Wednesday, 31 October 2012

My tiffin.

For the last time.

Timesheet submitted,
Aura replicated.

Lotus Notes crashed,
GTS cursed.

It appears that I am at the end of a road.

If I could shrink you, I would fit you into my tiffin and take you with me.
But unfortunately you have been eating to many chocolates/ popcorn/ doughnuts and can't be shrunk.

And so I must go home with my empty tiffin.

But wait! It is not empty.
Look inside, what do I have? 


Of timesheets submitted, Aura replicated, Lotus Notes crashed, and GTS cursed.
Of files not reviewed, and financial statements not signed.
Of food shared, and snacks devoured.
Of clients loved, and client not.
Of birthdays celebrated, and children corrupted.
Of silly jokes, and real tears.
Of late nights, and early mornings.
Of late mornings, and early nights.

This, is the PwC experience :)

My tiffin is, happily full.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

For Nanaji, with Love.

~ as shared with the sanggat at Nanaji's Paath da Phog @ Ulu Yam Gurdwara, 14 Oct 2012 ~

You have heard many people speak of our grandfather today; people who celebrate his love of Sikhi, and the simplicity with which he performed his seva. I see in front of me a great, big canvas, onto which many have taken their brush and illustrated how he made a difference. And we, his grandchildren, ask only this: that we too are allowed to paint a tribute to him.

I may be speaking these words, but they are not just my own. They have been stitched together, piece by piece, from the memories and emotions of his grandchildren.

You may know him as Giani Ji, or a sevadar of Sikhi, or a carrier of the Guru’s message. These are great things, wonderful things. And yet to us, before any this, he is, most simply, our grandfather. Our Nanaji, our Babaji.

moment captured by Angad Singh - thank you again :)

If you ask us where we grew up, many of us will say, right here, in Ulu Yam. Every school holiday, every long weekend, this is where we congregated. We made pacts with our cousins to ensure the whole clan was going, we packed our tiny toothbrushes, we pulled out the little bit of pocket money we had hidden away.

Ulu Yam to us meant playing at the Gurdwara, sneaking out to the village on Nanaji’s bicycle to buy junk food, lighting fireworks at night, at least one waterfall visit where we came home with our pockets full of sand, Nanaji sitting at his desk reading, or writing, washing busses for pocket money, enjoying Naniji’s delectable cooking, an endless supply of fresh milk, homemade Kirtan Darbars and Akhand Paaths, and swinging on our swing, on which generations have rocked, back and forth, back and forth.

You may say, that perhaps as a child, Ulu Yam was just an escape from our parents and homework. But no. Our Nanaji had a magnetic presence – and his energy was so expansive that he encompassed this entire little village. Ulu Yam was, and still is, a mythical place to us. It is where we come, and the rest of the world does not exist, and we are healed.

It is our grandparents who have created this sanctuary for us – they built this space, verse by verse, Baani by Baani, and have sealed it with boundless love. This space is where we first understood sanggat, this is what we were to each other as children, and continue to be to this day. This home that our grandparents have built, is, right here, our training ground, our Samelan, where we come to recharge our batteries. To us, our sanggat IS our family.

Our grandfather was our godfather – he made it his mission that we should grow up to love Sikhi.

For just as he took us to the waterfall on hair wash day, his hands holding ours with a shampoo bottle tucked under his arm, every morning in his home began with a walk to the Gurdwara where we had darshan and did our Paath.

Just as he took us for rides in his school bus down the village road, where we stuck our heads out of the window and waved at our neighbours, every meal time in his home began with one of us leading the thanksgiving prayer, Dadda Dataa Eyk Hai, Sabh Ko Devanhaar.

Just as he allowed us to cause a ruckus in his living room during our Play Station league games, every evening, that same living room transformed into a Darbar where we sat together and read Rehraas.

Gentle eyes, deep laughter, and God’s name on his lips. Jap Man Satnaam, Sadaa Satnaam. That was our Nanaji.

As we learned to sing Kirtan, in him we found our biggest fan. Even when our short arms could barely hold the pakha, or the tabla dwarfed our little fingers, even when we forgot our lines or missed the beat, he sat there, listening to us, singing with us, making us feel as if we were God’s own gift to sangeet.

Only when we grew older did we understand that glow in his face as he watched us. It did not matter to him that we were off beat, or off key, or probably both. His heart was made light just knowing that there we were, sitting, and singing Gurbani.

And when we grew a little older still, and learned to read Paath, most of us spent time learning from him, bringing our seynchis with us during our holidays and sitting with him while we read, and he corrected.

Baani was his anchor, the centre of his being, and growing up in Ulu Yam means it has also become a part of ours.

