he spoke. "As far as your fluid behind the eardrum is concerned, it cannot drain. We have to do surgery. As you could see, the tubes are blocked by that mass of tissue. I will cut into the eardrum, and draw out the fluid. Then I will put in a grommet, but for a year no swimming! Then as far as that mass is concerned, it's a biopsy. Do you have Chinese blood?"

I nodded wordlessly. "Well, if you have Chinese blood chances are that you have naso-pharyngeal cancer. If you are Indian, there is no chance of it." I sat there thinking, do I get saved by pledging allegiance to one side of my genealogy?

"When do you want to do it?" The doctor's voice reeled me back from my Lizzy McGuire moment.

"Soonest". The doctor busied himself with his calendar and a few brief phone calls. He grinned, like all this meant business as usual to him.

"Tomorrow come in at 0930. No food or drink after midnight tonight. See you Mr Jeffrey."

03 September 2014

The Lure Of Watches


The AVI-8

It is now three months since I bought my AVI-8 Hawker Harrier watch from Zalora, and I must confess that this timepiece has grown on me. Watches are a perennial obsession with me, although nothing will cut it like the prohibitive but utterly seductive Rolex GMTII. That, to me is the ultimate aviator's watch.
 
It is undeniable that watches are a must have accessory for a man to own and having the right one is very crucial. The wrong selection of watch as the finishing touch to your dress-up ensemble can definitely lacklustre both your outfit and character as it indirectly serves to impress those whom you encounter, whatever the purpose may be. Whether you are at work, formal occasions or even a casual day out during the weekends, men should always sport the right watch to provide the desired impression.
They are so darling aren't they?

 
There are three main considerations a man must weigh when making this significant purchase. The first is to determine whether it fits your lifestyle and this means can it be worn to work, formal events, sports activities and other specific functions. A man who is constantly beating deadlines, meeting clients and attending events should definitely buy a more sophisticated type of watch such as the stainless steel, gold or silver plated one. However, a guy who is active and has a job as a gym instructor or fitness consultant should opt for a sporty looking watch, for example, G-Shock watches, or the leather or resin based designs to reflect a hardier, more casual lifestyle. Alternatively, rather than have just one watch to rule them all, you could also purchase a few different designs and match it to the dictates of the situation and occasion.
 
The Ultimate--courtesy of ablogtowatch
The next thing you should factor in is whether the watch you are aiming to buy is water resistant. As some watches are tad expensive, it is very important to purchase watches which are water resistant while you’re forking out the dough. This is due to the reason that the environment you work and play in may involve exposure to the elements, or being occasionally submerged, or simply the act of washing your hands will bring your timepiece into contact with water. Of course, watches also incorporate varying degrees of water resistance, so perusing those specifications will help you decide on how much cash you want to part with for the marriage of lifestyle to waterproofing which in this day and age, is an imperative.
 
There are other considerations that can go into your trophy watch. The selection of models with sub-dials and snazzy coloured straps will help round off your formal edges, and present a more carefree side to you. While the universal appeal of the masculine steel or leather bracelet secures the completion of any suit or apparel line-up, there are times that you may not want to be so formidable. A date with your significant other or others, or a weekend with your inner circle of friends would be such a time (forgive the pun) when a more stylish watch will soften your approachability. My pet peeve though is,  be sure to know the functions of those sub-dials lest it appear that you are a wannabe with cash to toss.

A Handsome Englishman--James McAbe's website
Swing by Zalora then and browse their extensive website. There may be a watch or a few watches that may call out your name. However, pay attention to the remaining stock of the objects of your desire. I have seen my favorite AVI-8 dwindle to just one model remaining, which says that sales are brisk and time.....waits for no man.

14 August 2014

Jump De Broom

The final fortnight running to 1st August has been amongst the hardest of recent times, yet the most anticipated.
 
In order to make my exit from my previous company, I have had to break into my EPF coffer to pay off my outstanding bonds, crippling any daydream I harboured of buying a house as opposed to paying Kerteh's astronomical rent, for at least another three years. That was no tiny sum, and alternatively could have provided a cute set of wheels for either one of my college-going kids.
I was miffed that anyone would hold over my head the threat to cut my salary if I did not settle my outstanding bonds in two weeks, when I had made it clear in writing, that I would settle my bonds well before my last day of work. Cut my salary?? Really? I would have opted for that if I could as it stood as a cheaper option than paying my bonds.


