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Monday, June 29, 2009

Aboard the ill fated flight

(Event is real. Story a stretch of my imagination)

Except for the chillness of the air around me
except for the eerieness of the surrounding
all was quiet, everything silent
the rain was beating
the night was still....

And as I wearilly regained consciousness
from out of the quietness
to break the endured silence
I hear a voice amidst sobs
that of a heart broken mother
crying over her deceased child pathetic!

Out of the darkness
under the dimly moonlit night
I could see a bare breasted woman
weeping....kissing her lovable husband
knowing not for one moment
that he had long been dead and gone touching!

I close my eyes and I could still remember
the last few moments of my beloved daughter
who as I stooped to gather
my dying child in my arms together
her groans sank, her eyes shut, her head dropped
she had left without another word forever very painful!

I wipe the tears that trickle
and my mind strayed off
to bring back with it the vision
of how it had all happened....
and I could see myself seated by the rear cabin window
viewing the beautiful landscape below.

All of a sudden streaks of lightning flashed
followed by rumbles of thunder
and as I felt the aircraft descending
I patted my daughter saying "Girl we are going in for landing"
Then came the fatal blow
that brought with it only a bleak tomorrow

The plane tossed and turned
glasses shattered into little smithereens
seats toppled, luggages swung lose
And all the time I consoled myself by saying
"This must be a rough landing"

Alas! It was only when my chin
from a stray seat got a painful bash
that I realised this was no rough landing
It was a tragic crash!
Thrown out away from the wreckage half baffled half dazed
I watched as the cockpit and wings went up in blaze

It was not the screams of the other passengers
that from my state of shock awoke me
It was the groan of my little daughter
gasping for breath beside me
who as I turned to gather
had left without another word forever

She had fallen into a deep sleep
from which no man could awake
Engulfing her was this dark night
a night that no morning could break
My pulse accelerated, down my spine ran a chill
My heart missed a beat, as time stood still

From the place where I lay
bruised, burnt, wounded, smeared with dirty clay
amidst ache and pain, no matter how hard I strive
this memory in me I know will be there to survive
and I solemnly wait for the rescue team to come to my aid
I, one of the few survivors of the ill-fated JAL DC8

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Father's Day Out

Father’s day is the time of the year when I get to replenish my wardrobe. It’s the day when my wife, kids and some friends express how much I mean to them with the gifts. This has been happening for some years now. Previously it was different. The day just comes and goes… big deal. Unlike Mother’s day that is usually celebrated with so much pomp and gaiety, Father’s day used to be like any other day. That was until I ranted and raved about it one day about the double standards. After all Fathers do form part of the same equation….No? So why the discrimination? From then on, things changed. So now I earnestly look forward to Father’s day each year. It also offers an opportunity to celebrate with some chilled beers or scotch without having my wife breathing down my neck. But I actually wish there were more such days in a year so I can celebrate throughout the year for 365 days without finding for an excuse to enjoy the beers. We should perhaps have Aunty’s day, Uncle’s day, Bosses day, ex-Bosses day (of which I will have plenty), ex-Girlfriend’s day etc.

This year on Father’s day, I wanted to make a difference to another Father’s life……my Father. I wanted to take him to the estate where it all began. So I took the long drive up-country to a God forsaken town called Kulim where my parents now live with my sister. They were with me until recently. But since there were no one in the house when we leave for work, my sister volunteered to care for them. After picking them up, I drove for another 35 km into the interior of Kedah to the estate where my dad used to work at the Group Hospital. This was home to us until he retired in the late sixties.

I still recall waking up at 5am to catch the 6 o’clock bus to school that was located 35 km away. By the time I reached school, my white uniform would have turned beige with the dust from the laterite road. I had even been hauled up once by my discipline teacher for ‘defying’ the school dress code. It was only after I shook the dust off and the white in the uniform returned that he let me off. But I had to endure all this because Dad wanted to provide me with English education that was not available in the estate. Far sighted indeed.

The hospital was situated on a small hillock and our house was located about 50 metres away. It used to be full of activity then with patients coming and going, in-patients chatting away with new found friends in the wards, kids crying or running around or playing. It used to be so noisy then.

But now when we reached the hospital, we found it had been abandoned. The wards had been demolished. The house that we once called home was in a dilapidated state, the compound overgrown with weeds. And the place was extremely quiet. The silence was almost deafening. Except for an occasional crackle of a rubber seed in the distance, or the cry of a cricket in the woods, all was quiet and serene. What a contrast! The estate doesn’t maintain a hospital anymore preferring to send their workers to the government clinic. This was the place where I was born, where I was raised, where I learnt how to cycle, where I burnt my fingers playing firecrackers, where I climbed a jambu tree and fell and fractured my hand, ....there are just so many memories. It’s overwhelming!

