A man’s home is his castle, his sanctuary, a place he can be himself. Here, when I say “man”; it applies to a woman or child, too. So, it is believed to be.
When he goes outside to do battle with the world which is his work (a person that come to mind is Hagar the Horrible [cartoon comic strip], a Viking, whose work is to go out and battle. He is both a fierce warrior and a family man—with the same problems as your average modern suburbanite.) and comes home after that, he would and should expect a sense of peace, of rest, of comfort.
A man’s home is where he leaves the outside world, outside, by turning off (easier said than done… I hear yer), his escape as you may.
If he is married and has children, they will bring him joy. His young kids may clamour all over him for his attention, wanting to share their joys of what they did in the day.
In my “hey” day, when my daughter Laura, was 3, 4, 5 years old; she would come and sit in my chair beside me in the living room, just to be with me. She would do the same with her mother, my wife Jeannie; too.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years, saw an invasion of sorts by corporations, when employees, entertainers, even businessmen; had to work from home.
While working from home, the line separating work from after office hours becomes blurred.
It may have been seen as a novel idea to work from home at the beginning. Employees thought that by being closer to their children at home, they would have additional time with them. Employees were relieved that they did not have to travel to & fro their offices or workplaces, thus avoiding the usual traffic snarls that would greet them each day on the road, thus saving at least an hour, each way at the very least. It would mean they could sleep in just that little bit longer before getting ready from work and they would not come home fatigued by the traffic jams they would meet on their way home.
But then, people who live or co-shared their homes with employees working from home; could not really do the things they would normally do at home, when these employees were away, working in their offices and elsewhere. Employees were expected to have their homes “turned over to their companies”, during meetings like zoom and Skype meetings. This meant noise and distraction free from co-habitats and children.
Working from home also meant that there was no reason not to squeeze in additional online meetings by two or three hours. Which meant more internet data and electricity usage – the cost all to be borne by the employee. What more, if there were several people working from home at the same time? “Work from home” would spill outside in the porch and garden.
If only there was a balance?
When the shift was made for employees to work from office again signaling that the pandemic had become an endemic, there seemed to have been a sigh of relief from all round. Most employees were happy about getting back to the office, even bracing the long traffic jams to the office and back. Children and other members were happy to have their homes back to as it was.
All in all, there has to be a clear line drawn between work space and home space. The ideal is to get the best working environment for the employee which in turn improves productivity; and a home, where one gets to rejuvenate, and at the same time, be with the rest of the family, not just physically; but also to share their lives with them.
A few days ago, my wife, Jeannie; and I, were at what is generally our usual past time – shopping at our favourite shopping mall: Mid-Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur (1). On a good day, the mall is about 30 minutes away. On a not-so-good day, it can take us an hour. Noooo… neither the mall nor our house are location movers. It’s the traffic that determines how long it takes to reach there😉 and vice versa.
HAVE CREDIT CARD CAN BUY MURUKKU
Magnesium, Platinum, Carbon Fibre credit cards from financial institutions – opulent status recognition, where everyone will bow before you and jump to your every whim by not asking “why?” but “How high?”
The owner of The Embershoppe in Petaling Jaya, C. K. Lim; is one special dude. He remembers all his customers by name, even after only having visited his tobacco shop once. I think remembering each and every person’s name is a special gift. That is peak customer service!
When you receive an email or letter or message through the phone from the card issuer bank, they begin with, “Dear valued customer…” So much for the opulent status recognition. You would think that owning one or more of these Magnesium, Platinum, Carbon Fibre credit cards which usually come with a high credit limit; the financial institution would surely know you by name. The only times they will know you by name is when you have to pay the monthly statements they issue you or when they have something to sell directly to you. Otherwise, you are just a series of digits and characters.
So, we come back to the topic of the credit card. When Jeannie and I are in Mid-Valley, we quite often stop by at the booth that sells kacang putih (3), murukku (2) and Bombay Mixture (4). We usually buy 2 or 3 varieties of this awesome snacks. The price ranges from US$1.50 (RM6.50) to $US2.40 (RM12.00).
This time round, we picked one of my favourites – roasted kacang with brown skin priced at RM6.50 for 300gm and “Bombay Mixture” (the small thin type) mixed with some kacang which was priced at RM12.00. I gave the seller a RM50 note and waited for the change. The guy did not have change and asked if I could pay using a credit card.
