My Valentine

"... Love suffers long and is kind;
Love does not envy;
Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
Does not behave rudely;
Does not seek its own;
Is not provoked, thinks no evil;
Does not rejoice in iniquity,
But rejoices in the truth;
Bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things,
Love never fails..."

2 days late for Valentine's Day, but never too late to live out.
Idealistic for some, realistic for me.
Poetic for some, hard true facts for me.
A task for some, a lifestyle for me.
A philosophy for some, inborn (written on my heart) in me.

For you...as best as I ever can.

CNY Spirit?

While it has always been so for the larger population, it has never been overly merry and noisy reunion dinners for me, nor was it ever millions of relatives to visit. Was never large red lanterns, hundreds of ringgit in ang pow collection, endless card games, reconnecting with ex-classmates and friends, firecrackers, " lou yee sang", no it was never ever any of these.

True, mine is more than a tad bit dull at times and I do compare and complain about it. Why is it that I have at recent years not been able to indulge myself or my family in any of this annual festive spirit? I do compare the amount of money collected in ang pows, the fun others have with their extended families and friends.

Deep inside I do still understand that despite the fact that my Chinese New Year is not what I idealistically envision it to be, what I do have are people who love me. Sometimes it is so easy to let dissatisfaction and bitterness reign that I overlook the fact that I have 2 loving parents and a supportive sister, who I know, will always there for me. Or even the countless number of friends I know I can always turn to, one or two who are and will always remain closer to my heart than any other human beings will ever get, among whom one even is seemingly God-sent!

Now I truly know what these festive seasons are really about, its when you really take time to reflect the love and blessings that God has showered so bountifully upon you, in the form of family, friends, loved ones. No longer will it be only about material stuff and fun for me or what I missed that others have. I see now that what is more lasting is the relationships one build up through everyday living and not just the ones during festive seasons.

Love trumps money.
Love trumps food.
Love trumps entertainment.
Love trumps everything.

I have love. What more can I ask for.


Joga Bonito

"Sleep, Eat, Drink, Live Football! "
Cliched as this is, millions subscribe to this.

"Football is an obsession, fanaticism even! "
Yes, another school of thought, I suppose.

What is so interesting about watching 21 grown men chasing a ball the size of a man's head up and down a field that's around 100m in length, or 2 grown men wearing gloves standing between 2 posts on either end of the field,half hoping that the ball never reaches them, or to see yet another 2 men running up and down the sidelines holding, each, a ridiculously brightly coloured flag? Why even bother seeing guys in short shorts and long socks, kicking, heading, chesting, and knocking the ball around with just about any part of the body except the hands and arms? Why are there stadiums filled to the brim and cable tv subcribers paying hundreds, thousands even, to shout and yell for "their team" who are paid millions to put on skin tight jersies and do just exactly what millions of 5-year-olds do as a past-time - kicking a ball? why?

What's so appealing about this sport (lifestlye even) is that it pulls at your heartstrings, calls out for attention, distracts, commands devotion even! True, for some it reaches the point of pure obsession, fanaticism and worse still, hooliganism. It will be yet another story to touch on that area, Im more interested in penning about the paradoxical melting pot of unadulterated joy, pure bliss, sense of satisfaction and blazing passion that football, futsal, street soccer serves up.

It draws people together. Its not very often that you see a stadium of hundreds of thousands of people, joined by tens of millions in front of their tv screens, cheering in unison, celebrating with utter delirium a team of maybe 23 strangers they know only by name and appearance. For a brief 90 minutes, nobody cares about their daily problems, the differences in walks of life, status quo, skin colour, religion, gender, age, nationality. During this hour and a half, all that matters is whether their team wins or not.

