Saturday, November 17, 2012


It doesn't seem that many years ago, more like only three or four at most. And they say time heals and it does. But sometimes the memories come stealing back.

I remember that grim, silent, early morning ride down the twisting Durtlang road from the hospital. On the left, the high, looming rock walls, on the right the steep, perilous cliffs. The biting cold of a dark mid-November pre-dawn. In the open jeep, or was it a Gypsy, running less than twenty metres before us, I can still see the white shroud that covered your still, lifeless form. I remember silently wishing the ride would last forever. I didn't want to reach our home. I didn't want to see any mourners. I didn't want to have to deal with your death, your funeral. I only wanted that ride to go on and on and on, never going anywhere, never reaching anywhere.

M. today remembered your anniversary by visiting the orphanage again and taking them a bagful of the toiletries she'd coaxed them to admit they badly needed. Your sister accompanied her. She's getting old too, your sister, defeated by her own griefs and bereavements. We all still need you so much, Mum. And we all deal with your absence in our own ways. 

But there's not a lot we can do when you're always a step ahead of us, always out of grasp, always out of reach.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

Once upon a long ago, I used to wish my real-time friends and acquaintances were online. I'd see youngsters social networking with each other and wish I could do the same with my peers. Sure, the young people were friendly and helpful and never made me feel excluded.  But there were times upon times when I longed for a little peer to peer online nostalgia time-out. My contemporaries however were least bothered about toeing the techno line.

Until recently when a handful of colleagues finally breached the Facebook divide. And sadly, I have to admit the old cliche is true: Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it. Having my old friends and workmates finally available online isn't at all what I'd once fondly cracked it out to be. Reason: we're just not on the same wavelength online. I probably come off sounding like a nasty diva but their rookie bumbling around blows my stress levels sky high. It's annoying and aggravating when they discuss my statuses at work, do steals on my friends or make clumsy newbie moves. One even "shared" a photo album with single shots of yours truly (something I don't often care to post online). I had to quickly text her that sharing entire albums was a big no-no. She apologized profusely and said she'd "hide or unshare it right away." Right away took some time but after a couple of days, phew, my album no longer featured on her timeline.

Sure, I know being new to anything, much less the mad, mad world of social networking, is tough nuts. But I've been there, done that, sport a few scars, and it's like I'm now on level 12 and way, way past level 1. Maybe soon the newbies will catch up and we will all coexist as happily online as off. But for now, excuse me while I tear my hair and climb the walls, grrrrrr.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Where Glam Goes

October already. My blog posts have become so sporadic, I surprise even myself.  It's partly because I've gotten so lazy about writing anything lengthy. Maybe I should just do extra-short posts so this place doesn't mildew too much.

Anyway, September was a busy month. The last couple of weeks were specially hectic with the annual inter-college sports which was uncutely followed right away by Internal tests. I don't know what the power-that-be was thinking when he decided on that particular pattern of action. Should've been the other way round definitely. Anyway, the whole sports shebang was great fun and we won. Again, ting! 

Back at work on Tuesday (Monday being a holiday to celebrate our championship), some of the kids who had been on the college teams came milling around the teachers' room to hand in slightly overdue home assignments. And looking at some of them, it struck me how different they seemed. In the courts and stadiums, fitted out in sporting gear, they had been all enviable, confident strut - steady eyed, cool, calm, collected, moving around with easy grace and self-assurance in the way that only sports people can, and displaying skill, tact and aggro with perfect timing. But out of their kits and off court in the teachers' common room, they looked bewilderingly out of sorts: gawky, gauche, tentative - just your regular awkward teenager with all the uncoordinated movements and fractured speech. I tried to put one at ease by asking what his height was and wondered if he was the tallest student we had in college - he'd been one of the volleyball players, and he nervously replied 6'1". Other teachers asked him other things but he didn't relax much. It was then I realised how different we all are when in our element and out of it. In the one, we ooze savvy, poise and confidence; in the other, all the glam just vanishes right back under our skins. Same persons, different people.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just an old song

Through most of last week, for no apparent reason, I listened to a lot of 70s music on youtube. Or should that read watched music on youtube.  Videos of songs that I had grown up on, but was only really properly seeing, in many cases for the first time ever, people whose familiar voices I'd often heard on the radio or on music cassettes. Now I don't know if it's just me and if it's because I'm no singer or am particularly musical but I tend to never really pay much attention to song lyrics. I just catch bits and pieces and sing those or just vaguely hum along and then sing out the instrumental solo bits. This is why last week when I watched an old song that I'd played often without really noting any of the lyrics, it brought up something I had long, long forgotten.

