29 August 2013


In front of our terrace house in Taman Sri Minang, there are trees in the park. On Monday night, dinner eaten, the children watching Japanese cartoons in the background, I sat out under the awning, filled my pipe, and smoked. The pipe comes and goes in life: I smoked when I was completing my PhD thesis, in angry walks down by the river across the football pitch from the Stuart Hall Building. This fit of smoking, over the last two months, began while Yoko and the kids were away, when I bought tobacco in Suria, the glossy mall in KLCC. RM22, a kind of selfish treat, I thought at the time.

After the sunset, but before the final call to prayer, the atmosphere is perfect — the streetlamp in front of the house casting a third-world light that you notice when you first arrive in the country, but becomes normal the more you are in it. I looked up at the tree and thought about how long it had been there — was it older than me?

On Tuesday, Naomi and I will go again to her new school for orientation and on Wednesday she will start, and I am dreading this. Another change in an unending series of changes, although Yoko assures me that if we, her parents, are okay, she will be okay. This won't be the case in three years time, when she is ten, but for now we can control it and make it okay. I want to believe this, but I have doubts. Her life has been in non-stop flux, new friends and languages. How does anyone remain happy throughout these changes: I map my own insecurity on her experience. Perhaps being a child is easier.

Security: a kind of half truth to our children about how the world really is.

After riding my motorbike on Tuesday, being liberated, I was brought down quickly. I passed an accident on the road home and remembered one thing about riding the bike I hadn't fully realised: the ride in to work was much easier than the ride out. A half circle of people around a mangled Yamaha Wave — a police car with lights on. No one was dead, from what I could tell, but an omen among good portents stands out.

I dread dragging my daughter back to the school again, but what needs to be done, needs to be done. Have I learned anything in the last eight months: it's worth asking that question outloud. I ask it all the time in my head, when I'm sending the children up to go to bed, or walking out to lock the gate, or waiting for the bus. Put this all in context for me.

All this talk of the moment around me now; just live the moment, don't pull anything close or push anything away. Cross-legged on the concrete in front of the house, for a moment, the peace that passes understanding, the peace of being present in the moment, the past and future forgotten, came upon me. Bathed in light and smoke, looking up. Yes, I see, I have a glimpse. There is nothing to do but be here.