The sprays are getting stronger. The last wave blurred my glasses. My mind starts the age old debate of decisions. Should I walk back to the car on continue writing this out?! I find myself sitting on top of a small boulder facing Niagara. Niagara is a waterfall. A strong one at that. Waves and waves of cold water droplets lash out from his center. It was like rain except for the fact that rain falls down. These tiny drops were cast out like a net from a fisherman’s hands. The fisherman in question is in an awful temper.
It’s been raining for a week and water is plentiful. It was enough to nourish Niagara’s huge appetite and give purpose to its fall. And what a fall it was. Water gushing down with murderous intent. Taking out frustration and pent up anger on its eternal enemy, the rock base. God only know what those rocks must have done wrong to receive such punishment. The impact is so strong, it creates meters high water mist flung outwards and wide.
These droplets wash over me again. Once again I think of rain. The paper I write on starts dripping. The words become sploshy. I stop writing and look up. Two small boys and their little sister run across the rocks oblivious to both the horizontal rain and the powerful waterfall. They are more concerned about jumping boulders and looking for frogs. Their little sister tries hard to keep up.
It’s cloudy but the clouds only thinly hides the sun. The sun seems to be playing its favorite peek-a-boo game. The good thing about a sun peek-a-boo is it creates beautiful streaks of light rays rather than the over washed blanket we usually get. Just when I think the decor could not get any better, the sun proves me wrong and draws me a rainbow. The constant outflowing blanket of droplets is the perfect canvas for a rainbow. So says my logical mind with its scientific training. My right brain on the other hand thinks that the sun is trying to soothe Niagara by painting a ribbon of colors. Hopefully, the interplay of light would lull its temperament and abate its anger.
Despite the pretty artwork, Niagara seems unconvinced and gushes even more water in what appears to be defiance. The rainbow grows stronger and more defined. It catches the eye of the younger sister who promptly abandons her brothers. She tries her best to catch the rainbow but it remains as fleeting as the sprays of waters that created it. This brings a smile to her dad who scoops her up and tickles her. Her laughter is how I imagine little angels would sound like if they laughed. The sun seems equally as mesmerized and shines on her golden locks. For a moment, the mighty waterfall seems stilted.
I find myself smiling. Surely, it can’t get any better than this…
There was wine. Bottles of them. Don’t remember how many. Enough to make me ramble on to anyone who would listen about the challenge of walking a straight line. It was quite a bit.
She was much older than I was. Out with some friends. She told me that I looked too young to be there. I told her so did she. That was the wine talking. She came to enjoy the Salsa music. She came to get away from the confines of her kitchen. Just for a night. She was like the aunt you always liked. The one with a nice twinkle and warm smile.
Then we danced. Well she danced with the wine. My veins dripped full of them. I felt my mind detach and stay on the bar stool. Without me “the brain”, the body was pretty good at dancing. Who knew? I haven’t danced for years. She was having fun. I was glad. So was I. Or maybe it was the wine. The song winded down. She sat down. I kept on going. Closed my eyes momentarily while I did my patented head banging move. Didn’t even know I had a patented head banging move. The dizziness started to set in. I opened my eyes. A pair of wide eyes peered back at me. They seem amused. She was young and boy could she dance! I was unconcerned though. The wine was dancing after all. My feet matched her every move. Salsa long forgotten came back. She didn’t expect the spin. Nor the turn or the sombrero…
The song ended. I smiled at my partner and was about to return to my older friend when the young thing commented that it was nice that I was dancing with my mum. That caught me by surprise. She smiled mischievously. I stared at her. It was then I noticed her date intently watching me. Offhand it occurred to me that his hips won’t survive a turn let alone a spin. The wine started talking on my behalf. I told her that she was a naughty girl for abandoning her dad. She frowned. I didn’t wait for the slap and skedaddled my drunk behind out of there.
My new friend asked me how was the dance. I told her it was boring because she was not there. That was the wine of course. Fortunately, she didn’t know that and I was presented with a pleased twinkle. We then talked about family. I told her how much I miss mine. She told me how much she loved her’s. Salsa melted to Jazz.
Fact of life, alcohol speeds up time. I helped her with her coat. She wants to introduce a daughter to me. Apparently she was my age… 20. I replied if her daughter was half as pretty as the mum, I would be one lucky guy but unfortunately I am married and the kids would never understand. There was the twinkle again. And this time it was followed by a pinch. Right on the cheeks. That was unexpected. And a bit embarrassing…
I tipped the glass. It was empty. I turned and flagged down a waiter. I had to tell someone about the challenge of walking a straight line.
I stare at them blankly. My eyes begin to glaze and I can feel my brain slowing down to a crawl. All of a sudden, my hearts starts to race and the frustration building up over a course of a couple of weeks finally pours out.
