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Written by Shobana G P (ME119) | Edited by Zantal Siah (CM117)

Day after day, after a long tiring day, all we do is surrender our bodies to our soft springy beds. Our eyes grow heavy and the burden on our eyelids are lifted as we deliberately feel our consciousness ebbing away the moment we hit the sack. Many consider the relationship with their bed to be a sacred one. We can all relate to the attractive force that binds us to our beds, a force greater than Earth’s gravity, an impetus so great that we’re willing to hit that snooze button just to get a few more minutes of shuteye.

As one drifts off into deep abyssal depths of slumber, a vision depicting real-life scenarios beyond the realms of reality begin to form. These vivid delusions are sometimes remarkably apocryphal as they mimic much of our day-to-day activities. Alas, in the face of reality, most of us have to, without qualms, get going with our monotonous life and responsibilities. Oftentimes, we drowsily drag our feet to the bathroom and henceforth, the ritual of a new day begins. As the water sprinkles on us from head to toe, we reminisce the fresh images of our recent dreams before they peter out.

Howbeit, during those on average 7 hours of sleep, some of us weave nightmares while the rest of us concoct sweet dreams. Most of our dreams are incidentally parallel to our subconscious minds, feeding off scraps of memories and our feelings attached to them. That hairy monster from your closet closing on you was probably Uncle Damon from across the street whom you were avoiding. Believe it or not, a dream is usually what starts off our day for about a billion of us. Dreams can either be just another figment of our imaginations and thoughts or perhaps an inspiration of our deepest desires.

Dreams are astounding in the sense that you get to do unimaginable things. Lucid dreaming—now that’s another royal mind treat waiting to be indulged. You get to steal the show, be the scriptwriter behind the scenes or become the star in the limelight. The real deal, though, is for you to decide whether or not your reality is a cut above that because sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise that it was merely a dream and you get to wake up to a finer reality. At times, however, we dread parting with our beloved comfy fluffy mattress because the illusional world seems like a much better place than the bitter pill of our current reality.

We make sandcastles in the air, treating dreams as if they are a means to an end of creating temporary happiness, an ecstatic feeling that will soon fade. A dreadful wild goose chase. Dreams can be a vital component of ignition to chase after our ambitions and also our goals. Dreams also pave paths for bigger goals. It is important to remind ourselves that it is our personal obligation to carry out these dreams into our realities once we leave our bedsides. Many individuals dream but not all wake up and work towards it. Failure is the path to success and dreams act as a catalyst to give you a dribbling taste of the fountain of triumph.

So, instead of virtually enacting the world you would want to live in, wake up and start painting the life you are living in with all those colours you had dreamt of. Dreams are surely more than just illustrations from your soul’s book. They may even be today’s answers for tomorrow’s questions, as told by America’s clairvoyant, Edgar Cayce. Hence, force yourself off the bed to make your dreams come true.

The path less paved, the road less travelled, turn your wildest dreams into smooth sailing wonders of success.

Written by Shiroshini Periasamy (BM117)

Deepavali, synonymously known as Diwali or the festival of lights, is an annual festival mainly celebrated by Hindus. Deepavali, part of which literally means light, symbolises the defeat of evil and darkness in its various forms, despite the various stories of origin for the occasion. The celebration spans across several days and varies according to origin and tradition, but I’ll be telling you how I, as a Malaysian Indian Tamillian, have been celebrating it for the two decades of my life.

Deepavali, a festival of lights

I have never celebrated Deepavali in my own primary residence in Kuala Lumpur. Instead, my family and I always go to either my paternal or maternal grandparents’ home, often both. That does not give me the excuse to escape the spring cleaning war my mum wages on our house though. We usually go to my grandparents’ house the day before Deepavali, or a couple of days before. All the biscuits and murukkus made weeks prior are arranged in little glass jars for guests to help themselves to, rangolis are made, and there is always that last bit of cleaning left to do. On the night of Deepavali eve, we light up numerous oil lamps around the house and pray to our deceased ancestors to look after us and ensure fruitful years to come. After my mum makes sure all the ingredients are in place for breakfast and lunch the next day, we retire to the living room to play games or watch television, being glad that this is an excuse among late nights of work and assignments for us all to be together. 

Marukku

Rangoli

And the next day is Deepavali!!! What joy! Just knowing it’s Deepavali is enough to put a smile on one’s face. The elder women of the family rub sesame oil onto our scalp and hair as soon as we wake up, and later,after getting ready and donning our new traditional attire, we pray at home, and then head to the temple. After praying, we get the prasadham–sanctified food that is offered to God–and return home to mum’s scrumptious breakfast of idly, curries and multitude of chutneys served on a freshly cut banana leaf. That leaf makes everything so much more delicious, but before devouring the food, we take blessings from our elders. They give something to all of us, usually money, like the Chinese tradition of getting ang paos. Mum usually proceeds to finish cooking lunch as all our cousins and uncles and aunts begin to arrive. We watch the latest movies on TV, play games, eat all the delicious cookies and meals cooked that are fit for royalty, and continuously top up the drinks of our elders as they sit aside catching up with each other.

Oil Bath

That night, we sit back contentedly and watch various firecrackers being burst and lit, exclaiming when a particularly huge or colourful one lights up the night sky. Bed time is usually as late as we can go without succumbing to our parents’ scolding to turn off the lights as every minute spent with cousins is one that brings us back to our joyful childhood.

