Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rediscovering the traditional Malaysian Indian kitchen


I love this artwork (acrylic on canvas) by Jayashree Ramasamy @Jay, who has captured the mood of the traditional Malaysian Indian kitchen. Jay recalls her grandmother preparing meals for the family in a room which was equipped with ancestral cooking utensils and that was the inspiration for this painting.

For more of Jay's creations head for the National Art Gallery where 'The Story Telling' exhibition is now being held (April 14 to May 15, 2011).  'The Story Telling' is a group exhibition showcasing the creations of four emerging artists including Jay from the Symbols Art Club. The other three artists are Kathiravan Subramaniam, Rohini Indran and Mohana Kumara Velu @ Mona Kv.

Each work of art is a story that the artist tells about his or her personal experiences and observations of daily life. The launch this afternoon was in conjunction with the Tamil New Year today.

'Food is Served' by Kathiravan Subramaniam. The rationale: 'We may have differences, but we are one when it comes to food. Food is served. Enjoy!'

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Guest Post: Juana Jaafar's impassioned plea

Juana Jaafar
Enough is enough: An appeal to Malaysians

By Juana Jaafar

I write this as a truly distressed young Malaysian.

The state of the country’s political sphere has reached the pinnacle of filth. Sadly, politics in Malaysia today envelopes almost every aspect of our daily lives -- which means there is no way any informed person could run away from the smut that oils this country’s politics. For a long time I thought I had grown immune to political sex scandals after years of "exposés" being shoved down my throat by the media. Well, I’ve been proven wrong.

As a teenager flipping through newspapers for school assignments I learnt a lot about homosexual sex and pedophilia. I was exposed to information far more than what my parents would want me to know at that age, and certainly nothing they would otherwise like to discuss with me. But newspapers were, at least then, still regarded as a source of knowledge and my parents could not stop me from browsing.

I pray Malaysian parents know better today.

As a fresh graduate and through my working life, one political sex scandal after another would surface in my life, as they continue to do so today. But this time it’s different. When revelations of the latest political sex scandal appeared on my Twitter feed, I found myself feeling nauseous. I was so disgusted I literally ran into the shower and scrubbed my skin with the coarsest sponge I could find.

The smut that is our country’s politics did not just intrude into our homes via mass media and robbed us of our collective decency, but is now all over our very existence. The filth lingers on our news feed for days and weeks as political actors continue to make statements about it. And God forbid the matter is taken to court, or Parliament, we will be flushed with pornographic details for months and years to come.

Malaysia’s media too seems to have acquired a thirst for these political sex scandals, with editors playing active roles in mediating "elite" screening sessions. As media practitioners they race against each other to see who can get filthy details out to the public first. And for as long as scum political actors are willing to provide scoops, the media will oblige to publish their "exclusive".

Malaysia’s media, both traditional and new, are just as morally bankrupt and complicit in the rapid degeneration of our nation, as the filthy political actors behind these sex scandals.

And what of bloggers, the new "independent" and uncensored voice of Malaysia’s conscience? Those self-proclaimed patriots whose jihad is to save Malaysia from immoral leaders; how do they counter this process of decay and help restore our collective decency? To my horror, their noble contribution to the nation is to viral and direct the very people they want to save straight to the smut material itself.

I ask myself, what exactly then are these bloggers saving Malaysia from?

What’s worse is that regular Malaysians actually validate and respond to these filthy exposés by making judgement on the quality of the material, the brilliance or stupidity of the political strategy behind the scandal, and of course the eventual and compulsory name-calling between grassroots political supporters. And if the nature of history is to repeat itself, this toxic exchange on the internet will continue until yet another political sex scandal surfaces.

On this matter, I call on my contemporaries to defeat history.

And I call on Malaysia’s women to take the lead. Political actors and agents who perpetuate the mass distribution of this filth are generally not from among the country’s women. And yet women make up for at least 50 per cent of the audience who are exposed to it. Furthermore, women are also often the "collateral damage" in these exposés as their identities are uncovered and degrading comments are made about them in passing.

I beg of you, my fellow Malaysians regardless of your political affiliation, to please stop making comments on social media, blogs or online news portals featuring updates about these scandals. Your comments will only encourage political actors to source for new smut materials, and "news" outlets would strive to outdo each other in their coverage of these revelations.

Let’s put a stop to this. Enough is enough.

Juana Jaafar describes herself as a regular Malaysian. See also A hero's welcome.

Finding inspiration in doing

One step at a time. Photo courtesy of NST Image Bank.

For years Ana was haunted by fear and self-doubt. "I am a mediocre writer," was a familiar refrain.

She was also constantly afraid: of the dark, offending people and making mistakes.

Ana and I were colleagues and we often shared our anxieties.

At the end of each session we would feel better about ourselves until the next round of attack. The bonding meetings stopped when Ana left Malaysia for Canada where she found her niche in publishing. Actually, Ana is the complete opposite of the negative profile described above. She is a talented writer and is continually exploring opportunities to improve herself.

Sometimes I wonder if her self-deprecating demeanour is a mask she puts on to avoid appearing too confident. Maybe it is her attempt at humility. We never got to discussing that aspect of her character.

My thoughts turn to Ana whenever self-doubt creeps up on me and the words of encouragement we say to each other. She has a mentor whom she often consults whenever she feels this way.

He tells her to "just do it" when she finds an assignment too challenging. Do not worry about the outcome, he counsels. One step at a time. And this method has allowed the award-winning journalist to complete all her projects successfully.

What I like about the "just do it" rule is that it does not allow me to dwell on results. The job becomes possible when it is broken into manageable components.

For a journalist or writer "just do it" means putting pen to paper no matter how lame the ideas may seem. Keep at it and the thoughts will soon flow. Will your piece of writing make people sit up and change their lives?

Maybe it will, maybe it will not. But that is not the point and it should not be your goal, says Ana's mentor. "Just do it" is also a way around the issue of looking for inspiration, a point many competent writers understand.

"Achieving inspiration means forgetting about it completely," writes James Chartrand. "Instead of seeking it out, we need to disconnect from the quest and sever our continual self-hounding to find the right answer, the ultimate story and the perfect angle."

He suggests allowing inspiration to "sneak up on its own until it leaps out in a sudden burst of idea". That sounds pretty much like the advice offered by Ana's mentor.