The song was Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and it turned out to be a song about an incident I had read about and seen pictures of in Life magazine years ago. On May 4th 1970 in Ohio, America, there had been a huge stand-off between students of Kent State University protesting against the Vietnam war and the government, which ended with soldiers shooting the unarmed college students, leaving 4 dead and several wounded. Of course, being on the other side of the world at a time when there was yet none of the instant media we have today, I think I got to see this issue of Life only around 1975/6. My sister and I were full of childish shock and fascination by the pictures (and Life carried only really great pictures) and I remember we felt especially sad for one of the victims who seemed particularly good-looking. The magazine with all the pictures was around for a while but over time, it disappeared, as did my memories of it. Until last week. 

What an amazing invention the Internet is, I keep thinking as I follow links around of the story. It had apparently been a huge, traumatic moment in the nation's history. Plenty of books have been written on it, there are lots of videos online with people still arguing bitterly over it, lots of articles, blogs et al. How could a government kill its young? How could it just shoot into a crowd of unarmed students? As a teacher, I know students, especially collegiate-aged ones, can be infuriatingly difficult to deal with. Late teens, early twenties. They're not so young and impressionable anymore as school children, they've read a bit more, know a bit more but they're not quite adults either and can be impossibly idealistic and stubborn. A real force to reckon with. Case in point, the student movement of South Korea in the '80s. But to shoot into a crowd of your own young? When the '89 Tiananmen Square massacre took place in Beijing, I had long forgotten the Life pictures but I wonder now as I write this, what people then who remembered the Kent State shootings had to say about it.  I remember my mother trying to rationalize the Tiananmen incident by attributing it to the Malthusian theory which was totally new to us and I remember us scolding Mum for being so callous. What a pity we had all forgotten about the Life/KSU incident then. I wonder what my mother would've made of it. For now, I'm still following around and reading up on this story that was evoked by an old song. 

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We're finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When we don't know what we have: a Mother's Day spesh

Cameo in church today: a pretty little girl about 5 or 6, sleeveless off-white shift dress, long slim arms indicative of a growing child. She comes running in happily to check in with her mother after the children's Sunday school lessons are over, and immediately wants to run back to her friends outside. The mother catches her by the arms and lovingly brushes back her little girl's hair from her face, softly speaking to her in low undertones. The little girl nods, hurriedly, not really looking back at her mother, all attention outside. The mother continues to hold onto the child's arm, still gently fingerbrushing her hair and continuing to say something. The girl nods again, distractedly, straining to get away. The mother still doesn't let go and the girl nods once more and says something, glancing for a second at her mother. The mother seems satisfied and releases the child who scampers off joyfully towards the big doors outside.

Fast-forward 50 years later: the child is a grown woman watching on some life-sized projector screen a video of the little interchange with her mother today. And it strikes me, with my experience of no longer having a mother around, what she'd give to have not struggled to pull away and instead snuggled happily and contentedly in her mother's loving arms.

Age 10: I love you, Mum!
Age 14: My Mum is so annoying!
Age 18: I wanna leave this house!
Age 25: Mum, you were right..
Age 30: Mum, forgive me?
Age 50: I don’t wanna lose my Mum!
Age 70: Mum, I love you so much.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Comes a Time

It's been creeping up on me for a while and I finally have to admit defeat - I've lost the art of reading. Maybe it's the process of getting older and not having as much time as I once did. But it's more probably the other entertainment available factor - computers, Internet, TV, mobile phones, digital cameras, et al.  I've lost count of all the books I bought with the best of intentions but only read a few pages of and ditched all forlorn on their dusty shelves. 

And it's not just books but magazines as well, some just silly magazines with more pictures than texts. What's finally brought up the white flag is that just last Wednesday I'd borrowed three Archie comics from my niece that I'd have finished off in a day a few years ago. I only managed to get done with one today. 

I hang my head in shame.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Of Hosannas and Choirs and a Sneaky Little Secret

When you wake up in the morning to the sounds of drumbeats and children singing Hosannas, you know it's Palm Sunday and that the children are out on the streets with their Sunday School teachers, waving palm fronds and commemorating Mark 11. Always a feel-good experience.

It's also a reminder that the Easter weekend is coming up. A couple of weeks before Christmas last year, the local Baptist congregation hurriedly moved just a stone's throw away from our house into the Church they'd been working on  all year. All still a little makeshift but the walls were in place and they wanted a place of their own before Christmas. Now what I love most about having a Church just close by are the choir rehearsals. Mizos are good choral singers and the Baptist congregation, I've always thought, are better singers than my much larger Presbyterian congregation, their singing usually rousing and animated. Today they were practising Good Friday and Easter songs. 

Hnawl leh phatsan ni mah se, 
Tihduhdah, khengbeh tuarin, 
Thlan ata a tho leh ta 
A hmelma a hneh ta...