My wife held my Dad’s hand and guided him up the steps on the hillock to the side of the office building where he used to work. He just kept looking without uttering any words. After much deep thoughts, he looked up at me…then turned and smiled to himself as if to say “Yes!....... Those were the good old days”. We spent the next half an hour or so walking around the place as I related to my wife about my experience of growing up in the estate. Dad just sat there in the bench outside his old office. After a while, we decided that it was time to leave.

During the drive back, I stopped in a sundry shop in the estate . I noticed that the proprietor was an old man but I couldn’t place him (I was only 12 when I left the estate). I asked him how long he has been operating the shop. “Oh……for over 50 years now”, he said. “Then you must remember me. Or maybe my father”, I asked excitedly while telling him who my father was. He replied with a glint in his eyes that he knew my Dad very well and that Dad used to spend his after office hours in his shop most of the days…….. just to chat and while away the evenings He said both of them used to be quite close but that he had lost touch after my father left the estate after his retirement. “Well, he is here with me. He is in the car” I said. His face brightened up as I said that and he called on his wife to man the shop for a while. He then immediately came out of the counter and approached the car. Seeing him approaching with me behind trying to keep up, my wife opened the door. When he saw my Dad, he extended his hands for a handshake. I could see his excitement as he spoke of how long it had been since Dad left the estate and how long he had been enquiring from some other friends about Dad’s whereabouts and that all his attempts had been in vain. He talked and talked and talked. All these while, Dad just looked at him, a bit puzzled and confused…..but just smiled. After exchanging pleasantries, we continued with our journey back home to Kulim.

I wonder if I will be able to repeat this ‘pilgrimage’ again next year to the land of memories. I wonder if Dad will still be around at that time. You see, Dad is already 98………and has become senile!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


It is sometimes nice to reminisce over the good things that had happened to you at an early stage of your life. And as you do, your thoughts are inevitably transported back to the time when those events had that have embedded so deeply as memories within you.

It was the year 1973. Like everyone else my age, I was still studying...doing my Form 5 at BM High School. It was not so much the education that I choose to remember although I was a high achiever in class like everyone else in my group, if you can pardon the immodesty. It was the sheer joy of being with a group of friends who shared a special bondage with each other. The friendship was so exciting in many ways that we looked forward to each day in class....simply to be able to enjoy the pranks that we play or the jokes that we create. It was so much fun and laughter. We were not naughty...just plain witty and slightly mischievous.The teachers did not mind it and sometimes they too enjoyed the pranks that we played.

There was Jalil, the assistant monitor of the class who was more into slapstick. He went on to join the police force and ended up marrying his childhood heartthrob, the girl who swept him off his feet while still in school.

There was Singh, the class monitor who didnt like childish jokes but all the same, he usually ended up the brunt of our jokes. He was later to emigrate to Australia where he settled down.

Hari was the school sports captain. His 400 metres record was not broken until about 10 years ago.A tough guy with body-builder physique, he was one who could be relied upon to in fact virtualy protect you , if such a situation were to arise. He later went on to become an elite commando.

Imbaraj was the one person in the group who made a deep impression in me. He was a quick tempered guy who initially did not succeed in maintaining long term relationships with his friends. But those who could understand the man behind the mask found everlasting and true friendship with him. He gives a new meaning to the word friendship if you get past the many hurdles along the way. I was later in life to adopt the phonetics of his name in naming my son.

The other mischief makers were Chan (Keng San), Radzi, Farid and of course Nazir
(a teacher by prefession now who now blogs under KATA TAK NAK). Together we called ourselves JACHFRINS, a letter taken from each name to form the accronym. (Chegu Nazir had written an excellent piece about this in his blog sometime last year).

When we were together, there was never a dull moment. We always tried to play out one another although we were such thick friends. I wonder if the present school going kids are capable of engaging in such relationships.

Fast Forward 2003......30 years later!

Unfortunately, the friendship that was nurtured and cultivated so tediously during those early years was not sustained after that. At least, we failed to keep in touch. Contact was lost with most of them. It was only Imbaraj and I who continued growing up together, so to speak. But whenever we met, we never failed to recall those school years and the fond memories of Hari, Singh, Jalil, Nazir,Radzi and the rest. And it always ended in the resolution that we will do this and do that to reestablish contact and hold a reunion. The excitement lasts for that day only. The next day, we went back to life's mundane tasks with the so-called resolution taking a back seat.

