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Friday, July 31, 2009

Readers' Comments & Feedback

I have reconfigured the settings pursuant to readers' concerns that they are not able to publish their comments. With that, I trust that there will not be any more glitches in your attempts. However in case you continue to face any further difficulty, I would appreciate if you could kindly forward your complains to me at
Thank you.

To caption as "The Child?" or "The Vulture?"

This emaciated child is crawling towards a United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away. The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat her. The picture was taken in 1993 in Sudan, which won the photographer Kevin Carter the Pulitzer Prize. But, Kevin was so much traumatized by this horrific image that he committed suicide in 1994 soon after receiving the award. 15 years have passed since then, but the scene is still the same (worse in fact) - in war torn countries around the world...........just the characters are different.

"Poverty is the worst form of violence." - Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Turning Point

(This is the prelude to the earlier article on ‘The Paramedic in Me’)

The journey was long and tedious. The train left the Butterworth station at 8.00pm and we (my brother Praba and I) were due to arrive in KL at 7 the next morning enroute to JB. From there we were to catch another train at 8.00am that would eventually reach JB at about 7 in the evening. This was 1974 with Razak at the helm. Mahathir was not in the scene yet, not due for another 7 years for things to change. Sixteen years after independence and the main mode of transportation was still the trusted train service. It was slow but there was not much of a choice then. We didn’t have that many bus services as we have now. To kill the time and to contain the boredom, you just have to get hold of a book or some reading material to pass your next almost 24 hours before you reach your destination. During peak seasons, they sold as many tickets as they possible could because the seats in 3rd Class (as they referred to it then) were not numbered. Without air-conditioning, you have to really sweat it out. Much later when I traveled back to Butterworth during holidays while working in KL, the coaches used to be filled to capacity with even very limited standing space available. With sleep deprivation, the need to find any place to rest would become paramount in your thoughts especially in the wee hours of the night. During those occasions, I remember having slept in nearly every part of the train…..on the wooden luggage racks, along the walkway, in the 2nd class toilet, in the cargo coach….any place would do. It was only after Mahathir took over did some decorum, decency and comfort return to train travel.

Back to the main story, my parents had finally consented to allow me to continue my education at Cambridge College in JB since my brother was working there and he had agreed to provide support. Incidentally I was equally interested to go because one of my friends, Raymond was also there doing his Form 6.

After reaching JB, we went over to my Aunt’s place where I stayed the next couple of days until Raymond managed to find a room for me near the college. My brother had gone off to the jungles of Pengerang, an undeveloped remote part of eastern Johore where he worked as a Land Surveyor in the construction of a link road to ‘civilization’.

College was fun. Raymond, having started much earlier knew most of the other guys. The first person he introduced me to was Helma, a cute, petite and shy girl with whom I became quite close during my short stay. Lincoln was a stand-up artiste who provided much of the fun with his company. He, together with his brother Andrew and Sigamoney (later my room-mate) hailed from a little known obscure place called Cha’ah in northern Johore. Later in the week, I got to know the other classmates Helen and the Mohans, among a host of others. We quickly forged a close relationship. Being local, everyone was especially nice to us since Raymond and I were the only 2 from out of town. In fact many a time, they had gone out of their way to make our stay comfortable. Hospitality at its best I could say and we relished every moment of it. In time, the lonesome feeling of being away from my family disappeared. My brother would visit me once every month and we would spend a day or two together usually going for movies or we would just walk along the brightly lit water-front after dinner, listening to soft music coming from the speakers attached to the trees, talking about almost everything there is to talk about. And on the days when he visited, I used to put up with him at the hotel where he stayed. He was 8 years older than me and a very affable person. We enjoyed a strong cordial relationship. I could discuss or confide anything with him and he would gladly oblige with his opinions. In fact among my siblings, I was very attached to him.

Then one day about 5 months into my Form 6, when I was attending a Literature class, the Principal sent word that he wanted to see me in his office. I excused myself and proceeded to his office wondering what could be the urgency. It’s not often that a Principal would want to see a student in the middle of a session. He told me about a phone call that he had received, something about my brother being ill and admitted to the hospital. He couldn’t remember from whom or why he had been admitted. “Could he have met with an accident” I thought as I rushed to the GH with Raymond tagging along and found my way to his ward. His colleagues were at his bedside when I reached there. They briefed me that he had had a black-out the night before and of late had been constantly complaining of splitting headaches. He had self prescribed some analgesics to subdue and contain the pain. I spent the next couple of hours with him where I noticed that he had become kind of disorientated. He was unusual. I didn’t know how serious his condition was and the nurses and doctors couldn’t tell me anything either. Later on the way back, I composed myself and stopped at the Post Office to send out a telegram to my parents. We didn’t have a phone at home so this was the only option. Telegrams are supposed to be short and precise. It is charged according to the number of words used. I still remember how I worded it. “PRABA AETEN HOSPITALISED. START IMMEDIATELY” (we address brothers as ‘Aeten’ in Malayalam). After that I went back to my rented room and went about my normal chores without the slightest hint of what was in store. I assumed that it was a normal ailment and that he will recover after a few days.

My parents had got the telegram and had already arrived at the hospital when I went to see him after skipping class the next day. Raymond followed me again. Noticed that my brother had been transferred to a different ward. When I enquired, I was told that he had gone berserk during the night, taken a fall and gone into a coma. It had all happened so fast. If I had only known that it was going to be this bad, I would have stayed back to look after him. A feeling of guilt seized me. But I honestly didn’t know. The next four nights, Raymond and I alternated the vigil at his bedside. My parents stayed at my Aunt’s place. Then on the 5th day just as we thought that he was showing some signs of any recovery, he passed away! My Dad and I were at his bedside when he heaved his last breath. It took me a while to absorb and digest the shock that came with it! And when I finally came to my senses, I broke down…..uncontrollably!

My world crashed on me! All kind of thoughts crossed my mind. The person who meant everything to me had been cruelly snatched away from me. He was the sole bread-winner after Dad retired and he was financing my studies. More than anything else, I lost a close confidant. It was as if the rug had been pulled from under my feet. I lost all sense of directions at that point in time. And my world had been turned inside out!

The funeral was held the next day in my Aunt’s house in JB attended by friends and relatives, near and far. Dad decided against bringing the body back due mainly to the distance. No amount of solace could console or comfort me. I was a total wreck. I pulled myself together the following day and prepared for the long arduous journey back. My other siblings and parents had already left the same night after the funeral.