The next day is usually slightly sombre as all of us head back to our own homes, promising our grandparents and each other that we will visit every chance we get. The days after that are still spent wishing each other a happy Deepavali and sharing and eating murukkus for weeks with all our friends, ensuring that the joyousness of Deepavali captivates not only the ones celebrating, but everyone around as well.

by Anonymous

(1st Place)

My mother was a beautiful woman in her day. Even today at the age of 60 you could see the remnants of her beauty on the curve of her smile and in the depth of her eyes. I tip toed into her room as quietly as I could, because she had yet again fallen asleep waiting for me to come home from work. Her unconquered silver curls wreathed her face and there was the familiar scent of lavender in the air. She always did love scented candles. I took a few minutes tonight just as any other night to sit by her side, just breathing with her. Inhale. Exhale. Thank god she was still alive. Thank god she made it through. It was in these moments that I took the time each day to just be grateful. I would close my eyes and tilt my head back on the rocking chair beside her bed, letting the memories come gushing out of the trembling cracks of my heart. It’s been 20 years since we left and yet even to this day I could not think of him without it breaking my heart a little each time. Salty drops welled in my eyes and I let them leave a trail to my ears. Thank god. Thank god.  

I was 10 years old when I watched my father, drag my mother’s curls on the floor along with her. Too young to understand whythe only emotion I could feel was paralyzing fear. I can still hear her screaming for me to look away, trying to protect me. This only seemed to anger him, how blasphemous to make him look like the villain. With his fury, his hand hit with a harder force, this time she crumbled to the floor with blood. It was a loud and ugly sound, like the cracking of a bullwhip or the tearing of a limb. Power and malice, those were his weapons and he made sure we never forgot. This was one of the harder days. And one I doubt I will ever forget. 

I got upchanged and washed up for prayer. And as usual I spent an extra few minutes in quiet meditation not sure how to put into words but hoping god would understand my confused mix of emotions. I hated him so deeply and yet my mother had asked me to understand him. And if I could not understand him, to not hate him. Because that would do me more good. Because maybe, just maybe that would unbind me from the shackles I put on myself – the constant rumination over the past. And while I’ve spent many a year trying to forget and forgive, I’ve just learned how to numb. The scars have fibrosed and yet they’re easily friable and comfortably numb, all at the same time. I needed to change. 

It’s not that I don’t want to change. Sometimes or rather for most of my life-  I’ve just felt like an old oak tree with my roots firmly projecting through the soil, twisting and turning and descending into the depths of the earth. I’ve tried to get help before but I guess as much as I had to admit it – I never had enough drive to change myself. After all it was easier staying in what I knew, what I was familiar in – the self-hateI didn’t need to change when I struggled with major depression in college, not when I know that my husband, Subhi – the kindest person I know and the one I love most after my mother hurts when he sees me hurt. But something’s changed recently. My husband doesn’t know yet, but I’ve known that I’ve been pregnant for 3 months now. And for the past 3 months I’ve been in therapy. 

Subhi has dreamt of fatherhood ever since he was a kid himself. He’d excitedly and somewhat embarrassedly describe the details of these dreams to me over breakfast, giggling and laughing over the dirty diapers and baby bottles of comically variable sizes and shapes. I’d fall in love with this version of him over and over again – with this twinkle in his eye, passionately describing the minute details so I wouldn’t miss out on anything. And while I knew he would never force me into anything, I also knew this was important to him. For me, the idea had not crossed my mind, while somewhat naïve I simply didn’t think the shell of a person I was, was capable of harboring another life. I was a nurse, I knew how this sounded. I would’ve scoffed and mocked if I heard it too. But to me and what I thought childhood was – I never wanted that for anyone else. I knew my husband was not made from the same cloth as my father and yet I was still afraid. It was not something I could explain. 

For as long as I can remember – I’ve lived in self-hate and deprecation. I made it a point to be kinder to everyone else– after all you never knew what kind of scars even the most normal seeming people harbor. But when it came to myself – every thought was laced with contempt and every accomplishment was subpar. The slightest thing could go wrong and even if it was beyond my control it was inadvertently my fault. I live on the 23rd floor and if I came home and found the elevator right at level 25 instead of level 1 where I need it to be somehow that would color my day useless and while I realize that is incredibly insignificant, these small things had more control over my day that I did. I still loved baby’s breath and big bright sunflowers and Mozart and movies about the high school geek finally one- upping the mean cheerleader. I laughed just as hard in class with my friends when we talk about the times we mimicked Hannah Montana episodes and I always kept my grades up. By all definition at least on the outside I was a normal person. What they don’t realize though is that when the laughter stops and I’m all alone I used to let the familiar creeping despair come out. I was comfortable in my shackles with weights bearing down on my shoulders. If I was falling too far, sometimes I would call a friend, asked for the warmth to ward it off atleast for a night longer. But part of me always knew that this wasn’t who I wanted to remain as.   

I’ve been in therapy for 3 months – that’s 2 months and 3 weeks longer than I’ve ever been in therapy before. I used to always stop when it started to get real. It’s been a terribly hard experience trying to gnaw at years of fibrous tissue that had grown over something that died when I was so young. At first I was skeptical and found it hard to talk openly about my past, but I’ve been changing. One the first sessions she asked me whether I had any hobbies that I had lost touch with. I talked about how I’d always loved painting skies and oceans with brilliantly bright colors. She gave me an assignment that day and I went home and painted for the first time in years. My mother and husband complimented the aquamarine waves and pink skies and that was it. A flooding feeling of goodness filled me. I was so engrossed in myself I had forgotten how to enjoy those small things. Not just on the surface but really truly enjoy them. My pregnancy was what made me want to change but what I’ve come to want to change not just for my loved ones but also for myself. I am, atleast I am trying to equip myself with the tools to deal with the pain and rebuild myself. It’s a small step  but I  no longer grimace when I come home from work and I see the elevator at 25, rather I’ve started to giggle at why that had bothered me so much for so long.  I’m not completely cured and I don’t know if I ever will be. I still cry when I think about those hard times but I’m also hopeful to reclaim my freedom from my own shackles. For what may be the first time in my life I was really trying and I don’t think I could be prouder. 

