Letter to My Son Aged 2


I’m not the kind of mother who knows every single vital statistic about you. We sorta know your height when we put you against the wall, where you stood impatiently by the wall while we tried to measure you. You lasted a whole two seconds.

We kinda know your weight. What we do is your dad would pick you up and weigh you and then he would weigh himself. We were so excited when we thought  you gained a lot of weight. Turns out it was your father who gained all that weight and he moped for the rest of the evening.

The only way I really know that you are growing is through your pajamas. Of everything you wear, it is your pajamas that is most precious to me. Every time your Abah buys new pyjamas, I would say that there is no way you could fit into them. They’re too big! You can’t possibly be that big.

But you do. And you are. Every single time.

Exfoliate! Exfoliate!

You have a hobby. Your hobby is crumbling things. You take Hup Seng biscuits and in between feeding yourself, you would crumble them. Sometimes you just play with the crumbs on your carpet. Sometimes you would sprinkle it  on your hair and sometimes would rub it all over your body and we joke that you’re exfoliating.



I wrote once about how I am in awe of how everything sparks wonder for you. You once sat down for an hour with a huge chunk of ice, until your hands were almost as cold as ice. There was one time your grandmother asked me to move you away from the direct sunlight because it would be hot for you.

But the sunlight illuminated the books in ways you never saw before. You were mesmerized. Every little thing mesmerizes you – crumbs, feeding cats biscuits, the way the sunlight falls on your Busy Duck books.

Life is messier with you. But it’s okay. You let me see the world in ways that I have forgotten. And I can always vacuum. And when you’re old enough, you can vacuum.


Your great-grandfather is 95 years old this year. As I write right now, your Nyang is in hospital from a viral fever.


I wish you knew him as I knew him growing up – so much more lucid, so much sharper. He was witty and sarcastic, in a way that most Malay men would not be. Once, we were watching telly and the host of a tv show asked, “If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you like to take with you?” I half-expected him to answer your great-grandmother of course. He said “My cat, obviously” to the horror of a seven year old who did not understand why someone would opt for a cat over their wife.

He does not remember much these days. These days he asks for your Aunty Hani who is in Australia. He asks almost every day what she did. He can’t remember that your Uncle Jan has left for Sydney. He just wonders why Uncle Jan does not visit.

But he remembers you clearly. He calls you “Chan”

A long time ago, I attended a lecture by the brilliant Professor Andrew Oswald in Warwick. He was an economics professor and he specialized in measuring happiness. He said that it surprised him that having children does not add more happiness to someone’s life. But he highly recommended it anyway despite his research because he said it brought him a huge amount of joy.

Life is not easy right now. But you bring so much joy and happiness to everyone around you. Perhaps the difficulties of raising a child sort of negates the joys of having children but the joy your father and I experience, just being around you makes all these difficult things worth it.



I am scared sometimes, Hassan. At the age of 32, I am starting to realize that the world is so much more difficult and complicated than I thought it would be. And that in this world that sometimes, there is no happy ending. The heroes don’t always win, the good guy don’t always get the girl.

I have spent this year, in a bit of desperation, hoping a hero would come and rescue me. That a man in a blue box would come and get rid of whatever mess I have gotten myself into. I know it is silly but there are days, I still hope for that.

What you don’t know is that this year is possibly the most difficult year of my entire life. The range of emotions I feel go from an all time high to an all time low. I would say that I’m almost bipolar but your Aunty Hani would not be amused with me abusing terms like that.

The thing is, I am not alone going through this. Your dad is in this. So are your grandparents. More so your grandparents who are still supporting their daughter as she tries to achieve her dreams – whatever that may be.

I am so scared that I am messing everything up. It is only natural – I am human. But my parents, your grandparents… they never seem to be scared – they are so strong. I snap at them, I lash out. I don’t even think about it. Sometimes they take it in a stride. Most of the times they get mad, they are Asian after all. But they keep going, they keep doing. They have faced and are facing unimaginable obstacles and they never seem to give up, they have inside them a strength that I cannot imagine and it is always them I still turn to when I am on my knees.

Because they keep going, because of their grit, even in my darkest days, I get up, dust myself and go on. Even if I have no idea how it is going to work out.

I know I cannot give you everything that I feel that you deserve. What I pray for though, is that as your mother, I have that strength to support you as you go through life, to be the pillar of strength the way my parents are for me. The world maybe a scary place and I know that as you grow older, I cannot protect you from the difficult choices and circumstances that will undoubtedly befall you. But I want you to be able to look over your shoulder and feel that everything will be alright because Umi went on. Because Umi got up every time she fell, because Umi worked harder than she had ever done so in her entire life and she soldiered on.

Doing the Right thing

A few months back, I took you for your first professional haircut. All this while, I have been cutting your hair, by cutting, your uncle Jan said, I tended to mangle your hair with a pair of scissors.

This hairdresser was amazing. It had seats shapped like cars and horses. They played Finding Nemo on it was like a party all year round.

You hated it. You absolutely hated it. You screamed and screamed. And by scream I mean, it sounded like the US Government was actually waterboarding you as opposed to actually having a haircut on a seat that looks like a truck with Finding Nemo on your Ipad. The hairdresser was nonplussed. My cheeks burned as I struggled to be okay despite how you were reacting to the haircut. I told the hairdresser that this is why I give you mangled haircuts at home as opposed to taking you to a hairdresser.

