Photo Challenge – Of Creating and Creation – Relax
Making crafts has always been my hobby. I’ve made all sorts of stuff ever since I was small, from crude cat-shaped piggybanks to hand-bound notebooks. I can’t pinpoint it exactly but perhaps it’s the satisfaction that I enjoy. How seemingly meaningless everyday items laying around can be given new purpose and a new form. Perhaps it’s also the way it lets me use my fingers: to twist, to pinch, to pull. When I’m creating something, the rest of the world fades away, even the music I was listening to, and all that’s left is an artist and her imagination. A reprieve from a noisy mind.
Two years ago, at the end of a 5-year struggle to finish high school, I found myself with a lot of time and inspiration. The Japanese culture has always intrigued me- its subtleties and folklore and the way they live. I was especially enamoured with their kimono, and soon my attention turned to Geisha and Maiko and the pretty flower ornaments they wear in their hair, called kanzashi.
I got my hands on some beautiful Japanese fabric and that’s when the magic started. For weeks on end, I sat at the living room table, piecing together small fabric petals and bending wire to my will. When one method failed me, I tried another. Different fabrics. Different glue. Different colours. All while staying true to the end result that I had pictured in my mind.
Crafting is still a source of pleasure for me, a relaxing activity that allows me to escape my noisy mind. Although now, I’ve grown and my crafts have too. Now, instead of keeping them to myself, I make them with the purpose of helping others. For the first time ever, I’m joining a charity effort organised by The Kalsom Movement called Talent For Charity !
I’ve thought this over many times- reasoning with myself that the stuff I make are pretty amazing no matter what anyone says, telling myself to get over the fear of putting myself out there again. Stepping to the front lets the whole world see you, makes you feel vulnerable to the scrutiny and opinions of other people. It’s scary, but it’s also high time I start learning that I’ve got to start if I want to get anywhere. And it doesn’t matter where my starting point is: small or big, what matters is how I persevere on.
So if you’re in London tomorrow (3rd December 2016), please do drop by the Malaysian Hall at Queensborough Terrace (Queensway or Bayswater station) and support us! I’ll be there with other volunteers with stalls and workshops that showcase our talents, all to help tackle education inequality in Malaysia! See you there~
A full list of items on sale could be found here ! 🙂
All of them are always available, and I also ship overseas (shipping charges apply)
I was out with a friend on a Friday night. It’s slowly becoming a thing that we always do once the weekend starts: find a place to go to enjoy the sights of this enormous city that is London. The view is drastically different than what we see during the day.
At night, the lights turn on and as we stood on the viewing balcony at Tate Modern, the vastness of this city hits us. Was Kuala Lumpur ever like this? Here, there were lights as far as I could see, and above us the sky looked like time stood still at a never-ending dusk. I remembered thinking to myself- “How pretty.”
Every person crossing the Millennium Bridge in the distance, has their own troubles and joys. Each monument, like St. Paul’s Cathedral across the river, has its own tale to tell. I wondered how different this city would have looked like a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago. Were the worries of the people of those times different, or the same? Wouldn’t a mother still worry for the safety of her child, a beggar still worry about tomorrow, a merchant still count their riches, regardless of which age they were born in?
That train of thought was quickly discarded in favour of amusing my friend as we looked at the galleries within Tate Modern’s halls. We were two girls looking for a night thrill. For some time, we pretended to be art critics, discussing the emotions that each painting brought out in us, awed at the more interactive exhibits and laughed when the figures truly didn’t make sense to us. A more artistic soul would probably appreciate Tate Modern’s art, perhaps. I wished I did. But maybe art ages like fine wine, too. And that’s why people flock to see the paintings that held little value to me.
We continued our trip across the Thames.
It was cold, and we held hands. My fingers intertwined with hers.
“Pink Panther!” a woman called out.
I looked back, but didn’t stop walking. True, I was wearing a bright pink fluffy hat/scarf/hand warmers that I had picked up a few years ago from Disney SEA and thought it would be a great idea to wear it that night. The woman was old, bent, and she seemed to have trouble walking but that was none of my business.