I got up from prayer and went straight to see if Subhi was still up. I found him watching Netflix on the couch. “I’m pregnant and I found out 3 months ago.” I blurt out with no thoughtSubhi got up and stared at me for a bit, walked up to me and gave me the warmest hug. “I started going to therapy again just when I found out, and I wanted to be in a better place when I told you this, I’m sorry for keeping it from you.” I tried to explain. “I love you.” He said. I smiled. And we both stayed up that night, stories that we had missed from each other’s lives spilling out, laughing and crying and unbelievably happy. Before we knew it the copper hues of morning peaked through our windows. Streaks of magenta and soft pinks danced on the porcelain sky spreading with it the start of a new dayAnd I knew, I was going to be alright. I was going to be just fine.

by Nor Najiha Zulkifli (ME218)

(2nd Place)

1.

I might sound like an ungrateful person, but my life is yet to be what I had hoped. I have a job and a boyfriend, Darren. And I was just promoted to assistant supermarket supervisor, it may not be glamorous but it pays the bills. And Darren is my modern prince charming. I still can’t believe we’re together. I won’t lie though, he has his dark side. And every day, I wake up with that feeling of hopelessness and despair. Like there’s something that I could, should be doing than checking supermarket stock.

Reminding myself I have this month’s rent and bills to pay, I swallow my unease and head towork in my car. What can I possibly do, I’m cornered.

All the while thinking of good thoughts, so that when I get to work I have a reason to smile.

 

2.

“Good morning!”, I greeted my cute favourite cashier, Minnie, fresh off of high school. A part-timer until she gets her college offer. She replies with a less cheerful manner than she used to.

“Anything to report today?”, I ask her. Thankfully I’ve worked up a smile, but greeted by a haunted look on her face, I can’t help but frown.

“All is good, and today I’ll stick around to help unload the cereal shipment this evening.”, replied Minnie hurriedly, muttering under her breath about something. Something she was not
supposed to tell me. She then left.

As soon as I turned around, I meet Julie Holden, my frenemy.

Okay, I’ve been dying to use this word.

My nemesis.

“Why, good morning, Dork.. I mean Ashley, the new assistant supervisor. So glad you’re on time to work today.”

I don’t know what she’s trying to say, I’ve never been late. And God, does she have to use my name that way?

“Good morning to you too, Julie.”

It took every fibre of my being to suppress all the rude and inappropriate things I really wanted to say to her. In the end, I settled with; “I would love to chat, but I’m waiting for a truck load of goods and I have preparations to do. So, if you would excuse me..”, with that I closed the door, trying to sound as obnoxious as possible.

I don’t understand why she would pick a bone with me. I did absolutely nothing wrong.

Or did I?

I first started as an ordinary cashier. After six months, Darren, who is also the Supermarket Manager, confessed his feelings to me and after that we started going out. Two weeks later, the
Supermarket Director promoted me from cashier to Junior Supervisor. Three months afterwards, I was Assistant Supervisor.

I asked Darren if he had anything to do with this. He said no, telling me how much I deserved the job more than anyone. So that was that, until.. I overheard Julie.

“Can you believe that woman?”

“Who?”

“Don’t play dumb. I’m talking about Dorkus. She’s such a sl**, she had eyes on Darren from the start.”

“But do you think Darren would let himself be used?”

“Oh sweetheart, you give men what they want and they stay at your feet.”

“God knows what she let Darren do ..”
That was when I had to defend myself. I came out of my hiding spot and tried to challenge her.

But, I had nothing to say.

Julie saw me and nudged her gossip mate, Carly. “Well, at least she heard it straight from me.”

She laughed and left the common room, with Carly right behind her.

Why did I freeze?

The answer was obvious.

She was right.

 

3.

I pushed the thought of Julie away and do my work.

During lunch time, Darren comes in.

“Hey babe. Wanna go out for lunch?”, casually he asks. He knocked on the door and went straight behind me. Wrapping his arms around my neck as he asks me out for lunch.

“I would love to …”, I stopped, a sudden thought occured to me.

Darren noticed and asks “There’s a ‘but’ coming along is there?”. He lets out a sigh and sits on my desk.

I didn’t like the look on his face. It was as if he regretted walking here, now forced to hear my ramblings when all he wanted was someone accompanying him for lunch.

This was one of his dark side.

But, I felt, no I knew this was important and I had to discuss it with him. I have been putting it off for so long.

“I wanna talk about us, it’s not what you think though,” choosing my words carefully, searching his face for any sign of worry.

“You see Julie has not been very happy with my promotion and she has started spreading rumours about me.”

Specifically about us.

“I know I’ve asked you this before but now I want you to be really honest with me,” His face was still unreadable.

“Did you do anything, I mean even a small recommendation to Mr. Charling of me for the position?” It took all of my energy, afraid I’ve stepped out of line with Darren to finally utter those
words. Fear had stopped me to confront Julie but I can’t possibly be afraid of a discussion with my own boyfriend.
Darren took his time. He got off my desk and instead leaned on it.

“Look, I’ve told you before and I am going to say it again. No.”

He gave me a stern look and began to walk out. Guess lunch was out of the window.

“Darren, wait!”, I got up and went out to him.

As we were face to face, I asked him to do something about Julie.

That was the last straw.

“What do you want me to do? First, you accused me of using my position to win you over and now you want me to deal with Julie. You know I have a lot more important things to do than babysit my staff?”, Darren snapped and stormed out.

He didn’t even care.

I heard him loud and clear.

 

4.

Darren wasn’t always like this. Or it was me who didn’t see the signs.

You see, I was never the popular kid neither was I the smart one. I was just … me. My name didn’t help but predefined who I was. A Dork.

School was a nightmare. No one took me seriously. Throughout the years, I just couldn’t wait to get out and finally be free to do whatever I want. I got through reassuring myself each day it was
the other kids that were holding me back and not me.

But now that I am where I am, who is in the blame?

My family?

My parents love me and so does my sister. They have always  pushed me to do greater things in life. But, they never understood my dreams.