I sometimes wonder if choir members at practice are aware of the effect they have on people overhearing them. I say this because I remember several years ago when my sister was in hospital with her broken spinal cord, I had happened to overhear our Church choir rehearsing. It was a terrible time and heavily taxing, both emotionally and physically, and I don't even want to go into any details about it now. But there I was one evening, at dusk, walking home to enjoy a night's break away from hospital duty, and in the bustle of evening traffic and people hurrying to get home, I could hear the choir singing beautifully and freely in the way that is only possible in an empty place where there is less stress on them to perform well. I don't recall the song or any of the lyrics but I remember feeling this rush of immense peace and comfort as I walked by, and I remember saying a quick prayer of thanks for the choir and the blessing they had unknowingly brought on a passing heavy heart.

~ ~ ~

A quick change of subject, much as I dislike long blog posts, this is something that I just had to share. It's actually a kind of confidential thing from an exam and I'm crossing fingers and toes that I don't get into trouble over it.  Part of an OMR sheet where the candidate was supposed to darken the letters of his/her name in sequence. Just priceless but shhhhhhh :D

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Older and wiser, you think?

What is it with the generation gap thing? Why do we so often blithely assume that just because someone's a little younger/older than we are, they don't have the same feelings we do? Here's something I wrote late last month at a time when I was badly in need of a little comfort. And which by the way, never came.

Just because I'm older
doesn't mean I don't have feelings
that I don't hurt
that I don't ache
that I don't feel confused and overwhelmed 
by forces beyond my control
just as you do.

I'm just as human as you are
just as vulnerable
just as open to pain
just as much in need of a caring word
when life hurts.

I may be older but not any wiser
than you are.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Last Farewell

Yesterday at roughly the time as I write this, 4pm, we said goodbye to the last of our long line of dogs. Boom Boom,  aged 15, which in human years would be roughly 105, finally joined his siblings and assorted familia on the other side. 

The entire clan descended from a little Chihuahua type Cindy (I say type because she looked exactly like one though she wasn't a pure breed) who came to us in 1984 from Pu Dunglena of Laipuitlang who gifted her to my mother. She was the tiniest little thing and we adored and spoiled her rotten to the point that she became notorious in the neighbourhood as a tiny terroriser of visitors. Although she died only aged 9 as a victim of food poisoning from a bone she dug up in the garden, she spawned a hardy, healthy breed who were to stretch on for almost 28 years. Potty,  Nauteii,  Benjy, Tim Tim, Snowball, Gorby, Teii, Patea, Nupuii, Sentea, Boom Boom, Totie, Mami, Pom Pom. In between, there were many puppies whose names I cannot remember because they didn't live long enough to develop their own personalities.

Boom Boom outlived them all. He had always been lean and wiry and had an incredibly resilient constitution. I don't recall ever having to take him to the vety hospital or calling the vet for him until the last couple of years when he fell sick a couple of times. 

He lived in my sister's P's room and provided her close companionship specially after her especial pet Mami died at the end of 2008. Last August or September, he fell so sick we thought he was going to die but somehow he recovered and went back to being his old self. But at such a ripe old age, he got slower, his teeth fell out, leaked pee as he walked and his hearing became very bad. Around the beginning of December, as we were busy getting a false ceiling put in, he began to lose interest in food and couldn't jump down from my sister's bed anymore. A week or so later, he couldn't get down from the chairs either. In the days following Christmas, his eyes became teary and on New Year's day, he began bumping into things and we finally called the vet who thought he might have corneal ulcer. He hoped for the best with a dose of antibiotics and said eye drops might help if the pupils hadn't been infected but he did admit that Boom had a lot of complications, his advanced age being not the least of them.

But Boom Boom didn't improve. Instead he completely stopped eating and drinking water and became steadily weaker. He would stagger around bumping into the furniture, and stand nose pressed to the wall in defeat or slump gradually to the floor. By Tuesday, he also began having pain and kept yelping weakly. We didn't get much sleep that night. The next morning we made the painful decision to put him down. When the vet's assistant arrived at 4, he was already too far gone to put up any resistance. A shot in the vein and he was gone.

What feels awful now is that my sister, a paraplegic shut-in, has no little ones to share her room with. Perhaps someday she might want to take in a dog again but right now, she says she doesn't want another. My youngest sister M's pet Kuri is still around, a roll of fat and fur, but she originates from another breed. With Boom Boom, an entire family line has come to an end. For years, the house was always filled with dogs shedding fur all over the place and I often longed for a spanking clean house where you didn't have to keep brushing off fur from your clothes. Now it looks like we're finally going to have that neat, pretty much fur-less house, but the emptiness in the house echoes unbearably.


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

And here we go again

A brand new year, whoop de doo. To be honest, I'm completely uninspired. No grandiose thoughts, no highfalutin words. I admit I have writer's block so I'll just post this inspired little quote which I think scores incredibly high on the reality check factor scale.

Happy New Year by the way.