There was a huge crowd gathered at the railway station when I reached. Raymond had already sent the word around that I was due to return to my hometown that night. Apart from my friends from college, even those who did not know me personally came to say goodbye. They had been touched by my plight. Some extended their condolences while others brought books for me to keep my mind occupied during the journey. As the train sounded the whistle, the group comprising Raymond, Sigamoney and Lincoln among others gave me a hug each, one after the other, wishing me well, asking me to take care and to keep in touch. Quietly tucked away in one corner of the station, I could see Helma putting up a brave front while wiping away her tears and waving at the same time as the train slowly pulled away into the darkness. Seated beside the window looking out into the wilderness, I broke down and cried to myself……….almost throughout the return journey. I came to this town with my brother with a lot of hope and aspirations. Now, after losing him, I was returning home with shattered dreams…….. into uncharted territories of my life!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Conviction

Except for brief bouts of escapism that I enjoyed in my youth, nothing much happened during the first 15 years of my life. It was plain routine otherwise. Going to school, coming back, homework. That was about all there was to it. Once in a while the monotony was broken by punctuations of a game of badminton with neighbours.

All these changed during my Upper Secondary when Imbaraj joined my class. My initial reaction to his demeanour was one of surprise. For a start, it was difficult to read him, much less to understand him. Being quiet and aloof most of the time, it took him a long time before he opened up. Once we passed that stage, it was fun all the way. Being a son of a Station Master and the Station being just across the road, his house was located immediately outside the school perimeter fencing. In spite of the proximity to school, he was a regular late-comer. And having become close to him, I would often stop by at his house for breakfast together before jumping over the perimeter fencing to get to class, avoiding the ever vigilant school traffic wardens in the process.

He gained prominence in school one day when the NST reported him as a ‘player to watch!’ It was then that everyone took notice of this demure character……he was actually representing Penang State in badminton. This was big-time news those days. To be featured in the papers was glamorous. I knew about it all along as I was his self appointed manager. Being reserved, he rejected the many advances of the fairer sex during the tournaments that he played in. To capitalize on the glamour that he enjoyed, I became the go-between for them. And it ended in many an exploit thanks to my relentless energy and imagination in such pursuits. We were teenagers. And as teenagers, we were going through what everyone else went through during that experimental phase of life.

From then on, the relationship gained momentum. There were very few occasions when we weren’t together. We did everything, or at least most of it together. To the extent that when I joined a cigarette company one day, he too gainfully secured employment with one….but with my competitor. Nevertheless, the job was similar and although we were based at 2 different locations, we still found time to meet up to spend time together. During one of those meetings, we had vowed to each other that to seal the bondage and to give a meaning to the friendship, we will adopt each others names in naming our own children. It was not a promise made at the spur of the moment but one that was made with deep and strong beliefs based on the strength of our relationship. Such was our rapport that we were often the envy of friends and relatives.

And true to our conviction, we have it that after my son was born, I used the phonetics of his name to name him as Hem Raj. And he went on to name his son as Kelvesh.

In case you are wondering how on earth could Kelvesh be in anyway linked to or even remotely sound like 'Aravind', please be enlightened that Kelvesh is a lose but stylized adaptation of my family name………Kalveshwara Namboothiri! (I was born a Malayalee Brahmin).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Paramedic in me (part 2)

And Yes! I finally met up with that long lost friend whom I mentioned in part 1 of the story. After close to 35 years, I finally met up with him. I had a lot of excitement and anticipation prior to the meet. I must admit that I had been guilty of clinging on to the memories of the past.

But the reality is that people change. Due to the paths that he had chosen and the different knocks that he had probably taken, I found in him someone with whom I could not relate anymore. He has become materialistic and had at some point in time stopped growing. It was like he was trapped in a time-zone. Yes, he could continue the relationship exactly where we left off 35 years ago. But that was all there was to it. He still works in the estates and admittedly he has progressed to a higher position but that’s mainly due to his experience in doing the same thing that he did all those years . Nothing more. There was nothing different in terms of his perception towards life. His views were still the shallow reflections that he had in his youth. And he still has not even ‘experimented’ with computers and avoids the topic as if it was a bad word. I normally have only kind words for people especially of friends but I was especially disappointed that this guy refuses to acknowledge the actual world. He had shut himself off from the real world preferring to just work and earn money so that his children can become doctors and lawyers. And he subtly tries to measure me by asking how many houses I have, how much I have amassed and what car I drive. He appeared uncomfortable when I mentioned about my bungalow and my CRV because having started out together, he sort of expected me to be somewhere within his ‘range’. But hei! Does it matter? Are you to be concerned with such things? What is it to you where I live and what I own? Who are you to be judgmental? What happened to the innocence of youth?....of friendship?........the time you took me at face value?.....when it didn’t matter to you my origin or background?

Anyway I realized that it’s his perception of success………. at the expense of his very existence and all the niceness of this world that comes with it which unfortunately he doesn’t see and has decided to forego. People don’t just grow over time…..they are supposed to evolve in every sense of the word. If we are intended to just grow, then we would have been probably created static!

Is this the intention of our being……the purpose of our creation? Without appearing to sound philosophical about it, I personally believe that life is not only to be lived but to a large extent, in the process of living, it is to be enjoyed too. Of course, there must be limits and clear lines drawn lest you get carried away. But that’s how you are supposed to discipline yourself… To do it any other way is like shunning kitchen knives because they can injure you. Absurdity at its heights! Anyway, it was good that at least now I knew. I don’t feel sad or anything but happy for the experience and the enlightenment, And if you think that he might feel offended if he read this, I’m quite confident that with his lack of exposure, he probably is still living under the notion that the keyboard is actually an electronic typewriter attached to a television screen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Paramedic in me

1974 was an eventful year. After getting my MCE results, I went over to JB to continue my Form 6. Then when my studies were cut short by the untimely demise of my brother who was supporting me, I had to pack my bags and return to my hometown. Almost as soon as I returned, Dad fixed me up with the estates to be trained as a Hospital Assistant (HA). In retrospect, I think he probably did it to keep my mind occupied as I had just gone through a traumatic experience of losing a loved one and my life had been turned inside out (that story will be told another day).