So as soon as I graduated from college, taking some course I hardly benefited from, I moved to the city. A good four hours away from them.

So, when Darren told me he liked me. I went completely blind. I needed companionship. And I needed it bad. Friends from work warned me about him, but I didn’t care. I’ve been on my own for so long. Even if he turns out to be a jerk.

The cute guy likes me. I never said that before in my entire life.

 

5.

With the glooming telltale signs of a failing relationship, I focused on work, skipping lunch entirely.

At exactly 2:30 pm, the electronics shipment arrived. As assistant supervisor, I was in charge of making sure everything that we had ordered had arrived and was in good condition. And this was my first shipment. I had to make sure all was in order.

The cereal shipment had also arrived but I gave the task to my junior assistant, Carly.

Minnie was helping her out as she had told me this morning.

After making sure all was in order, I made my way back home. Sending off the rest of the work to the staff.

Just as I was leaving, Julie stops me. She was the Facilities Manager, she had no business here.

“Good night, Ashley. Make sure to get enough sleep,” I was prepared for a mean comment, but her greeting completely caught me off guard.

“Umm, you too. Julie,” was all I could muster.

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any worse. My car breaks down. I called for help and me and my car was towed to the nearest workshop.

The mechanic, Sam, says it’s probably a problem with the engine. Something I couldn’t understand and says it will be a few days to get done.

Wonderful!

“Your name and phone number, Miss?” Sam holds out a pen and notebook for me.

“There, thanks.”

Taking the notebook from me, he smirks. Letting out a stifled laugh.

“Excuse me, Miss Drakus? Am I saying this right?”

Yes, my name is a laughing stock. At school, I’m Ashley Dorkus.

Now that I’m an adult I have Julie to remind me of how lame I was.

One of the reasons I hate meeting new people. They’d laugh at my name.

“Drakus, that’s right. Just, just make sure to call when the car’s done”.

Without waiting for a reply, I rushed outside and called a cab.

 

6.

Home. Finally. Today had been so exhausting, not to mention I haven’t had anything to eat since breakfast. But, I didn’t feel like eating.

There was a hole in my stomach, all the events of today had completely shattered me.

Julie, Darren, my car.

Dorkus

Instead, I slowly made my way to my bedroom and sat on the floor.

I tried to stop it, but why?

It would feel so much better. So, I let myself cry.

It’s okay for big girls to cry, right?

What have I done to deserve this?

There’s nothing in this life worth living for. The job I got is because of a favour, despite Darren’s reassurance. Because who would want me?

Who?

After all this time, Darren doesn’t want me anymore. He finally sees me for what I’m really worth.

Even he sometimes jokingly calls me Dorkus even after I told him I didn’t like it. Better to shut my mouth than offend him. Better to shut up than to lose him.
I’ve abandoned my family for so long, they probably thought I died somewhere.
And maybe that is for the best.

I finally climbed into bed, pulling my knees to my shoulders into a fetal position. My favourite hobby nowadays. Wallowing in self pity, contemplating about my life.

Just when I thought I’ve run out of tears, more comes out all of a sudden.

When my tears dried, I sit up. Taking out my journal from under my pillow.

Ashley’s Journal is written in big block letters. A book I confide to whenever I am in my moods.

On the first page..

To-Do List

1. Become a journalist
2. Continue Grandpa Frankie’s fight

Grandpa Frankie. Franklin Dorcus. He is the sole reason I’m proud to have this name. He was a fighter till the end. He battled with his demons that were way worse than Julie. But most of all, he fought for what he believed in.

Back at his childhood home, a shoe manufacturing factory had been built. And everyone went from menial labour with measly pay to factory labour with a monthly pay. However, the factory
was cutting corners to maximize profits. The chemicals they were using were dangerous. My Grandpa Frankie knew it but nobody listened. He saw the factory workers’ health slowly deteriorate so he knew he had to take action. Fast. Everyone deserted him, saying he was crazy. In spite of his college degree, the townspeople labelled him an attention-seeker, just wanting to be part of the town’s gossip.

Grandpa Frankie was right all along. He died due to lung cancer, probably after all the exposure he got himself into a five-day protest he organized against the factory. He died with a smile however, for days before, the factory was finally shut down.

After that, I vowed to myself I would do just that. If I were to die, I will die fighting.

Reading my journal always gave me spirit. One reason to keep breathing was all I needed.

 

7.

The next day, I went to work as usual, well not as usual. My car was still in the shop, so I took the bus. At the parking lot, I saw Mr Charling’s car. Well, what a surprise. Usually, you’re afraid of your boss. Well, not me. I adore Mr Charling, he’s the greatest boss anyone could ever have. From the strength I’ve earned from Grandpa Frankie, I happily skip towards my office. Hoping to greet Mr Charling on the way.

Turns out I didn’t need to, he was already waiting for me.

“Good morning, Mr Charling!”, I greeted him with a smile. But as soon as I saw his face, I knew this was not a good morning.
He had a worried look on his face and when he saw me, it turned into a look of disbelief. Darren was in my office too. He avoided eye contact with me.

“Ashley, it’s been a while,” Mr Charling was referring to the last time we met.

“Yes, it has. How are you?” I asked, dreading the small talk as I knew there’s something to this morning meeting.

“I’m doing great, Ashley. Well, how about we skip the chit chat and great straight to the point.”

“You see yesterday’s shipping from Pansonic was supervised by you, I believe?”

“Yes sir. I’ve logged everything and every appliance was in good shape.”

“Yes, yes I read your log. But, there seem to be some discrepancy.” Mr Charling said hesitantly.

“Discrepancy? What do you mean?” I asked not understanding what was actually going on.

Mr Charling then looked at Darren, who then took the logbook where the details of the shipment was written down.