“Don’t do that,” she said.

“Do what?”

“Don’t not take him for a haircut. People can stare. Your son will scream. That’s okay. Let him get used to it. He will get used to it eventually.”

Doing the right thing by you, can mean doing things that are uncomfortable. For me, for us and for you and even for people around you. People will judge and say things to your face. But I have to remember that if I am embarrassed and I worry about what people say, I will not be doing what is right by you.

Life is going to be like this Hassan. Life is going to be filled with choices and circumstances where people will *tut tut* in the corner. You will have to make choices that are uncomfortable, that people will disapprove and say things. But I hope you will have the courage to do what is right by you, right by your values even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Right decisions are seldom easy to make. But we make them because it is the right thing to do.

Happy Birthday My Son

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Today you stacked all the laundry baskets on our bed. Each time you stacked it differently, you would announce “I did this!” and expect us to clap. Your father and I heartily clapped, not because you asked us to, but because even stacked laundry baskets made us ridiculously proud.

You did so many variations of these stacked laundry baskets – some of them rather precarious arrangements and your father had to catch them as they fell off and nearly knocked you down. But you carried them up and stacked them anyway, as heavy as it may be for your small arms.

I asked you if you needed any help.

You paused. And then with a big smile you said, “Nah”.

Yesterday, I saw a coffin.

“Yesterday, I saw a coffin,” my grandmother said.

“Really?” The wards in the Klang hospital were really crowded, about a few feet of space to walk between the rows of beds that are placed so closely to each other that patients practically sleep next to each other. I can hardly imagine a coffin in these wards.

“She means that someone died yesterday,” the elderly asthmatic patient whose bed is next to my grandmother said. She had been hospitalised longer than my grandmother but I could tell that the two of them have become fast friends.

“Uh…okay.” I’m squeemish about bringing up the subject of death around, you know, very sick people but this lady, with a nasal cannula for her asthma issues just shrugged. “We’re right by the ICU.”

“Chinese lady,” my grandmother said.

“The other lady was a Malay woman,” the severe asthmatic patient said. “Yeah, they died yesterday.”

“Yeah. They died. Guess it was their time.”

Klang Hospital feels like the busiest hospital in Malaysia. In fact, it feels like the busiest hospital in the world. The wards are clean but cramp. And then during visiting hours, it feels like a wet market with relatives piling in to visit. The humanity packed into one room is almost frightening. One patient had about ten members visiting her at one time with three babies, one a wee newborn, piled on her bed.

The atmosphere in the wards are a combination of joy and sorrow. One family was fast talking and their merriment punctuated with loud hearty laughter every so often. While another, a husband holds onto his wife’s oxygen mask as she lay there. I am not sure she is even aware that her husband is there while his face was a blank look of defeat.

I don’t know if my grandmother can see any of this, or is easily defeated by the sadness in the ward. I’m the sort of person who notice the sorrow and helplessness. Hours after I left, it was the faces of concerned and sad family members that remain etched in my memory. On the other hand, my grandmother epitomises optimism, she makes fast friends and was quick to point out to me everybody she had met: “This aunty here has kidney problems. This one has diabetes. That one – Parkinsons” and everyone is happy. The kidney patient is not sad, she has a doting daughter who takes good care of her.

She seems cheerful. The three ladies all requested that I bring them prunes tomorrow because “we can avoid taking the medicine that makes us poo”. I offered to bring orange cake that I baked for her but she said to save it for Eid which is in 5 days time. I tell her we will come back tomorrow.

There is ash on our car when we leave. I can’t help but hope it is not an omen.


It is difficult to reconcile how I feel. On the one hand, I know that government hospitals do have some of the best doctors and specialists around. On the other, well, it is a government hospital. There is no aircon, the wards are cramp and from the outside, it looked like it caught fire and continued to function as a hospital despite the disaster. And there are rats that come out to play at night.

We are continuously debating whether to move my grandmother to a private hospital. But the answer is not that straight forward. To put it simply, private hospitals especially at my grandmother’s age will be very expensive. Even more so because she does not have insurance. She is too old for insurance and everything will have to be paid out of pocket.

The thing about private hospitals is that niggling doubt that I have. You’re always wondering, is every procedure necessary? Do I need to take this drug? Are you really watching out for my best interest or are you milking me for money? My own experience at private hospitals is mixed. I had an excellent specialist who cared for me during my asthma episode and helped me recover. On the other hand, I paid nearly RM 300 per visit from a gynaecologist who came by to my room twice a day to say “Hey there, how are ya?” He’d stay for 3 minutes, max, we timed him and pocketed a cool RM 600 from me daily. RM 100 a minute.

In government hospitals since it’s public healthcare means continuous care even after you have been discharged. They will move your case to the KK and you are always monitored for the ailment that you came in for.

In a private hospital, well, once you’re done, you’re done. There is no continuous monitoring – you’re on your own kid. But there is comfort in a private hospital, it feels like a hotel. The rooms are air-conditioned, there is cable TV and room service.