And so I reported to Serdang Group Hospital in Kedah, a small hospital that catered to the dwellers from surrounding estates. There were 2 of us scheduled to undergo this 3 years of training, the other was Rao who happened to grow up in the same estate as me and who had once taken tuition classes from my sister. This was comforting as otherwise, I would have been without friends and being fresh out of a tragic experience, it would have been tormenting to spend my time. The hospital was manned by 2 qualified HAs and was serviced by a visiting doctor who came once every week from another group hospital in Kedah where he was based. Observing that I appeared interested and very much involved in the daily chores of providing care to the in-patients, he suggested one day that I should continue the training at the other hospital where there were more trainees. I readily agreed and off I went to Kuala Ketil.

Here, the hospital was situated in a small town and also catered to surrounding estates but these were large estates with a bigger population so we were kept busy with more patients coming in daily. I was put in charge of the female ward together with a midwife and another probationer. The male ward was manned by 2 other probationers. We had another trainee at the dispensary that was managed by 2 qualified HAs. The doctor was stationed here except on his visiting days. The 5 of us who were undergoing training were housed in a hostel that was located within the hospital compound.

With 5 rooms in the hostel for the 5 of us, it was single occupancy much to my delight. Never had such luxury back at home where I had to share rooms with my parents and siblings in my kampong house where we settled down after dad retired.

Kasiappan was the most senior. He was already into his second year. Being senior, he often guided us whenever we consulted him on things we were not sure of especially on prescriptions. He later went on to complete the programme and got a job at a nearby estate.

Ganesan was the quiet type and hailed from Taiping. Being the only son, his mum would pack biscuits and other cookies for him whenever he returned from his visits. Since he always kept his room door locked, I used to climb onto the attic before descending into his room to steal some of those cookies. I was to meet him later in life when he was the HA in Serdang hospital where I had spent the early days of my training. He had converted to Islam and had changed his name to Ghani.

Praba was from Kulim. Left on his own, he was quiet but being a fun loving guy, he stuck with me like a leech and would follow me wherever I went. He was later in life to marry my cousin but the marriage was short-lived and they separated soon after. I recently learnt that he had settled down in Indonesia and had married a local girl there.

Krishnasamy was the last guy. He joined the training when I was already into my third month of training. He was a pious person and had a serious perception of life. Whenever Praba and I came back from one of our ‘exploits’, he would lecture us at length about karma and the harm that would befall us in our later life as the Man up there was supposedly watching our every deed and movement (as if the Man didn’t have anything better to do than watch over us). His intentions could have been noble but at that age, we couldn’t understand a word of what he preached…...or more accurately, we didn’t want to.

At the hospital, in no time I became quite familiar and adept with the various medications as I was put in-charge of patients in the female ward and had to attend to calls at night. Usually night calls would involve someone complaining of some light ailment like stomach ache or vomiting and the likes. Had to just dispense them with some appropriate medication and all would be fine. During my stint I also learnt how to administer injections and had also assisted the doctor in performing some minor surgeries. My daily routine involved taking the patients’ temperature, blood pressure and pulse rates every morning which I religiously carried out without fail. After their breakfast is served, I dispensed them their medication. That is about all there is to it unless some emergency occurs where I have to call in the ‘quaified’ HAs to attend. Otherwise I usually spend my free time on something to read to while away the hours.

I dreaded every day of my life that I spent there. Having grown up in the estates myself where my dad also worked in the hospital, I found life monotonous as the scenes seemed to be repeating. Letters from my classmates in JB helped keep my spirits high. I would especially wait for letters from Helen, Helma, Sigamani (who happened to be my room-mate while I was there), Lincoln, Raymond etc. I would keep myself occupied during the nights by replying to them…..pages and pages of things that were happening to me and projected an impression as if these were the most exciting events that could happen to anyone. In reality, it was just the opposite. Wanted them to think that I was already ‘on my way’ in life, in a ‘high profile’ job. I also kept myself entertained by venturing out to the nearby town just for the kicks with Praba tagging along. And no….we didn’t have to spend on bus-fare as I just had to stand along the road to hitch-hike. On every one of those occasions, some one stopped to give us a lift. Never failed….not once. We returned the same manner by which we went. These are not adventures or events to evoke excitement in any way by today’s standards. But these were events that unfolded in a God forsaken semi-urban laidback territory in the interiors of Kedah in the year 1974……35 years ago to be exact when the parents of many of you who are reading this article had probably not even met……… for you to be even conceived!

I went on to spend another 10 months there while all the time applying for jobs elsewhere. I knew that it was a matter of time before some prospective employer would read my resume and be interested in hiring me. Then one day, my dreams were answered. I received a letter from MAS calling me for an interview. After the interview and medical check-up, I was asked to start in a week’s time. When I broke the news to my colleagues, I could sense a feeling of ‘betrayal’ enveloping them. They felt that I was deserting them halfway through the journey. I was their life-wire….the fun guy, the one who had answers to everything…..the ‘urbanite’ so to speak who created all the excitement. They said it in no uncertain terms that they would miss me once I left. But we promised to keep in touch.

But that was 1974. Unfortunately, the comradeship was not maintained or followed through. Priorities changed. The foundation fragmented and sadly, circumstances dictated the directions we took from then on and we all ended up going our own way.

This memory from my past was revived when I recently ‘bumped’ into another friend who knows Krishnasamy and was told that Krishnasamy now happens to work just about 40km from where I live. I got his contact number and spoke to him over the phone but have not met up yet. During the conversation, we flipped through some pages from our past and vowed to meet up soon. I’m looking forward to the reunion.

I wonder if he is as excited as I am.....?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rest In Peace, Beng Hock!

Teoh Beng Hock, your name came into prominence only after your death. I am not a politician. I do not know you and I haven’t met you or even seen you. But the manner by which your life has been extinguished is heart wrenching. I am touched....deeply touched! We don’t have the answers…..yet. And we don’t know if the truth will ever come to light. But one thing is for sure, your death will not be in vain.

My deepest condolences to your wife, family and unborn child. May your soul rest in eternal peace.

"Oh! Dear Teoh Beng Hock
I have never met you before
News of you came as a shock
On that fateful day after your fall

I share the grief of your friends, family and wife
By the premature end of your precious life
Was it a jump, push or a throw
The truth I guess we may never know
But rest my friend, for gone is your pain
Rest assured that your death will not be in vain"

Outward Bound School......towards self discovery!

Alone……. along the beach
The waves gushing
Against the shore
An occasional hoot
From a distant boat
To break the silence…..
….As the sun wanes
out of eye’s reach.