I said, “What? Buying kacang putih with credit card?” Surely, this is a joke. It wasn’t. I was so surprised. Has it come down to this where you pay for the cheapest items with credit card?
There are many of you out there who will think that there is nothing wrong paying a small amount with a credit card. Sure, I get that. Here when we talk about credit cards, let us include debit cards, too. Whether physically (famously or commonly known as the plastic we carry around with us) or stored on phones and other electronic devices. I think about a habit this most probably will become.
Many e-wallets with stored amounts have automatic top-up of funds either direct from a personal bank account or a credit card.
Now, think about this. If you were to carry cash around; you may be a bit more careful in spending. When cash is low, you probably will wait for the next opportunity when you have enough cash, to buy the item.
But what happens when you have the use of the credit card for all sorts of small payments and lose track of your spending? Your credit card statement together with your other expenditure like gas / petrol, dining out, movies, shopping, etc; could come up to a fairly substantial amount. It will be ok if you settle the statement in full.
But what if you don’t? The temptation to just pay the minimum is there. The balance outstanding in the statement, is carried forward to the next statement month with a compounding interest. In Malaysia, credit cards come with an interest charge of 15% to 18% generally.
Some people may take note of this possible large amount that is carried forward to the next month and will control their spending in the coming future until the balance outstanding is fully settled. The financial institutions know this and have come out with schemes to counter customers who are concsious of their balances, who take steps to clear this outstanding balances soonest possible and tie you down or lock your outstanding balance with an offer of a term loan sort of scheme, thus making the big balance amount “disappear” with a fixed period and so-called low interest to settle this amount. What you don’t see, you may forget. What you don’t see, may not hurt you.
Therefore, in the third month onwards, the big balance disappears but is replaced with a monthly payment. So, then, your credit card is “freed of the big amount”, thus allowing you to spend more. They “prey” on customers who do not keep track of their spending. But guess what, the earlier big balance you had has not actually disappeared but is termed as “unbilled amount”.
So, the credit limit with your credit card has now expanded to a bigger limit. Multiply this by all the other credit cards you may have. It can become “4th stage cancer of credit” where people are in such a bind that catastrophe could set in.
To find out more on how to overcome “4th stage cancer of credit” or avoid it; email email@example.com The “4th stage cancer of credit” problem is generally the same for everyone, but getting cured from it may be unique to each individual.
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NOTES: 1. Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia.
3. The history of the kacang putih (literally translated as ‘white nuts’) business goes back to the 1940s, when the British brought in migrant labourers from the Ettayapuram village in Tamil Nadu to Malaya. A few families settled down near the limestone hill in Gunung Cheroh, Ipoh – until 1973, when the residents were relocated to Teluk Kurin B in Buntong after a slab of limestone fell onto a longhouse, killing 42 people.
It was in the new settlement that business kicked up. The new, larger homes allowed owners to set up retail storefronts selling kacang putih, as well as other fried Indian snacks like murukku and assorted fried nuts made using recipes from Tamil Nadu. Business was so brisk that the settlement’s unwieldy name was changed to Kampung Kacang Putih – and until today, remains as the heart of a growing kacang putih industry across the country.
You won’t find kacang putih sold by the kacang putih man The kacang putih vendor didn’t start by selling different types of murukku, fried nuts and potato chips – they just sold one thing: actual kacang putih, which are steamed lentils (also known as kacang kuda). But selling that alone wasn’t enough, especially as demand started to slow down and the burdensome steamer needed to keep the lentils warm made life difficult for cycling vendors. Eventually, they diversified their offerings to include snacks that were easier to carry around and had a longer shelf life – which is how we ended up with the modern-day kacang putih man selling everything else but the steamed kacang putih. John Lim, “Guide to Kacang Putih”, May 4th, 2018 http://www.timeout.com/kuala-lumpur/restaurants/guide-to-kacang-putih
4. Bombay mixture. The Bombay Mixture is another type of murukku offering that’s mixed with an assortment of fried nuts, green peas and beans, and spiced with chilli, turmeric and cumin. ‘The Bombay Mixture is thinner, but is spicier and has more ingredients compared to the Chennai Mixture. John Lim, “Guide to Kacang Putih”, May 4th, 2018 http://www.timeout.com/kuala-lumpur/restaurants/guide-to-kacang-putih
After years of chasing that elusive state of contentment by surrounding myself with things the world has to offer; I have come to realise that “happiness” in this aspect is artificial intelligence – fast to decrease, a continuous work-in-progress to stay happy, with more new things.
