Friday, November 2, 2007

Things to Think About

I found this article written by the columnist Chong Sheau Ching very very interesting and I would like my readers to read and understand what it means.

Sacrilegious behaviour

“ALL that glitters is not gold. All that is white is not milk. All those who wear saffron clothes are not necessarily sanyasi (a sanyasi is a Hindu monk who guides his followers to the right path).”

This ancient Indian saying came to mind when a friend said in anger, “I am so sick of these ultra-religious people!” She had been reading news about religious teachers raping girls and molesting boys in the name of religion.

I am reminded of the movie And Never Let Her Go, based on a true story. The protagonist is a rich, prominent lawyer, who is married with four kids. He is religious, confident and arrogant. He manipulates women who love him by getting them to do what he wants, including buying a gun for him, and lying about his whereabouts. He uses everyone, including the governor.

He stalks his lover, Alice, when she wanted to break up with him. When his wife is murdered, Alice becomes the prime suspect because of the physical evidence he plants on her. The plot thickens when the murderer (the protagonist) taunts the police to catch him. Since he knows all the politicians, he thinks he is beyond the reach of the law.

When he uses the name of religion to get what he wants, it gives me the shivers.

I have seen and heard people like him! I once believed that anyone who is religious can be trusted completely. I have since learnt a lesson about trust and religion. I have seen people swearing in front of a picture of their God and proclaiming their innocence even though I know they have severely wronged someone. Aren’t they afraid of their God who can see and hear them?

I am exposed to religious people like these. I have seen how religious business people donate money to projects for the poor organised by their places of worship but they exploit their staff, use disadvantaged people for free publicity in the name of corporate social responsibility, back stab and manipulate people or small businesses with no patronage so that they can get business contracts from certain parties.

I have seen religious people refusing to touch disabled persons or screaming at the top of their lungs when a Down syndrome person accidentally sits on their chair or uses their cups. I have heard religious people talking bad about other religions for hours, and comparing their God with others’.

And these are the very people who try to convert me. They believe that converting more people will earn them points to get to the after-life places they covet. If I say “no” to the invitations, some will get angry and lecture me even more.

When I am caught in the eye of the storm, witnessing what their God manifests through them, many questions come to mind. How do they tell their God what they have done? Do they say things like: “I have taken this thing from this person but I know you still love me because I am your follower and I can do no wrong.”

Nowadays, I have stopped asking questions and seeking answers. I have stayed away from places of worship no matter how many people try to convince me that their places of worship are the best and that others misrepresent their God.

I haven’t told them that I have discovered the truth on my own – that God lives within me, and God alone will judge me.

(Source :

Blessed life

There is much to be thankful for if we care to count our blessings.

AT THE risk of being labelled an eternal optimist, I believe that we are living in the best of times. I don’t harbour any illusion that this is a perfect world, seeing the many heinous things happening around us, and the many ways people destroy this beautiful planet of ours. Still, being an incorrigible optimist, I am convinced that we are fortunate enough to live in a great time in history.

The world is comparatively more peaceful and prosperous, despite regional skirmishes and pockets of poverty. More importantly, we live with abundant blessings, thanks to modern science and technology.

It was at the breakfast table that I started counting these so-called feel-good factors. I just needed to look around to realise that I am living a life beyond the wildest dreams of perhaps even the most powerful emperor in history. This is a little truism that can easily escape our consciousness, given our busy lives.

Just think, I was drinking coffee that came all the way from Colombia in South America, served in a tea-set from England, with low-calorie sweetener from America. And I was reading my morning newspaper that was filled with interesting news and useful information sourced from all over the world, printed by a German printing press on newsprint that is probably imported from Finland.

My room was cooled to a refreshing 22°C by an air-conditioner made in Malaysia, employing Japanese technology. My celery, pear, apricot and other fruits from China were being kept fresh in a refrigerator made in Japan. Next to it sat a microwave oven, also from Japan, which could microwave anything in a jiffy, and a toaster to make instant roti bakar.

In the hall, my 29-inch TV set from Japan was tuned in to London-based BBC, which kept me updated on world news while on the car porch, an MPV from Korea was ready to take me anywhere I wanted to go, in comfort.

Want to go somewhere far away? Just log in to the Internet, go to the correct website, book an air ticket online, and pay for it by using a plastic card. In a matter of minutes, I would be quite ready to fly to any part of the world. I just cannot imagine how any of those mighty kings or emperors in the past could have enjoyed this kind of convenience even though they had the power to raise armies, and conquer and plunder weaker nations.