Expeditions are over
Activities have ended
How I completed them
I ponder…even wonder
The agony…. toughness
The near torture….the sadness
And then I realize
That man discovers himself
Only when put to test
Under stress
And duress.

And I muse to myself
Because amidst all the pain
After all the strain
You finally realise
That if mind and heart are set
There will be no regret
...but only gain.

Determination, willingness
Confidence, sacrifice
And a little ability to lead
Are all one needs
To compete....
And complete the course
Yet it takes man 25 days
With merit in hand
A smile on the face
To discover

Thursday, July 16, 2009

16th July

July 16th has always been the best day in my life. It’s the day that lets you know who remembers you and who doesn’t. I started celebrating this day only after my wife came into my life. It was not a ‘culture’ in my family when I was young. It was not on the priority list anyway. Putting food on the table was more important with Dad’s meager income with 7 mouths to feed. When I was a kid, birthdays just came and went…no big deal…..just another day. There had even been occasions when the day simply slipped by and no one remembered until someone blurts out “Oh! It was Ravi’s birthday 2 days ago”. I remember being moved to tears then. Not that we were going to cut a cake and sing and party and all that .…..but at that age, to miss such an important day was heart-breaking.

All that changed after I got married. Prema had been pampered with the belief that her ‘new’ year doesn’t start if a cake had not been cut. So she had been doing it all her life. She just incorporated her ‘culture’ into ours when she joined my family. And from then on, we used to celebrate everyone’s birthday… dad, mum, sister, brother, the kids…all. Found that the camaraderie sort of helped keep the family happy and together.

And so it went until 1991 when my last daughter was born…on July 17th! From then on, we have been celebrating only hers. Perhaps at my age, I feel I’m kind of a tad too old to celebrate birthdays anymore.

Anyway, the heat generated from 52 candles waiting to be blown may not be good for the air-conditioners in the house.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Guys' Day Out

Last weekend, Imbaraj had invited me to join his badminton club’s get-together function to be held at PD. As I didn’t have any engagements for the weekend, I decided to join in and took the Komuter to Seremban on Saturday evening. I had attended a similar function some time last year that was organized by his Seremban team and they held it then at the Cobra club in PJ. It was a wonderful party and I had a lot of fun that night. So I had expected this event to be about the same although this time around, it was being hosted by the Kajang team and I was told that they had booked a bungalow in PD for the purpose. “A private party in a sea-facing bungalow, with the wind blowing against your face as if dancing to the rhythmic sound of the waves”. Wow! What a feeling it conjures…just the thought of it! “And with the free flowing chilled beers, what could be better than this? It was going to even outdo the Cobra club function. This was supposed to be the party that anyone would imagine”. These thoughts kept playing overtime in my mind.

Imbaraj was waiting for me at the Seremban train station and after picking up Siva, Selvam and Vasu (his badminton buddies), we were on our way. I was already feeling rather ‘thirsty’ by then as it was about 7.30pm when we left Seremban. Without any inkling as to the whereabouts of this ‘dream’ bungalow, we had trouble locating it. The only clues provided by the hosts were that it was somewhere in the area where the Maybank bungalows were and there was supposedly a Pajero parked outside. What a fantastic direction provider! As darkness had already set in, we virtually had to ‘feel’ our way in the housing estate to find the unit. Siva’s boisterous ramblings that he knew this place to be ‘Pantai Dickson’ as if to impress us that he was a regular to this part of the country was of no help whatsoever. It only added to the already fraying nerves as it was not only getting late but Pantai Dickson or not Pantai Dickson, we were not getting anywhere. After traversing the landscape a good couple of circles, we finally found it.

But what an anti-climax it turned out to be. It was actually one of the rows of bungalows in a housing estate…….tucked neatly away far from the beach. It was non air-conditioned and the furniture appeared to have been brought in from another era. In fact if I hadn’t known that this was PD, I would have probably assumed that we were somewhere in a relative’s house between Kajang and Seremban. Undeterred, I strained my ears in the quietness of the night hoping to be able to at least hear some distant sound of gushing waves to appease my yearning spirit. But no…….we were probably far away from the coastline to hear any of those!

The Kajang guys were in various state of dress-down as they had started on the beers much earlier. They had chilled it to perfection. They had also prepared dinner for the whole group. I must admit that the food was excellent, what with the spicy mutton, chicken, crabs, fish etc. Just the right kind of stuff to go with beer. But that was all there was to it. It surely didn’t turn out to be a party in the true sense of the word. No activities had been lined up, nothing interactive had been planned in particular. It was just eating, drinking and chatting. The speeches that were given to create an air of formality appeared to be an afterthought. It didn’t help the cause and didn’t quite blend into the scene. On the whole, the function betrayed my expectation. I then realized that perhaps the Kajang boys understanding of fun simply meant a day away from their families….any day! Just that! Nothing else mattered. Away from families meant wholesome fun to them. 'Guys Day Out' sort of thing. It didn’t matter if it catered to the needs or expectations of the rest of the guests. The setting.…the ambiance…. the mood….nothing was important. Just a day out, away from their families and it turns out into paradise for them! It provided me with an insight of how different minds worked. Interesting escapade.

Anyway, after spending the next 3 hours there, we decided to call it a day and left for home. Dropping off his buddies, I went back to Imbaraj’s house to put up the night. Before hitting the bed, we spent the next hour or so catching up on so many stories including a post-mortem of the evening’s affairs with a couple of ice-chilled scotch from his cache that he has carefully exhibited in his whiskey cabinet, perhaps under lock and key lest, unbeknown to him, some adventurous guest decides to pursue his worldly pleasures in his house at his expense. It was tempting but as it was rather late, we called it a day at about 2.30am and hit the sack.

Woke up late the next morning and realized that his wife had already bought breakfast. After having breakfast with him, I left at about noon. The return journey back to Rawang by Komuter was another disaster. As if the ‘party’ the night before was not punishing enough, the train that was due to arrive at 12.30 noon was cancelled for some reason. So ended up having to take the 1.00pm train. Half an hour into the journey, the air-conditioning system mysteriously failed. And the coach was already filled to capacity. I was sweating profusely and there was nothing I could do about it. Getting off at any of the stations along the way to continue my journey in a later train was not an option because that would mean that I would probably have to wait for another hour or so. And given that reliability was least of the service provider’s concern, I opted to just grin and bear it.