The things we acquire rapidly lose their shine and value because a new model, a new improved model to that one you just purchased but barely moments after you having left the store becomes an old model, one that is nearing obsolete; even though you were enticed to buy it because it was the latest.
Now, the ultimate has been launched, with many products adding the term “ultra” to them to give the air of exclusivity. Or the idea of the more you pay for the item; it must be good and will last forever. (1)
What about “Limited Edition”? You rush to buy it because there is that tag, “Limited Edition” tied with a product coupled with a meaningless number of limited to 10,000 pieces, etc? Just as you think and believe you have outsmarted, raced and beat nearly everyone else to get this priceless, limited edition item; the brand tweaks the product or launches it with a slight variant to the colour, and woohoo! Limited Edition 2 comes out! After that Limited Edition 3, 4, etc… So, how limited is “Limited Edition”?
Brands are in the business to sell and will not be limited to just a certain specified number if the product is selling well. It is a marketing angle.
Be warned: “Limited edition” is a way to entice you to part with more money for this item that you would otherwise wait for it to be on a discount sale. The final decision to part money from your wallet or bank account, including the use of credit cards; or otherwise (the reduction of your cash flow), is yours.
Can we put an expensive “price tag” or “Limited Edition” to friendship? True friendship? One that does not look at your status or the financial standing in high society or the number of properties, Rolls Royces, Bentleys, BMWs that you own, or the expensive restaurants that attract your palette.
If friendship has a price tag or “Limited Edition” to it; it’s value then lasts as long you are in a position to maintain your status. And this friendship comes with an attachment – it lasts as long as these friends can get something from you and vice versa. Barter trade friendship.
I would like to think of friendship as an acceptance of who you are as a person – no strings attached. Someone whom you can be comfortable with by just being yourself; someone who will be your friend even if it may chance a separation by time or distance….
While writing an article (2) for it to be included in the memoir of an old friend – the late Fr. John Gnanapiragasam (Fr John G.) (3); I kept thinking of a girl that I spent quite a lot of time with at a retreat for the CHOICE (4) team in the mid-1980s, with Fr. John G. as our spiritual adviser. She was the “baby” of the group, being the youngest. After 35 / 36 years, I had forgotten her name. But not her face. Not her full of life and smiles. Nor her simplicity and her innocence.
Then, I remembered seeing a name “Loraine” in a Whatsapp chat group – one gathering all the CHOICE graduates from CHOICE #1 onwards. Loraine looked somewhat like this person at the CHOICE retreat. Coincidentally. Loraine is also the cousin of my brother-in-law, Raymond Arnold.
I contacted Loraine and she told me that it was her sister, Sharon; that I was referring to. The floodgate of good memories opened wide open. Sharon resides in Germany. I am now in touch with Sharon. I think it was wonderful that we reconnected after all this time. Lasting impressions! Interesting to note that she met with my late sister, Jennifer; a few years ago.
In one of the posts on my Facebook page, I came across someone with the “Wambeck” surname. I had a classmate by the name of “Anselm Wambeck” when I was in La Salle Petaling Jaya (5) from Standard 1 (Year 1) to Standard 3. It turned out that this person who posted on my Facebook page is Anselm’s cousin and put me in touch with him. We reconnected again after over 50 years. Below, is a picture that Anselm sent me – it was a picture taken at a tea party in Assunta Primary School Hall, Petaling Jaya in 1966. We had just received the sacrament of First Holy Communion.
When I moved to La Salle Klang, I made new friends in Walter James Danker, Duncan La Brooy, Eddie Lim Swee Huat, Mak Weng Kit, Michael Lee Pillai and many more in the first few days. Walter was a prefect. On the first day (Monday) of school, I got 2 strokes of the rotan (6) from the headmaster, Bro Michael; because Walter reported me for not wearing a tie. No one told me that I was supposed to wear a tie on a Monday. Funnily, it didn’t occur to me why all the other boys were wearing a tie. Duh!
Martin Wong, and his younger brother, Jerome; became our neighbours when they move into a house just opposite ours. We used to play cowboys and Indians so often.