Then one morning in the year 2003 as I was flipping through the morning papers while having breakfast before starting the day, I was jolted out of my seat by what I saw next....for there smiling back at me from the obituary column was our dear friend Hari!

I frantically called up some common friends that we have to find out the circumstances behind the tragedy and soon learnt the truth.....that Hari had been involved in a road accident about two weeks back and had succumbed to his injuries. I still could not believe it, or accept the fact of his death. I felt extremely guilty that I had taken things for granted for far too long.

When the reality of the situation sank in, I realised how much time we had wasted in pursuit of our goals and dreams and had actually neglected on friends that we made, who had been part of us during our formative selfish! There was a time when they meant so much to us but along the way of growing up, we have had a change in priorities and had pawned away the relationship. Is this the price that one pays for pursuing his goals?

I immediately called up Imbaraj to break the news. I told him to look up the obituary column himself as I could not bring myself to tell him about it.....for I knew that Imbaraj was closer to Hari than I was!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tragedy aboard MH653

In the wake of dawn
as I rise with routines to perform
the whole nation is shocked
expressing grief and sympathy
at the grim ending
of the innocent passengers
who needlessly perished
in the tragic air disaster!

Penang Airport
4th December 1977
splendour and spree
flooded with friends
relatives, well-wishers all the same
kisses, hugs, embraces
a journey to her, a parting for him

Had they at that moment only known
friends, relatives, well-wishers all
that this parting alone
was to be no simple one.....
for it was to be this flight
with all 100 aboard
that was enroute to a gruesome destiny
to end in a dramatic air tragedy.
Existence of a lax in security
threatens and demands the authorities scrutiny
But why scrutinise now and not then?
Why wait till this bitter incident?

I close my eyes and I can vividly imagine
the last few terror filled moments
of the helpless passengers
at the mercy of the heartless hijackers....
a deep depression seizes me as my mind strays off the site of the disaster
to its marshy swampy turf
where strewn over wide acres
lay the charred remains
scattered in shattered smithereens
torn to pieces...heads..bodies...limbs!

With tear moistened eyes
heart filled with agony
no matter how hard I strive
this memory in me I know is there to survive
...of the passengers plight
aboard the ill fated flight.
It keeps coming back to me
moving me deeply, touching me hard
to the innermost depths
of my wounded heart

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Air Hostess

I turned and from across the aisle
I could see her warm face
As she walked towards me, masking a smile
With ease and steady pace
Past the evening rays of sunshine
That stole through the blind
It was a graceful figure O! yes it was
The sway of her hips, the twitch of her lips
"She must be competent" I had even thought

Afterall it had only been an accident
The meal tray that she was holding
That slipped when I knocked against her
Off her hands, spilling its contents
Soaking the gentleman's pants
before dropping to the ground to shatter!

She walked....She came....She stopped right beside me
As I looked up into her eyes
Ashamed and embarassed
But this pretty young hostess
Between twitching lips a smile to play
Charmingly shy
Without fuss but tolerance
Without fury but patience
"Let me help you Sir" was her reassuring reply.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When hearts cared during the heart-scare!

It was a wet and cold morning
When the pain came with no prior warning
Down my neck cold sweat gushed
As for emergency care I was rushed.
My initial thoughts as to its cause, as Doctors tried to detect
Was that it must have been a heart attack!

The treatment after the ordeal
Upon admission to the Intensive Care Unit
Though not the most ideal
Was indeed comfortable I must admit.

But it weren't so much the post-operative equipment
Or the variety of prescriptions
That from my near vegetative state
Nursed me back so soon with a clean slate;
It was more the care and the concern
and the unflinching devotion
Extended by my family on 'duty'
That brought me back and altered my fate.

To my children Praveena, Priyanka and Hem Raj,
You were there when I needed you, thank you very much.
What could I say to Prema, my doting wife?
Who went the length to give me back my life?
In your efforts to mend my 'broken' heart,
You had put together your very own hearts.
And to the doctors involved in my angioplasty
Thank you again for the early recovery!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Starting up

It kind of feels euphoric to be able to just start this damn thing. I suppose when you are not quite IT savvy, all these seems so alien. The purpose of this blog is just so that I may relive some far away moments in my life and flash back some distant places that I had passed through at some point in my life.......lest I forget them all in my old age.

Like I said, this whole blogging thingy is kind of alien to me and it may take a while for me to get on top of things. For those of you who may have intentionally or unwittingly visited this blog, though I realise its a tall expectation right now, pls note that should you leave your footprints behind in the form of comments, they will not be least not for now! The reason for this is because my Bouncy Cat who created this blog for me, has not taught me how to do that yet.

Ok. More next time. I want to see how this appears on the page.