Tuan Direktor

I found this when I was procrastinating surfing the net for ideas for Victorian names. Why Victorian steam punk names? For a project my brother and I are currently working on, not as Eizwan have feared, for earmarking interesting names to name our as-yet-to-be-conceived (thank you for asking, you nosy parkers) child. But yes, it sure brought back memories of the day I wrote the script.

I wrote the script around late 2008. Times were hard and at that point in my life, I needed money desperately and living the life of an(a) artist/writer was well, to be frank, not paying very well. Late 2008 was the stock market crash that rivaled the Great Depression and to put it bluntly, money was in short supply everywhere. People were losing jobs and contracts and freelance work seemed to dry up.

But I was offered a job. It was very lucrative but I did not want it. Money does not seem to motivate me much (although I have to say, the thought of being able to pay for my bills made it somewhat tempting). But mostly, I was miserable that I had to give up what I loved doing so desperately so that I could pay bills.

Real life. It sucks.

And so, the script was born.

Although, today’s entry is not about that depressing time. In a funny way, as the way my life usually does, it worked out. Not to go into too much detail about how it worked out but let’s just say, I resigned, found myself in India and ended up lying through my teeth to a bunch of people saying that I was a famous theatre producer in Malaysia and that if you treated us badly i.e. by not returning us to our hotel, all you wannabe Bollywood actors and dancers never get a chance to make it big in Malaysia. And you know how huge the market is in Malaysia? Huge.

Yeah, the things we do so that we could return to my hotel safely after being taken to some God knows which part of Bombay as part of an elaborate con.

Since then, I’ve been focusing back on my writing. I’ve actually done paid written creative work, which is all good and dandy. But…here’s the thing. I’ve always known that to be better at writing, I need to do other things other than writing. During the NanoWrimo I came across an advice which suggested that all writers need to do everything, take different classes other than just writing classes to improve their writing. Take acting class to improve dialogue and people’s reaction. Take directing classes to improve how a story unfolds. Take shooting lessons if your story has guns involved and the most you know about guns is that time when you went to Vietnam and you decided to shoot using an old communist rifle, and the nice Vietnamese soldier manning the rifle booth eventually gives up on your inability to take aim and tells you in stilted English, “Oh, just shoot anywhere.”

When my sister decided that the life of respectability i.e. being a psychologist (but it’s not a real science!) is for her, she had to drop out of the course that she originally signed up for. But there was no refund for the course and since the course had already been paid for, somehow, in my dad’s brain, it made sense that Adlina took over the course from her sister. You know, Hani is filmmaker, therefore creative. Adlina is writer, therefore creative. Substitution somehow results in, Adlina is writer, therefore filmmaker.

(Well actually, correct substitution would be Hani is filmaker therefore Adlina is writer, but let’s not nitpick)

The thing is, I know that this would be a brilliant course for me. If I want to write better screenplays, I better have an idea how to direct and edit. If I want to come across as being serious in my craft, I should take more courses outside and mingle with people in the industry.

But dammit, I’m a writer. I hunker in front of my pc throughout the day. I play with words, I read. I don’t actually ask for weird things to happen. It just happens. Writing is the perfect profession for me a hermit like me. It means dealing less with people. I don’t like people. That’s why I’m the writer and not the psychologist.

And yet…I know that to achieve my dreams, it means going against my grain, doing things I’m terrified of. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m terrified that I agreed to do this course. I’m going out of my depth, I worry I would not know how to handle people creatively, or if I would be creative enough in the first place.

I have 16 days to overcome this worry. In the meantime, I’ll just have to suffer the nightmares, read Mamet’s “On Directing Film” – basically do an Asian thing and cram as much as possible so that I would not drop dead the first day of class.

Because come November, there’s no stopping that plane. The ticket has been bought, the accommodation has been sorted and I even have a mini-trip to Belgium planned.

Come November, Adlina will take a mini-course in London for directing. Now it’s time for me to get my directing hat on.

The Night We Eloped

Sometimes, you can be so stupid as to tempt the universe. As I lazily woke up on Friday, I thought, my life had been very quiet as of late. And then as I got ready, I thought to myself, ‘Gee, life has been very quiet lately. If only it were a bit more exciting.’