Do you show that you love someone by taking them to a place where its more comfortable as they recover despite always wondering if the healthcare is better? Relatives assume that you don’t love your parent enough to actually spend money and put them in a cushy hospital.

Or do you grit your teeth and put up with the rats, the cramp spaces because it was in this hospital, the head of trauma, following his gut instinct refused to let a seemingly okay patient go? Because it was also this hospital that a specialist noticed something so minor in a blood test that most would have just discounted and noticed that it was a symptom of a far graver problem.


Bad Day

I think I’m having a bad day. The bad day being the day after my grandmother had been admitted to hospital for a mild heart attack. This is what we know now, that it was a heart attack. On Thursday, we did not know this – my grandmother was complaining she was feeling weak and wanted us to take her to the hospital.

Problem is, my grandmother was and remains a hypochondriac. Just a few months back she checked herself and my grandfather into DEMC, a posh private hospital in the centre of Shah Alam, to which the final bill after 4 days came up to a whopping RM 13,000. She was absolutely fine, mind you. Before she checked in and after she checked in. So when Thursday morning she complained she was feeling unwell and wanted to go to DEMC, everyone suggested perhaps we check her into a hotel instead.

Thankfully, both my aunt and my mum decided to take her to the Klinik Kesihatan (government clinic), just in case. They conducted an ECG on her and the results of the test concerned the doctors enough to refer the hospital in Klang. It took 2 hours to transfer and then there, my mum, aunt and grandmother waited for 8 hours to see the specialist. During which, my grandmother declared that she was fine – who wouldn’t be, after sitting next to a on orange-clad convict surrounded by coppers – “Why is his chained to the bed?” my grandmother queried that nice police officer keeping the convict company. “He’s epileptic,” the nice police officer replied. “It’s for his safety” – and burn victims with angry blisters all over their back.

My aunt and mum spent those 8 hours badgering junior doctors to release my grandmother (all of them refused) before the specialist made a grand entrance at 8pm with the head of ER. They explained that the blood test results showed she had a mild heart attack. Obviously, at this point both my aunt and mum probably looked and felt like douchebags for trying to discharge their 80-something year old mum from the ER when she had a heart scare.

As they say, when it rains it pours. The next day I had an appointment for tea tasting in Bandar Manjalara. For those of you who know Malay, it sounds like fancy area but for those of you who know KL; Bandar Manjalara is in near Kepong, a superbly dodgy part of KL. I was hoping that the client would cancel on me, I can’t possibly go to the other end of KL when everybody is fretting about my grandmother.

But he was keen and I should be a professional and so off I went on the most hectic day involved for everyone.


I got into an accident back on the way from conducting a tea-tasting session with a prospective client. We, being me and my staff Kid, were in Bandar Manjalara, a suburb very close to Kepong, renowned for its sprawling viaducts and overhead bridges. The roads in Kepong climbed and towered over each other like the overgrown lawn in my tiny garden outside my house, with weeds that is taller than my toddler. It was a hot day, the GPS in Kepong came on and off and Waze kept taking us around the scenic route of Kepong. By scenic I mean, there was a chance we would be made residents of Kepong and never leave because how-the-fuck-do-you-get-out-of-this-area? And then halfway through the tea tasting I received news that the doctors will not let my grandmother leave the hospital for at least 5 days.

I was tired, mostly emotionally spent and I wanted to go back home. I could already imagine the drive back and it felt liberating.

That is up until someone rear-ended my car.

I could hear the screeching of tyres before the awful sound of metal and metal smashing into each other. I jolted forward but by not that much. Not enough to give me a whiplash anyway and so the first thing I thought off was – “Hey, can’t be that bad. I can drive off can’t I? It’s not going to be considered a hit and run. I’m the one who was hit and then I ran off…”

Kak Lin!” Kid said. “You have to stop the car and check it out.”

The car that rear-ended me was a Proton Wira. The lights were smushed in, the bumper caved in and it was a miracle that its engine and compressor were still working. The Chevrolet was nowhere in a bad shape, just a broken bumper. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was my dad, who would not see it as just a broken bumper. This Chevrolet has been to the workshop more often than some young men going to Friday prayers in Malaysia. He was going to flip.

A tall, reed-like young man with bloodshot eyes came out of the car. It was a bright day, the sun was in our eyes and he blinked a few times. He slurred as he spoke. ‘Oh,’ he said when he saw his smushed up car.  And then he looked at us. ‘What do you want to do about this?’

“Why did you hit us!?” Kid demanded.

He told Kid later that he got confused with the clutch, the accelerator and the brakes. “They all looked the same,” he whined.

I did a quick mental calculation to see if I could just pay off this bumper because I really did not want to go through the hassle of reporting the accident. But I really did not want to get this kid who was obviously high on drugs get away with it. I hinted that perhaps we could settle it outside. Kid thought he looked like the sort who would bail.

“Police report then,” I sighed.

I asked Kid on the drive to the police station later if she thought the kid was high. “I’m quite sure he is,” she said. “I’m gonna ask him.”

“Kid, you’re not going to ask someone if he’s on drugs in front of the police!”

“Of course I am. Watch me.”