When we moved house to Jalan Ladang, Klang (7) (which was 300 metres away from school), Eddie Lim, Weng Kit & his brother, Weng Hoon; and a whole bunch of other schoolmates; were in our house almost everyday, playing badminton, hockey, football, table-tennis, etc. We also used to catch fighting spiders and keep them in matchboxes.
Years after we left school, something like around 50 years or so; we had a gathering of our batch of guys. Many of our teachers attended, too. All our teachers knew us by name. They were and still are sharp. It was an incredible turnout.
The incredible turnout of schoolmates and teachers. The teachers are in the front row. Everyone had awesome stories of their lives over the 50 years. I’d have to write a series of books to capture everyone’s stories.
Our best friends include family. Irreplaceable!
The Rolls Royce and Bentley graveyard in Bandar Sunway
In the past 20 months, the world or most of it; has seen, witnessed, experienced the ravage, savage and damage caused by a common enemy – the Covid-19 coronavirus. Mostly everyone has in one way or another been impacted by this virus. I said mostly everyone, not everyone. There were those who were in the right places or industries at the right time. They made money, some made obscene amounts. That is ok… I guess.
At the height of the pandemic, from what we hear and gather from various media reports (I don’t know if the information in these reports were verified); hospitals were overloaded with patients. Yet they were understaffed. News was floating around that medical personnel were instructed to not focus on those they believe were not going to recover, to let them go (gentler way of stating the obvious). I don’t know what the numbers were, if there were any.
The point I am getting at is when people are very ill, they depend on someone else to make the right decisions for them. All their lives they have been independent, when they become too sick; they have to make these adjustments. Now, due to the severity of the illness they have, they may not be able to speak. But, I believe, they are fully aware and know what is going on.
Immediate families or extended family members are the ones who usually take care of these ill people. They agree to take on the responsibility – a caring and noble gesture. They see to everything that needs to be done, right down to daily care. On top of that, they have their own jobs and families to take care of.
Over time, it can become a strain on these family caregivers. The person or persons in their care that are dependent on them, become a burden. The decisions the caretakers make, may be compromised. For example:
An elderly man is going for a medical procedure in relation with his prostrate health issue. This person, in his 80s; has a weak heart, diabetes and other health issues. The hospital has informed his family that after the procedure; it may lead to another medical procedure.
This second procedure is necessary for his health position to improve. The risk here is that after this second procedure, he may become brain dead or slip into a vegetative state.
The question here is: Should he do the second procedure?
I think he should. Even if he has a 1% chance of recovering to a normal life. Yes, There is a 99% chance he may become even a bigger “burden” if he does not recover. A decision has to be made for this second approval after that first procedure. That decision is usually a family member. A tough decision but it has to made.
If they decide “yes” for the second procedure; the person has 1% or more of a chance of surviving and recovering. That person deserves that right.
Decisions to make things easier for the caregiver should be the last alternative.
The odds of becoming a vegetable is high. But at least they tried all options available to them..
Compared with if they make a decision not to do the second procedure, he could soon die.
I think people should not be made to feel that they are a burden to others.
I am in no way, judging anyone. I understand that each person is different. Each caregiver, bless their hearts for even volunteering to look after the sickly people who are in need; have immediate family and work priorities; too.
When faced with a decision between a hard rock and the deep blue sea; pray for guidance in making the right decision.
They (not sure who “they” are) say a picture paints a thousand words.
This has to be amongst the best pictures of me, my family, my siblings and their families. It would have been perfect if Alana was in it. I think she was abroad at that time. I love this picture for its clarity and detail. I can’t remember exactly when this picture was taken. It could have been 2015, 2016 or 2017 Christmas.
Seated Left to Right: Raymond Arnold. Former national squash coach, national squash player, now squash coach extraordinaire. Always ready for a good laugh. He is game for anything and loves food. Who doesn’t? Was married to my late sister, Jennifer.
Next seated is Jennifer (Jen). I always used to say that no camera could escape Jen. Jen always insisted on many photographs be taken, especially with family. Hence, the photo above. She was also the family instigator / organiser of many of family gatherings. This picture was taken at Christmas time at The Curve shopping centre in Petaling Jaya. We were there because Jen thought it a great idea that we siblings and our families meet at a mall like this for light shopping and dinner at least once every Christmas. We always had fun at these once a year at the mall Christmas affairs with the family.