The beauty of the game is reflected many a time by individual footworks, masterclass strategies, supreme tactical awareness, breathtaking teamwork and even thrilling mind games. The term "joga bonito" - beautiful football, certainly sums up the beauty of this game. The human mind automatically respects or feels a sense of envy when faced with a display beyond one's own abilities. Such it is with joga bonito. I feel that the lure of the game is in its intriguing dramas. Its in the mersmerising individual abilities of Zidane and Messi, the breathtaking strings of passes, skills, finishings and teamplay that characterises Arsenal and Barcelona, the mind games played by tactical master strategists like Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson or the pride in seeing one's own national team take gold medal on the international stage like what the young Malaysian team did.

What's more exhilarating than this is playing the sport itself. There is always a certain loyalty and comraderie in a team. There is the pride of being able to pull on the college jersey and give 90 minutes worth of effort on fields that range from beautiful artificial grass to rocky, muddy and soaking wet. In the heat of competition, all the months of vigorous training, laps after laps of strenuous running, vomiting upon exhaustion, boring video sessions on tactics seem worthwhile. Nothing beats the anticipation of an upcoming match.

Ask any of my more enthusiastic classmates and they will tell you that football, or in our case now, futsal, can be a tad bit addictive. Late night, midnight, early morning games are quite common within our circle. There is just something about kicking the ball around that keeps us wanting for more. I dare say that this "condition" will not die away anytime soon, not when the guys and girls in my class are still savouring the sweetness of the sport!

Needless to say, after all these ramblings, its clear that I am a hopeless romantic for the sport (for love too by the way, but that's beside the point). Its not just a game, a sport, a competition to me. More than that, its a lifestlye, a reflection of everyone's true colours.

ps. all that said, my priorities in life is still and will always be in this order: God, Loved ones and then only, Football. But for what its worth, football certainly does rock my socks!!! -my lifestlye!


His story continues..

Fast forward 3 years. Life now is nothing like what he had ever imagined nor is it anything at all like what he desired for back then.

Different is nothing where near bad.

Looking back, nothing he had experienced, the good, the bad, nothing was ever short of precious. And while his life on this earth and in this society, be insignificant to many, must also have achieved something during that course. Everyone's does.

Colourful and dramatic in his own eyes, it served up its own share of joy, love, peace as well as pain and hurt. Everyone's does.

And true, while everyone's does, its still nothing short of unique and precious.

They say people change through time. He realises that they do, when out of the ashes of disappointments rise new life experiences. When character is moulded as one encounters more of life as it really is and less of it when itis shrouded in pseudo pleasantries. When one is able to not dwell on the darker side of life or moan and groan about how unfair it is but instead rise above and see the tiny specks of beauty in everone, every situation. Though easier said than done, it is nevertheless far from inaccurate.

Maturity comes with humility, grace and wisdom. All 3 big entities that everyone thinks themselves to have attained by adulthood or late adolesence but in actual fact will never ever be fully attained by any individual. Cliche has it that it is always a journey, never a destination. Being young at heart and able to enjoy the trivial things of life however, is a boon not everyone is granted with, but a mantle of which many get rid off with contempt. He only smiles. In the harried rush to grow up, some never.

People matter most. Precious lessons learnt. Mistakes made. Reconciliations. Controversies. And above all, love found.

While some may say that its overrated, cliche and cheesy as it might be, love is in the core of every human heart.
"The greatest thing of all is to love and be loved in return." While many apply it just to a heterosexual relationship, he realises that it speaks for almost every aspect of life as well.

And though life be not anything he had wished it to be before, he would never ask for anything else but life as it is now. Joys and sorrows may come and go but its all part of the growing process. After all, another life to the one he is living now, would just be yet another script to write. Not necessarily any more interesting than the the script he is writing now.

His story continues. Everyone's does. Too.


His Story

Fearfully and wonderfully created in his mother’s womb, birthed forth 22 years ago, amidst the pain of maternal labour and parental joy.