The Universe heard me and declared, ‘Challenge accepted’.

Which explains why, on Friday night, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the husband and I were stuck by the side of the highway, me in our pretty baju kurung and Eizwan in his baju Melayu complete with his sampin, waiting for Eizwan’s cousin to rescue us. The rain was getting heavier, and I was trying very hard not to feel low.

‘This is my fault, you know,’ I say to Eizwan. ‘I tempted the universe.’

‘You did what?’

‘I said my life was unnaturally quiet the past two weeks. The universe responded.’

‘You what? No-lah! These things happen. It’s not your fault.’

I pause, and thought about what he said.

‘You’re right, I said to Eizwan. It’s your cousin’s fault.’

‘Syeda? Syeda’s fault?’

Yes, the last time she got engaged, we got locked out of our house. Twice. Now, on the day she’s getting married, our car broke down in the middle of the highway, and we’re standing here with no way out.’

‘Hey, that’s not true. I mean, this is just a coincidence right?’

‘Maybe.’

‘…Or maybe she secretly does not like me very much. Maybe I’ve wronged her somehow and this is punishment.’ Eizwan replied miserably.

‘You know what this means, right? This means that the next time a major event happens in her life, like if she has her first baby or something we’re staying far, far away.’

***

Our car died the way the universe would, not with a bang but with a whimper. Well, actually, it died in a spectacularly creepy way – the lights started to flicker, the radio came on and off before it all started to dim down and faded away. Despite Eizwan’s insistence that he could coax the car forward and that we CAN get to the wedding on time, 100 metres before the toll on the AKLEH, it quietly said good night.

We handled the situation fairly well, you know, like motherfucking adults. We called the insurance company which then called up the tow truck company. And then we called Eizwan’s parents to come rescue us. The tow truck came after half an hour, and the super nice tow truck driver gave us a lift to the waiting area on the other side of the toll where it would be safer to wait. Eizwan’s parents said that his cousin was on the way, and that he would get there in about 20 minutes.

Of course, as everyone knows, the best-laid plans are always obstructed certain Mr. Murphy. We might be only 20 minutes away from Syeda’s home, but Eizwan’s cousin decided to play it safe and take a route that he was familiar with to where we were. Unfortunately for both him and us, that route was Jalan Ampang. On a Friday night.

He was joined by about a million other people on that 1km stretch.

But despite Eizwan and I being stranded by the roadside, Eizwan and I were in surprisingly good mood. I was determined not to feel low, a car breaking down was already stressful for Eizwan – no one wants to spend any more money on a car, and we were bound to miss Eizwan’s cousin’s solemnization – so I did not want to upset him any further.

We kept ourselves amused by identifying cars, talking about everything and nothing and taking random pictures with the camera.

‘I don’t get why people are staring at us,’ Eizwan said. ‘You see that guy there? And that other guy there? They’re all staring at us.’

‘Maybe they’re not used to someone as hot as me being stranded,’ I said, flicking my hair to the back.

‘Modest…. Hey, stop staring at my wife!’ Eizwan shouted.

I shrug. I really did not care if people were staring. But it really bothered Eizwan that everyone was staring. And it was kind of funny that they were. We were not the only ones stranded by the side of the road – but the ones gathering the most attention was us.

‘I suppose it’s because we’re dressed the way we are. You know, we look nice, we look like we’re going to a dinner or something.’

‘Yeah, I suppose.’

But after a while, even I could not keep my spirits high. I was starting to get hungry, the fumes from the cars whizzing by were horrible and my throat was starting to dry out. Eizwan noticed my shivering. It was getting cold from the rain and he pulled me closer. He pulled out my t-shirt from the rucksack that he was holding. And I covered myself in efforts to cover myself from the rain.

People finally stopped staring. I think they were starting to think we’re kinda creepy.

Eizwan and I finally got to the wedding 3 hours after the wedding was supposed to start. By the time we were picked up,  Syeda and her boy, were now man and wife.