Actually, one did not need to ask if he was high. His drive there was obviously so erratic, his behaviour in front of the police merely confirmed everyone’s suspicions, including the police that he was on drugs. The police snapped at him a few times and he was oblivious that he was annoying everyone there. When the police showed the write up of the report – a simple formality really – instead of just saying okay, he tried to embellish the report to make him look good.

“Wait, sir. As I drove into the lane, the bonnet of my car flew open, it blocked my view and I drove into her car.”

“It did?” the bored policeman asked, skeptical.

Funny thing was, it did happen. It actually happened after the accident when we were driving to the police station. It certainly did not cause the accident.

“Yeah, so I couldn’t see. It’s not really my fault,” he surmised.

“No. It’s still your fault.”


Two hours later, I was finally on my way to dropping Kid back at the shop. Kid was able to grill him what he was on and how much. He denied it at first but Kid called him out on it. “I can tell when someone is on.”

“I didn’t take it today,” he protested. “Just yesterday.”

Apparently he took batu. And at a empat dua kosong dosage. I nodded sagely before confessing, “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”

Batu is cocaine I think. Or heroine. I’m not sure. While I may be familiar with street drug terms in the West from, err my watching of The Wire, I’ve no clue what they are in Malaysia.

And empat dua kosong is 420 which I presume are milligrams.

“Is that like a lot, I’ve no idea really what a normal dosage is?”

Kid shrugged. “Depends really. Some people take 500, some people take less. Depends on the quality, how much money you have.”


On days like these, I sometimes say something a little blasphemous and that I should mandi bungaMandi bunga is an old animistic belief in Malay culture to rid yourself of bad luck. What you do is you take a bath with flowers. I’ve no idea why this rids you of any bad luck but at the very least you’ll smell good.

I joked with Eizwan that I should mandi bunga after today. And since I have a gorgeous tea blend with roses and tea, our Lady Grey, I joked that I should mandi Lady Grey.

Eizwan nodded. “Actually since you carry hibiscus tea, you should add them too.”


Blows Dust Off Blog

So it seems I may have accidentally abandoned this blog. Well, there are many, many, many reasons why this happened and I feel compelled to make a million and one excuses on why it happened.

And although I do subscribe to former President Clinton’s philosophy, “As an adult you may have a reason, but you don’t have an excuse,” I’m gonna say that I have plenty of reasons and excuses on why this blog was abandoned.

This has been an extraordinarily busy and utterly crazy year.

It all started last year. Last year, my little company The Good Tea Company was formally launched. After travelling to India to buy tea and then spending a long time with our perfectionist designer – designing the product, we were able to launch our product. After a successful stint at The Curve, 2013 was the year we wanted to grow bigger and took the plunge with opening our own retail outlet.

At the same time, the house the husband and I were renting was starting to wear us out. The house was old and in dire need of renovation. The problem is, well, our landlady was sweet but she really would not invest the kind of money the house really needed to get it fixed up. We’re talking stripping the electricals, new plumbing etc. We tolerated everything about the house because rent was cheap – including going to the toilet in a separate bedroom from the master bedroom, a tap that fell off often or water that trickled whenever it felt like doing so and living in the darkness in half the house since the cabling was just so old that we can’t run the oven and the fridge at the same time without the whole house tripping. But when the landlady opted to raise the rent without throwing in massive amount of home improvement, I threw a fit worthy of a Roman emperor not getting his way because Maximus won the  gladiator battle.

And so, last year, we house-hunted and did a respectable adult thing and bought a house.

Also, another thing that I never mentioned was but alluded to several times last year was that last year Eizwan and I were ready to expand our family. In true to form of the most impatient generation – I thought that well, you know it should happen like well, NOW!

It is still a difficult subject to broach now although Eizwan and I are able to talk about it a bit more openly lately – but  last year, we struggled with infertility. Despite the many good things that actually did happen to us last year, infertility was this great big shadow that hung over us. The year passed by in a blur, consisting of measuring daily basal body temperature, scheduling our lives around, *ahem* fertile periods and surviving through the inevitable monthly disappointment. As each month passed by, it became painful to see friends and family with babies, listening to pregnancy announcements for people who got pregnant without even trying.


Apparently I was always “cold” and that was why I couldn’t get pregnant. They gave me lots of smoky things to keep me warm. Pardon the belly. I’m not exactly trim.

It was a physically trying time as well – I saw a number of different doctors, saw an acupuncturist (which led to a bright blue bruise on my stomach) and took a chunk of medication, all in great effort to conceive. I was hormonal, exhausted and on some days in a lot of pain because some of the meds gave crippling stomach cramps.

And yet, 2012 passed by and 2013 came and Eizwan and I were still childless. But I was becoming at much better at handling the situation. It was  heartbreaking but I did not want it to cloud over me all the time. I can’t put my life on hold, hoping for a baby. In 2013, I told myself was going to be an awesome year. I was going to focus on the Good Tea Company, I’m going to focus on writing and we’re going to move house.

On the month that we signed to open our first retail outlet, on the month that we started to pack up and receive our keys for our new home – I began to feel a little queasy and exhausted. I found myself sleeping more and on April Fool’s day we tested and found ourselves pregnant.


Mum asked why three tests? I said it was because we couldn’t believe the first one, nor the second one. Not after so many failed tests.