People who have the privilege of peeping through dusty glass windows to look at chunky pieces of furniture and utensils used by the Chinese emperors at the Forbidden City would readily agree that they did not have an easy life compared with ours, despite their power and authority.

Most of us would not want to swap our air-conditioned bungalows, equipped with all kinds of gadgets, for some stuffy palace.

A Qing emperor would have had to endure several weeks riding bumpily on horseback or the sedan chair, along mountain roads from Beijing to his palace in Chengde, just to escape the summer heat. The same journey can be covered today in less than two hours, in the air-conditioned comfort of a car, on an expressway. Likewise, when an emperor or his consorts craved for the best lychees from Guangdong, a relay of horseback couriers had to be organised to rush the fruits to Beijing. The journey could take weeks and there were reports of people and horses collapsing and dying along the way due to exhaustion. Now lychees are plucked, sorted and air-flown to anywhere in the world, to be sold in the market, in a matter of days, still fresh and juicy.

It is amazing that in a globalised economy, millions of people, ranging from farmers to factory workers, traders and drivers, from every corner of the world, are actually working hard to contribute to our comfort.

But lest I lapse into euphoria, I must also remind myself of the ugly things still happening around us, as a result of the folly of man. The ironies of life seem to exist in tandem with progress and modernisation.

It is not easy to convince people caught in the rat race that they are living in a blessed time. One can be easily stressed out and sink into depression in the face of temporary setbacks. Take a breather and start counting your blessings. It may give all of us a better perspective on life.

(Source :

I like this article "A Blessed Life" many of us reflect and count our blessings. Most of the time, we count our problems rather than thank God for giving us the opportunity to live in this world.

A New Culture?

This article was written by a 15 year old student from Singapore, what moved me was how she has observed in society and urges society to correct this problem.

What the Modern Woman Wants
By Amanda Chong Wei-Zhen

The old woman sat in the backseat of the magenta convertible as it careened down the highway, clutching tightly to the plastic bag on her lap, afraid it may be kidnapped by the wind. She was not used to such speed, with trembling hands she pulled the seatbelt tighter but was careful not to touch the patent leather seats with her callused fingers, her daughter had warned her not to dirty it, 'Fingerprints show very clearly on white, Ma.'

Her daughter, Bee Choo, was driving and talking on her sleek silver mobile phone using big words the old woman could barely understand. 'Finance' 'Liquidation' 'Assets' 'Investments'... Her voice was crisp and important and had an unfamiliar lilt to it. Her Bee Choo sounded like one of those foreign girls on television. She was speaking in an American accent.

The old lady clucked her tongue in disapproval.
'I absolutely cannot have this. We have to sell!' Her daughter exclaimed agitatedly as she stepped on the accelerator; her perfectly manicured fingernails gripping onto the steering wheel in irritation.

'I can't DEAL with this anymore!' she yelled as she clicked the phone shut and hurled it angrily toward the backseat. The mobile phone hit the old woman on the forehead and nestled soundlessly into her lap. She calmly picked it up and handed it to her daughter.

'Sorry, Ma,' she said, losing the American pretence and switching to Mandarin. 'I have a big client in America. There have been a lot of problems.' The old lady nodded knowingly. Her daughter was big and important.

Bee Choo stared at her mother from the rear view window, wondering what she was thinking. Her mother's wrinkled countenance always carried the same cryptic look.

The phone began to ring again, an artificially cheerful digital tune, which broke the awkward silence.

'Hello, Beatrice! Yes, this is Elaine.' Elaine. The old woman cringed. I didn't name her Elaine. She remembered her daughter telling her, how an English name was very important for 'networking', Chinese ones being easily forgotten.

'Oh no, I can't see you for lunch today. I have to take the ancient relic to the temple for her weird daily prayer ritual.'

Ancient Relic. The old woman understood perfectly it was referring to her. Her daughter always assumed that her mother's silence meant she did not comprehend.
'Yes, I know! My car seats will be reeking of joss sticks!' The old woman pursed her lips tightly, her hands gripping her plastic bag in defence. The car curved smoothly into the temple courtyard. It looked almost garish next to the dull sheen of the ageing temple's roof. The old woman got out of the back seat, and made her unhurried way to the main hall.

Her daughter stepped out of the car in her business suit and stilettos and reapplied her lipstick as she made her brisk way to her mother's side.

'Ma, I'll wait outside. I have an important phone call to make,' she said, not bothering to hide her disgust at the pungent fumes of incense.

The old lady hobbled into the temple hall and lit a joss stick, she knelt down solemnly and whispered her now familiar daily prayer to the Gods.

