Anyone who grew up with me knows this, that I’m a big sports person, not just as a vociferous fan, but as a vociferous participant too (these same people also know that I’m a compulsive talker, and that in my world, a gag order from a judge would be the same thing as a death sentence). Despite being fond of activity, the past few months, have been a bit of a sad thing. Since taking on my book, I’ve sat glued to the computer, from the early hours to the wee hours. And the effects have started to show.
For one, my joints have started to creak. If I were to gracefully sway my body from one side to the other, the way a ballerina goes through her warm ups, you’d be treated to a symphony of cricks and cracks, almost as if a car were slowly rolling over a flat sheet of bubble wrap. It really is worth a listen. Really.
To add to my woes, my knees have lost strength, and I’m a lot less sure about doing the things I once knew I could do. So pirouettes are out of the question (they used to be out of question before, now they are even more out of the question).
I attended a funeral the day before Chinese New Year. He was of friend of mine since childhood—same Sunday school, same Church, same Secondary School. For a year, I sat beside him in class, when we were sixteen. So I’m sure, a big piece of him had been imbibed in me.
Paul left in his wake, and at his wake, a wife and two kids–one was 4-years old, the other 2, the same age as my Oliver.
Sometimes, when I’m gone for a few hours, Oliver asks, “Where’s Daddy? Daddy come back. Now!!”
How do you tell a kid that age, that Daddy’s not coming back? Ever.
It really gets you thinking, when someone your age gets a heart attack and drops dead. You stop taking things for granted. For awhile anyway, when the memory is still fresh.
The death of a friend also sends you a message that you’d better start smelling the roses before they make them into wreaths for you. And it reminds you that you should say your I love Yous frequently; if not in words, through your actions. It also tells you not to squander a good thing, and that life is short, so eat your vegetables, and wear your sunscreen. There is no need to make your existence here shorter than it already is.
I read The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari about a month back. It was probably the most cheesy book I’ve ever picked up, but I must say, I gleaned a lot of useful things from it. As the book had suggested that we all do, I’ve incorporated meditation into part of my daily. It’s amazing how the simple act of focusing your mind someplace else triggers physical change through your body. Meditation makes you aware of many things. Often, I don’t realise that I’m walking with my shoulders scrunched up and tense; my neck, stiff like an aroused penis.
I’m sure there are different ways to meditate. I do mine in a quiet room with the lights turned off, Lisa Gerrard’s Sanvean playing in the background. Eyes closed, I breathe deeply once the music starts, and my body magically relaxes. Suddenly, you feel alive once more, as if your blood, which without your permission stopped flowing some time during the day, started to flow again. Often, my mind wanders, just like in church. But I let it. Fighting it, I feel, is unnatural, and strenuous, and would defeat the purpose of the whole exercise. As you can probably tell, I make a lot of this stuff up as I go.
The monk manual also suggested that I engage in rigorous exercise, daily. But to go in head first was ill advised, not in my fragile state. Anything more rigorous than climbing a single flight of stairs would probably cause my limbs to dislodge from my body and crumble into pieces, the way wooden blocks tumble following a wrong Jenga move.
So, to jumpstart my exercise regimen… Correction. So, to slowly move my exercise regimen into gear, I chose to do strengthening exercises first—stretches, lunges, some yoga and the like. It really has helped, and I’m a lot less wobbly these days.
After two weeks of mild conditioning, I felt my body was ready to take on something bigger. No, not Roseanne Barr.
I went for a jog this morning. The route took me from the house to the park, a lap around the park, a walking lap to catch my breath, another running lap, and after that, I dragged my feet to the roadside stall for breakfast, across the street from my house.
Again, as almost every time in the past, I was the only Chinese fella there. I ordered an ice tea and unfolded myself a Nasi Lemak. Their version here is unique; they have a small square of salt fish embedded into the rice, and it is sublime. There was a dead ant in my rice. I ate it without a second thought. I think that only happens on Tuesday mornings (Man Vs Wild is on at 8 every Monday night).
The stall filled up quickly after I took my seat, to the point where a Malay guy had no choice but to share my table with me. He ordered a Roti Tampal. I had never heard of it before and was curious. Translated, it meant ‘patched bread’. I waited in anticipation for his Unidentified Food Object to arrive. When it finally did, I couldn’t quite make it out. It looked like there was some kind of coconut layer married to a piece of Roti Canai. The guy didn’t look like he welcomed any questions, so I paid for my meal and left.
My writing has taken up a very prominent center in my life. On my jog, I was thinking of my book. Well, of that and of my burning thighs. Quite often, when I meditate, my mind wanders to the book as well. The same thing happens when I’m going through my stretches, or taking a dump, lathering my body, lathering my teeth, trying to sleep, while driving, while gardening, while watching TV.
This morning, while walking back to the house after breakfast, I realised I did not once think of my book over breakfast. And it was nice. Like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I asked myself how it happened and came to this conclusion: I was too busy thinking about what the other people thought of me, sitting there, almost alone, a thorn among the Kembojas. In that moment, it occurred to me, that in this country, more important things than the bread needed to be patched.