And so hopefully this will explain my absence for the past 6 months. It has been an incredibly hectic exercise, 2013. In between adjusting to doctor visits, the dreaded morning sickness, adjusting to a new life of becoming parents Insyallah, we were moving house, renovating the house and renovating the shop. And unfortunately something had to take a backseat. Unfortunately it happened to be my writing.


Moving out of our first home. Well, it was mostly Eizwan moving and me bossing him around.


Come to our shop! It’s open now! This isn’t me but our tea “psychologist” who isn’t really in anymore but in Australia

I’m currently 7 months pregnant, a huge milestone for someone who thought could never get pregnant! And for the family it’s exciting! God willing, it will be the first baby in both our families for a long time – most of us have forgotten what it’s like to be around a baby already. And babyhood is confusing – so many things have changed since my mother first had her baby and the two of us trying to go through the myriad of products can be quite overwhelming.

I’m also working full-time at the retail outlet, till hopefully when things settle. Come and say hello and pick up some speciality tea! We’re at Lot 22, Lower Ground Floor, Plaza Shah Alam Jalan Tengku Ampuan Zabedah E9/E Shah Alam.

It’s taken me 6 months to adjust but finally, I’m back! And hopefully just a little be more consistent from now on.

My Valentine’s Day

I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. There is this assumption that if you are a couple, or in a relationship that you would automatically be happy on Valentine’s Day. Or at the very least, that you would appreciate a day dedicated to lovers.

Honestly though, I can’t think of a worst holiday – intended to put pressure on couples already in a relationship, a day making singles feel worse than ever. I suppose there is only one type of couple who would enjoy Valentine’s Day, the same kind of couple who would enjoy endless attention on their wedding day, the sort that invite the press and the Tattler to cover the minute details and attention that they put into their wedding: ‘Oh, see those roses over there? Yes, I had it brought in from Cameron Highlands. They were picked at the peak of their blossom as the sun began to emerge over the horizon. Oh, but why talk about the roses when you can talk about my shoes? See these? These were designed by Dato’ Jimmy Choo. Yes, I know he had retired, I forced him out of his retirement for my wedding. I’m that important.”

I met up with my friend, N yesterday for Valentine’s Day. And I brought my husband along – I don’t want him to feel left out on such a special day. We were going on a date, N and I. We were going to eat burgers and then we were going to watch a romantic movie starring Bruce Willis. With lots of guns and bombs.

We were late to meeting her as it was particularly crowded at Midvalley yesterday. We had to maneuver around a number of couples, diligently holding hands because that is what is expected of them for the day, a number holding lifeless bouquets of roses and all of them, looking more bewildered and stressed out rather than genuinely in love. I suppose it’s difficult feeling like the feeling when you have to battle a swarm of forlorn couples, figuring out what to do. One couple began to quarrel almost immediately after the man gave his woman a bouquet of flowers. There was a long queue outside TGIF, couples holding hands waiting for their turn to eat at at the restaurant. I wonder how many of these couples will head home tonight, or to a hotel and make love, even though they don’t want to but because they are expected to.

I told N this and she had a good laugh. N said that we were cynics. I don’t know what gave her that idea.

My distaste for Valentine’s Day began early – it began in Malaysia where the government school I attended, a rather conservative secondary school I might add, sold roses to young lustful boys by enterprising students who would then distribute the flowers to their high school crushes during class. They made a grand show out of it even, coming into a class with armfuls of roses and announcing the name aloud: “Farah!” “Yee Ling!” and the girls would get up, and saunter as gracefully as a fourteen year old could to the front of the class to receive their roses like it’s the bloody Oscars or something.

And then for the rest of us, the not-so-popular and the not-so-pretty, we squirm in our hard seats, hearts pounding fast as we give a quick prayer to God: ‘Dear God, please, please, please let me have someone send me a flower. I know I’m technically not supposed to pray for someone to send me a flower because it might lead me to think about lustful thoughts and to lustful situations that I’m not supposed to be in, but please, please, please God, I’m not so sure if I can handle the humiliation of not getting any roses when two-thirds of the class have received flowers.’

I think the trauma of Valentine’s Day in High School is enough to put anyone off Valentine’s Day for life.

I have to be honest though. When I finally did meet that special someone, I wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I really did. I wanted to see what’s all the fuss that Hollywood was talking about. But my special someone happened to be Eizwan. Eizwan is the best man for me, who else would patiently help me roll out sheets and sheets of pasta when I went through ‘I-want-to-make-my-own-pasta’ phase or watch a crappy Korean drama without judging me. You can’t have everything though, because Eizwan is not particularly romantic. I mean he has ideas on romance, just sometimes, he falters on execution.

Like the year when I hinted I want a Valentine’s Day celebration. It coincided with a busy period for him – but he tried. Apparently, he had this grand ideas of creating a paper tree made of hearts, with each heart containing a poem on how much he loved me. On Valentine’s Day, I was waiting for roses, or a nice night out but nothing happened. Every restaurant was booked and the ones that were not, were places like TGIF where you pay a whopping RM 90 per person for a set that you would usually pay RM 30 for on any other weekday.

And of course, nothing says romance more than celebrating Valentine’s Day in a restaurant where they make you stand on a chair as the waiters sing and stomp their feet for your birthday.