Jen was richly talented with her art. She brightened the world with her paintings and murals on many different objects and surfaces.
Jen also worked extensively on troll beads, fusing beautiful colours on them. She spent long hours working up ideas as art.
Seated next to Jennifer (back to “Jennifer” instead of “Jen” for me. I grew up with “Jennifer” in my life, so I am more comfortable with her full name, though she went into “Jen” mode.) is our (Jeannie’s and my) daughter, Laura. She is the youngest in the Atkinson clan.
Laura is currently abroad, furthering her tertiary education. While in Malaysia; if she was not at studies, she was training and swimming in championships throughout the country.
Laura was a state swimmer, representing Selangor. She was amongst the top 3 swimmers in Malaysia for the 100m and 50m Breaststroke events in the girls’ age group. Now, she represents her university and its swim team in these events and others, too. Just won the 100yd (yard) Breaststroke at Caroll University (Millikin University meet with Caroll University – 7th November, 2021).
Now, sitting on Laura’s left in the picture is (Chef) Sarah Atkinson. Besides being an artist in food presentation; the meals that she prepares leaves her guests wanting for more; seconds, third helpings. Literally! She is a chef at a foreign high commission. Sarah is the daughter of Nigel and Shirley.
Standing, at the back, from left: Shirley, was married to my late brother, Nigel. Shirley is operations chief at a freight forwarding logistics company. She is the most sought after person by her shipping line agencies and clients; pretty much on call 24×7.
Then, after Shirley in the picture; comes Nigel. Nigel is the in the middle of the five of us siblings : Jennifer, Alan, Nigel, Terence and Malcolm.
Nigel ran a temp-maid cleaning agency, providing the services of maids to clean your home, or small office or building. He had a good rapport with his clients, which were from Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam. (3) He obliged some people who were staying out of these areas.
From young, Nigel had this fastidious trait about him: everything had to be clean and in place at all times. There was never a time that anything out of place, even by one millimetre; would get past him. Always having a joke or two, or three at hand to share, he would be the livewire of a party. he loved to sing, too. He was generous, even with the little he had.
Malcolm is next in the picture. He is the youngest in the family but that never stopped him from doing and achieving what he wanted. Known by many as “the singing pastor”; his music and his personality has drawn many, many people to the good news.
Malcolm is up to date on news of his favourite marvel action heroes. He has a pretty good collection of marvel comics, a collection which he started from the time he was in school.
Much of his time now is spent recording and producing music that he sings solo, and with others, too. He wants the end result of production to be the way he has envisaged the songs to be.
Uma, Malcolm’s wife; has a penchant for cooking. She loves cooking. she has all sorts of cooking utensils and gadgets that bring out the already deliciousness in the food she serves. Dinners at their home usually has a wide spread of Indian or western cuisine or a combination of both.
While at hers and Malcolm’s home yesterday she taught us a lesson which I heard for the first time and think it as interesting. If you are eating an Indian meal and use your hands instead of the usual cutlery; you pick up the food with your fingers, making sure the food does not touch the palm of your hand.
Continuing with the siblings photo. I am next after Uma and don’t need any introduction. 😄😉
Jeannie is standing next to me, more like in front of me. She hardly needs any introduction. She is in business development in the food services industry. Always on the lookout for new food items and brands.
Jeannie is also a batik influencer. Batik designs and materials have evolved since it became popular many years ago. Jeannie has an interest in the different types of batik and has produced several ladies’ jackets and tops that have gone to several parts of the world. If you see a lady in the U.S., Australia or Japan in a beautiful batik jacket; it may most likely be one of Jeannie’s creations.
Mabel is next. Terence’s wife; she makes fancy design cakes. She is artistic and thus produces these beautifully designed cakes. When there’s a party in her house; cups will be plastic with your names written on them so that there won’t be an unnecessary waste of cups. She is organised.
Terence, Mabel’s husband; happens to be my brother, not my “second brother” or my cousin’s cousin. Wait a minute – my cousin’s cousin? We’re onto something here. 😁
Terence, who is also the “Uncle Al” (4) of our generation; has been with international schools for many years now. He spends a lot of time with his hobby – hydroponic (5) vegetables. He is about to turn 60 in a few days time. Happy Birthday, Terence (in advance). Welcome to the “60s is the new thirties” club.