But there you go. Human Resources devoid of people skills. The trouble with this breed of burros is that they never face their just desserts within a time frame that I would call a recital of poetic justice. On my final day, I returned my David Clark headset to the Deputy Chief pilot. Publications had already been returned to the training office. I even returned the Doc Marten boots back to admin. I signed the checklist and headed to my parked car, feeling cleaner than I had in many months.
 
It was odd, though, getting out of this blue flying suit which had been my second skin for three years. I could not muster any nostalgia or any tinge of loss. Perhaps I had not been here long enough. Or perhaps I was being driven out by matters that left no space for being sentimental.
 
This should be a wild and exciting time for me. But in my heart I am anything but wild with excitement. I am in fact, horrified at the extent to which my countrymen have allowed unjustifiable hatred to breed.

The Gaza conflict has attracted so much stirring of divisive hatred that a teacher has called for the incineration of a student who "liked" Israel on facebook.

I will not speak of the conflict. I am not informed enough to make any judgment over an area rife with sensitivities that hail back several centuries. All that time has not brought any party closer to a resolution. I believe that this world will spin to its death without such a resolution providing for inasmuch as a decade of peace benefiting Palestine, or Israel. I am not going to court overreaching my finite understanding and abilities by exhibiting pseudo-intellectualism in an argument which even the conflicting factions do not wish to compromise over.

I abhor all crimes against humanity. There can be no justification for the manipulation of the defenseless in securing of our own selfish gains, and that applies to any state, any government, any group or individual. It is typically Malaysian of us to feel for the women and children as well as the wasted lives of young men, of Palestine, as we have basked beneath a conflict-free sun for decades.

What makes me wonder is, can I make such a legitimate claim of being on the side of the oppressed, to champion the cause of the downtrodden, to "love" the victims of war, when I would administer the very means by which such victims are made, upon my own student?

Amongst the facebook respondents to the post on this matter, one even wished upon the infidels of this nation, that ISIS would swarm upon us and give us what we deserve.  Is this the kind of religious fervour that festers in the hearts of my fellow Malaysians? Justice is served at the end of a bayonet and the violation of women?

I shudder to think of the type of indoctrination that goes into the moulding of a mind such as that of the teacher serving in Taman Tasek Mutiara, or the raving lunacy of the facebook respondent. Surely worse is to befall the one who so malformed their minds, and beyond that, warped their souls.

We are not aiding anyone by stirring up such a frenzy as to exert physical violence on people who work and/or eat at fast-food joints just because we spread and repost the idea that these corporate bodies are channeling all profits to an aggressor nation. The truth behind this pseudo-intelligence has already been proven as grossly inaccurate

McDonalds workers are just ordinary Malaysians in search of a meagre wage, whether in the city, suburbs or places such as rural Dungun, Kerteh and Kemaman.

Whom have you really injured as you harass, torment, abuse and spit at based on their work premise or uniform? Have you elevated yourself above those whom you proclaim you seek to exhort to justice? Not by a camel's hair, you have not.

The state I eke a living in is a troubled one. My blogposts have been few and far between since March this year because of cable thieves. Gone the telephone cable, gone too, the internet service. It takes no less than three weeks for restoration. And the cable thieves strike within a week after, or when a long weekend of outstation shopping is on the cards, whichever is the sooner. The financing of substance abuse by means such as these is rampant along with domestic break-ins. Think of this: my spouse is guilty of parting with a few bucks towards a grotty 16-year old lad, visibly a vagrant and an addict, while making a purchase at the drive-thru of McDonalds!

Would that the venue of your self-justified protests been the receiving end of better efforts to control the brokenness of spirit that fuels substance abuse, universal justice may have been better served I trust. A 16-year old man can be trained for higher ambitions, or in the least to feed himself. He and the myriads like him have sufficient years ahead, and in the springtime of their bodies, can be productive in the making of better bread than the kind they beg for. Mohandas Gandhi once said, "If God were to return to earth again, it would be best if He came to us as bread." Perhaps we need to rethink what manner of God we really intend to serve before we take to the streets and harass those who have little choice over their means of income.

It is bad enough that we are allowing a decaying education system whose implementation cannot match its proclaimed goals, to flood the labour market with unemployable and uncompetitive youth. Why have some of us elected to aggrieve those who cannot get their dream jobs with protests that do not feed their loved ones?