We ended up in KFC that night.

I was getting very agitated and upset, like if you love me, why don’t you do something for me? Finally, I confronted him about it and Eizwan broke into cold sweat and said, ‘I did! I tried! See, I wanted to make these paper hearts but I discovered, I’m not very good at arts and craft and every heart I made was ruined, so I bought more paper and I’m trying to cut them at traffic lights.’ He showed me the half-cut cards at the back of his car, together with sticky tape and scissors and the instructions he printed off the net on how to make them as proof that he tried.

The ever reasonable girlfriend, I burst into tears and refused to speak to him.

Clearly, it worked out okay, or we wouldn’t be here today, but we never bothered to celebrate Valentine’s Day since. After getting that moment of madness out of me, I’m done with Valentine’s Day.

I had been done with Valentine’s Day for years since. Last year Eizwan got me a small teddy bear for Valentine’s Day and I looked at him and asked ‘What is it for?’ and then he sulked because I had forgotten Valentine’s Day.

As we had our burgers, I thought about the couples who had made so much effort for this evening, walking around Midvalley aimlessly, hoping to find a restaurant that could fit them in. When they do actually find one, they would be seated a little closely to another couple, as restaurants try to pack in as many lovebirds on their biggest money making evening of the year. And then, said couple would inevitably overhear conversations about love from the couples surrounding them and feel pressured to outdo the couple next to them, to proclaim that, no, they love their partners more.

And suddenly I felt this burst of euphoria and superiority. I am superior, I wanted to shout aloud. I am superior over all of you. I have not been conned by this madness, I have not been conned by this capitalist holiday of making you spend and celebrate love even when you don’t want to. I am not a sheep! I am free to make my own choice, to celebrate love when I want to celebrate.

Of course, that feeling of superiority ended when I watched ‘A Good Day to Die Hard.’ In what is possibly the most cynical attempt at milking the Die Hard series, I felt like a real sheep herded into the movie theatre by a Hollywood producer shepherd. As it turns out, my date with John McClane turned out to be a real dud.

How did you celebrate your Valentine’s Day?

A Cheapskate’s Guide to Beauty

The past January has been in a way, my benchmark for how I hope the year would go. I have been trying to instill healthier habits on myself. One of my goals that I gave myself was to actually take care of myself better. I am fast approaching the big 3-0 and sleeping with your make up on and waking up the next day with a simple face wash, and I was ready to go, dewy-eyed, fresh and dare I say it, sexy thanks to the virtue of youth.

Oh, youth. I can’t do the same anymore. If I do, I will look like a ghoul that crawled out of my own grave the night before.

After spending the whole of 2012 pretty much moping, I had a giant checklist at the beginning of the year of what I wanted to see happen this year. Most of it was personal, like how I want to live a healthier life – eat better, exercise more, take my writing career professionally and work on The Good Tea Company to a great degree of success.

And I wanted to take care of my face. There I said it. I am shallow. I’m approaching 30 and the thought of getting wrinkles terrify me. Growing old gracefully be damned – I am going to do all I can to look as young as I possible even as I approach old age. Growing old gracefully is for those who give up.

The beginning of January, I spent a long time researching on how to do this. I’m not too keen on buying products off the shelf. I’m sure they work very well, but they are also, insanely expensive. And I am a cheapskate. A really big cheapskate. And I had a friend in university, who had the most beautiful and flawless skin I’ve ever seen. Her secret was, ‘I never use anything artificial on my skin.’

So I wanted to give it a shot.

I found this site, Crunchy Betty on the various ways on making natural beauty products at a fraction of the cost of buying products off the shelf. While sometimes the site does veer into paranoia at times – I don’t mind having flouride in water or toothpaste, and having been to countries where they don’t flouride their water like Vietnam where you can see the extent of teeth damage compared to Malaysia – I love everything else about the website. Most of the time, it means that most of my daily skincare regime is in the kitchen as opposed to having to head out to buy new stuff.

Which works out since there are days where I’m too lazy to actually eat, much less get dressed and head out to the shops.

After going at it for about a month, this is my current regime that I am quite happy with. My face is very sensitive and prone to drying out, so if you’re curious to try it out, bear in mind that it is like any new product: your skin might like it, your skin might hate it so you have to experiment to find what works for you.

Daily regime

Honey – I use honey to wash my face in the morning. One teaspoon of honey, warmed up at the tip of my fingers before massaging it into my face and wash off.

It used to be green tea with a bit of lemon juice. I used to tone my face until I realized it was the cause of my face drying out. And that Eizwan thought I looked rather ghostly, which I realized was due to the brightening (read: bleaching) effect of lemon juice.

Sweet almond oil from Culpepper. I’m going to experiment with jojoba oil and some other nourishing oils when my almond oil finishes. Which probably will be in about 6 months time since I only use about 2-3 drops a day and I have more than half a bottle left.

And boring old sunscreen to protect my face from those harmful UV rays.

Make up remover:

Eye makeup:
Plain old extra virgin olive oil on a cotton pad.

Face makeup:
Haven’t needed it yet, I don’t really use foundation or powder anymore. But honey don’t work on getting rid of make up unless you add a bit of baking soda to the mix, apparently.