Ashley is the last but not least in this picture. Younger daughter of Terence and Mabel; she is a teacher by profession. She started a new handicraft business fairly recently, promoting all the handicraft she makes. She is a very talented singer.
This photo of my siblings and myself and our families, has that warm and Christmas-y atmosphere about it. Will be treasured. Christmas is just around the corner.
Every time I re-visit a picture, it tells me the same story, but from a different point of view. As I get on in years, the same picture becomes more vibrant. – Good memories. Many smiles. Everlasting.
They say a picture paints a thousand words. Well, I think it does more than that. Definitely more than a thousand words – this essay is over 1,300 words.
Jennifer passed away in March 2019.
Nigel passed away in August 2021.
Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya are cities in Selangor, Malaysia.
“Uncle Al” – his mannerisms, way of talking and expressing himself is like dad’s brother, Uncle Al.
Hydroponics is a type of horticulture and a subset of hydroculture which involves in growing plants (usually crops) without soil, by using mineral nutrient solutions in an aqueous solvent… Hydroponics offers many advantages notably a decrease in water usage in agriculture. https://en.m.wikipedia.org
January 1st 2021 was just upon us not too long ago and now it has vanished in thin air.
The end of Q3 is in a few days.
On reflection, where did the almost 9 months go? We have the same 86,400 seconds or 1,440 minutes or 24 hours in each day as anyone else has. Can we account as to how we spent our time during these last 9 months?
Malaysia for one, was under Emergency lock-down with the hopes of curbing the spread of Covid-19. During these periods of “confined-to-our-homes” and restrictive movement, how have we spent our time?
We are so caught up in getting things of the planned future done for fear of not accomplishing them when time passes us by. I am guilty of that. I set out staring at this new year, 2021; with a few new resolutions of which I can only remember one of hand, that is to write 100 articles or essays with a minimum 500 words. As it is, I am behind schedule with 53 articles more to go. I don’t want to make excuses that I have all my other day-to-day, weekly and monthly activities to attend, to; too.
More importantly, is how we use our time to do the things we want to do. We may find ourselves caught up doing things that are unplanned for. Some of these unplanned for activities could be eating away or stealing our time.
“Time-stealers” have to be identified. What is the meaning of time stealer? A time stealer is something that doesn’t need to be done at all.
Common time stealers include:
Procrastination – serves no purpose but only to delay the work or outcome
Called up by others
Cancelled task to react to something going wrong
Forced to take work home (most of us are working from home now due to the Covid-19 pandemic) or answer calls out of hours
A cluttered and disorganized workspace
Looking for tools or information to do the job / make a decision
Emails received that need responding to after work hours
Constantly having to refer to our smartphones, even if have not received any notifications
There is another group that hogs on to your time. These are the time wasters. A time waster is one that eventually needs a response, but only when the time is right. Some common time wasters include
Social media distraction
Constantly checking your emails
Lack of prioritization
Watercooler conversations, coffee break or teh tarik at the mamak (3) during working time. The mamak restaurants were usually full before the Covid-19 outbreak.
Constantly having to refer to our smartphones
For me, writing these 100 articles is a challenge I took on. I aim to fulfil this challenge. If I don’t, it is going to be more challenging next year. I will penalise the short fall with by carrying forward the shortfall (hopefully none) and add 60% to work on next year. I am working hard to complete it this year as I plan to write a book of between 100,000 to 130,000 words in 2022.
There are many who like to reminisce on “the good old days”; me included. But not enough time is spent living in the present. Not forgetting, we have to live in the present; too.
The future that we chase; that is our dreams, our goals, our ambitions; arrives at our doorstep of life, but for a fleeting moment. Then it becomes our past. Many of us hardly ever notice that “we have arrived at our destination” and rarely get off that train, bus or “vehicle of destined future”; as we have the “next goal to catch”. This was the future that we had planned for, well for many of us. But we don’t recognize it, or take enough time to enjoy this future that is our now, our present.
Then, there are the few who actually get off the vehicle of destined future when they arrive at their destination. “Now what?”, they ask themselves. Their planned destination does not have enough momentum to keep them going for the rest of their lives. Some get into depression because they have fallen from what they have perceived as the highest point in their life to an all time low.
This leads us to the question, “How do we learn to balance our time? To aim and chase for our dreams and goals, to be able to handle them when we achieve them (some could take many years); and then, move on from there.
