Monday, May 22, 2006


Faizal is five. He has a bright smile, twinkling eyes and a carefree mop of curls. He also has cerebral palsy. But that's not the biggest of his problems.

Last year, when I first visited him in an Orang Asli kampung, he was a mess. Saliva dripped from his grinning mouth unto his T-shirt; grubby palms mixed drool, food, dirt and bacteria in an unholy union. His awkwardly clenched fingers had trouble holding on to things. Including his parents' love.

Faizal was left to his own devices in a toddler's walker that refused to co-operate with his bowed, growing legs. Without proper motor control, he did not know how to negotiate a flat surface on his own. Without proper bladder control, he dirtied his home with human waste.

A few months after my initial visit, a pastor who had been following up on the family decided to take Faizal home to care for him. He is married, with two small children of his own. Aware that Faizal would need round-the-clock attention, he divided the caregiving task amongst family and friends he could trust. A schedule was drawn out. Faizal's future was shared by these individuals.

Last week, when I dropped by Kampung Jus, Faizal looked decidedly more cheerful. He has a new chair that trains him to sit up straight. His clothes are cleaner. I didn't see him slobber. At present, things look more positive.

Yet he desperately needs to undergo physiotherapy soon to learn the things we take for granted. Things like walking and passing motion. His future would be so much brighter if he could at least learn to be independent. Coming of age is certain; what about improvement?

There was a time when Faizal's family stole provisions that were meant for him — fortified milk from the government, to be exact. The clinic eventually found out about it and later, channeled new supplies for Faizal through the pastor. Which father, if a son asks for bread, would give him a stone? Anger at the selfishness of this family is understandable but perhaps uncalled for. There are many things within the Orang Asli culture that leave the average person shaking their heads. Foremost amongst which is a subsidy mentality — certainly not something you can change overnight.

But perhaps there is a slow change of heart. Recently, Faizal's father called up the pastor to thank him for taking care of his son. I don't know what else transpired, but the pastor seemed to think it was a good sign. Does the father miss his son? I don't know. Does Faizal miss him? I seem to recall the pastor saying so.

Yet for now, I know that Faizal is at least in good hands.

Faizal with his new RM400 chair


Reaching out for the uncertain, 13 May 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Under the Weather

Besides being a cool song by KT Tunstall, it also describes what I feel now.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

From Plastic to Fabric-Faux Leather

Finally. After months of hardship on a plastic chair (the light blue-grey kind found in cheap restaurants), my tush has found rest in an unclaimed typist's chair.

My new workplace chair is blue and black. The backrest is covered in bright blue fabric, while the black seat is made from what looks like mock leather. (I didn't examine it too closely—you never know what people have done while on their chairs.) To be honest, it's a rather strange sight—like one of those sorry rejects found in second-hand furniture shops, waiting for a sympathetic soul to bring it home. Maybe we were meant to be.

It used to belong to Bryan, but since he quit and the new owner thought it a tad too noisy, she opted instead for a silent plastic chair, leaving this one abandoned in a corner. Stumbling upon it was like getting together with an old friend. I would choose its occasional creaks and tantrums over hard, unwelcoming plastic anytime.

It can't grow or shrink according to my moods, but at least it's rather comfortable. Stuck on the short side, I've added a cushion to the seat. Built to be caring and considerate, it's even got armrests for the weary limbs, wheels to spin your perspectives in motion, and a wide berth for the generously girthed. It's wonderful.

Another colleague tried to claim it, but he was too late—the seat was already starting to bear my shape and smell. Like a gentleman, he acquiesced. He's got a roller chair anyway—without a backrest—but still, that's better than the plastic stuff I had.

For the past two days since I adopted it, life has been happier. The sun shines down brighter and I've even been feeling rather generous, buying a few kind colleagues lunch. Finally, maybe, I can do some work in the office without changing positions every three minutes; crossing and uncrossing my legs, standing up, sitting down again, etc. After all, nine to ten hours on a plastic chair can be hell; a surefire way of getting pins and needles, backaches and decorated thighs.

I like my new chair.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Life is Difficult" (a.k.a. A Lunchbreak Spent Breaking Into Church and Removing Musical Instruments)

I got a call today asking for help in packing the church keyboard for a memorial service. Thinking that explaining which keyboard to take (Korg or Roland?), which amp (brown Peavey? black Peavey? big black Peavey? big big big black Peavey? how about this hh...h...Hartke?), which jacks (what's a jack? oh, the heads are different? what's the difference? how many?) and adapter (adapter is which one ah?) might prove too taxing on the person's memory and my patience, I said alright, pick me up during lunch.

And so we drove to church, just to find the outer gate locked. Great. After some unnecessary phone calls, which could have been avoided had proper arrangements been made, someone came down and opened the grill. He had a caller on hold, so he passed me the keys to the main sanctuary. I stared and sighed. It meant I'd be going solo.

Ding! Level 3.

For those of you who hold keys to secured/commercial properties, you'd understand the intricacies and annoyances that come with having to open up/lock up. First, the shrieking, grating shutters. Then more locks. My church has two - one in the middle, one at the bottom. I selected the slim, cylindrical key for the bottom lock, then the flat, fat one for the belly. Turning this way and that, jiggling them, both finally clicked open. Next, I pushed the shrieking, grating shutters up. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! Metal-on-metal, the shrieking, grating shutters killed my ears all the way to the top.

Second, the glass door. Took a wild guess at the bunch of keys and selected one. Amazingly, the lock turned. So far so good.

Third. Disarmament. I punched in the security code, then rushed in to disarm the system. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEE---- it cried, then faded.

Now, it was time to pack. I walked to the stage, laid my hands on the keyboard, then...

"Err, I double-parked lah. I think I'll go down and check on my car."

Grrr. "I can't carry all the stuff down alone," I said.

A pause.

"Never mind lah, I'll come up again. How long you need?"

"Ten minutes."

And so he left.

After getting the Roland from the stand, the jacks, the adapter, the pedal, and the keyboard bag from the back, I packed them up and was almost done. Then he reappeared.

"Finish ah?"

"Yah, almost."

I walked towards the big black Peavey amp and stared at it. It was cumbersome.

"This is kinda heavy. You could get the smaller amp from the first floor or SS1 church," I suggested.

"Nevermind lah. Get it here. Convenient. Can right?"

Okay. I unplugged it.

"I'll carry the heavier one," he said, and proceeded to carry the amp. He lifted, struggled, shifted his feet, tried again, shuffled, then slowly hobbled across the stage. It was quite comical.

Since he wanted a keyboard stand, I grabbed the spare stand from the PA room. I heaved the almost five-foot keyboard bag unto my shoulder, then dragged my way out, bumping now and then into the walls, door, stairs. Of course, with the church keys in hand, it also meant I had to lock up.

Dumping the keyboard bag on the floor outside, I repeated all the earlier steps, in reverse. Alone. With the church armed once more, I considered it almost an accomplishment.

After returning the keys and loading the car, we were off. On the way back to my office, stuck in a jam and having a rather meaningless conversation...

"Quite heavy, ah, the instruments?" he said.


"I thought very easy - just take the keyboard."

I nodded. Right.

"Which one heavier ah, the keyboard or the amp?"

"Err, I think they're about the same lah, just that the keyboard is harder to carry cos of its shape."

"Oh. Hmmm. So, the musicians have to carry all this when you go for camps lah?"



A pause. Then came the afternoon activity's conclusion.

"Hmm... life is difficult," he said, shaking his head.

( |o }===:::

Rolling my eyes under my sunnies and grinning to myself, I couldn't help agreeing.