As the train finally pulled into Rawang station at about 3.30pm, I felt relieved that I was finally back. The ordeal was over. An eventful weekend to remember for a long time to come. Will I attend another one of the badminton club functions again in future?

You bet I will……….I still enjoy cold beers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rendezvous.........with Sargu

It was the 55th birthday celebrations of Sargu whom I hold close to my heart. The getting-to-know-you stages passed in the late 70s. We were both working in KL and decided one day to stay together. He found a place in PJ and I moved in with him. I had been staying in the Sg. Way New Village area until then. It was not a slum in that sense but it was high density where the houses were so clustered together that the noise and din created on some days can get to you. Houses were built so close together that if you find the music from your neighbour’s house too loud to bear, you can virtually open your window, stretch your hand out and reduce the volume on his radio or TV.

Being 3 years older than me, he had a head-start in life. And his experiences were insightful in many ways. Learnt the virtues of life from him. Through him I realized that drinking and smoking are a way of releasing stress build-up. “All working people do it. Ok….maybe not all. But most fun loving guys do”. And to compound the fact, we had a ‘beverage’ ad. those days that said “it puts back in you what the day takes out”.
And so the relationship flourished….both with him and the beer!

He always had a way with life. An extrovert in nature, always looking at things positively. His perception of things that happened around him was always different. Many a time, I had to abandon my own deep-rooted beliefs because he convinced me so. And sure enough, more often than not, he was right. Although not flamboyant, he was charismatic, a characteristic that he exploited to the utmost in wooing the belles around town. Must be the head-start that gave him that edge.

To follow in my mentor’s footsteps, I had even had a career change midway so that I may also enjoy the excitement that came with the job. I was later to learn that excitement doesn’t just happen and surely doesn’t come with the job. You have to create it. It’s a life style.

At long last, he attained 55 last Monday. When I arrived at the venue with my family friend Ahsha, as my wife could not attend, a host of relatives and friends had already gathered there with Imbaraj(his brother)sharing some light moments with them. Noticed that the scotch was already half empty....and Imbaraj's eyes were turning red already. I asked him why and he answered "I like mine coloured". His wit has not changed a bit.

I felt honoured to be part of the celebration. It was an excellent get-together and I say this not so much because of the free flow of beer and liquor but because of the opportunity to catch up with old times. So much of memories flashed past from my younger days spent with him. Kabie Kabie, Prem Kahani, Deewar were some of the midnight movies that we had gone to together. It was our Saturday night pastime. Where once we were the youngsters, now we had his son filling the bill….and later footing it too. Rashna is a grown man now, and awaiting to tie the nuptial knot sometime later this year….which will be another occasion for merry making. That story will be told another day.

Really enjoyed the night and returned sometime after midnight. Thank you Sargu....for the memories.


This is a pix of my grand-daughter born to Praveena and Prakash on 29-12-08.

Just as we were resigning to the daily demands of life, along came Kalavitha to provide us with the much needed excitement, injecting new doses of zest into our otherwise mundane routines.

She has now taken over our lives providing us with new reasons to look forward to each day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Life's Choices

Sometimes in life
You come to crossroads
And you are caught in a dilemma
As to which way to go

But as life is a journey
And not a destination
You are left to choose the path
That would bring you joy & jubilation

In doing so
You leave behind a past
A past often filled with fond memories
Sometimes tinged with misery

But as always, the future holds
As the future should....
Promises of a blissful life
All of our own making and choice

When you reach there, you will realize
That the path you chose
At the crossroads
Was the correct one after all

Friday, July 3, 2009

Divine Intervention?

(Inspired by actual events that took place in the year 1999. Names of persons and places have been changed to maintain anonymity)

The call came through on the cell phone that Raj was holding. It was from his old friend, Sargu.

“What’s up?” I heard him asking. Then there was a hushed silence as he listened intently to what the other party was saying. I couldn’t figure out what the conversation was about, so I went about with my task at the government office where I was trying to get some land titles stamped.

I had recently lost my job with a reputable firm where I worked as a HR Practitioner. Being without a job for about 2 months now, it provided me with a lot of time to reflect on the events that had culminated in my loss of job. While waiting to land another one soon, at least it has given me an opportunity to spend more time with my family, I consoled myself. To sustain during this interim period however, I did light errands for a couple of legal practitioners, which was what had brought me to this government office.

“Ravi, we must go now! Something terrible has happened!” Raj said to me.

What could be so important that it has to cut short my assignment here, I thought.

“You remember Subash, the guy who works in Sargu’s office?……. who recently met with an accident?,” he asked me. “Well Sargu just called to say that the hospital where he had been admitted had given up any hope for a recovery and have in fact recommended that he be removed from life support!”

“Oh! My God!” I exclaimed!

I have only seen Subash once. That too after he had met with the accident. He had already gone into a coma when brought into the hospital after a lorry had ploughed through the motorbike that he was riding one morning about 4 weeks ago. I can still remember his wife and only daughter crying uncontrollably when they entered the ward. I had consoled myself that this comatose situation after an accident was usually only temporary and that after a few days he would recover and all would be well again. After all, accidents do happen.

But never in my wildest dreams had it occurred to me that he had been in a life- threatening situation all along. My suspicious mind began probing within me………. Had his condition indeed been so critical? Or is the private hospital trying to end his trauma due to the hefty bill that he has already chalked up? Or could it be a case of incompetence on the part of the attending medical practitioners?…….. There were no immediate answers to these questions. But deep within me, something told me that he must live. “32 is definitely too young an age to die!” I thought.

With that in mind, we quickly called Sargu on his mobile number, telling him to do
everything possible to stop the doctors from disconnecting Subash from the life support system and to retract the consent letter that his wife had already signed, that had given the hospital the liberty to remove him from the system. We told him that we were on the way!

Our immediate concern was to find a way to keep him alive………... while we think of what to do next. We knew that the treatment cost at the specialist center was extremely high, so the next best thing to do would be to transfer him to a government hospital. At least there, the bills would be manageable. But there was another problem. We knew that government hospitals don’t accept cases such as this where one party has given up hope, as they don’t want the statistics to fall under them.

“Ravi, why don’t we speak to the Director at the General Hospital and see if they can accept this case. I have met the Deputy Director once before at a Lions Club Dinner and I think he is approachable” said Raj.

