Monthly Archives: September 2008

Please Help Yuki

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This is heart-wrenching. I read her story and am completely gutted for her. She was abandoned by her husband five days before her sex-realignment surgery, and is now unemployed and almost homeless. Please help. Got this from Lainie. Please do pass it on.

Dear gals and pals,

I would like to bring your attention to a special cause today: a dear friend of mine, Yuki Choe, a male-to-female transsexual, is in dire straits and urgently in need of donations to support her living expenses.

HER CURRENT SITUATION:

Yuki is currently unemployed and living on what remains of her savings. She is also relying on some donations made through her blog but PayPal is not recognised by most Malaysian banks. She has few friends. Some are helping but not enough. Her family has turned her down as well.

She has applied for over 60 jobs but had only 2 interviews, one of which rejected her, and the other offered her a job as a mortgage and home loan provider. She is eager to take it up as a part-time job, as well as start her own business (selling art pieces), but lacks start-up capital.

She has been disqualified for state welfare. She is currently staying in a single room in USJ until she gets evicted.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

(1) Donate to Yuki –
All donors will be listed at Yuki’s blog (www.yukishock.blogspot.com). Donors can choose to be named or remain anonymous. Any amount will be deeply appreciated.

(2) Notify Yuki if you know anyone willing to offer her a job with a stable income –
Those of you involved in LGBT activism will know that many transsexuals in Malaysia entered the flesh trade after failing to notch a single decent job offer, but Yuki is determind not to meet the same fate. She is also the only actively blogging transsexual LGBT advocate in Malaysia. Let’s help her help herself, so that when she finally finds a firm footing, she can be a role model to all other transsexuals in Malaysia to lead independent, healthy and responsible lives.

(3) Spread this message around –
Post this on your blog, tell your friends, email your contacts – spread the word, get as many people as possible to chip in a little bit.

Please help Yuki get by, one day at a time.
Your help will be deeply appreciated.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

She can be contacted at yuki.choe@yahoo.com.
For those who want to read about her life story, they can refer to yuki-thejourney.blogspot.com and yukishock.blogspot.com.

Please help if you can, donations, crossposting on your blog, whichever works. Yuki is an NCC Diploma holder, well versed in administrative work, sales and teaching. More a customer service person, with good computer skills.

The Venus Flytrap: Going There And Going Back

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When I tell people that my favourite film is Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También, they do not understand. They do not understand how this coming-of-age story about two Mexican boys could be the film that I love the most; what could I possibly see of myself in it? But it is true. It is the one film that I can slip into seamlessly, without knowing when or where or if at all I will cry, without expectation, without the hyper-attentiveness that jades so many of our viewings of the films we think of as panaceas, as personal religion.

Like all great stories, this one lends itself to many perspectives. There is its strident sociopolitical commentary, the subtle, powerful and altogether unusual rendering of the female gaze in a manner devoid of fanfare, and of course, the pain, comedy and sensuality of lust. But those are a deconstructionist’s ways of approaching a film that is all these things but in its essence, far more. Ultimately, all that remains are the teenagers, Julio and Tenoch, and Luisa, the woman who lets them spirit her away to look for a secret beach that they invent spontaneously as a joke.

In one way or another, not one of them returns to the city. The journey changes them all. One finds absolution. The others slip back into their lives, disconcerted to find that it does go on, that memory is a broken record but the passage of time is rarely so sentimental.

Like anyone who has ever been on a highway in the wee hours of dawn, under a sky so bruised, so dark like a heart, I am enamoured by the quintessential romance of the road trip. The self suspended between someplace and someplace else. I feel geographical attachments viscerally. Some of the most poignant moments of my life have been in the infinite silence of this suspension.

Poignant because happiness is a thing of hindsight. Julio and Tenoch have no idea that this trip – this joke, this cheap thrill of whisking this attractive older woman off in their car in aimlessly hedonistic pursuit – will contain so much. They do not know while it happens that they will see joy for what it is only in the wake of devastation, and that perhaps it will never again be so uncomplicated, so complete.