As cold as it sounds, I have learned not to be too sympathetic to random strangers in London. It has only ever brought me trouble.
We turned away and continued our walk.
“Or are you a gay panther?” she continued, followed by a mean cackle.
Her words baffled me. I blinked at my friend and she blinked back. How in the world did this woman come to that conclusion? We were two Malaysian girls, simply holding hands as we walked across the street. Hardly anything could be assumed from that besides that we are obviously friends.
Except that we were in London.
The thought had slipped my mind. That affection, in the western world, is quickly assumed to be of the romantic sort. Something done by a couple. And oftentimes, not welcome when it is done by two people of the same gender. It made me ponder on how starved for affection their youth must be, if every touch is frowned upon, every hug is assumed to have a hidden meaning. It puzzles me further, because as far as I am aware, western culture also involves men and women kissing goodbye. If a kiss can be seen as platonic, then why not holding hands?
I’ve been to many countries and it seems like I bump into mean, old ladies everywhere. Russia, Japan, Malaysia, you name it.
Middle aged people with a skewed view of the world.
How funny it is, that it is the youth who are more tolerant and more accepting of different cultures and different perspectives. But the people who raised them have such small hearts, and fan the flames of hate.
When our milkshakes and chicken wings arrived at our table in a cozy restaurant called Tinseltown, I had put the baffling event firmly behind me. So what if I meet a mean lady or two, I’ve given up holding a grudge against people I can’t change and things that can’t be moved. The Earth will keep moving, and the Sun will rise, the day will pass and one day, she will, too. And then, that’s one less hateful person in the world.
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I really enjoy creating visual art. I wasn’t born with that talent, I’m pretty sure. But I’ve always wished I had it. My parents sent all my siblings to art lessons and piano lessons when we were kids. I remember my art classes on Saturday … Continue reading Art From The Heart (#4)
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Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!
Or Eid Mubarak, whichever you prefer, as we celebrate victory over out nafs (self and inner worldly desires) after a whole month of fasting in the holy month of Ramadhan. (Okay so Eid was actually on Wednesday hahah but better late than never!)
Malaysians usually just call Eid as Hari Raya (lit. Great Day). We’d cook up a feast with lemang and rendang being the main dishes and visit relatives and friends throughout the month. This is the time when you’ll be seeing a lot of open houses and lots and lots of Malaysian traditional food and kuih.
I’ll tell you upfront that one of my all time favourite food is lemang and it’s a rarity on other days of the year so it’s a double treat for me, especially. Last year, my family celebrated Hari Raya in Penang so the meal and setting was grander but really, it’s the people whom you spend the day with that counts, right?
I didn’t get to take pictures because everyone was so busy but the first day of Eid usually goes like this for my family:
Quick breakfast of lemang and rendang
Eid congregational prayers at the Mosque
More breakfast with more food and kuih
Family session where pictures are taken and everyone apologises to each other for past transgressions and hurt feelings. Also, the duit raya session where kids get money from elders in a small packet.
Relatives start arriving / Visit the houses of relatives and friends
I went to at least five different houses on the first day alone and ate so much, I think I need to work out the extra calories soon. But it’s good. To be able to reconnect with my cousins and update each other with what’s happening in our lives-it’s not everyday we get to do that.
The next few days were spent travelling to my father’s hometown (Batu Pahat, Johor) and visiting his uncles and aunts and before today, I never really realised of how much knowledge and history they have known and lived through. It’s amazing.
The traffic on the highway was terrible, so dad decided to take a detour through some villages. To be honest, I have never actually cared about kampungs but the scene as we drove through the place was new to me. (I grew up in the city and then, in a modern town) I noticed that sometimes there’ll be a shallow moat or trench around the houses. In Johor, that’s how people used to mark the perimeter of their lands. It’s called parit in Malay. A lot of the villages have the word parit attached to them, like Parit Sulong for example. The road was narrow so dad couldn’t drive very fast and we got to see how a Malay kampung house looks like nowadays. I posted the video on my tumblr page so just click on the link below if you want to see it.