Fast forward 17 years, on the brink of adulthood. What started as a brief flirtation with ideas of overseas studies, progressed further onto the tedious processing of paperwork and application forms. He assumed a calm demeanor during the selection test, consisting of 3 tough papers (of which 1 he was virtually clueless about), never for a moment placing realistic hopes or desires on the scholarship. As the story goes, within a flurry of 3 weeks, a future so unsure was transformed by nothing short of a miracle into that which seems so bright and enticing, albeit mysterious. One evening he was still kicking a football around on Malaysian soil, the next, he would be doing so in the land where football is termed the o-so- American “soccer”. His mailing address would no longer be KL, Malaysia but Singapore.

He relished the idea of a new adventure away from home but surprise of surprises, the moment he was left alone, reality set in and what seemed so relishing and exciting before now appeared to be a tad bit foreboding. He would look back to realize that that incident would probably be the only time he would ever feel that way. Like an eaglet thrown off the cliff and forced to fly on its own, it did seem that way to the homegrown young man. Well endowed by his Creator with a quick mind and adaptiveness as well as a group of friendly fellow scholars, settling down did not seem a hurdle in any way. He survived through an eye-opening first week which birthed men among the boys in the same boat. It signified a commitment to the finishing of a tough, rough and unenviable journey ahead in the quest for academic excellence as pictured by a group of serious officers from the Ministry of Education. A journey, which a few had failed to turn up for and another quit before the end of the week. Doubts he had, just like everyone else, but he pulled through without breaking much sweat, one among many answered prayers.

Very soon, this close knitted group of ASEAN scholars, brought together by similar circumstances transited seamlessly into the Singaporean education system. Served a full course of Singaporean enthusiasm and college-patriotism cum loyalty during the weeklong orientation, he was quickly mistaken as a fellow Singaporean by many. He found that claims of Singaporean “kiasu-ness” were unfounded and over-generalized. He grew to love his new home and friends. Mundane high school life was now replaced with an active junior college lifestyle, dry lessons with funny lectures and interactive tutorials, uninterested teachers with a broad spectrum of experienced and energetic lecturers and 2 caring principals. A dull olive green uniform would now replace the blue prefect uniform he used to wear. The dull olive green colour will always be an epitome of the irony of how exciting life in Singapore’s oldest junior college can be.

Studies inevitably became the last thing on his mind, with the tempting varieties of activities spread out. He made friends quickly and was very soon exposed to different cultures. It did seem that Singapore was a melting pot of Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai, Filipino, Bruneian, Indian, Chinese and many other cultures. Wanting to try out something new, he, out of the spur of the moment tried out for his college’s world renowned choir, fresh from an Austrian-Hungarian-Czech tour. He scraped in and indulged himself for a while with a pseudo-understanding for music scores. As much as he loved the sound of music, the rigorous vocal training and songs in unfamiliar tongues drove him back to his passion- football or rather, soccer, now.

He placed soccer first in his list of priorities, training hard to make the team, which he did. Juggling a schedule of soccer, church and social activities, studies was soon put behind the scenes. He assumed that he could use his last minute studying style to pull him through. It was hence not a surprise that his results deteriorated. He was no longer the top or anywhere among the honour-roll students, among which, both his own roommates were. The taunts he received from a rare few “kiasu” Singaporeans did nothing to turn his focus, nor did the constant reminders from his lecturers and parents. Self confidence and unfounded pride told him that he would be among the top if he bothered trying. Hence he enjoyed his Singaporean summer, excelling in everything except studies.

Reality struck late, a few weeks before his final examinations. Realising that it was his future that he had been staking, the avid soccer player traded his playing field for the national library, frequenting it every day, making it his sanctuary for studies. The many prayers uttered for him were duly and graciously answered when he undeservingly managed to turn a last-minute revision of 2 years worth of syllabus into 4 distinctions in the examination it mattered most- his Singapore-Cambridge ‘ A’ Level Examinations. He wondered yet again at how nothing short of a miracle pulled him through. Now, many doors and opportunities will be opened, he allowed himself to start dreaming of a bright and fulfilling future overseas.

Another success story, or so he thought, little did he know that disappointment lay in store for him, a painful package to be opened on the path he was predestined to take.

It would be another story to tell.