We come so far, we cut so deep. And then we flee the scene, retreating back into life as we believe we know it. But whether we choose this or not, we become like the monk in the Japanese poem made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert who stands atop a mountain and watches the world unfurl before him, all its secrets within his sight. And like the monk we return to the marketplace, to ordinariness, forever carrying the mountaintop under our robes.

And above all else, this may be why Y Tu Mamá También resonates so deeply with me: I cannot name my favourite scene. There is no one sequence so conspicuous in my mind that it outshines the rest, and this is why it feels so much like life. The experiences that shape us most are like mirrorballs, catching the light at different angles, revealing different facets at each one. We spend the rest of our lives turning them over and over, always finding something startling. We spend the rest of our lives trying to understand those moments, to encapsulate them somehow in anecdotes or inspired art. We spend the rest of our lives trying to go back.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my weekly column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.

The Venus Flytrap: Dial M For Misuse

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The government of Tamil Nadu launched an “integrated emergency care” scheme last week, which will make getting assistance during any emergency situation just a phone call away. Naturally, this is a welcome measure, especially since our national security has recently come under threat. The only problem is, an emergency is a relative thing.

A woman in Scotland, for instance, contacted her local version of the 108 because her pet rabbit’s ears weren’t floppy, as promised in a newspaper ad. Perhaps she was a believer in chaos theory – and the floppiness of her bunny’s ears directly correlated with, just guessing here, her sense of perspective. Other Scottish calls of interest and exasperation included a complaint about too many onions in a takeaway meal and at least two about being splashed with puddle water by passing vehicles. The Japanese police force, meanwhile, claims to have suffered 950,000 nuisance calls in 2007, among them some real crisis situations like wanting a lift home in a patrol car owing to not having enough money to take a taxi.

Since we do live in a most melodramatic country, and that too in a most melodramatic city, I’d wager that the new emergency response scheme is going to have its many hands and hotlines full.

To begin with, when I said that emergency is a relative thing, I really do mean that it is almost definitely going to be a relative thing. My parents once dropped by the neighbourhood police station because my sister didn’t pick up her phone for an hour. Now, they can just put the emergency number on speed dial.

Joining them, of course, will be all the usual suspects – the neighbourhood spies, the know-it-alls, the rumour-mongers, the jealous spouses, the even more jealous mothers-in-law, the in-fighting heirs… Make no mistake about it – this emergency number is going to take centrestage in quite a few misadventures of the Great Indian Guilt Trip variety. What’s a Tamil film without a scene involving cops? And what better way for life to imitate cinema, that old favourite Indian aspiration, than to have them at one’s beck and call to intervene in any commotion one feels like creating?

The demand could be so overwhelming that the emergency response hotline centre will become the new, trendier call centre. Hip youngsters with fake accents and non-existent curfews will make way for sensitive new age types with seductive stories about the latest cat they miaowed to over the phone and convinced to climb down a tree, or more entertainingly, about the Savita Bhabhi-esque damsel they sweet-talked out of her “hysteria” over missing her travelling husband. Chetan Bhagat wannabes galore will be spawned, derided, envied and made wealthy – only this time, with community awards to boot.

What’s more, 108 being a somewhat religion-friendly number, and the lot of us being somewhat superstitious people, I’m sure it won’t be long before someone gets it into his or her head that starting the day by dialing a sequence of auspicious numbers might be a good luck prescription. At least the person handling the call will be greeted by a serene voice, for a change.

All this frivolousness will make for some funny news stories. But as someone somewhere keeps the line engaged by crying wolf, someone else somewhere else could be in a real crisis. And all the floppy bunny ears in the world might not be able to get them out of that one. So spare a thought before you dial the hotline. After all, you wouldn’t want that aunt who goes through your call register to suspect a conspiracy.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my weekly column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.