Of course, nothing was more comforting than arriving at a wedding 3 hours late, looking like the cat dragged in than your relatives cracking up at you the moment you walk in. And Eizwan finally got his answer as to why people kept staring at the two of us.

‘Oh my God. Did you really stand by the roadside dressed up like that?’ Abang Khalid sputtered in between giggles.

Apparently, as Eizwan’s cousin pointed out, the two of us, in our themed baju kurung and baju Melayu, me in my pretty make up, Eizwan with his rucksack on his back and standing by the side of the road looked like we were about to run away and elope.

Sigh.

Staying Hungry. Staying Foolish.

I am surprisingly sadder than I thought I would be when I woke up this morning and switched on my Mac only to see a black and white photo of Steve Jobs on the front page of the Guardian. I did not even see the text written on the photo and I already knew, Steve Jobs was gone.

It’s strange. I knew that he was ill, and so his death came as no surprise. I’m an Apple fan, but I’m nowhere an enthusiast like my siblings are and so I did not idolize Steve Jobs as the Artist and the Psychologist did.

And yet, the first thing I did was to call my husband. I wanted him to know that Steve Jobs was gone. And I felt sad, genuinely sad.

It was very strange to feel such loss for a person you had never met. But I did. For the entire day, interspersed with work, I kept looking up about Steve Jobs. I knew he was kicked out of Apple in the early 90s, and then he came back. I knew a little bit about his involvement in Pixar – but I never knew much else. All I know about Steve Jobs essentially was through my Mac, which I adore.

My Mac is really my first Apple product that I love and adore. I have an Ipod, which I stopped using after a while, and the husband loves his Ipad more than I do. I find the Ipad cumbersome, to be honest. But my Mac is my lifeblood. I wake up to my Mac, I sleep next to it, and it’s the last thing I see before I go to bed. To the chagrin of the husband, but that’s another story for another day.

My Mac helps me earn a living. My previous Toshiba did that but it crashed on me spectacularly that I lost a chunk of my writing, and so it’s hard to feel fondness for a machine. My Mac, on the other hand is stable, it’s fun and it’s sleek. In a funny way, it becomes an essential tool for me to earn a living, to manage my life, to communicate with my friends. It’s easy, it’s reliable and very rarely crashes. It’s fast and it can tolerate my bajillion windows that I love to open. I chat with my friends overseas, I skype with my sister, I blog and I write. When I’m bored, I take silly pictures with my photobooth. My Toshiba was a tool. My Mac is an extension of me.

And Steve Jobs had created a product that could respond to me, mould to me that it almost feels that he created the product with ME in mind. And I’m sure other Apple users feel the same way, that an Apple product is created for them.

The more I read about Steve Jobs, the more wonderful he seems. He was by no means, a pleasant man. He was no philantrophist like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. There were many aspects of the man that people did not like. But he made things that made people happy.

My dad came from his classes today looking really sad. He said he felt genuinely sad over Steve Job’s death. “I don’t know how to describe it,” he said. “I felt like we lost more than just Steve Jobs, we lost everything with him, all the great ideas, all the future Ipads, Iphones and Macbooks.”

My sister, the Psychologist woke up feeling devastated. Steve Jobs, she said changed her life. ‘With Steve Jobs, it felt it’s okay to fail, because you can come back out of it, and work hard, that things happen for a reason.’

Indeed, how many people can claim to come back from a devastating experience like being kicked out of the very company you founded? Only to bounce back with a company like Pixar and building the same company that you were kicked out off to the second most valuable company in the world, second only to Exxon Mobil.

There are so many things I feel right now, regret that I did not try to read more and learn more about the man during his lifetime. But certainly a greater sense of comfort as I read about his life, about the choices he made in life. I am no Steve Jobs, I cannot come close to his stature; it would be arrogant to assume I could be. But the path he chose in his life is certainly the road less taken, that I gain great comfort knowing that there were giants before me, who had followed their hearts and had done something wonderful. It does not make my own life choices any less scary, but certainly, it makes me feel more confident that I’m doing what’s right by me.

Thank you, Steve Jobs