They say this is the age of kal, of darkness. And it is the light of the Guru that will carry us across.

This we know; that in our family, Guru gave His light to our grandfather, who held it, and planted a wick in each of our hearts, that Guru’s jyot may always shine our path.

Just as we are blessed to be born in the house of Nanak, we are doubly blessed to be born into our gentle Nanaji’s home. It is not possible to not love him, which we did, and do, very much. And at the same time we were afraid, not of him, but of disappointing him. When he would ask: did you read your Paath today, we knew that it was not us he was judging, but himself – he wanted to know if he had been able to pass on that love for Gurbani to us.

Each Shabad, each Ang, each Baani that he has invested in us, we hope to nurture and let bloom, that the seeds of our flowers will go on to bloom in our children’s gardens, that they too may know him as we do.

To end, we offer a humble prayer. Dearest Guru, please hold near, our darling dear. We know he has journeyed to You, but still, his absence leaves a shadow in our hearts, one that we hope to illuminate with the very light that he planted in us – the light of Your Naam. On days that we forget, help us remember all that we have learnt from him: kindness, humility, grace, and above all, love, love, love, and only love, for You.

Thank you for listening.


P/s: Hargobind and Manpreet, thank you for doing this together. Happy tears now :) xx

Sunday, 12 August 2012

In memoriam.

It should have been a Sunday like any other.

Rising that morning, the joyful chaos in their homes as they prepared for Gurdwara. They would have stretched out their turbans, ironed their dupattas, braided their daughters' hair, tied colourful patkas on their sons' heads.

Got into their cars, checked their rear view mirrors, pulled out of their driveways.

Arrived at their Gurdwara, slipped off their shoes. Maybe there was a cup of cha before they walked in. Maybe they went straight into Guru's Darbar.

And suddenly, this was not a Sunday like any other.

Suddenly there was a man with a gun; and neither the man, nor the gun, discriminated one life from the next, taking lives at random. Blinded by hatred and discontent, this man could not see that here was a sanggat, a congregation, gathered in peace, to worship the One that holds all of us, including this man with a gun.

I am a believer of will; my own, and that of God's. But there are times, like these, when the ways of the world and its maker are beyond my understanding.

I think of Satwant Singh Kaleka, and how he reminds me of the many Uncle Jis surrounding my life. Uncle Jis that I see on motorbikes around Kuala Lumpur, that pop by the Gurdwara before heading to work in the mornings, that sit in coffee shops sipping teh tarik, that pool together to make the langgar for the weekly hospital visit. To think that one of these Uncle Jis confronted this man with a gun to protect his wider family. That it was instinctive.

Is it possible to thank such a man? And Lt Brian Murphy? We try. We write articles, we 'like' a Facebook page, we hold candle vigils. There is a simple beauty in these small ways, to show them and their loved ones that we have carved a place in our hearts for them.

And what now? What links do we draw from this?

Gun control? Random act of violence? The right to pray in peace?

Many have written about this incident (incident? Help me with a better word here, please). I have cried over the words of Valerie Kaur and other journalists, writers, bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers, saying that today, we are all American Sikhs. Those bullets did not just pierce the bodies of an innocent Six, they pierced all of us who believe that first, before culture, race, religion, or nationality, first, we are human.

Every Sikh prayer ends with these words: "Sarbat da Bhala". Poorly translated, they mean well wishes and goodness for all.

These words has been very difficult for me since Oak Creek. I come to these words at the end of my prayer, and I struggle.

For it is difficult to include this man with a gun in my prayers. It is difficult to pray for the peace of his soul, and for the peace of the souls of others who share his cold intentions. It is difficult to place them on the same plane as bringers of peace and hope.

And yet our prayer asks it of us. It is a full circle; for it reminds us at the end, what it says in the beginning.


God and me, me and God, are one. You and me, me and you, are one.

It is always the simplest message that is the hardest to live by.

For now, I know that we are together in praying for the peace of the innocent Six, and those who hold them dear. That those traumatised by injury or experience heal from their ordeal.

As for the 7th, our prayers will take some time. Forgive us, for our wounds are still raw from your bullets, and our eyes sore from tears.

Friday, 10 August 2012

We've got our Gold, thank you very much.

It’s Olympic season, and it just seems to be the time to talk about national pride.

Malaysia is my home; indeed it is where my family tree took root almost a hundred years ago, and where we continue to live and grow to this day. That is enough reason for us to love it as our own, and to come home to it over and over again.