I have a lot of pictures but I’ll need to sort through them first before I can begin posting. And I’ll also be writing another short story about my experiences from this year’s celebration~ For the meantime, Selamat Hari Raya!!
Kuih – Malay sweet cakes and cookies, very yummy!
Duit Raya – Similar to Ang Pao given by the Chinese. However, duit raya is more thought of as a charity given to children now. Some earlier practices were to give money based on successful completed fasts carried out by the children as a way to encourage them to fast.
Her bare feet weren’t allowed to touch the ground.
Even in Ilyas’s earliest memories, the dark haired baby was always in someone’s arms or atop their shoulders. He saw the way they cradled her in their embrace. Precious. Treasured.
“Why don’t they put her down?” he asked his mother one day, eyes still drawn to the girl, “They can’t carry her around forever.” She was dressed in yellow from head to toe today. A golden yellow that seemed to swallow her whole. Yellow, the colour of Malay kings and queens. His brow furrowed.
His mother hummed in agreement. “That’s why we’re holding the ceremony now, since more than thirteen months have passed after her birth.” Ilyas counted the difference and found that she was only a few years younger than him.
“What ceremony?” He was curious.
“It’s called berjejak,” she said. To tread. “Once they do this, she’ll be able to walk amongst us. Look.”
A wizened man bent over the ground, spreading a large yellow cloth over it. He threw a handful of red flower petals over its expanse; all the while his mouth moving quickly in some sort of chant. Ilyas strained to hear what he said, but he was too far away and the man’s voice was too soft.
Then he saw her. The girl, in her mother’s embrace as they settled on one end of the cloth, her face pinched and eyes glassy. Ilyas felt the urge to comfort her. It baffled him, and he moved forward but his own mother pulled him back firmly to her side.
A tray was brought towards the old man, filled items Ilyas could not give names to other than the short keris. The chanting grew louder. The girl was passed to the man and he gently coaxed her to walk, Ilyas realised. She had to walk across the length of the yellow cloth.
It was simple.
Ilyas couldn’t comprehend why such a big fuss had to be made.
And then, suddenly, she burst into tears. The old man still held her body up, urging her towards the end of the path but she struggled viciously, twisting and pulling in his grasp as she cried and screamed. She refused to step forward, shoulders stiff in terror of something. The world held still. She was frightened, Ilyas knew. He was, too. His hands trembled, eyes wide in fear. But against what?
The instant her foot touched the edge of the cloth, the girl seized her tears. Another step, her first contact with the cold dirt, and the world moved again. A heaviness was lifted off his chest and Ilyas could breathe freely again. He watched her take a few tentative steps, marvelling at how the ground felt beneath her small feet.
It still didn’t make sense to him.
But ten years later, it would.
The girl would be the one to tell him, as they sat together on the raised pavilion near her residence.
He knew her name now. Maya smiled, “A long time ago, a royal family made a contract with their people and the djinn of the land. Their descendants are to be respected and celebrated, to always be above the common man and so, forbidden to tread the same ground as them. In times of old, they would be carried in palanquins or litters borne by their servants.”
“When war ravaged their lands, some of their descendants with royal heritage fled to other countries. They gave up their titles and privileges, but while that caused the contract with their people to be broken, the contract with their guardian djinns still held. Anyone who violated the contract would suffer consequences. Prolonged high fevers. Some became deaf, others, mute. It became their curse-”
“So it was a djinn that made you cry that time?”
She blinked at him. “Was it? I can’t recall something that happened so long ago.”
“Then, what was the ceremony for?”
“I was told it’s to break an age old contract between my family and the djinns. But the world is different now,” Maya said, wringing her hands together. “To be realistic, if I can’t walk on the ground, I wouldn’t be able to go to school, would I? It’s more of a formality, I think.”
Ilyas shrugged his shoulders, feeling the cool evening breeze kiss his skin. That day ten years ago, when everyone else might have just seen it as another traditional ritual to be done, in his eyes-he sneaked a glance at Maya- he saw a child’s first real step into the world.