“The amount of appliances we ordered were different from what is in the store room. And yet, you didn’t notice this.” Darren explained, with a glazed expression, with almost a defeated look.
Saying there is no hope for Ashley.
Mr Charling then explained that last night, an unmarked grey truck was let into the loading bay by my access card. There were no plates on the truck and the men who came along with it were all wearing masks. They knew very well that there were cameras in the store room.
So it had to be an inside job.

And all fingers were pointing to me.

Mr Charling gave his ultimatum, either return everything and he won’t file a police report or go to jail. Either way, I had lost my job.

When I tried to explain that there has to be a mistake, he turned a deaf ear and stormed out.

Darren on the other hand, stayed around in the office. I started crying when Mr Charling left, but Darren just stood there at the corner of the room.

When I finally stopped, I looked up at him. He had his eyes fixed to the floor.

“Darren, do you actually believe this?”
“That I would steal?”. My eyes were still wet from crying, with blurry vision, I looked at him.

“Honestly, I don’t know. When I saw the imbalance, I was hoping you logged it wrong. If that was the case, I could’ve talked to Charling about your mistake.”

“Wait, you expected me to make a mistake?” I asked, my voice suddenly steady and an octave higher. Tears dried now.

“Y-yes, Ashley you’re not really fully trained yet for this kind of responsibility. You, .. truth is you got this job because of me,” finally he tells me the truth.

I couldn’t take anymore of all this nonsense, so I began walking out of the door. Not before Darren grabbed my hand.

“Hey, Ashley. If it isn’t you, then why don’t you take a few days off. To chill out.”

“And if it is me?”

“Then, I advise you to turn yourself in,” with a stern voice Darren replied. Without missing a beat, he continued, “And Ashley, you know what this means for us?”

“I’m sorry, for now you can keep your job, but I can’t have you as my girlfriend,” I was bracing myself for that. I didn’t expect the impact was this bad, though. Like my heart was ripped out and beaten with sticks then put back in. Only to be yanked out again. But unlike the situation
with Julie, I knew exactly what to say.
I took a deep breath and searching for my confident voice, I told him, “You know, our relationship was over the minute you lost your faith in me. Well, I lost my faith in you way before. So, goodbye. Darren.”

I planned on saying more but I was too wounded to stay any longer.

 

8.

A couple of days passed since disaster struck me. And still no word from Mr Charling or Darren.

Is this it? Will I be sent to jail for something I didn’t do? Will my freedom be taken away from me so forcefully?
Maybe, I should just admit I was involved and pay for the stolen appliances. Maybe even convince Mr Charling to let me keep my job.

And face Darren again? No way.

Lie out of this problem? What would Grandpa Frankie think of that?

He fought for truth, and I’ll do the same.

I took out my laptop and began searching.

Time to relive my dream of writing. I signed myself up for a writing course at a college. I had enough money in my savings to keep me afloat.

Truth will prevail. I had faith in that.

Just as I was finishing up, my phone rang. Unexpectedly, I rushed immediately towards it hoping it was Mr Charling. At this point, Darren calling wouldn’t be so bad either. But whoever was calling was not in my contacts. Turns out my car is ready. Well, hooray.. At least something in my life is repairable. Calling a cab, I rush over. I needed the fresh air anyways.

“Hi, I’m here for my car,” I was pointed to the desk at the back of the shop.

There was no one there, so I rang the bell on the desk. Then came a man in overalls, dark-skinned but quite handsome. Great, with Darren gone I’m a free woman and do whatever I want. Or be with whoever I choose.

“Hi, I’m here to get my car,” I told him. On his overall, he had his name patch. Michael.

He took out a clipboard and asked for my name.

“Ashley,”

“And .. a last name?”

Of course, time for some humour.

“Drakus. Ashley Drakus,” he gave me a puzzled look.

“Drakus, for real?”, he said while instructing another worker to my car.

“Yes, no need to hold back. Go on, laugh but can I just please get my car back.”

“No, I wasn’t about to laugh, it’s such an unusual name,” he said, giving me a smile that would’ve melted my heart if I weren’t facing possible jail time.

As Michael opened his mouth to continue talking, Sam came in with my car. I paid and left. Not wanting to hear any hurtful comments about my name.

Although, on the way back, I couldn’t help but replay Michael’s smile in my mind.

 

9.

After a whole week of silence, I finally showed up to work on Monday. To beg for my job? Hell no! To own up? Neither. I wanted to know what exactly was the evidence they had against me.

The only thing tying me with the crime was my access card that I had lost a week before the robbery took place. I had also reported this to Julie. She was in charge of access and security, could she be responsible?

I had my own problems to worry about and blaming somebody else without proof would do no help at all. Mr Charling realised this too so handed the situation over to the police. I gave my
statement and after further investigations, they had no other proof or motive to prosecute me.

So, I was off the hook. Officially by the police.

I only found out months later who the real culprit was. Someone I least expected. Minnie. She claimed to be forced by her boyfriend to gain access into the storeroom. She was a good girl so I believed her. I could only hope that the police would believe her too.

The next day, I went to Mr Charling with a resignation letter. He understood the ordeal I have been through, apologizing for accusing me. Stating, the job was open if I were to change my mind. But I’ve made my decision.

I’m destined to do more and this event has opened my eyes. While I’m battling with bullies and thieves, constrained by fear and a feeling of incompetence, people are actually hurting and
dying with no one to help them. Battling with diseases and corrupt governments. They are the ones who are truly imprisoned. I should be the one to help them. I am Franklin Drakus’ granddaughter after all.

So, the first small step I would take is to apply for a writing course I’ve been dreaming of. And afterwards, obtain a job as a journalist at that magazine company that focuses on stories of famine and environmental issues. Writing about these events would definitely help to spread the news of such real-life horror in a modern sophisticated world we live in today.

That is what I should be doing.

 

10.

Exiting the supermarket, I went to the sidewalk to get a hot dog.

