Wednesday, December 02, 2009

speaking of today.

I guess it has become almost like a tradition to post myself a message. Like I hear people in my head rattling spoons against champagne glasses shouting “SPEECH! SPEEEEECH!” And for the sake of those imaginary people who think I am worthy of their attention at least for this moment, I shall appease.

For the first time in my 27 years of existence, apart from writing this out, I have no intention of exerting any additional effort or emphasis on self-indulgence this 2nd December. It will come naturally with what I will be getting up to today. For everyone around me, it’s my birthday. For me, it’s one day away from opening night for the most extensive involvement I’ve ever taken on in theatre.

Christopher Ling is an important person to me in my life as a performer. In 2000, Chris selected me to be a member of his project Rep16:21, one of the pioneering youth theatre ensembles in Malaysia. The Swimming Instructor will be the first time we’re working together in nine years. The creative reunion has been nothing less than spectacular. And the playwright, the exceptional Desmond Sim, has written a story that is fun and frivolous as much as it is fragile and emotionally profound. It is such a privilege and honor to be on board this production, and I’m sure my co-stars Michael Chen and Niki Cheong would concur. I hope you enjoy watching what we’ve been conjuring over the past 2 months.

Today is a big day. Michael will be picking me up from my office at lunchtime to head over to the KL Performing Arts Centre, where we will be running the play three times over, including the final preview which would serve as a mockup of the actual staging tomorrow night. THEN! Niki, Michael and I will be rushing off to raid Sri Pentas studios for a guest spot on the notoriously cool 8TV Quickie at 11.30pm. Out of all the publicity gigs we’ve been engaged in to promote the play, this our first time ‘live’ as a threesome, so I can only be left to imagine how crazy that’s gonna turn out.

The birthday wishes that started trickling in since yesterday are but gentle reminders of how far I have come to be here and do what I love, and knowing that there are people out there who distinguish and support me for who I am, what I do and what I stand for. And for that, I am grateful. Seriously, sincerely, comprehensively grateful.

I wish to share with you guys something that happened to me two months ago. I’ll try and be as concise as possible! I was walking towards a bus stop to go to Midvalley for a magazine shoot. The designated bus zoomed by me as I was strolling on the sidewalk, and I broke into a sprint to try and catch it. I did thankfully, but shortly upon embarking I had realized that my cellphone had jumped out of my open pouch compartment on my knapsack. But I was already running late for my shoot, so I decided to travel to Midvalley to report to the crew and perhaps get some help to go back look for it. The designer drove me to the stretch of sidewalk that I had started sprinting from. There was a fair bit of road construction going on in that area, and two workers there asked me if I was looking for a phone. I affirmed their suspicions, and they mentioned that someone had found a phone and asked them if it belonged to anyone at the site. When they said ‘No’, he decided to take it with him. One of the workers offered to call my number. It went straight to voice mail. I panicked, thinking that this person had removed my SIM card already. Surprisingly, my own number called back 2 minutes later. The person on the other line couldn’t speak English very well, but he said that I could collect my phone from him at Bangsar Shopping Centre, which was a 7-minute drive away. I told him I would call again when I got there. I hugged both workers for their help – the first one reacted with shock, the second was more than eager to receive. My designer, who was waiting for me at the side of the road, picked me up and took me to BSC, but not without facing a terrible traffic jam. When I arrived there, BSC was still closed but there was a lot of renovations going on at the side of the centre. I called my phone and it went to voicemail again. It did so for the next 15 minutes. Maybe the guy was calling his home country to make the most out of this opportunity before returning the phone. I stepped out of the car and went scouting around the renovation site for someone to speak to, and found the supervisor. I told him about my predicament, and he asked for the name of the person I spoke to. Dangit, I forgot to ask! The supervisor said he couldn’t help me without a name and advised me to give up calling and just get a new phone. I thanked him and returned to the car. Over an hour had passed since my search had begun, and my designer said that we needed to return to Midvalley already as we were holding up the rest of the crew already at the shoot location. I requested to try calling one more time. I got through, and the person picked up. We asked for his name, what he was wearing. He said “Just come around to the other side of the Centre, where the bus stop is. I will be there.” And he hung up. We drove around the lot as he had directed, and there he was. A construction worker, emerging from the car park. In dirty yellow boots, dirty yellow helmet, clothes stained in earth and grime. And he was holding my silly old yellow backlight cellphone. When he saw my ecstatic face as I drove past him, he smiled a weary morning smile. I leapt from the car, he handed over my phone and I thanked him profusely, and whipped out some money as a token for his honesty. He reeled back and said ‘No! No!’ In defiance, almost. And he scurried away back into the car park to resume his duties. When I checked my phone for any international calls made within the past hour and a half, there were none. No local calls either, for that matter. The only reason for the voicemail prompt was that the worker was in a low reception area. The worker had seemingly picked up my phone for the sole intention of wanting to return it to its rightful owner.

I dedicate today to the three people who helped me that day. The three foreign construction workers who held no expectations nor no hidden agendas. Three unassuming people who, despite working for minimum wages, saw no benefit in keeping a valuable item of communication for themselves. Three people who, on any other given day, would probably not be granted the chance to renew anyone else’s faith in human caliber. I am thankful that my negligence granted them that golden chance.

Which leads me to my birthday wish! I wish for all my friends to practice gratitude to the people who offer us their services to make our everyday living that much more tolerable, but are the very ones who are so easily taken for granted. Do not be selective with your kindness! Show these guys the same graciousness and goodwill you would express to your friends. Whether it be a garbage man, a toll booth collector, a bus driver, a street sweeper, a postman, a security guard. You don’t even need to say anything to them. If you happen to pass them at all today, just flash them a smile, acknowledge them for their contribution to the community. You never know what beautiful smile may emerge from the most indifferent countenance.

And with that, I shall leave you with a wonderful song that a dear friend of mine Ashaari has recently shared with me. It’s by The Artist Formerly Known As Cat Stevens.

Don’t be shy with your gratitude!

Oh, and don’t forget to show up at my play too, or I will hunt you down and give you tard germs.
Purchasing tickets from Axcess
Facebook event page

Thank you everyone for your wishes. You have my heart, as always.