The berjejak ritual is usually done by people in Perak, Malaysia with Rawa and royal heritage that has its origins in Pagar Ruyung, Indonesia. This story is purely fictional (although the gist and history behind the ritual is as true as oral stories passed down from old to young), and is based on a friend’s personal experience with it. It is also part of my effort to narrate more of old Malay customs and traditions that are rarely known by my generation in a more modern way of story-telling.
Glossary: keris – Malay traditional weapon that resembles a sword with a wavy blade
Ellie smiled politely back at the attendant who held his hand out to her. With a confident stride, she crossed over the makeshift pathway connecting the ground to the ship, totally ignoring the hand the attendant had offered her.
He didn’t seem offended; rather, he shook his head in mock defeat, “I see. My lady doesn’t require my assistance anymore.”
Ellie rolled her eyes and walked up to the deck. Her eyes surveyed the area. There are more people than usual, she noted. Most of them were tourists who were too distracted to notice the dark haired young lady as she steadily climbed the staircase to the uppermost deck.
It was her most favourite place on the whole ship. The uppermost deck was small, and thus could fit only a few tables. Ellie sauntered over to an empty spot under the shade and settled down on the cushioned chair with a contented sigh. She closed her eyes, enjoying the summer breeze that swept through. It was warm. And windy. And perfect.
The ship’s engine roared to life and the cruise ship lazily began to move, much to the happy cheers of the tourists on the deck below that Ellie could hear.
Her gaze latched onto the wondrous view of the city as the boat took its passengers down the scenic Moscow River. She has been here countless of times. But every single time, she was always overwhelmed by the amazing, tranquil feeling that calmed her soul. It was addictive. And Ellie kept coming back.
It was a welcoming change to her troubled soul after a hectic week.
And more often than not, Ellie paid the 400 rubles for the cruise to get away from the pressure of her job. Her team is now on the brink of a medical breakthrough after painstaking years of research and failed attempts. It had already received considerable amount of attention from the media, with reporters constantly publishing on how her findings would surely change the world and improve human lives. Ellie was well aware she could win a Nobel Prize for her research if it is a success. But what if something goes wrong?
“Gloomy as always, huh?”
Ellie didn’t bother to even open her eyes. By the low, amused voice, she could already tell it was Ethan, the cruise attendant that she had rejected help from earlier.
He placed a bowl of ice cream on her table and Ellie heard the chairlegs on her opposite side scrape against the wooden floor as the seat was pulled out. She opened her eyes to see the grinning guy with blond hair sitting across from her, helping himself to a spoonful of her ice cream.
“Hey!” she protested, snatching the spoon away from his hands.
Ethan laughed. “So what’s bothering you this time?” he asked, leaning back on his chair. Ellie glared at him before proceeding to scoop a spoonful of cold chocolate ice cream. It instantly melted her anger and she continued to indulge herself until she felt another spoon clang with her own.
“Will you please stop eating my ice cream?” she asked, taking another spoonful. When the man didn’t stop, Ellie scowled and slapped Ethan’s hand away before cradling the ice-cream bowl in her hands.
“Don’t you have work to do?” Ellie gestured to some of the tourists that were going over the menu, pondering on what they would later order.
“It’s hot,” Ethan replied simply, shrugging. “And they’re probably going to get ice-creams too. And it isn’t fair, because the crew doesn’t get free ice-cream when the weather’s this sunny.”
“So you come and steal a customer’s ice-cream instead?”
He waved his spoon in front of her face. “Technically, it’s mine. Since you didn’t get one for yourself,” he replied with a playful smile on his face.
Before Ellie could even protest, Ethan stood up and straightened out his outfit. He flashed her a charming grin and said, “Like you said, I have work to do. Enjoy the rest of the cruise!”
Instrumental music began to play from the loudspeakers as the ship took them down the river. Ellie couldn’t help but giggle. It made her feel like she was in some kind of music video.