That got their attention. After a while, you tire of trying to understand a foreign language and just want to scream out. In my case, the scream manifested into a Vanakam. That surprised them. Almost as much as it surprised me. 30% of the population in La Reunion is made up of brown people. By brown, I mean Indian. Not Indians from Cowboy flicks but the sort of home grown Indian folks you stumbled into in KL. Only difference is these Indians speak French. No matter how hard I try my English on them which by the way is the real Indian Mother tongue (in a global fashion that is), I usually receive frowns followed rapidly by a stream of French even French people would have a hard time understanding. My bonafide French project manager certified that fact.
So, I said Vanakam. At first, they stared at each other in confusion. There were two of them. One tall enough to look at me in the eyes while the other was slightly more petite but both were unmistakably brown. Of course by brown, I mean Indian. A few seconds later, they smiled at each other signaling the end of the shock and replied something that sounded like “Ninga Tamil yah” which I think was “You are Tamil?”. Now it was my turn to widen the eyes. They speak Tamil after all. Hallelujah!
After days of trying to communicate with the locals in French and failing miserably, I finally found a foothold in communication. For once, I can actually use my Tamil. A language long buried in the annals of my childhood and lazy afternoons with my grandmother. At long last! I can order what I want without struggling to think of the words. Finally! I can ask people how many sisters they have without accidentally offending them. God! I can even start making jokes again. I found a common language. I am finally in!
I stare at them blankly. My eyes begin to glaze again. A school scene where I was laughed out of my extracurricular Tamil class when trying to recite a poem flashes in my head. The horrible truth dawns on me. My Tamil comprehension is probably about the same level as my French is. My hearts starts to race again…
My washing machine thinks it is the reincarnation of the hulk. It vibrates shakes and constantly threatens to beat up its more peaceful cousin, the sink. I did everything I could to calm it down. I sat with him (and on him), sang him lullabies, hugged him with love (aka cushions) and even told him about how just a few weeks ago, my mum did all my washing. Nothing seem to work. He was throwing more tantrums than a 6 year old that lost his lollipop.
Worst part is you knew when he was about to blow. The buildup itself was stressful. It starts off with a whizzing sound like a missile about to find its target. When the whizzing reaches its peak, the whole bathroom would begin to shake, rattle and just stops short of rolling off my apartment block. Pictures were coming off their frames and the mirror was threatening me with 7 years of bad luck. Despite the hard to ignore warning bells, I was completely and utterly helpless.
My mind was racing. What would the neighbors think? They were probably calling the cops to evict the stupid foreigner who didn’t know how to handle his washer… Shucks!
Begging didn’t help. Even tears did not stop its insane spin cycle. I was at my wits end, not to mention I could not feel my hands anymore trying to contain his epilepsy with my little muscles and puny fingers. Oh, the cold sweat of despair. The emergency button was nowhere to be seen. My sink was getting a hammering. It was going to break soon enough. I felt like a rag doll on top of a bull. This was it! My first laundry ends up with me being hauled up to jail for having an unruly washer…
Then it stops.
All quiet now. I couldn’t believe it. The washing was done. I could barely stand up. My whole body was still shaking. I sat down next to the tub. If I smoked, I would have lighted up two by now. I noticed the installation guide under the sink. With trembling fingers I thumbed through it until I came to a page 4. It was as easy to spot as an Indian man on a ski slope. It was probably one of the most profound Aha moments a newbie bachelor in a new apartment could have ever had. The words literally jumped out of the page and pierced my brains screaming as it seared through my mind with its simplicity…
REMOVE TRANSIT BOLTS BEFORE USE. WARNING: FAILURE TO DO SO WOULD RESULT IN VIBRATION.
Once, there was a small boy who loved football so much that he vowed one day he would travel half way across the world to see his favorite football team play. However, as the boy grew up, he forgot how much he loved his football. As the years passed and he was no longer small in size, the boy dismissed his once all consuming passion as nothing more than mere distractions. Sadly, he never gave much thought about what he lost when he did that.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched F.C København draw with their stiff rivals OB. The game had a couple of goals, wide wing plays and the usual football strategies. To anyone who is used to watching football, it was just another ordinary game. However, for me it was anything but ordinary. Quite hard to be impassive when you are standing next to a legion of diehard fans that were chanting and singing their hearts out. Before I knew it, I was cheering with the best of them. Hoping our collective will was strong enough to secure F.C København a win. We shared pain when OB scored and jumped with joy when F.C København grabbed the lead. It was eventful, fun and best of all, it was full of passion.
As the final whistle blew, I felt something old and forgotten stir. It was a part of me which has been lost for a long time. It was a part of me which I really wanted back. Since then, a new entry has been added to my list of 100 things to do before I meet the Big Guy…
“Pilgrimage to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United take on Liverpool”.
It was long overdue. A forgotten promise to a passionate small boy who loved his football.
Malaysia has and always been a flashy nation. We have twins whose shadows are longer than any other towers in the world. Our international airport extends for miles in every direction. We have highways long and flat from border to border. How many other nation can boast a city built from the ground for the sole purpose of administration?
Denmark in contrast is drab. There are no sky scrapers. Their airport is a simple affair. The roads seem full of potholes with a capital city which is a quarter of the size of mighty Putrajaya.