Our drive to the GH was a mad rush. Within half an hour, we were already at the GH compound, asking for directions to the Director’s office.

“Yes Gentleman” came a voice as we were ushered into the waiting area by the Secretary. We turned around and saw an affable middle-aged man greeting us. After exchanging the usual formalities, we went straight to the point. His answer initially was expectedly in the negative, stressing that if they were to accept a no-hope case such as this, and if anything were to happen after the patient had been transferred and put under their care, the statistics will appear as another black mark in their record. After a much heart wrenching persuasion session, he agreed, albeit reluctantly.

The trip to the hospital where Subash was warded took us more than an hour. The first to greet us were a host of relatives at the car-park who, after being told that Subash was to be removed from the life-support system, had come prepared to actually carry out the final rites before taking the body back for burial. Meanwhile, Sargu had already retracted the consent form and informed the hospital authorities not to do anything until we arrived. So when we reached there, the atmosphere was of high expectation and anticipation. Without saying a word to anyone, we proceeded straight to the ward.

“Hello Uncle” said a young voice as we entered. I was later to know that this was Ahsha, the cute and only daughter of Subash, who was playing around at the corridor, without the slightest knowledge that her father was in such a critical state and that probably, she was going to lose him forever. I carried her in my arms and as I did so, my eyes welled to its brim, without me realizing it. I too have a daughter who was about her age and it saddened me to realize that this young girl was going to have to part with her father.

Wiping my eyes, I met Nirmala, Subash’s wife who had been standing next to his bed. After enquiring about his condition, I explained what we had decided to do and asked to see the eldest relative of Subash to explain the situation. An elderly lady was ushered in….. Subash’s mother, who was weeping uncontrollably as she came, and without warning, fell on Raj’s feet, pleading that we do something to save her son. We consoled her by saying that we should all have faith on the Almighty for it is He who ultimately decides who should stay and who should go. With that, we impatiently looked around for the doctors who had arbitrarily decided that this man could not be treated.

“What gives you the right to decide to end this man’s life?” I retorted when I met the first doctor who entered the ward.

“May I know what your relationship is with the patient”, snapped the Doctor, visibly annoyed but pretending to answer rather calmly.

“Well, I am his cousin” I lied, “and I want to know under what circumstances you have recommended that he be removed from the life support system?”

He explained that it has already been about a month since the accident and there has been no improvement and that in spite of doing everything that they possibly could, he is still in a coma with no signs of recovery. The costs have risen to an exorbitant level and keeping him under treatment would be purely academic as his vital organs have started to fail one after the other “There has not been a single case in the country that survived under such circumstances” he concluded.

“Maybe your hospital lacks experience to treat complicated cases such as this! Or maybe the expertise is not available here. Then probably we should refer him to another place where it is available,” I said sarcastically, all worked up.

After much heated arguments, he finally relented, especially when we pointed out that it was our prerogative to seek second opinion from whoever we wanted. The Doctor opined however, that the decision to transfer a patient under such critical conditions would be highly risky and life threatening and advised that we should exercise extreme caution.

“The worst that could happen is what you had ironically, already recommended. So, we prefer to take our chances with him,” I said as we walked away to break the news to the wife and the host of relatives eagerly waiting outside the corridor.

We explained that the worst thing that could happen when we move him to another hospital was that we might lose him! But that is going to happen anyway even if we don’t move him. They readily agreed that under the circumstances, there is really no harm in taking our chances.

We called the receiving hospital to make arrangements and spoke to the ambulance driver to drive slowly and carefully, as any unnecessary rough movement could be fatal to the patient.

By about 3.00pm that day, the comatose Subash was on his way to the new hospital, but not before we got one of his relatives to accompany him in the ambulance itself, just in case ‘something untoward’ was to happen during the journey. Once again my suspicious mind wouldn’t allow him to be transported unaccompanied.

“Raj, we must talk to the wife. I think she is really broken down,” I said.

During moments such as this, I can understand how tough it will be on the loved ones who often keep vigil all day and night, hoping against all hope for nothing else but the safe return of the person whom they love. I had myself lost my brother during my younger days under similar circumstances and I can empathize with these people because I know the kind of pain that one has to go through.

“Nirmala,” I began. “I know how tough it is on you during moments such as this. But you must not give up hope under any circumstances. Pray to God that all will be well and he will answer your prayers…..pray hard. Be brave and strong. If not for anything, Ahsha needs you and the support that you can give.” It was the best advice that I had given to anyone in years.

“Everyday, when you are with him, talk to him”, I continued. “Whisper to him words of encouragement. Tell him that he must fight this battle from within and not to give up the fight. He may be in a coma but I am sure he can still hear you, though he may not be able to respond”, I said relying on my knowledge obtained years ago that the last sense to fail in a dying person is his sense of hearing. Whether it was true or not, I had no way of verifying. A video that I had watched during a motivational seminar that I had attended some time back also came in handy. It was the story of a man who survived a plane crash even though all the odds were stacked heavily against him. I told her the story of the “Miracle Man!” That evening as I turned to say goodbye, Nirmala cried openly, hugging her daughter, as she did.

Having made all the arrangements thus far, we decided to call it a day after each of us made a commitment that we will help in our own way everyday until he recovers. Sargu was to talk to his Management to persuade them as the employer to absorb the bill at the specialist center, Raj was to approach the Press the next day to see if they can help raise any form of donations and I was entrusted with the task of surfing the Net to see if similar predicaments had occurred elsewhere in the world and how they had overcome it. As we stayed quite far from the hospital, we decided that we should visit according to our convenience.

“I will try to visit every day,” promised Raj who was staying about 5 km away from the hospital.

At that point in time, we were not sure if we had made the right decision. We wondered if we had in fact prolonged his suffering, in which case, the whole family would have to suffer the long agony together. It was a noble effort on our part to do some good, no doubt, and wished that something would happen to save Subash’s life. He was far too young to die. But for a person whose vital organs were failing one after the other, the chances to pull through, we knew, were extremely slim. “It will have to take a miracle,” we thought.

Life after that incident went on as normal for me and I was back in my hunt for a job. Searching far and wide, I finally landed a job in Kuala Lumpur. As the position needed to be filled quite urgently, I had to leave town at short notice, leaving me little time to say good-bye to friends, especially to Raj with whom I had spend a whole childhood together. Our chemistry matched in many ways, so we had become quite attached to each other. Separation as usual, was always a difficult pill to swallow. The last I spoke to him was when I phoned him at his house to enquire of Subash. But the reply had become predictable by then…”no improvement” was the standard reply that I got. But he assured me that Nirmala had not given up hope or neglected on her promise to reassure her husband every day without fail.