When the cruise ended, nearly two hours later, Ellie decided to break routine. Usually, she would take a taxi back to the airport for her next flight. But today, the girl wanted to experience the city she had fallen in love with years ago during her childhood.
So here she was. Ellie stared up in awe. She kept a steady pace, heels clicking against the pavement; her mind was everywhere but the road in front of her. This city amazed her. The buildings were old, and ancient and beautiful and it took Ellie’s breath away. Each building block has its own unique design with its own intricately carved sculptures decorating its walls. She loved it.
She walked past tall, brooding windows of cheerful, pastel coloured buildings. They were her favourite since the buildings were slice shaped and reminded her of the icing on fancy wedding cakes. She loved the numerous bridges that were of different widths and lengths. She loved the winding rivers that went around the city. But most of all, Ellie thought, I love the parks.
She sighed in relief as she stepped into the shade of the large trees, glad to be away from the burning summer sun. She swept her gaze across the span of the park. Several Russians were already sprawled on the grassy lawn, no doubt enjoying the sun’s warmth after having suffered the piercing cold days of winter. Couples occupied most of the benches and Ellie hurriedly sat in one of the remaining available benches. More people were arriving at the park but Ellie didn’t mind.
She kept her attention upwards, gazing at the green canopy that blocked the searing heat from touching her. A slight breeze swept through and the girl smiled, eyes closed. It’s a wonderful life, definitely. It was refreshing—to Ellie—that not a single soul turned their heads to look at her a second time when she passed them.
She was not Dr. Ellie Reed, the famed scientist known for her countless contribution to mankind, here. She was just plan, old Ellie.
There were no reporters after her, no paparazzi begging for autographs and pictures.
Just Ellie and Moscow.
And she was grateful.
“I like Moscow,” she decided, kicking her heels off. She had walked across the whole city with them and the heels were killing her poor, sore feet.
“I wouldn’t say that too soon.”
That voice. She raised a curious eyebrow as he came up to her.
“You again,” she accused.
Ethan ignored her and continued, “You haven’t met the batty old grandmas yet. Some of them have a real mean right hook.”
“I don’t believe you one bit,” Ellie replied with a huff. “So far, the grandmas I’ve met have been nothing but nice.”
The guy laughed and Ellie found herself smiling along with him.
She leaned back against the bench and asked, “So, why are you stalking me?”
“Yes, you are.”
“Okay, so maybe I’m following you—“
“That counts as stalking.”
The guy ran a hand through his blond hair, “Hey, you’re not familiar with this city right? I mean, you only fly halfway across the world just to take an hour and a half long cruise down the Moscow river before catching the next plane back.” He grinned sheepishly at her. “But I didn’t see you catch the next cab to the airport today, so I got worried. Can’t let a distinguished lady explore this city alone.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “So you thought I needed an escort?”
“Nope.” Ethan extended a hand for her to take. “Thought you needed a tour guide. No amount charged and I promise I’ll bring you to the best places in the city.”
When he saw her skeptical look, he continued, “Cause we’re friends, aren’t we?”
She stared at his offered hand.
There it is. Her ticket to a few more hours of happiness in this wonderful city. Ellie glanced at her watch. She would have to board her next flight home soon. If she accepted his offer, she wouldn’t be able to get back to her team and continue where they left off on time. God knows how Ellie hated not being on schedule.
She bit her lip nervously. His offer was so very tempting. The young scientist had devoted most of her life to science and mankind. She was on the verge of her biggest discovery yet. But she desperately wanted to explore, experience and travel.
“Okay. Take me away.” Ellie smiled brightly at him. “I want to see Kremlin, the Winter Palace, Saint Basil’s, the Red Square and all those other places.”
She took his hand and Ethan pulled the girl to her feet. He tugged her away from the park. “You’re so silly Ellie. Kremlin and the Red Square are kind of the same thing,” he told her with a chuckle, “Welcome to Moscow.”
Mankind can wait for a few more hours.
28 January 2013
A piece I wrote for an essay competition back in high school. Just for future comparisons with my ever-changing writing style. The story was partly written during a family trip to Russia for my sister’s graduation.