Tread carefully lest you become indistinguishable from the aggressors we equally loathe.

Some of you were my friends.

25 July 2014

This Means You

Aviation disasters always strike a raw nerve with me. Perhaps it is having seen so many of my friends go in that direction. Perhaps it is having tried to hunt down the missing pilots and passengers in utter hopelessness and having no answer to give to grieving families. Perhaps it's because I am part of the aviation family still.
 
MH 17 was no accident. What it was I cannot say. Missile systems have many safeguards against striking civilian aviation targets, therefore as with the preceding air disaster of MH370, there is little explanation so far over the logic of this mishap. Unless and until someone coughs up an admission, we are far from the light yet. This latest blow upon our solar plexus drives home that we have to admit, we are no longer alone, no longer exempt from vulnerability. 
 
Whatever the tone of this post may be, let it not be misconstrued sacrilegiously that MH17 is in any way comeuppance for our domestic misdeeds. She wasn't. She has nothing to do with it. She was an innocent  bystander with no interest in the power games played by larger entities who will not sully their hands to pick up the charred pieces of lives lost without justification.

While it seems impossible that every passenger on board was in line for canonisation without so much as one jerk amongst them, I do not believe that any of them were enemies of any state nor were they deserving of what no man has  the right to serve upon another living being. Yet we have lost them all. What lives we have lost and the tears we have shed, we should never visit upon another, not even in a wish. We must resolve, that some lines we must not cross. Some things must remain sacred.
 
Herein lies the problem.
 
You may seek to smite your enemy, but he will remain intact to hurl his round of obscenities and other projectiles at you. Those who lose their lives, who are maimed and hurt are not your enemy, but the people who have no part in your fight. We have been so preoccupied with name-calling and injuring the religious and racial sensitivities of those whom we meet on the street, that we have forgotten that there is a larger world of evil to stand against. As in other battles that target the innocent to incur psychological and physical damage, all hell let loose from both warring parties do little to the rabid hounds of war themselves, buttressed in their forts while the peasantry bear the scars not of their asking.
 
This is the best we can come up with??
A lion keeps control over his pride by hanging the threat of slaying his cubs over the heads of his lionesses. Is this premise familiar? Is this the only means of strength we can muster? We have witnessed all manner of supremacy organisations manouvre unchecked, unchallenged and unrebuked by the law. We breed bigotry without batting an eyelid. We flog the consciousness of the rakyat with words and actions that hurt and humiliate, leaving the outcome to the tenacity of their resilience, gazing upon the unruptured social fabric as evidence that we can get away with anything as we prepare for a second volley since nobody flinched. If we are not careful, our governance will be that of abusive parents and jilted lovers, not more.
 
Make no mistake, that evil will fester in any place given half a chance, for that is its very nature. I realise that there is no promised land upon the face of this earth save for the one we build with our own hands. But evil that so much as appears to have gained the acquiescence of the state, rapidly erodes public confidence. 
 
We have lost credibility to insist on the truth because we are guilty of our own grandiose cover-ups. We lose the rallying voice against human rights abuse because amongst our elect are those who abuse power, abuse subordinates and abuse privileges entrusted unto them. Worse, these  drama queens ruin the efforts of those who genuinely struggle, out of the spotlight to make things work for the common good of the common man. So let's save the sweat of embassy gate protests till our hypocrisy beacon is replaced by the light of the virtues we preach. 
 

A soup kitchen line-up. Courtesy Malay Mail Online

In the face of the real horror we are up against as a member country amongst a community of nations, what strengths have you bred at home to help us pull together as one Malaysian mass?
 
The goodwill that we see, the street saviours of the downtrodden and the destitute, the caretakers of the marginalised, whatever labels you condemn them with, are here assembled but our gathering is of no credit to you. Whatever good you see is not yours to reap for these are not the seeds you have sown. You're lucky because we are Malaysian!!!
 
We won't begrudge you the victory claims accruing to you over the accidental triumphs that come your way. Along those very lines, though, let us suggest what we have been saying for ages. Come and stand beside us. We will find a better way.

12 July 2014

The Deep Breath Before The Plunge

There remain precisely three weeks more that I remain here.
 