Isn’t time the most important asset that we have?
We have to learn to add and incorporate the essence of “peace of mind”, happiness and rest into this asset.
“All aboard!” The train, bus or “vehicle of destined future” is departing the station. Next stop….?
Mamak usually refers to an Indian-Muslim restaurant or stall; serving various non-alcoholic drinks, simple fast-prepared food like roti canai and all its variety, Maggi Mee goreng “pedas”; to name a few. Their pricing is very cheap. For example: 2 roti canai and a kopi besar ( more coffee, served in a glass – no it is not an Americano 😉 )
It is about that time of the year when many of us would have forgotten some, if not all of the new year’s resolutions (new year’s what?) that we made, if we made any. My new additional resolution is to write 100 500-word minimum articles in 2021. This is my 4th. I am behind schedule. The late motivational speaker, Englishman Peter West said, “having a goal without a plan is wishful thinking.” He can’t be further from the truth. Peter was a no-nonsense, tell-it-as-he-sees-it guy, who used to frequent Malaysia in the 1990s, encouraging thousands of people in the salesforce to make use of the potential they had in them.
Some of the more common resolutions are 1. Be punctual. Some of the highty-flighty, tembak besar (or is it besar tembak?) bigshots think it is fashionable to be late. This year, 2021 in particular; new year’s resolutions seem mute, distant, not talked about. In a country like Malaysia; we have what is known as “Malaysian time”. To be fair, the rail services in Italy had a standard practice – “being late”. When I was in Italy some years ago; I used to commute by train to most parts of the country. First of all, their railway stations like Rome and Florence, were a nightmare, even in the day; with about 200 departure/arrival platforms each. One of the first messages that you hear over all the trains’ P.A. system is, “Good evening. We apologise that we are late”. And this is regardless what time of the day it is. I love Italy and its people. Well, all except for that one lady who pickpocketed me of 750 euros on the train from Rome to Florence. 2. Getting down to a regular exercise programme. Intentions are admirable – to lose those couple of kilos (for many, losing 10kg would be far better); tone ’em muscles (this is causing my belly to look bigger than it should 🙂 ) and to keep fit and have a healthy routine. By January 1st; the Asics/Nike/Adidas shoes, t-shirts, shorts/skirts, sweatbands, fitness tracking devices are ready. Then, everyone is out working on their various exercise programmes. By the end of two weeks; the blazing hot sun, the rain, the humidity, oh yes and the MCO, PMCO, RMCO, and all the other COs due to the Covid-19….no need to say….”lah”. The best is to exercise according to one’s schedule, level of fitness, etc. Not to others’ expectations. 3. To be financially free. This is one that gets side-tracked and waylaid almost from the very beginning with special offers, super easy payments, attractive ads and the list goes on. Buying a motor vehicle seems so attractive now, due to the special waiver of government sales tax. Buying a smartphone comes bundled with so many goodies, just short of the kitchen sink…sometimes you may wonder….would it not be better to lower the price of the new phone instead of throwing in the kitchen sink as part of the package? You notice how the free power-bank is suddenly worth RM250? What about buying a house? We all love a discount, a massive discount will seal the deal. Now, you can buy a property for free….no, really….free….that is 0% deposit or down-payment for property under construction. In reality, the deposit, down payment and interest income from the deposit and down-payment lost by the developers will be charged to your instalment repayment.
I would like to focus on wanting to be financially free. What does it mean to be “financially free?” Financial freedom usually means having enough savings. financial investments, and cash on hand to afford the kind of life we desire for ourselves and families (Sevilla). There are many views on what financially freedom is. Here, I am not talking about being financially independent which in a nut shell means earning more than your expenditure or spending less than you earn. Being financially free to me is about having peace of mind from all forms of debt. I am talking about not being chastised to loans and not having to work to earn an income to pay the loans off. My mother has this principle, “Live within your means”. Don’t take loans. “The rich lords it over the poor, the borrower is the lender’s slave”. – Proverbs 22:7 (RSV CE)
There are a few exceptions. You most probably would need to take a loan to purchase the house you live in, and one or two cars. These purchases should be moderate according to your household income. It should not be to the point of struggling to make ends meet (your peace of mind is compromised). You might face a “catch 22” situation. You will need a good credit score to take a loan. And you can’t get a credit score without taking a loan.