Just Discovered

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The Poetess Counts To 100 And Bows Out

The poetess gathers interim herbage,
aged bread, ash right from the knife,
herbs for the outcomes and the first rites.
Maybe she likes the legacy the strong ones claim,
the studious group, hands free, hearts shut.
Who, he or she? oathbound, bound for the future:
Scions of a bitch baying so sweetly for the word, begging how
to get to the saint, her mistful tongue.
Last night there were stones on a nation’s back,
much coal smeared on far village cheeks.
But then they gave thanks, shook hands, told some lies,
pulled back June and July for hunger. That there might be hunger.
The good girl counts to 100 and bows out.
The bad girl counts to 100 and bows out.
The poetess counts to 100 and bows out.

Ana Enriqueta Teran

(A completely striking book cover, the first volume of her work translated into English, here.)

The Cover of Witchcraft

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If you would like to see the cover of my new book of poems, out next month, please go here. And do consider this a personal invitation to join the group. On that note, please don’t add or message me on Facebook as I prefer to correspond with people I do not know over email.

I am immensely grateful to the photographer, Bradley McNeill.

The Venus Flytrap: Just Ask Jeeves

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I hired my first secretary last week.

Unlike most other collaborations in this book publishing process, I got exactly the person I wanted. She’s smart, young, confident, and the sort of girl who actually prints out an agenda when her grandfather holds a magic show at his apartment. She is also – fortunately – the kind of secretary I can hug, which was pretty high on my requirements list.

If you have met me, you may know that I have a famously fuchsia business card, and it was only fitting that she carry something suitably reflecting my, um, values too. This led to the question of what her official job title would be. As a relatively benevolent megalomaniac, I naturally opened the subject to debate.

There came the fictional character suggestions. Could she be the Smithers to my Mr. Burns? The Alfred to my Batman? The Herbert Cadbury to my Richie Rich? The Jeeves to my Wooster? And of course, there was the hardcore literary reference that’s actually been adapted into common lingo: Girl Friday.

I liked the Robinson Crusoe analogy, but Girl Friday was slightly sexist, and reminded me for some reason of Helen Gurley Brown’s 1960’s instructions to the working gal (“In taking a man to lunch, I suggest you not reach for the check with your limp little arm in his presence” would be an example). My secretary didn’t want to be named after a butler, so that knocked Cadbury, Alfred and Jeeves off the list. As for Smithers and Burns, well, the whole one-sided infatuation thing didn’t go down too well with her. Too bad, I personally quite liked the allusion to the fact that I am actually very much a sinister, balding despot with a prominent overbite and hands perpetually in the scavenger mudra.

“Would you like to be my right hand man?” I asked, hoping to slide a bit of subversion in sideways.

“Um… no?”

Then came the absurdly fancy and meaningless titles. I once held an NGO job in which I was officially the “Communication Rights and Media Advocacy Officer”. In other words, I did the press releases and copywriting. So we came up with: “Liaison Coordinator”, “Administrative and Liaison Manager”, “Administrative Specialist” and “Associate Publicity and Public Relations Aide”.

She said, “My god, when I submit my resignation, I would probably die of exhaustion before I finish typing that.”

Bringing up a resignation was not a good sign. So we moved along.

I summarily dismissed the demeaning options – minion, underling and gofer – because I’m a TV villain despot, people, not a bitch, and those are not even remotely endearing.

Which brings us to the mummy-baby names. I have the kind of megalomania that makes me sometimes think I’m the Messiah and sometimes His mother. Tyra Banks has the same kind. Fortunately, I happen to know this, so I refrained from suggesting “descendant”, “sishya”, “poppet” and “protégé”.

In the end, we settled for something suitably professional, not too pretentious, and which will not result in poor Shilu having to tell people she works for a crazy lady – Executive Assistant. The name came courtesy of our friend Anand, a former child actor who is soon going to outdo and exceed his claim-to-fame of having danced on a table with Silk Smitha, and will need his own secretary then.

So, friends, frenemies and future patrons of disorganized poets: if you want to schedule in some face or phone time with me in the next few months, kindly consult my Executive Assistant.

Now excuse me while I go and enjoy feeling smug about the fact I can actually say that.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my weekly column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.