Jul 18, 2008


'Jingshen' is the mandarin word for spirit and vivacity (this is the best i can do writing. The key is to actually pronounce the word correctly which i can't do writing). Above all things, Jingshen is important in life for if we do not have Jingshen, we decline and die. We also need 'huo li' - vitality and energy - 'Jing li'. To have more 'Jingshen', 'Huo li' and 'Jing li', to add more spice to life, i decided to enrol in a Mandarin class. I did start on the classes some years back but had to terminate it as i had to go to UK for an assignment. The other day, i decided to re start the classes at a new centre near my place of work. The teacher, Miss Wang (I call her Miss Money Penny as she likes talking about money in class now and then and because in the Malay language, 'Wang' also means money), is a tall young lady from China, very fluent in English (her second language) and has a talent for making speaking mandarin simple. There are only 4 of us in a class- limited to 4 students only (this is strange..the chinese being supertitious and all, why did Miss Wang decide to have the unlucky number 4 in class? Hmm..must query her about this). I am the oldest student in the class. The other 3 students being an indian girl in her early twenties, and two young chinese boys (in their early twenties too) who have just started on their first year law course (looks like even in mandarin classes i meet people connected with the law- what a coincidence). Imagine chinese boys learning mandarin...I missed the first class but apparently did not miss much. In Mandarin, its all about phonetics - you have the initials, the finals and the toners of a word. The toners are the important part in speaking the language. Chinese is a tone language. Its all about the sounds- the different pitches (like learning music) - you have a different toner and you get a different word. Mandarin has four basic tones - the first tone, the second tone, the third tone and the fourth tone. The tones are used to distinguish the meaning of a syllable. Different tones have different meanings. For example the word 'ma' with different tones have the meanings of mother, hemp, horse and curse. The word 'ma' is also used in a question - 'Ni hao ma?' - 'How are you?' The interesting part of learning the language is that when one pronounces wrongly, the consequences can be hilarious. In such classes, one can be humbled so as to be polite and not laugh at our chinese brothers and sisters out there who can't pronounce English words that well, despite trying their very best. So i imagine very funny moments in the weeks ahead. Good for dealing with the stress of life and for the heart and health generally.
Miss Money Penny has a unique talent in connecting these different toners with English words that makes it funny. So you have this picture in your mind of the English word and it helps you remember the initals, the finals and the toners of the mandarin word. With only two classes a week, she has to be good and talented to ensure we speak the language in eight weeks time. Jingshen, Huo li and Jing li to all.

Jul 15, 2008


True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.
True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True art seems artless.
The Master allows things to happen.
He shapes events as they come.
He steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself - Lao Tze

Be Content

Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?
If you look to others for fulfilment, you will be never be truly fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself.
Be content with what you have;
Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you. - Lao Tze.

A Sense of Urgency

My aunt from UK came down with her husband Peregrine and her two children son, jonie and daughter, steff. I was given the responsibility of taking them around last sunday. First to the KL Tower for lunch. That took 3 hours. Then a short driving tour of KL. That took 1 hour. The jams around KL due to the silly police road blocks did not help much. Then to Putrajaya. That took another 2 1/2 hours. Then rushed them to Bandar Utama for a japanese dinner with the whole family at Shogun (didn't know that existed). I excused myself as i had to work on a case the next day. The day before on saturday, it was lunch, shopping, dinner at at Itallianis and then a drinking session at a pub at the Curve (a place i abhor but had to give in for the sake of my cousins and brother). I had not been at a pub for a long time. The music was LOUD. The lyrics obscene. The air was filled with cigarrete smoke and so many young people around. If you want noise pollution, air pollution, and drink pollution, go to a pub. Go ahead and enjoy but when you get to forty, you'd probably be diagnosed with a few kinds of chronic diseases. No wonder so many die young these days.
The long and short of it was that it was very hectic for me. This was definitely not my normal kind of weekend. My aunt and family had one agenda after another.. one place to visit after another, one relative to visit after another. They are now in Langkawi. Every minute counts. Only 7 days in Malaysia. They had been to Hong Kong and Singapore, Thailand next on the agenda. Make every day count. Make every day an action packed one. Its like this when we go to a foreign country. So much experience to gain. So much places to see and so many people to meet. Time was of the essence. It's like when one has to leave and won't come back. Like dying in some ways. If we know we are going to die tomorrow, or soon, i think we might behave like tourists.
When i was the 'tourist guide' for the day in KL, so many questions were posed to me by Mr. Peregrine while we were at the KL Tower at the revolving restaurant. You get a bird's eye view of the whole of KL and it is an awesome sight. I was asked - 'What is that place?' 'And that'? 'Is that an air strip?' 'And that vast green field over there?' 'What is that triangle shaped building over there?' 'What is that building over there?' etc. etc. The same questions while we were on the road. I made a poor tourist guide. All i could say to most of the questions was 'i don't know' - it then dawned upon me that i was a stranger in my own city. These people come from overseas and there is a great sense of urgency to know and experience everything they see, while i, who am here everyday, take everything for granted. That was a 'buddha' moment for me. Well maybe it helps to have foreigners, teenagers and children around. They ask a lot of questions about everything - from places to politics to economics, to philosophy. No end of questions- keeps one awake all the time. It was a wake up call for me. Time to visit more buildings and places around the city and become a good tourist guide next time.