As your income grows, you will find yourself “needing” more things to make living more comfortable for you and your family. And the advertisements – they are the answer to one’s prayers – the advertisers. These adverts seems to have every solution to the problems you never know you had. Many of you may have heard of this story: a shoe manufacturer sent a salesman to a remote country to sell their shoes. He saw the people there going about their everyday lives barefoot. He returned back to the shoe manufacturer with his findings: “Everyone goes around barefooted; there are no prospects of selling shoes here”. The shoe manufacturer decided to send another salesman there. He, too; saw that people went about their daily lives barefooted. He sent a message back to the shoe manufacturer : “Everyone goes around barefooted, send 1,000 pairs of shoes”. Could it be that the people there did not need shoes, that they chose to live closer to nature?
Some years back, I received a congratulatory note from a luxury German car marque after having purchased one of their models. The way the advertised standard message was put across to me, their valued customer; “You have arrived” with a hint that it was due to their brand that I had attained that level of success. Though it was not necessary for me to reply that message, I did. ” It is because I have attained this level of financial success; I chose your product; that you have arrived because of my choice and should feel honoured; not the other way around.” Needless to say, no response from them. So much for being a valued customer.
The clothes you wear, watches, shoes, restaurants you dine, club memberships….the list goes on. After you’ve acquired these things, then you need to upgrade to keep up with the Joneses so that you don’t feel inferior or intimidated by the “lesser” things you have. The solutions and answers to all the questions you never knew you had to begin with. The easy credit from financial intuitions and credit cards help you acquire these “assets” which deplete in value the moment it changes hands from the sellers to you. The German car marque (which I talked about earlier) invited me to the launch of their latest mid-size large model not too long after I got my car from them. Keep in mind when they first sold me the car, they said, “car for Life”. I asked, “Whose life?” I test drove this large mid-range model in their model line up. I put forward a proposition to the senior sales manager, “If I buy this car for RM470,000, drive it out of your showroom and park it overnight in your front vehicle parking lot which is part of your compound; come back the next morning and offer to sell it back to you for RM30,000 less than what I paid for; will you take it?”. He said the company couldn’t. An “asset” with a RM30,000 drop in value is not accepted back by the people that sold it in the very first place, after 1 day! 15 years ago, my daughter was with me when I was buying a new cell phone (handphone). When I bought the handphone, she said, “Daddy, now that man is rich.” I asked her what she meant by that. She said, “You gave him your money.” I said, “Yes, but I have got a new handphone.” She said, “but that man has got your money!” She was 5 years old at that time.
Coming back to the idea of having peace of mind. In most cases, before long, you probably would have raked up loans, credit card and other expenses which would create a new meaning for “work”. You work in order to earn the money to pay off the huge debt you now regret you have. “The borrower is the lender’s slave.” –(Proverbs 22:7) We are consumed by debt. We cannot and should not fault the many advertisements that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I welcome them as the provide a multitude of choices for anything that we may be looking for – be it realty, motor vehicles, clothes right down to simple things like groceries. Then, we are able to make an informed decision on our purchases. But and it is a big “but”; we have to be responsible shoppers. Buy what we need, not what we want. We have to learn not to be compulsive shoppers. It is unfortunate that many people are caught in the debt trap when it becomes stifling.
The key is to have peace of mind. While many may fall in this seemingly spiraling bottomless pit debt trap; not all is lost. The first step is to identify that we have a problem. The next step is how do we want to address this problem. This will be answered in Story Time Part Two: I Want To Break Free!
We had this old family friend from Penang where when it came to paying for a meal or drinks; his hands would go in his pockets but was slow to take them out. He found it difficult to reach for his money because his pockets were too deep but his hands were too short. Yes, he is wealthy.
In this article, I may not have/did not attempt too much on being grammatically correct. This article may be disconnected with its title. It is intended to provoke the thinking process of critics of this article, not so much the content, but the way it was written. In 2020, it was vogue and fashionable for men to wear dresses, skirts and what-have-yous. If that was ok, then writing articles the way we’ve known all this while; is set to change, too.
Sevilla, Jovia. “What is Financial Freedom?”, MoneyFit
Proverbs 22:7 (RSV CE), quoted in “Navigating Your Finances God’s Way”, Catholic Edition, Compass Catholic Ministries