As I was leaving, a familiar face came by.

“Ashley?”

“Umm..,” was all I could muster.

“I’m Michael, the mechanic from the other day,” he extended his hand towards me and I took it.

He ordered a hot dog and I silently prayed that there’s more to this chance encounter.

He got his food and we started walking together in no particular destination.

“So, how’s the car?”

“Well, I had a great mechanic. So it’ll live,” he laughed at my remark.

Something like a child’s laughter that was somehow very pleasant to my ears.
We found a bench and sat down. I finished my hot dog and so did he.

“I’m really glad we met, I feel like I’ve offended you,” he turned to face me. I gave him a puzzled look.

“What do you mean? We’ve only met,”

“Yeah, it’s your name. It’s unique,”

Here it comes. In that split second, I made a solemn promise to myself, if he makes a witty remark of my name, I’m leaving no matter how cute he is.

“Drakus, do you know what that means?”

“Umm, no not really,”

“Drakus, prince of dragons. Well, in your case the Dragon Princess. I bet you’ve been through a lot to gain that title.”

“Well, as a matter of fact..”

And so I told him the recent events that led to my resignation. He sat, listening patiently to everything I say.

Then it was his turn to tell me how life had been for him. Racism hit him hard back home, and in a way we had something in common. He had to work hard to open the workshop, not to mention cut the stereotypic chains people had against him. Having a darker skin than anyone else has labelled him a criminal, simply because of statistics. It’s not in the genes, just that they were poor and forced into that title.

Trapped in a world that has already predefined us as who we are supposed to be, not who we want to be. Breaking free from those chains would take a lot of effort and courage. Not to mention the fear of being wrong. What happens when we are destined to be what everyone tells us to be? What happens if our dreams are too far to reach? That they were right all along. Well, if it is too high to jump, grow wings and fly. If things go south, turn to the other pole.

If my name destined me to be a dork, then so be it. Sitting there with Michael made me realise no matter what I’m destined to be, I am always free to be happy.

 

NOTES

Inspired by:

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”

– Adlai Stevenson (31st Governor of Illinois and United Nations ambassador 1961-1965)

 

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes”

– Mahatma Gandhi


Dork

informal : a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc.

by Sarah Z. Virani (ME118)

(3rd Place)

I could feel the wind rushing past my face, the birds whistling, the ground crunching and sweat trickling down my back. My breathing, initially erratic was now more controlled as I trudged along. I took another moment to take in the area we had covered and made a mental snapshot. My heart skipped – it looked like somebody had painted the earth in all these wonderful colours. No matter how many times I stopped to look at the view, I never tired of it. The hills stood gracefully, with maize plants growing at various levels and carving steps on them. The water of the lake glistened reflecting the beautiful blue sky, streaked with cotton-wool clouds. The branches of the trees swayed giving breeze scented with the fruits they yielded. I wished I could plant my feet into the ground and stand there forever. I felt on top of the world. I’d hiked such a great distance, I’d reached a point where I was as close to freedom as I’d ever hoped.  

My whole life I craved to find the one thing where I could lose myself, empty my mind and come back feeling renewed. Being a girl from a conservative family, it was difficult for me to be as adventurous and my thoughts wanted me to. My brother would travel with the school on treks, while I’d stay home because it was “better” for me. It really didn’t sit well with my heart and I longed for an escape.  

I got my chance a few years ago to spend a day hiking in the jungle and my experience was absolutely breathtaking. I felt like I’d found my wings – they’d been hiding in my feet all this time, itching to stretch out. Suddenly I found myself hiking every other Sunday and every time I came back, my wings felt stronger and my heart lighter. Every peak I conquered, pushed me to climb a steeper one and gave me a new perspective on the world around me. Every time I thought the I knew a place, seeing it from a different angle, opened up a whole new world. Every time I came back down I felt changed. I’d go back to my normal life, but I never forgot the world up there.  

Fears, I’d never known I had, erased themselves. I learnt to trust my instincts because nature gave me clarity that the city silenced. I let go of the negative thoughts that made me insecure and my worries about my life. As a hiked, I let the sounds of the leaves calm my mind and the sound of feet hitting the ground create a soothing rhythm. I allowed nature to take control of what I could not and seemed to fly higher. Flying higher meant I’d come back down even faster, with more power and energy to deal with my problems.  

The world is so beautiful. Sometimes we’re going through a really tough time and you really wish something significant would change in your life. But sometimes, we have to make that change. We have to put ourselves out there because, as cliche as it sounds, after every hard climb there is freedom and there most definitely is the most incredible view. So, fly so high your troubles can’t reach you. 

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Written by: Sachi Jhingran (ME119)

To take the term, “International Friendship Day” literally as an international student at IMU, it means that my friends are indeed overseas.

It was only after moving abroad to Malaysia to study that I realise the value of friendship as a manifestation of your personal values, morals and ethics. The metaphysical bond between you and your friend isn’t tangible, yet it remains an embodiment of your similarities and mutual care.

When you’re physically separated from your true friends whom you trust, whom you confide in and who mean something to you, you learn the gravity of those 6 letters. It is easy to belligerently throw the term “friend” around in regards to people we may not have any emotional bond with. This is a result of Zuckerberg’s idea of Facebook friends – revolutionising the implication of the term “friend” in itself. It’s mistaken for knowing someone, rather than caring for someone.

After frequenting visits to Australia, I essentially prioritised which friends I would have the time to see and which friends didn’t make the cut. Some might consider this approach emotionless or primitive, others pragmatic, but it filtered through what I call the “Zuckerberg zone” and distilled my social circles to those people who enhanced the experience of life. They were constant but never in the forefront and it wasn’t obvious who those people were until now.

It was through this I learned that the mutual trust and solidarity that exist between real friends are unbreakable nexuses of connections beyond our conscious reasoning, and often we must allow time or physical barriers to reveal what connections withstand compromise. After all, one can only test the strength of something by making it susceptible to breakage.