And so with that, I left for Kuala Lumpur. It took me some time to settle in at my new job, not so much because of the demands of the job itself but more so due to the totally different culture that I had to adopt myself to. Life in KL was so fast moving and everyone whom I met was in a rush. I somehow felt that people in smaller towns were warmer and much more personal and made you feel welcome. Here in KL, people didn’t have time to get to know you. Either that or it was not a priority to them. I was left to spend more time with my family and slowly cut down on my social life, something that I held quite passionately in my life before.

From my phone conversations with Raj, I learnt that the vernacular newspapers did indeed highlight the plight of Subash, appealing for donations but somehow the response had not been very encouraging. Meanwhile, Sargu had succeeded in getting his management to foot the bill at the specialist center that had by then come up to over 40K. My attempts at surfing the net to yield any form of help proved futile, probably because I was then not really adept in the field of surfing.

Then one day about 2 months later, when I returned from a Management meeting, there was a message on my voicemail. It was from Raj. On listening to it, it sent a chill down my spine. “ Ravi, this is Raj,” he said, in his usual husky voice. “This may come as a surprise to you but our Subash......, he has come out of his coma. Call me back!”

The term ‘shocking’ does not quite describe the immense adrenalin rush that I felt upon hearing the words. It was much more than that. Feeling extremely elated, I immediately returned his call.

He told me how the doctors at the government hospital had steadfastly carried out tests after tests and a few operations on Subash and how when all hope was fading, out of the blues, he had just woken up one day. The doctors too had been completely perplexed! But after carrying out further tests, they were convinced that Subash had passed the worst stage and was now indeed on the road to recovery!

To me it was the greatest news that one can get. All the trouble that had been taken for him by all concerned parties had been worth the effort. I started to think that if not for our timely intervention on that fateful day, today he would have been long dead and gone…..Ahsha would have been without a father. And Nirmala…..a young widow! It is then that you realize that nothing is in your hands…not even your own life! It is all predestined. “God works in mysterious ways,” I thought. How true!

Two weekends later, I learnt that Subash had already been transferred to the normal ward from intensive care. I decided to take a slow drive back to the hospital to pay him and his family a visit. The journey took me about 5 hours as it was a Saturday and traffic was heavy. Once I reached the hospital, I parked under a shady tree and had a cigarette, reflecting back at the events. A feeling of satisfaction and pride overwhelmed me as I walked up to the general ward after enquiring at the front desk.

I took the lift to the 3rd floor and slowly made my way towards his bed. I could see a frail figure sitting up on his bed. This time, there was no crowd around him except, from a distance, what appeared to be someone feeding him since there was still a network of tubes criss-crossing his person.

His eyes locked with mine as I neared him but as I smiled, he did not reciprocate. He kept staring at me without a blink……just a blank look. I noticed that he was being fed by his wife but she couldn’t see me as she was facing the opposite direction. After a few anxious moments of quietness, it was the daughter who ran in from outside the verandah, to break the endured silence. “Hello Uncle…” she virtually screamed in the excitement of seeing me. “Amma, Uncle Ravi is here!” she announced to her mother.

It was then that Nirmala turned around and upon seeing me, she couldn’t conceal her excitement either. She got up immediately still holding the meal tray and gave me a warm smile as if to express her appreciation and gratitude. She then introduced me to Subash. “Darling, this is Mr. Ravi I was telling you about????…….your colleague Mr. Sargu’s friend???? ……….who helped us at the hospital………????!

You see…Subash had been in comatose when I saw him ….he had never met me before!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Adventures of Raymond & I

Raymond and I go back a long way. We were classmates from St. Patricks in Kulim where I studied from Standard 6 to Form 3 before moving on to do my Form 4 at BM High. We struck it off from the 1st day onwards. Through Raymond, I got to know the other of his friends in the class….Ruban James, Victor, Andrew Sivam, Peter S etc. There was a catholic church just beside the school that I started going to just because Raymond goes there. Unlike the temples, this church was had coloured glass finishings. And during the sermon or prayers, the sound reverberated throughout the building. It was pleasing to the ears and sort of made me feel ‘religious’. I was not a Christian but many a time I wished I were. Not because of any anti-religious feeling towards my own. It was sheer ignorance and the need of becoming one in the group. Peer pressure I suppose.

I can recall many memorable moments with Raymond that were ‘firsts’ for me……. like the first time we cycled together 18km from Kulim to Serdang, getting excited waving at the army trucks that passed by, especially when they waved back. It made me feel like a ‘big boy’ although I was only 14. And I learnt the ropes of adventure from him. It was fun. And it was all the more exciting because I had to do all these without my parents knowledge. The excuse I usually gave was that I had a science project in school, extra classes or that I wanted to go to the library. Being orthodox, they wouldn't allow such exploits otherwise. I remember we once cycled all the way to Penang Island. That was the day he allowed me to taste my first cigarette. Of course I coughed on that inaugural attempt but I found out then how it tasted. It gave a ‘bnnng’ in your head and I liked it although it was not until about 4 years later that I had my next fix and slowly went on to become addicted to it.

Raymond was a good badminton player. We used to call our team some funny name that I cannot recall and often competed against other teams from the neighbouring schools. He played 1st singles, Andrew was second and I played 3rd. Won some, lost some. But it was the comradeship and solidarity that these events helped foster. These were the formative years and we were still growing…learning new things….adventurous. I still feel the jitters when I recollect the moments when we ventured into a mining pool opposite my school one mid afternoon after class and nearly drowned if not for the heroism of Peter (another schoolmate) who daringly came to my rescue. I was so shaken up that I actually cried.

We kept in touch infrequently after I changed school as there were no e-mails or mobile phones back then. We would meet whenever opportunities allowed. Much later, I was to join him to do my Form 6 in JB where he had a sister who was willing to support him and coincidentally, where I had a brother who also agreed to support me. (But that story will be told another day).

After completing my studies, I was once posted to Seremban in the late 70s. And Lo! And Behold! Who do we have there? There was Raymond again who had moved there a couple of years earlier and he took me in to stay at his mum’s house for a couple of months until I found my own board. Apart from these fond memories, we have also had our fair share of petty squabbles although they were never serious in any way. In the early 80s after I got married and returned to settle down in Butterworth, I learnt that he had emigrated to Norway to join his brother who lived there. I thought I won’t be able to see him again……!

