Hope and the outcome: Post GE14 reaction

Image source: The Coverage

I am just an ordinary Malaysian, but I am certainly proud to be one at this particular point in history.

Just days ago, our entire nation went to the polls to determine who will govern our country for the next 5 years. It had been such a highly anticipated event that it feels so surreal that it is now all over.

I am not one to write about anything even remotely related to politics, but this election season was truly an emotional and exciting one. So I am not going to pass up a chance to pen down something about it, although this is more of a personal tale and nothing more.

To be honest, having grown up in Malaysia, I had kind of reached a point of disillusionment and cynicism about the ways things are in my homeland. In recent years, things have really gotten from bad to worse on so many fronts. To me, it felt like it had reached a point where it would only just continue to go downhill from here onwards.

Over the years, I saw so many people I know migrating overseas or at least attempting to do so. Not many are proud of the country nor do they see any sort of great future to be savoured by staying here. Government policies and incentives seem to favour luring Malaysians who were overseas back home to contribute to the economy. Nobody seemed to think of rewarding those who continued to stay here. To someone like me who had never left, it felt like we were being unappreciated.

Racial and religion based politics were everywhere. Although my own friends and family were never judgmental or prejudiced in their dealings with me, there was an overarching feeling of disunity that seemed to always linger in the background. Back when I was a child, it felt a whole lot more harmonious living in a multi-racial society, and it was something that we were brought up to be proud of, for the reason that it set us apart from other nations and made us diverse and adaptable as a world citizen. But the older I got as an adult, it seemed like the very foundations we had been taught as children was being undone.

Scandal after scandal was reported in the news, and it felt like the instances of corruption would never end. This not just being within government related transactions, but across all economic sectors too. So many stories, too many unhappy endings.

There was very little faith in the public education system , and most families who could afford it would rather send their children off to study in private institutions, particularly for higher education. I am among those who graduated from a private foreign university. It was insanely expensive, but my parents believed it would be better for me to study there than at a local university.

Public safety has been a growing concern, and the general perception these days is that our streets are not safe at all. You’re not safe in your car. You’re not safe outside of your car. Even when it was a reasonable distance that you could get to by walking, I’d discourage my loved ones from doing so because so much can happen while you are out on foot. We witness robberies and burglaries in the middle of the night. A neighbour of ours was once held at knife point just outside her house while I was at home next door, unaware. I recall a conversation I had with a complete stranger on a flight back to Malaysia. He was a foreigner and was surprised to hear that in Malaysia, it’s not safe to leave your bags on the front passenger seat of the car while you are driving (robbers would smash your window to grab your belongings when your vehicle is stationary at a traffic light).

Back in the days when I was a reporter, I also had to write several news features on very grim issues such as deaths in police custody, reform of the electoral process and urban poverty. It would have likely driven me to depression if it had continued long term (the publication I worked for at that time eventually closed down).

I recall a conversation I had with a senior colleague once, on the issue of gifts and bribery. Although I was never really in the line of fire (I never did newsdesk duty except on tech stories, which were mostly not as controversial or high profile as other kinds of breaking news), I was made to understand that it was such a commonplace practice and done very openly. Money would be slipped in as part of the press kit. People would often ask to vet through drafts of a story before it got published (for which I personally had several bad experiences with regards to). Impartiality was almost virtually impossible, especially in the mainstream media.

On matters closer to home, our household income is barely enough to get by every month, especially since we had a child and I quit full time employment. We are a middle income family, but yet we are not even able to have surplus to set aside for savings. The outlook for future household expenditure did not look like it would get any better in the future.

Being a Christian also, things also felt rather bleak because Christians were often the target of divisive arguments and political agenda. We are taught as believers to expect persecution in the world because of our faith, but there are days that it felt really unfair and sad to see other fellow Christians targeted for no good reason.

These are just some of the issues I had faced as a Malaysian in recent times. And the sentiments they brought about stayed with me as I braced myself to cast my vote in our country’s 14th General Elections.

In fact, just thinking of polling day itself brought anxieties of its own. So much precautionary information was being circulated online. It was helpful, of course, but it was worrying nonetheless. We were told time and again that certain parties would be up to dirty tricks, hence we had to be careful about the way events unfolded as we cast our votes.

Make sure certain polling clerks don’t have writing instruments and voice it out if they do and are seen writing things down. Pay attention to your ballot papers. Do they have smudges, marks that shouldn’t be there? Is there a stamp at the corner of the paper? Ensure that the candidate names and parties are correct. Do everything you can so yours will not become a spoiled vote. There are cheaters out there.

As my husband aptly pointed out on that day, these are not things we should have to worry about as voters. But in Malaysia, it is of concern.

So I went to vote on 9th May feeling extremely sombre and devoid of all hope. I didn’t really believe what I did would make a difference. I dared not dream of change or anything promising coming out of the elections. To be honest, I felt defeated. Like it didn’t matter what we did, because it would not alter the outcome.

But somehow, between the time that I had dropped my ballot papers into their respective boxes and the moment the final results were announced, I got caught up in the excitement of the moment and the promising turn of events that followed one after another.

It was breathtaking and nothing short of a miracle. It was hilarious and strangely comforting too, seeing the Prime Minister we grew up with back at the helm. And satisfying to have that glimmer of hope again, that chance that justice will finally be served and past wrongs might actually be made right at last.

I am glad I stayed in Malaysia and grateful that I could witness this momentous occasion that will certainly be a highlight in the history books that are to be written about our beloved nation. I am also thankful for all our local warriors, who in one arena or another paved the way for the change we experienced in GE14.

Life hasn’t always been kind to us over here. But there is hope. As I once used to profess, while we live, there is yet hope.