Almond-Oatmeal exfoliant. Half oatmeal and half almonds blitzed in the food processor. Add a few drops of water to 1 tbs of the oatmeal and almond mixture and stir into a paste. Gently scrub your face and wash off. Almost guaranteed super soft skin.

I use this about twice a week. On Crunchy Betty she says it is gentle enough to be used daily and indeed there are a few blogs that extol the benefits of doing it daily – but I can’t. My face feels raw if I use it more than twice a week.

Face masks (weekly):

Egg-white and lemon juice mask:
And on nights when I feel like scaring the husband, I put on an egg white and lemon juice mask. The way to do it? Take one egg, use only the egg white, froth it up and then add a few drops of lemon juice. I paint my face with the mixture and leave it to dry for about 5 minutes. What I usually do after that is I put on Kleenex on my face and paint the egg-white mixture on the Kleenex.

Apparently I look something like this when I have this on:

I try to look as evil as possible too.

I try to look as evil as possible too.

Leave to dry for 30 mins and then yank off your mummy face. Well, yank it off as gently as possible. Wet a soft wash-cloth and wipe off any egg-white that remains on the face.

And since my skin is prone to dryness:

Yoghurt-honey face mask.
Mix about 1 tbs yoghurt and 1 tsp honey together. Paint it on your face and leave it for 20 mins before washing off. Your skin should be supple and soft at the end.

Am I benefiting from this way of taking of myself? I’m going to say, a resounding yes. Honestly, you can’t quite tell the difference though. I am blessed to have very good skin despite not doing anything with it – it is only recently that I felt the need to actually take care of it. My skin has been soft, more evenly toned and dare I say it, I look better today than on my wedding day.

Best of all. It has been the cheapest journey ever. A true cheapskate win.

A Little Bit on Honesty

To be honest with all of you, after I had posted up the last entry – I was not very happy with it. There was something missing in the entry, that even after I read it over, it felt dishonest and untrue. I was very grumpy after I posted the entry and the more I thought about it, the grumpier I got. I stormed upstairs and though I promised Eizwan that we can catch up on Supernatural – what I really intended to do was to sit in bed while he watched and grump to myself while admiring pictures of Kim Myung Min.

Here's a picture of KMM for my own pleasure.

Here’s a picture of Kim Myung Min for my own viewing pleasure.

And these are the days when I am grateful for Eizwan’s presence.

Even though this episode is a Castiel friendly episode, it was not enough to entice me. In between surfing more pictures of Kim Myung Min, I was mulling why did I not like that entry. What was I trying to hide? Eizwan had switched on the TV and was ready to put Supernatural on the PS3. A lesser husband would not take time to notice his wife’s distress  and would have just continued on watching.

But this is Eizwan. This is why I married him.  He could see I was not happy. He asked me to talk through about why I was not happy about that entry. And then we spent hours dissecting what went wrong with the last entry.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the King of Dramas. I am inspired by the show. But why I am inspired by the show was probably not quite the honest part. I had written several drafts before the last entry, correcting it over and over and yet, I could not get to where I wanted. Usually when I struggle to write something, rather than writer’s block – it’s usually because I’m being dishonest with myself.

Eizwan hit it right on the nail when he asked me about my last blog entry. Sure it is inspiring, someone who would do anything to get what he wants. But that isn’t the only reason why the drama affected me so much. He pointed out the points that I kept talking about the past few days. My favourite part of the show is Anthony Kim’s character. There are plenty of arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable characters out there like House and the current Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock. But very few of them are like Anthony, who is arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable but prone to constantly breaking down into tears. Unlike House and Sherlock, who are barely aware about how flawed they are, Anthony is fully aware of his flaws. He wears power suits despite being completely and utterly broke. He teeters in between the realization that he was not who he once was and the delusion that he is still the powerful CEO of Empire Productions that produced the best Korean dramas of all time.

It is this strange balance of these two extremes that really caught my eye, to be able to write such a finely crafted character. With most cocky characters on screen, rarely would the characters acknowledge their thirst and desperation to succeed – they are always so sure of themselves. With Anthony, you are privy to see his desperation to go back to what he once was despite his outward self-confidence. The internal battle is played with very little melodrama (or the occasions when it is played with melodrama – it is taken to the extreme for laughs). I admire a writer for being able to create a character so nuanced and balanced and yet unbelievably cool.

As it is a satire, the King of Dramas use plenty of rom-com clichés to move the story forward. But what I did not expect was that every cliché was turned on its head so that more than half the time, I had no clue how the story was going to progress. When the writer, Go-Eun wakes up from a clichéd coma with amnesia, I did not expect it to be a prank that she plays on Anthony. Anthony’s response was a classic, over-the-top soap response: he pulls her close to him and declares desperately: ‘If you can’t remember me, at least remember me with hatred from what I did to you’…only to find he’d been punked by Go-Eun.

Or in another frequent K-Drama cliché, when Anthony gets the large sum of money from the Watanabe group for his drama, I half expected the storyline to go by the way of Anthony falling for say, the daughter of a respected CEO and thereby creating a love triangle between Anthony and the writer, Go-Eun as it would have played out in most Korean dramas. What I did not expect was for the Watanabe Group to actually be a front for the Yakuza which inevitably, raised the mundane stakes of getting a drama onto the tv screen, to truly a matter of life and death.