Ultimately, friendship is manifested through intrinsic bonds of camaraderie; they’re not apparent but they are powerful. Without bonds, salt wouldn’t be able to form a crystal lattice and season your spaghetti. Imagine a world without seasoned spaghetti. Horrific. Coming from a girl who’s physically separated from her lifelong friends, let’s remind ourselves that we have the privilege of making friends that add flavour to the dish of our lives, enhancing the experience.

That’s the food of friendship.

P.S. I apologise for reducing my friends to salt in an analogy, love y’all! 

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Written by: Jaithra R. (BM117)

Bloodied rings entangled through,

Promises meant to be kept between me and you,

As far as you and I can see,

A tougher future awaits for we.

.

Bloodied fingers working hard,

Our efforts meant to keep us taut,

A family as we envision to,

Not so easy, but we’ll come through.

.

Bloodied years have gone by,

Love has found us a dream to live by,

Efforts to no waste, we watch in ease,

Our family blooming beyond our dreams.

.

Bloodied soil as we rest,

A happy ending for both our beds,

Hand in hand we’ll stay just inches,

‘Til we meet in heaven’s blissfulness.

Written by Kiranjeet Kaur, Khin Kyay Mone Win | Edited by Chang Chi Yin, Zantal Siah

International Medical University’s (IMU’s) Psychology Club organised a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Talk and Trauma Exhibition on the 31st of May 2019. The talk was attended by around 50 participants, whereas the exhibition welcomed numerous visitors throughout the time frame of the event.

The talk was conducted by two clinical psychologists, Ms Puvessha Jegathisan and Ms Cheryl Tham, who are also psychology lecturers in IMU. Both of them have had vast experiences in treating PTSD clients and many more psychological disorders. Additionally, they have worked together in treating refugees and asylum-seekers who had undergone traumatic events within their lifetime. 

The objective of both the talk and the exhibition was to shed light on the actual severity of the word ‘trauma’ and what it means to have gone through a traumatic event in a person’s lifetime as well as the psychological effects that arise from it. The perceived stigmas that emerge in regard to seeking mental help after enduring a traumatic situation was also a planned topic of discussion. Furthermore, this event aimed to cultivate the use of art and narratives as a way of raising awareness on a particular issue.

Ms Puvessha began the talk by introducing the term ‘PTSD’ and discussed on who might be more prone to developing this disorder. “A person may develop PTSD after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. However, what may be traumatic to you may not be traumatic to me and vice versa. Hence, it is very subjective when it comes to who may actually develop PTSD,” she said. She added that “it also depends highly on a person’s resilience as well as their choice of coping mechanism after having gone through a traumatic event”.

Ms Cheryl then introduced several symptoms of PTSD based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5), such as avoidance, hypervigilance, nightmares and flashbacks. “An individual with an avoidance symptom will most likely avoid exposing themselves to any external trigger that may remind them of the traumatic incident,” she stated. Ms Puvessha and Ms Cheryl also explained that having symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks will often leave clients feeling as if they have no peace within their mind as they are constantly being haunted by images of the traumatic event from day till night.

Some of the severe causes of PTSD – which include military combat, sexual assault, mugging or robbery, being held hostage, enduring an automobile accident, torture, and many more – were covered during the talk. Both speakers then delved into some of the more horrifying experiences that their clients had gone through, especially in war-torn countries where they were primarily exposed to seeing dead bodies everywhere daily, while also witnessing their family members being detonated right in front of them. In terms of treatment, a combination of medications as well as psychotherapy is often used to treat PTSD. The more common approaches used in psychotherapy include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy combined with relaxation exercises. “The medication is there to relieve symptoms, whereas therapy would come in to promote healing,” Ms Cheryl explained.

“Find out how they’re doing and how they’re feeling now and ask them how you can help. Do not ask them about their trauma or what happened; that is only to satisfy your own curiosity and it does not help them at all,” Ms Puvessha emphasised. Ms Cheryl also advised that “you should look out for red flags, one of them being suicidal ideation. When that talk comes about, do not just sit on it. Channel that individual to receive professional mental help”. At the end of the day, both speakers stressed about being a supportive friend or family member towards an individual with PTSD throughout their recovery process as it can be a long and painful journey for them.

The one-and-a half-hour talk ended with the participants thanking the speakers for having shared their expertise and knowledge on this rising matter. The participants then proceeded to visit the trauma exhibition, which was filled with paintings on masks, realistic-fictional narratives, as well as information-filled banners and different scenario-based decorations on four different causes of PTSD, namely military combat, violence, an automobile accident, and witnessing a murder. 

All in all, IMU’s PTSD Talk and Trauma Exhibition 2019 was a successful event filled with knowledge-enhancing information and creative content in regard to shedding light on PTSD, which was made possible by the collective effort of the psychology staff and students of IMU.

Written by: Sachi Jhingran, Harshitha Canchi, Johnathan Yong, Alya Jasmine Ngu Ee-Lyn | Edited by: Chang Chi Yin, Zantal Siah

Psychology Week 2019, organised by the Psychology Club, was held on the 6th to 8th of May with the objective of increasing awareness regarding the true meaning of psychology among the students and staff of IMU. Themed ‘Beyond the Norm’, the event aimed to debunk the urban and contemporary myths associated with psychology through a plethora of activities.

Five booths, each exhibiting a different branch of psychology, were spread throughout the Atrium. The branches were media psychology, positive psychology, sports psychology, marketing psychology and forensic psychology. 

The aim of the media psychology booth was to raise awareness on the influence of media on psychology. Many social problems have arisen as a result of the media becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world. The psychology students who managed the booth arranged an activity with common jingles and logos to assess whether these advertising techniques impacted people’s minds.