Thank you God of the Sky, you have given my daughter luck all these years. Everything I prayed for, you have given her. She has everything a young woman in this world could possibly want. She has a big house with a swimming pool, a maid to help her, as she is too clumsy to sew or cook.

Her love life has been blessed; she is engaged to a rich and handsome angmoh man. Her company is now the top financial firm and even men listen to what she says. She lives the perfect life. You have given her everything except happiness. I ask that the gods be merciful to her even if she has lost her roots while reaping the harvest of success.

What you see is not true, she is a filial daughter to me. She gives me a room in her big house and provides well for me. She is rude to me only because I affect her happiness. A young woman does not want to be hindered by her old mother. It is my fault.

The old lady prayed so hard that tears welled up in her eyes. Finally, with her head bowed in reverence she planted the half-burnt joss stick into an urn of smouldering ashes.

She bowed once more. The old woman had been praying for her daughter for thirty-two years. When her stomach was round like a melon, she came to the temple and prayed that it was a son.

Then the time was ripe and the baby slipped out of her womb, bawling and adorable with fat thighs and pink cheeks, but unmistakably, a girl. Her husband had kicked and punched her for producing a useless baby who could not work or carry the family name.

Still, the woman returned to the temple with her new-born girl tied to her waist in a sarong and prayed that her daughter would grow up and have everything she ever wanted. Her husband left her and she prayed that her daughter would never have to depend on a man.

She prayed every day that her daughter would be a great woman, the woman that she, meek and uneducated, could never become. A woman with nengkan; the ability to do anything she set her mind to. A woman who commanded respect in the hearts of men. When she opened her mouth to speak, precious pearls would fall out and men would listen.

She will not be like me, the woman prayed as she watched her daughter grow up and drift away from her, speaking a language she scarcely understood. She watched her daughter transform from a quiet girl, to one who openly defied her, calling her laotu; old-fashioned. She wanted her mother to be 'modern', a word so new there was no Chinese word for it.

Now her daughter was too clever for her and the old woman wondered why she had prayed like that. The gods had been faithful to her persistent prayer, but the wealth and success that poured forth so richly had buried the girl's roots and now she stood, faceless, with no identity, bound to the soil of her ancestors by only a string of origami banknotes.

Her daughter had forgotten her mother's values. Her wants were so ephemeral; that of a modern woman. Power, Wealth, access to the best fashion boutiques, and yet her daughter had not found true happiness.

The old woman knew that you could find happiness with much less. When her daughter left the earth everything she had would count for nothing. People would look to her legacy and say that she was a great woman, but she would be forgotten once the wind blows over, like the ashes of burnt paper convertibles and mansions.

The old woman wished she could go back and erase all her big hopes and prayers for her daughter; now she had only one want: That her daughter be happy. She looked out of the temple gate. She saw her daughter speaking on the phone, her brow furrowed with anger and worry. Being at the top is not good, the woman thought, there is only one way to go from there - down.

The old woman carefully unfolded the plastic bag and spread out a packet of beehoon in front of the altar. Her daughter often mocked her for worshipping porcelain Gods. How could she pray to them so faithfully and expect pieces of ceramic to fly to her aid? But her daughter had her own gods too, idols of wealth, success and power that she was enslaved to and worshipped every day of her life.

Every day was a quest for the idols, and the idols she worshipped counted for nothing in eternity. All the wants her daughter had would slowly suck the life out of her and leave her, an empty soulless shell at the altar.

The old lady watched her joss tick. The dull heat had left a teetering grey stem that was on the danger of collapsing. Modern woman nowadays, the old lady sighed in resignation, as she bowed to the east one final time to end her ritual. Modern woman nowadays want so much that they lose their souls and wonder why they cannot find it.

Her joss stick disintegrated into a soft grey powder. She met her daughter outside the temple, the same look of worry and frustration was etched on her daughter's face. An empty expression, as if she was ploughing through the soil of her wants looking for the one thing that would sow the seeds of happiness.

They climbed into the convertible in silence and her daughter drove along the highway, this time not as fast as she had done before.

'Ma,' Bee Choo finally said. 'I don't know how to put this. Mark and I have been talking about it and we plan to move out of the big house. The property market is good now, and we managed to get a buyer willing to pay seven million for it. We decided we'd prefer a cosier penthouse apartment instead. We found a perfect one in Orchard Road. Once we move in to our apartment we plan to get rid of the maid, so we can have more space to ourselves...'

The old woman nodded knowingly. Bee Choo swallowed hard. 'We'd get someone to come in to do the housework and we can eat out - but once the maid is gone, there won't be anyone to look after you.