Despite all that, the Danish people are probably the most luckiest people in the world. While we in Asia still fight for basic human rights such as freedom, justice and equality, in drab Denmark, these rights have been around longer than our country. Their rule of law has transcended brittle things such as constitution. Their principles of democracy are more than just words written on paper. It is interwoven into the very fabric of their society.
Admittedly, there are no modern, glitzy or shinny towers to awe the eyes in Denmark. There is only the rule of a just and fair society to dazzle the mind and make envy all foreign hearts that yearn for such things.
This time, the heart is Malaysian and the yearning is strong.
This is the third time I was lucky enough to experience the Caribbean. Like the other two islands I have been to, Martinique stands out on its own. The weather above Martinique is however erratic. This coming from a Malaysian boy who spent his entire life under crazy weather. Nevertheless, Martinique holds the record for showering on me in consecutive times. 7 in the short space of 2 hours. All that rain while the sun is shinning and people sunbathing.
Typical of a Caribbean island, the beach here is from a cliché holiday postcard. White sands, blue skies and clear waters to soothe the soul and quiet the mind. The locals are friendly but spot a sophisticated air in the way only French people know how. They don’t call this spot the French West Indies for nothing. Having only a rudimentary grasp of the language makes it hard for me to interact with my host but after travelling for so long, I have mastered body language. Being able to imitate animal noises with some flair also helps a lot when ordering.
Despite the language differences, Martinique is an example why the Caribbean will always be at the top end of people’s escape list. Why?
As I write this, the sun has decided to set. I sit on my beach towel marveling at the orange streaks that sears the sky and sets it on fire. A cool breeze blows by cooling and refreshing. The air is thick with salt but nevertheless a whiff of charred grilled fish floats down to my spot. As I hear the waves crashing into the rock in a soothing rhythm meant for the ages, I can’t help but wonder whether heaven is maybe an island somewhere in the Caribbean…
I saw Bob looking at me. He was cheap at 4 Dinars but seem rather small in size. However, Bob knew I was desperate so he didn’t try too hard to impress. It’s hard being impressive when you live to protect and serve but are called Bob. If you haven’t guessed it by now, Bob is an underwear. Not a fancy one like Calvin but not cheap or trashy either. Mildrew was trashy. I guess that is why Bob never worried about not being picked up. He was the middle ground in the underwear selection at Carrefour. Considering I had to buy multiple sets of clothes, Bob was just the man for the job. I think his parents knew that hence his strange name.
Bob is awkward though. Unlike Mildrew, he is of course better built. However, it is rather cramp in Bob’s care despite being a double XL. He is definitely not as comfortable as Celio or as spacious as Levis who were both three times Bob’s price. However, I was glad I had Bob. I can’t imagine walking around commando in this cold weather.
Bob isn’t exactly Mr. Warm and Fuzzy but at least he was some cover against the draft. The biting cold if you know what I mean. So I trudge along with Bob daydreaming about my Byfords and wondering when are they going to find their way home. Sigh…
I confess I didn’t want to meet her. I had to. It was business. So I told myself. Strictly business. I kept telling myself. Then I saw her. Minutes past. I was staring. She didn’t mind.
She wasn’t beautiful. Not in the conventional way anyway. There was a serenity about her which was unerving. I knew her history. Or so I thought. People said she was dangerous. You watch your back. Don’t let her get too close. It was good advice. They didn’t know her though. She wasn’t dangerous. Well, most of the time.
Its been a month since we met. I look around. We are on a hill. I know I am going to miss her. It is the same feeling you get when you are on a beach staring at the sea. The sun is coming down on us. I have to say good bye. I don’t want to say goodbye. We shared. I seen her shades. I know what makes her cry and sometimes when I try really hard I swear I seen her smile.
I tell her I am going to miss her. She stares back without a word. I don’t know what she’s thinking. It doesn’t matter. She knows I have come to love her. Its getting dark now. I tell her I have to go now. No answer. I turn my back on her. I walk down the hill. I try not to look back.
My heart cracks. My lips part. I whisper her name… Pristina.
I was lying in bed when I heard a pop. It was dull like a muffled fire cracker. Suddenly, there was a cry. The cry became a wail. I quickly got up.
I opened the curtain. Right at the end of the alley, a large man with broad shoulders and curly hair was clutching his left thigh. He was barely supported by a friend. Two other men were being fended off. From my vantage point, the injured man seems to be in tremendous pain. Seconds later, a car pulls up and he is whisked away. I pray it is to a hospital. Shortly after, the two aggressors leave.
Five minutes goes by. The police arrive. Someone must have called them. They cordon off the area and start to question people. A crowd begins to gather. The narrow alley becomes a crime scene.
Just when I was about to write that Pristina was as safe as can be, it strikes me how arrogant that statement is. Looking around at a skyline devoid of skyscrapers, you tend to forget that Pristina is still a city. Like most cities, there is a dark underbelly. The yellow police line is a coarse reminder to that.