I would like to graciously refute the rather hasty insinuation in an article in The Star, RM2,500 salary should be enough for fresh grads, say experts (7 Oct 2014), that perhaps young graduates buy a car because it is cool, and that in pining for such a “luxury” we may have forgotten how to live as students. I will do this by telling you a story, which will help you understand why I myself decided to get a car.

I used to live very near the PWTC LRT station. Heres a typical daily LRT journey to work and back: I walk out in the morning. It’s raining. As I cross the pedestrian walkway from the mall to the station – a gap in the in the walkway shelter leaves me wet. Even the umbrella is no match against the torrential Malaysian rain. Wonderful, because I have meetings and choir practices lined up for the week, and catching a cold is not ideal. And thanks to fast-accumulating grimy water pooling in the pavement dents and cracks – my RM40 shoes get wet, which means they will spoil within the next month. RM40 doesn’t get you any shoes that don’t peel open crocodile-style almost immediately after a good soaking. But as a fresh graduate, I don’t feel deserving of expensive shoes – so on to my next RM40 pair, then!

Thankfully the LRT is frequent and generally on time.

Then the journey home. At Bandaraya there are no escalators. But that’s alright, I can live with that – young ‘un who lacks exercise due to my sedentary, desk-bound lifestyle. But poor elderly lady next to me, huffing and puffing up the stairs. My mother has arthritic kneecaps. I think of her, and feel thankful my parents have a car to travel in. Its no wonder people push like savages to get into the LRT on crowded days, without waiting for others to alight – everyone is hot and bothered and dying to sit by the time they get to the platform.

I reach PWTC. I walk out through the quiet walkway towards the road. It’s dim; because the fluorescent lights are inexplicably off though it’s about 10 pm at night. I look at my non-designer, RM60 handbag, consider my vulnerability as a woman, and feel slightly creeped out, thinking of the stories I’ve heard about slashing and snatch theft – I know at least 3 people directly who have been victims. I think of my aunt’s broken collarbone and fear for my own. As I approach my (rented, thank you) apartment block, I see the two usual drug addicts (Sometimes, in the mornings, I see them answer nature’s call while sniffing glue), still, dark shapes guarding the lane opening, like gargoyles at the entrance of a haunted castle. I hurry past, down the lane, past the guardhouse.

Safe zone at last.

I hope from this story you see why a car – a Myvi, 1.3 – bought with the assistance of my retired parents, was deemed a necessity, not a luxury, to me and worth tightening the belt, worth sacrificing a savings margin for. Many reasons. Feasibility. Health. Peace of mind. Safety. Above all, safety.

Now, I don’t earn RM2500. I earn a moderate amount more than that. But I feel it’s unjust to reduce the very real issue of the rising cost of living versus incomparable wages to merely blaming – what? A mere slip of judgment? An attitude problem? – of an entire generation of ambitious, assertive young people. The same people who, by the way, need to feel a reason – that is grounded in reality – to remain in Malaysia so we can be the nuts and bolts to this engine of growth that will help Malaysia achieve our 2020 ambitions. I hope mutual understanding on both our parts can be forged as we make our way there.

But of course I don’t pretend to speak for a generation. I speak for myself and more than a few people I know – and wouldn’t you agree, dear sir, that every voice counts?

Few things are more soothing
Than the shy sigh of steady showers
Stately silhouettes under sudden lightning
And stony skies that sulk and thunder
Over shivering shapes of sodden trees
While the world prepares to go to sleep.

And then the early morning blooms
Into brilliant beams of beatific gold
That break the baleful, binding gloom
And slip between billowing folds
To blanket bedding in blazing warmth
And halt the dreams of sleeping forms.

I love waking up to find it’s rained the night before. The world is discovered in shades of dramatic expression. The cool air persuasive, whispering caresses on the leg peeping out beneath the folds of duvet. The road a sullen, sodden grey. The sky blooming bright and so alive, whilst beneath its lordly station quivering clumps of cloud sail languidly past. And the rest… The rest pale, wither, exist. The ceaseless gliding cars, towering flats of tiny black windows trapping infinite, invisible lives – all in interminable, dreamless sleep.

There she lies unseen
Sheltered by the slanted lid,
Her last window to the world.
Not that it matters anymore-
She’d slipped away so long before.

I knew her, but only enough
To greet her out of duty
To the cherished elderly
In return for a wave, knowing
She didn’t know my name.

I knew her in between
Stories my parents told me.
Quite the controversial lady,
But – if you aren’t the protagonist
Life stories are only fiction.

So there she lies, asleep
Sheltered by life’s brevity
Delivered from confronting
Ambivalent echoes in the minds
Of the ones she left behind.

Leaves urgently rustle in mimicry of the sound of impending rain. There the lightning goes! It is the warning light of nature – what is white to us is red to the earth. This way the unsettled, hurrying wind comes! It is a messenger from another place that must be well drenched by now. The shadows thicken, and thicken, and then…whoosh! A rumble of thunder, a pitter patter. Here it comes! All earth lies in awe. 

Landscapes

Imaginary

May

Minute after minute, and no stillness in between.

October 2014
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