……But one day in 1991, eleven years later by which time I had moved back to Kulim after securing a job there, I got a call from Andrew, my other classmate saying that Raymond had just arrived and that he was with him! Since Andrew hadn’t moved house and had been living in the same place since the 70s, it had been easy for Raymond to look him up. He was surprised when told that I was also there. And so we reunited again and spent the next few days together before he returned to Norway. From then on, we met whenever he returned to Malaysia. He has gone into art these days and refers to himself as a painter. Painters in Malaysia sometimes double-up as masons who build and paint houses. Raymond is into painting….painting as in art and acrylics. He holds exhibitions and I am told he is renowned in his country, projecting an innate image all of its own. How many of us get the chance to transform leisurely pursuits into a career…..and in the process get to relish every moment of it? Destiny has its ways.

The last when I met him, he promised that on his next trip, he will bring along his family……wife and 4 daughters. He is married to a Norwegian belle. He has already arrived and we have plans to meet up soon………..Raymond, the man whose name is synonymous with “adventurer”.
(the saga continues…………….)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Trip to Port Dickson

My family and I spent the last weekend in Port Dickson. Actually it was organized by my neighbour Bouncy Cat who wanted to treat us to a bungalow stay since she got a promotion at her workplace. And since she ‘owns’ TNB, we could book into one of their condos at the 16th km. This is the second time that we got to stay at the condo, the first being about 3 years ago. And no! It was not for a promotion then. Just a holiday away from home.

The intention of TNB in setting up this holiday retreat is indeed noble and should be appreciated. It gives an opportunity for employees to enjoy themselves in a resort setting at an affordable cost. I am sure the man who mooted the idea had good intentions at least as far as employee welfare is concerned. However I must mention that the up-keeping of the place do not seem to have the same priorities that were there when it was first set-up. For one, the air-conditioners in the hall were faulty and had not been repaired. Not that the caretakers were not aware. In fact we were alerted to their status when we checked in. So ignorance is not a factor here. I also noticed that the toilet cover in one of the toilets was cracked at one point. Interestingly, the maintenance crew had meticulously jotted down the date beside the crack on the cover indicating that the crack had occurred on 9th January 2009. It’s probably for their internal knowledge and control. Six months on and it’s status quo. So that means the defect is going to be there for some time, probably until another crack appears before they decide to replace it. Or they would probably also jot down the date at the cracked part of the cover for ’internal control’. It defeats the intention of pampering the employees when their comfort in this area is somewhat compromised with. Other than these ‘petty’ issues, it was an excellent place to spend the weekend because primarily, it was cheap….very cheap. In fact, this time it was free as it was paid for by the ‘owner’ of TNB…….and it was comfortable in many ways too. Employee benefit for Bouncy Cat anyway. Not many companies provide such facility. So a big thank you Cat.

It was already 9.00pm on Friday when we arrived at the venue. So no activity. We just sat around while my wife prepared dinner. Cooking is not allowed. No stoves provided. So we had to do the cooking hush! hush! Since we took along our electric steam boat cooker and all the kind of edibles that go with it, we had steam boat for dinner.

Woke up to the sound of waves gushing against the shore and the chirping of birds. The view from our 4th floor unit was magnificent. There were even a couple of squirrels running around on the swaying palms. Noticed that the landscaping of the lawn had been accorded the attention it requires. And the empty pool filled to its brim with still water only added character to the ambience of the surrounding.

Took a short walk along the beach that was ebbing. The feeling of being away from the hustle and bustle of the city was wonderful. It was relaxing….rejuvenating. It was just what we needed to release the stress buildup.

As my wife is undoubtedly an excellent cook, we decided to buy mutton from the wet market in town to cook for lunch. My physique is testimony to the above claim. She cooks well. And I eat well. Dangling on hooks at the mutton seller’s stall in the market was a range of meat, supposedly from the different variety of goats. I’m not much of a connoisseur in meat so I just asked for a kg of local mutton. When I saw him chopping away, it struck me that this guy must have either worked at a wood cutting factory before taking up this business…… or he was a vegetarian with no inkling whatsoever of how meat is to be handled.! Ended up with the bones being sorely fragmented and chipped! Chopping mutton is an art. You are supposed to chop the mutton such that the bones are retained in one piece. Only then do you get to ‘suck’ out the bone marrow from the bones when you eat. That’s the best part of eating mutton. Decided that I will never ever patronize this shop anymore when I visit PD next. Back at the unit, while my wife prepared lunch, the kids were outside probably at the pool or some other place. After lunch we just lazed around in front of the TV till the evening.

When evening came, went to the beach to start a make shift BBQ pit with some bricks and the wire-mesh that we had bought earlier. The kids and my wife went for a ride in the caterpillar…..the one where you sit on the inflated caterpillar and it gets towed out to sea by a speedboat. They found it exciting. I didn’t go as I was busy starting the fire for the BBQ. But more importantly, I stayed back because I wanted to catch the view of the sunset especially the scene where it slowly ‘drowns’ in the distant horizon. In Penang you get a lovely view of this from the fishing villages off Balik Pulau on the opposite side of the island. You can’t get this view from along the Batu Feringgi shoreline as it is impeded by the mountains.

But as luck would have it, the view was blocked as the sun descended from the 5 o’clock position onwards by the voluminous clouds. It was a major disappointment for me as I had been looking forward to it. In retrospect, I faced the same situation when I took a drive down to PD about 2 years back just to catch the view of the sun-set . So I think it’s a regular phenomenon… can’t see the sun setting over the horizon from PD. Disappointed, I ‘drowned’ myself instead……with the beers that is. It was a good excuse anyway. Back in the condo after the BBQ, we just chatted for a while before calling it a day.

Woke up early the next morning and went for a workout at the gym before going to the sauna with my wife while the kids were out at the beach collecting sea shells and taking snap-shots of them selves. In no time, as how all good things must end, it was time to check-out. We packed up and left just a little before 12 noon.

Like I said earlier, this trip has rejuvenated me and made life worth living again. So I am now waiting for Bouncy’s next promotion so that she will sponsor us on another trip again….this time maybe to Phuket….Oops! Sorry! TNB doesn’t cover Phuket.