You will be awfully lonely at home and, besides that, the apartment is rather small. There won't be space. We thought about it for a long time, and we decided the best thing for you is if you moved to a Home.

There's one near Hougang - it's a Christian home, a very nice one.'

The old woman did not raise an eyebrow. 'I've been there, the matron is willing to take you in. It's beautiful with gardens and lots of old people to keep you company! I hardly have time for you, you'd be happier there.'

'You'd be happier there, really.' Her daughter repeated as if to affirm herself.
This time the old woman had no plastic bag of food offerings to cling tightly to; she bit her lip and fastened her seat belt, as if it would protect her from a daughter who did not want her anymore. She sunk deep into the leather seat, letting her shoulders sag, and her fingers trace the white seat.

'Ma?' her daughter asked, searching the rear view window for her mother. 'Is everything okay?' What had to be done, had to be done. 'Yes,' she said firmly, louder than she intended, 'if it will make you happy,' she added more quietly.

'It's for you, Ma! You'll be happier there. You can move there tomorrow, I already got the maid to pack your things.' Elaine said triumphantly, mentally ticking yet another item off her agenda.

'I knew everything would be fine.'

Elaine smiled widely; she felt liberated. Perhaps getting rid of her mother would make her happier. She had thought about it. It seemed the only hindrance in her pursuit of happiness. She was happy now. She had everything a modern woman ever wanted; Money, Status, Career, Love,Power and now, Freedom, without her mother and her old-fashioned ways to weigh her down...

Yes, she was free. Her phone buzzed urgently, she picked it up and read the message, still beaming from ear to ear. 'Stocks 10% increase!'

Yes, things were definitely beginning to look up for her...

And while searching for the meaning of life in the luminance of her hand phone screen, the old woman in the backseat became invisible, and she did not see the tears.

Let us not be like Elaine, I would like all my readers to respect and honour our elders most importantly our parents. Dont forget we owe them our life!

(Source: A 15-YEAR-OLD Singaporean, competing against 16- to 18-year-olds, has won the top prize in a writing contest that drew 5,300 entries from 52 countries. In the annual Commonwealth Essay Competition, Amanda Chong of Raffles Girls' School (Secondary) chose to compete in the older category and won with a piece on the restlessness of modern life. Chief examiner Charles Kemp called her piece a 'powerfully moving and ironical critique of modern restlessness and its potentially cruel consequences'. The writing is fluent and assured, with excellent use of dialogue. Amanda gets (S$1,590). A Singaporean last won the top prize in 2000, said Britain's Royal Commonwealth Society, which has been organising the competition since 1883. Singaporeans also came in second in the 14- to 15-year-old category, and fourth in the under-12s. Other winners included students from Australia, Canada and South Africa. )

Saying Sorry

This particular article that was published in the NST on 16 October 2007 caught my attention. And I would like to share this article to all my readers.

"This card which I received echoes the sentiment of Aidilfitri, at least from my perspective. Selamat Hari Raya, Ma'af Zahir Dan Batin," he said.

The greeting card appears simple. But the content is riveting, the crux of which is on the Raya theme of forgiveness. Therefore, it starts with a to-the-point heading of "We're sorry" prominently on top, with this in small print just below it: "...for sending you the dullest Raya card ever".
Then the humdinger which I am reproducing below: "Every Hari Raya, our Muslim friends will use a greeting so simple in its execution, many forget its significance. The greeting maaf zahir batin which translates loosely to "I seek forgiveness (from you) physically and spiritually" for Hari Raya means a time to reconcile and renew relationships with others.

"Forgiveness is something we should all practise. Not just for Hari Raya but every day. We should celebrate it and embrace it as an essential part of our lives.

"There is nothing so bad that cannot be forgiven. Hurt will never heal until you forgive.

"If you are at war with others, you cannot be at peace with yourself. You can let go and forgive. It takes no physical strength to let go, only courage.

"Forgiveness is the single most important process that can bring peace to our souls and harmony to our lives. Forgiveness is not something we have to strain ourselves to do. Forgiveness helps you move forward. No one benefits from forgiveness more than the one who forgives.

"Give yourselves the gift of forgiveness today. Maaf zahir batin to all."

(Source :

Learn to live and forget. Easier said than done. To err is human, to forgive is divine.

Life's Journey

A journey begins with a step forward,
Yet many refuses to do likewise,
Many chose the reason of being afraid,
Afraid of the unknown and the future,

But why are we using that as a ticket?
Is it protecting us or making us blind?
Hence, its time to put up a brave front,
And like they say, put your best foot forward,