If I have remained relatively quiet, it is because I  am but holding my breath as I bear with aggravation and the restraining of profanity building like the waters behind a dam whenever I am yet again on the receiving end of  asinine remarks from wise-ass executive malingerers, charlatans and peacocks strutting along the corridors of the premises where I labour to make bread.
The perennial coastline of TCOT
I am entering into transition again, as I capriciously leap forward in search of greener pastures.
 
Let it be known though that I leave because I must.
A Floating Flare Boom
Would that I could linger here, basking beneath Newton's First Law Of Motion. After all, I am not really seeking a higher pay cheque, and though better remuneration is always welcome, it is not this  that draws me to submit my resume to the mercies of another company. The only ambition I harbor is to progress to captaincy of the aircraft. And therein lies the impetus to change.
A supply/rescue boat keeping vigilant for us at Tapis Bravo with Alpha in the background
So while I count the days remaining till I return these raggedy David-Clarks, I gaze out the left window knowing that this view will soon be set to change, in just three weeks.
 
I am familiar with change, though I do not welcome it. Such has been life as it unfolded for me from my very birth. Some changes, I had to initiate. This move is one of them.
Watching my friends from my future workplace making a left hand approach to Tapis Delta
Indeed, it is that very aforementioned restraint which is insolation to my literary juices, and with them the driving need to vent upon the pages of my blog.
 
There are some grievances that cannot be aired, mired in disappointment and the repeating of history in an alarming reminder that leaving military service does not secure that evil men are also left behind, especially when they keep turning up in your face like the clap.
 
Stacked five containers high she was!!!!
Therefore, I trust that as I watch the ships go by and keep chanting the approach callouts to the rigs as the prevailing winds now favour the captains' landings, I shall just tell myself, that I have but three weeks left. 

07 June 2014

The Sins Of Our Fathers

Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity to me, the female sex, not the weaker sex. It is the nobler of the two, for it is even today the embodiment of sacrifice, silent suffering, humility, faith and knowledge.-Mohandas Gandhi.

And that is the essence of what we are actually witnessing in the ordeal of a 15 year old girl at the hands of 38 men on 20 May in Ketereh.
 
While we need laws to award punishments to reflect the gravity and irreparability of the crime, punishments in stand alone have not proven to stop rape. Neither will greater emphasis on religious studies in schools, in our homes, in our communities, of which our cups runneth over to inundation.
 
It is us, men, who have failed utterly.
 
We have failed to raise our sons to look upon women as our equals, and who often times prove that they are our better halves. You would not inflict such abuse on someone you respect.
 
We have failed to raise our sons to never, ever, under any circumstance, take what is not theirs. Doing so can never be right no matter what premise we conjure for ourselves.
 
So many ills can be traced to how we raise our sons. It is ridiculous for us to insist that our daughters say "no" when we do not raise our sons in the sensibility of self restraint nor to listen when someone's daughter says "no" to them.
 
We cannot demand adherence while we practice in divergence from what we espouse.

Therefore any law, any upbringing, any creed or view that does not pay with the ages of generations in raising sons with the right attitude towards women who remain our salvation in spite of all that we as men have made them suffer, will perpetuate this failure.
 
The only religion that will stop this and any evil, is the one written on our hearts, the only law we will not transgress is the law we learn from our fathers in how they have treated women-all women.
 
It stops when men say NO.
 
Really, it isn't them.
 
It's us.
 
 

04 June 2014

Not Quite Dead Yet

A fellow EC225 in holding pattern while we load up our passengers
Nay, I have not been granted easy passage through the Pearly Gates.
 
But OMG does Kerteh have such a thriving business in telephone cable thieves!!  Hardly a day passes without yards and yards of cable theft while the poor and only local Telekom technician files more police reports than time would allow for actual repairs. Therefore, from as far back as March, just about when MH370 went missing, so did any manner of stable internet connection through any measure of time, leading me to an escalated cellphone bill to the technical complaints line with Telekom's script-adherent customer service officers. I wish they would just hasten the installation of Unifi and kill this issue once and for all. And yes, one wonders wither our law enforcement?
Our waterborne neighbours
The months have passed as I in anguish have stayed vigil over a possible job change. The bated breath should serve me well when I renew my Helicopter Underwater Escape Training come November.
 
For now there is a chomping at the bit. The utter lack of propriety of people who ask confidential questions over how much I must pay for the dissolution of my outstanding bonds and how much is offered to me by the next company is nigh nauseating. It isn't as if they are paying my way out anyway.
 
For now I shall count the days.