Saying that, my sense of national pride is fluid – its comes and goes (oh alright, let's be honest; it 'goes' more than it 'comes'!), swayed this way or the other, depending on either the latest national policy (it seems our soil is fertile enough for new policies to be born at breakneck speed), contact with socially unacceptable behaviour (hold the door open already, use your indicator already, throw it in the bin already, join the queue already, it’s a long list, yes), the English-Malay debate (someone just seems to be flipping a coin with that one), and the media’s (mis)representation of the rallies for clean elections (no parentheses should be required here – we are all too familiar with this one).

But there are some days, some days.

Badminton days, mostly.

I would like to say that the children of Malaysia are given badminton racquets along with their pacifiers, or that their cribs are laced with badminton nets – but that would be a bit of an exaggeration. A more honest comparison would be to say it is what rugby is to the Kiwis, baseball to the Americans, cricket to the Indians, and football to… well… a lot of the world these days! 

My brother and I, like most other children in our neighbourhood, spent almost every childhood evening smashing shuttles over the gate (our net equivalent) at our Mamma. As a family we huddle in front of the TV during the Thomas Cup, at the edge of our seats, in nail-biting tension. We exchange insults with our loving Indonesian helpers whenever our nations meet on the court. We continue to stay glued, as we battle our greatest others – Denmark, Indonesia, and of late, China. 

Through all the medals (or lack thereof), the annoying commentators, the pumping fists of victory, the awful shuttling,  the Anak-anak Sidek comics – we remain glued. SMASH! is just another word in our local tongue.

If you ask me about who plays, who wins, and the final scores, I will scrunch up my face and say: I have no idea. The passion is born and lives in the few minutes of a game, the exhilaration (or disappointment, as it may) may stick around for longer. 

You see, for me it is not about who, or when, or by how much. It is the flame of the moment; a moment of heartfelt Malaysianness. In that moment, we are no longer the Alis, Balas and Chongs of our primary school textbooks; we are Malaysians. And in that moment, it matters not whose fingers grip the racket; for our eyes are fixed on the flag that is printed on the player's shirt.

So it would be pretty accurate to say that my sense of national pride is heavily concentrated in a court measuring 20’ x 44’.

I am irrational in these moments. It is not about who the better player is, don’t be silly. Only one team deserves to win when we play: well, ours, of course. We may be brilliant, or utterly rubbish. This game is ours, you blasted (insert name of opposing team here).


Enter Lee Chong Wei. A hero in every Malaysian heart, but plagued with his own demons of late. The most painful (for him, anyway) being the final Olympic singles match just Sunday gone. 

Due to unavoidable circumstances (or poor planning, have your pick), I was travelling during the time of the match (how will I ever forgive myself), AND was additionally crippled with remaining battery power of 8% on my phone. My wonderful girlfriends kept me updated and the phone survived through the first set, which we won, and died shortly after. The agony I went through for the rest of the journey, I will not attempt to describe. I arrived home just in time to watch the other guy receive the gold medal.

Now I too had joined many other Malaysians and joked about a public holiday (which we would have expected had we won our first ever gold in the Olympics), and free ice-cream (which Baskin Robbins pledged to us). But that was all pre-match fun. The rules change once the first shuttle is delivered – the jokes end and the irrationality takes over. 

He had tears in his eyes when he lost the match, and this Malaysian nation of mine cried with him. I cannot speak for my entire country – I do not know what their tears represented. But this is true of my tears, and of the tears of my loved ones.

We didn't cry with him, over a lost medal. Rather we cried for him, as a Malaysian who felt that he had his nation's hopes on his shoulders; a nation he thought had let down.

It was this great dream of his, to have Negaraku echo through the walls of Wembley. It was this great dream of his, to bring a gold medal home to us. And when he didn't, he felt that he owed us an apology.

Well let me tell you this, mister. Take your apology back, we don’t want it. And this medal you speak of, well we don’t want that either. We will take the one you have brought home any day, because it comes with the one thing that seems to have unified this country much, much more than any form of 1Malaysia propaganda – you.

All we see is gold.
Watch this videoespecially from 3.42 onwards.

Bursting pride – that is what we feel towards you, Lee Chong Wei. Chest-expanding, rib-popping, heart-soaring, pride. This ignition of spirit is a philosopher’s stone of sorts - it takes the silver you hold, and turns it into gold.

I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed with a huge smile. Every post and comment (bar those from a few gits who have been shortlisted for ‘unfriending’ – I warned you of my irrationality) congratulated you and showered you with support. They say it was as if you played to a home crowd; and what greater salute is there when the Games take place so, so far away from home?

Welcome home, fellow Malaysian. I hope you have your ears open, for there is this cheer so loud, it drowns the voices of the 1 billion from further east, and it is for you.

You are our gold, LCW, and we need no other medal.