It is this delicate balance of playing around with tried and tested drama tropes and cliches, and then turning them on its head every single time that won me over. It is hard to be over-the-top without being too silly or falling into the Wayan Brothers category. The King of Dramas was too smart for all of that – it’s aware that they are being over-the-top and yet, it is played with so much sincerity that despite being chased by gangsters and a constantly vengeful Chairman bent on destroying our hero – it is believable.

And as I watched, I was exhilarated. I could not predict each sequence like I usually do when I watch movies (one of the reasons why I found Skyfall deathly boring) and I became more invested in the characters. None of the characters developed ‘normally’ per se and more than once, when the actor Kang Hyung Min’s conscience is pricked and we see a spark of humanity in his soul, it’s immediately extinguished by his love of money. In some characters, there are no redemptions, they may be good in their own way but they’re not going to change as they do, in a grand Hollywood style. If they’re petty, chances are they’re going to remain petty despite the occasional glimpse of a conscience, throughout the drama.

But as I sat down to write all of this, none of this came up. Instead, I wrote the entire cliché on why I loved the drama. I could not tell any of the reasons why I truly loved the drama. As I went to bed last night, with the first draft ready to put up – I thought, perhaps I did not want to bore any of you reading an in-depth analysis about The King of Dramas. Or perhaps, I did not want to come out as a Korean Drama fan-girl as though it was some form of low entertainment that I did not want to be associated with.

After I had posted, I was aware that I was very angry. And Eizwan asked me why don’t I write about it, about why I cared for the drama. I made up excuses – it’s boring, who cares? I can’t find a way to write about this as interestingly as possible. But I was becoming more aware on why I can’t. If I am staring at the screen for ages, it is because I know it’s too raw for me to deal with it, too difficult. It is not that I don’t want to deal with it but that I am so used to packing up emotions in a tidy little box and shoving it as deeply as possible to the recesses of my mind that I am unaware it exists.

Which is funny. As a writer, I would think I would be more used to mulling about how I feel about things. I spend a lot of time analyzing myself and people around me, to understand how I feel. But I have always known, and it pains me to say this, is that my greatest weakness is my inability to be completely honest with myself.

During the Director’s course I took part in London, one of the things I had to do was act as though I was in love with a housemate of mine but it was in secret and I was fully aware that it was an unrequited emotion. I failed at the task miserably because I could easily hide feelings like that. The task was intended to teach aspiring directors on how to get actors to feel the role.

A piece of plank displayed more emotions than I did on that day. Our teacher watched my classmates try miserably for 10 minutes to get some emotion out of me when she announced to the class that, ‘Adlina by nature, closes her feelings up. She doesn’t let them show and so it’s hard for her to be openly angry for instance, because it’s not the way she does it.’

She did not mean it unkindly. That is who I am, as a person. I think I am good when it comes to frustration and happiness. But when it comes to disappointment, to fears and regrets – it is not that I do not let it show. Rather, I don’t even acknowledge their existence; they’ve been shoved in that box, deep in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I don’t even know why I’m sad – I just know that I am sad and frustrated and I keep it in.

Harry was an actor turned director. She pulled me aside then and asked me to think about a situation, a moment where I loved someone but the love was unrequited. And to bring it up to the front, to let the feelings through. ‘And then I want you to act it out.’

Before any of the previous male companions could claim that they were the ones that came to my mind – surprisingly, the first words that came to me was the SC. It brought forth a torrent of anger, disappointment and rejection that I knew existed but had hidden away and it all came out at once.

Harry was pleased. And she asked me to hide this emotion but keep it at the forefront of my mind as I acted.

The result was just pure electric.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about that day, about how been given permission to allow myself to feel, everything came out all at once. At that time, it made me a better actor and I knew that if I were to be honest with myself with my own fears and doubts, I would be a better writer. If I was not so afraid to admit to myself my own weaknesses and my own failings – despite how vulnerable I would feel, my writing would be better.

Each time I struggled with a piece of writing – I know a part of my brain had decided to hide the truth. After much soul-searching, I knew why I couldn’t write any of that. A part of me is really afraid that I can’t write. I’m afraid that at the end of the day, for all my criticisms of cliches and tropes – that is exactly what I depend on when I write, because when I come to the crossroads, I take the path more commonly taken. Because it is much easier – or because I believe it makes me look good. I’m scared of writing something so different because of how it will be received. Heck, when I watch The King of Dramas, I’m not even sure I have the wit to come up with half the stuff they wrote.

I’m really sorry that The King of Dramas never got the ratings or the ending it deserved. I wish I had that kind of skill and talent to write the way they had, to create characters that I could love so deeply – to take all the cliches that I’m so used to and throw it back at myself. I wish I could take a path less commonly taken and not be so scared to do so. I wish I could see that I was taking the most commonly used path as opposed to patting myself on the back and saying ‘I’m certainly taking the road less taken’.

And the true reason why it was so hard to admit why I’m crazy in love with the show? I really, really wish, that for all it’s unpolished writing, the horrible ending it had, the strange inconsistencies the King of Dramas had, I could write half as well as the writers of The King of Dramas had.