I look forward to a better Malaysia moving forward.

A slice of Pi

Richard Parker & Piscene Molitor Patel (aka Pi)
What would you do if you were lost at sea?

In the past week, Deric and I went to catch the movie Life of Pi at GSC, thanks to some free tickets I received at work.

I was rather keen to see for myself how good the movie was as my parents – who very seldom make trips to the cinema for even the most raved about movies – surprised me when they informed me that they had in fact gone to see this one and had really liked it.

Here are some of my own thoughts and opinions on this movie:

Prior perception 

Before I had actually watched the movie, my expectations were that it would of an inspirational nature and that it would be in a format similar to that of Forrest Gump or Big Fish. I also knew that it was based on a book which has been in print for a number of years. (However, I do regret to say that I have yet to actually read the book for myself). I had also seen the trailer while at the cinema in months past, and what I do remember is scenes of epic proportions and glimpses of a tiger.

Overall impressions

I’m no expert in film, but I what I can say is that the depiction of Pi’s story was vivid and quite captivating. Even if you had no prior interest in a place called Pondicherry or the kind of people that came out of it, you would find yourself intrigued enough to want to know more about it all as you watch this movie.

The wide range of colours and themes exhibited in this film is also interesting, I find. There are a good number of memorable scenes which are distinct enough to be embedded in my memory for the longer term.

Besides that, natural phenomena which were depicted on the screen felt real enough to the point I felt I might drown soon into the depths had the monkey, zebra or even Pi himself kicked me off the boat.

Plot dissection

To be fair, I really ought to read the book before commenting on the movie plot. But on the basis of going in blind, I’d say it was a good story which raises the question: What would I do if I were in his shoes?

I don’t often cry while at the movies, but I did shed a tear or two for this one. The character of Pi was believable and very much down-to-earth that I imagine most members of the audience would likely identify with some of the traits that Pi had: a searching soul, an inquisitive mind, a resilient spirit, a heart anchored by home.

By virtue of this being a film, I guess it is somewhat limited in its ability to fully convey the feelings and thoughts of Pi as he undergoes the experience of being lost at sea. I expect the book may do a much better job with this, since so much more can be said in printed words than can be shown visually through the actions of Pi. That being said, having Pi read entries from his handwritten diary and listening to him narrate the rationale behind his actions and plans does help to give the audience some insight into what internal emotional battle he is waging.

Personally, I half expected some form of magic to permeate through the plot. For instance, I thought Richard Parker might actually be able to speak and reason with Pi while they were out at sea, and that in some manner, they would form a much more meaningful friendship than what can be typically expected between a man and a beast.

I also thought the island on which Pi had a brief stay on might actually give him an opportunity to meet someone else – perhaps of a divine nature – that could help him make sense of the tragedy that had plagued his life.

Another thing about the overall story line is that I felt it did not adequately resolve Pi’s thoughts on God and religion. I do understand that this is a sensitive topic to broach, but since it had been already present in the story, I would have thought I would be able to come away from the movie with some heightened awareness of God or some controversy to debate over with Deric, but none actually came to mind.

The final scene in which Pi asks the novelist which of the two versions of his tale at sea did he believe is nonetheless poignant. However, I am still left wondering what Pi meant when he responded, “And so it is with God” when the novelist chose the version with the tiger (aka Richard Parker).

I would have also liked to know more about the relationship between Pi and his brother, Ravi or even between Pi and his father, which was briefly developed but to me, not fully explored.

Another interesting angle would be how the story had impacted the life of the novelist after he had heard the tale from Pi. The movie ends as Pi introduces the novelist to his family, but it does leave me wondering what will happen next.

Lessons learnt

I find it quite thought provoking that Pi did not abandon his faith in God throughout his ordeal at sea. Even at his lowest point, he cries out, “I surrender”. Perhaps, as a Christian, these sort of reactions pull at our heartstrings, because deep inside, we know that this is how God would have us respond in our moments of crisis. I wonder what my reaction would have been if I should lose my entire family and life as I know it now in the blink of an eye, the way Pi had.

Turning my attention to the tiger, I’d say, there are most definitely ways to tame a tiger. Figuratively speaking, this could refer to any form of suffering or unwanted circumstances faced in our lives. While its presence, like Richard Parker, may seem on the surface to be painful and undesirable, yet perhaps in our attempts to “tame” it (or rather, live with it) we may find that there are invaluable lessons that it may teach us in return. And maybe, it may someday disappear just as suddenly as it came, the way Richard Parker leapt into the forest and out of Pi’s sight once he had made it back to safe shores.

I find it interesting to note also that there were several other ways that Pi could have died besides being eaten by his beloved Richard Parker. According to an article entitled 10 Worst Ways to Diehe could have just as easily died from starving to death, dehydration, hypothermia or getting devoured by the hyena. But nothing killed him. Makes you wonder what God had in mind by keeping him alive. Sometimes when we want most to die, God seems to disallow it. There must be a reason. Something worth pondering about. 

The inquisitive and open attitude that Pi had towards religion and God and his eventual personal journey of discovery also brings to mind the fact that perhaps it’s okay to let people find their own way towards God. Yes, we have our successful methods and such, but if God is truly God, no matter which route a person may take, ultimately it should lead them to the same conclusion about Him.

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I’ve said quite a bit as it is. Perhaps this doesn’t really qualify as a good movie review, but I guess I just wanted to share how the movie had affected me. As an occasional poet, I generally like seeing the reactions of others towards a literary creation of mine and I presume film makers and artists would feel the same.

Well, I hope this benefits you readers out there. Do catch the movie, and see for yourself if it moves you in any way or if it triggers thoughts of God and how you may like to relate to Him.