The positive psychology booth hoped to spread positivity by letting people paint and decorate with bright colours and fairy lights. The booth facilitator explained that within the university, “it can be difficult to bounce back from adversity. Accepting a situation and being grateful for all outcomes is something we need to be reminded of”. Anonymous positive notes could be written and exchanged as well, which lightened up many faces. There was also an Instagram challenge, where participants had to post three things they were grateful for.

As for the sports psychology booth, the students in charge introduced this field as a new concept. Many athletes are becoming more aware of its importance. In fact, it is one of the highest earning jobs in the US. However, people often misunderstand that it is only correlated with motivation. On the contrary, sports psychology also deals with the attention and focus required during physical activities, thus helping people set realistic goals. A competitive planking challenge was set up so that the participants could experience and understand this concept.

The marketing psychology booth explored people’s senses through sight, touch and smell. Several activities were conducted which tested whether people’s preferences altered between sight and touch. Another experiment was carried out at the smell station to determine if there was a link between gender-specific perfumes and personal preferences and how this information could be utilised in marketing to target specific demographics. These tests were performed to allow people to be more conscious about the significance of marketing psychology. 

Lastly, there was the forensic psychology booth, which highlighted the interactions between the practice or study of psychology and the law. The students and staff could partake in a lie detector test, where they had to answer a set of questions while their blood pressure was being measured. The purpose of this was to ascertain whether such factors would influence people when they were being interrogated. It was a perfect example of the application of forensic psychology since the test is widely practised across the world. 

Besides the interactive booths, a board was erected at the centre of the Atrium where assumptions and stigmas made surrounding psychology were addressed. They were explained in the hope that people would understand the subject better.

On the final day of the event, the closing ceremony commenced with a speech by the guest-lecturer of honour, Dr Sharifah Sulaiha binti Syed Aznal, Associate Professor currently of service at the School of Medicine. She emphasised on the importance of psychology and how it does not necessarily equate to mentality-related issues only, but also encompasses a variety of fields, such as sports, marketing and criminology. 

There was also a series of talented performances put together by different cohorts and programmes. The performances included contemporary dance, singing, a piano-violin duet, and, for the finale, a band performance that had the audience standing in ovation and cheering for an encore. 

Following the performances was an interview with Dr Shamala Ramasamy, an esteemed lecturer from the Department of Psychology. She stated Psychology Week – an annual initiative for the eleventh year running now – was designed as a platform to raise awareness and understanding of the programme among newer cohorts as well as other courses. ‘Beyond the Norm’ boldly captured the tireless effort put in by the psychology department and club to shatter the misconceptions that limit psychology only to the clinical aspects when in reality, the field was much broader and diverse in its real-life applications. She also believed that the major issues inflicting today’s society, mainly stereotyping and discrimination, will continue to be detrimental to the harmony of the society unless attitudes such as kindness and patience were adopted.

Through this event, the meaning and purpose of psychology with its ‘everyday’ applications were successfully conveyed. Do look forward to Psychology Week 2020!

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Written by: Syerah Yuan (ME218) | Edited by: Zantal Siah (CM217)

Raya Eid-ul Fitr isn’t a foreign festive season for those living here in Malaysia. We know that the celebration is coming up when radios start blasting ‘Yusuf Taiyoob’ ads, which are the infamous dates from the Middle East, and speakers begin blaring out Raya songs in shopping malls. It is the joyous occasion where families and friends from near and far get together to ask for forgiveness from each other and strengthen the bonds between one another. But why do people celebrate Hari Raya in the first place?

Each year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri is celebrated on the 1st of Syawal, which is the 10th month in the Islamic calendar, right after the fasting month named Ramadan. It is a season to celebrate the struggles and victories of overcoming one month of abstinence from hunger or any form or wrongdoings. During Ramadan, Muslims are instructed to fast from sunrise until sunset. In Malaysia, this usually lasts for about 13.5 hours, but the duration varies for each country. For instance, those living in Russia must fast for 20 hours whereas those living in Argentina only have to fast for 11 hours. That’s a 9-hour difference! 

Before stepping into Hari Raya, each family will usually do a full-on spring cleaning of the house, cleaning the curtains and washing cutlery and glasses which will be used to serve guests coming to their houses during Raya. It is when the whole house gets into ‘hustle mode’, where every single family member is simply busy preparing for Raya. Typically, shopping malls will also be filled with people – especially when the end of Ramadan is near – looking for clothes and buying groceries to cook during open houses. Furthermore, massive sales around the country increase the busyness of shopping malls! With the convenient Internet and countless shopping sites, some also prefer to browse through and purchase their outfits online in the hope that their deliveries reach in time for the celebration. 

Hari Raya starts off in the morning with Raya prayers at mosques. Then, donning fresh, new and fashionable outfits called ‘baju raya’, families will gather together to have a ‘salam’ session, where everyone asks for forgiveness from one another before the elders proceed with giving kids their long awaited ‘green packets’! The green packets are usually given by those who are married or working to their younger relatives. However, do be aware that some are not comfortable with shaking hands with the opposite gender, so a simple smile will suffice. After that, everyone will enjoy a feast which traditionally consists of the ketupat, lontong, pulut, chicken curry and a couple of other mouth-watering side dishes. The first day of Raya is reserved for visiting one’s own families, both near and extended, and will just be a day to catch up with one another whilst indulging in yummy food prepared at each house. The upcoming Raya days will then be open for visiting other families and friends. 

During the night, families can watch numerous fireworks being lighted and colourful displays illuminating the night skies. There will be kids running around and playing with their ‘bunga api’ or mini fireworks. Some will still be visiting houses at this time; it can even last until midnight!  

When we think of Raya, the things that will pop up in our minds are ketupat and other delicious cuisines, baju melayu and baju kurung as well as green packets. However, to me, the best part about this joyous occasion is spending it with your loved ones, both family and friends, regardless of age, race or religion.  

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all our Muslim friends!