Big foot

January 31, 2015

Two weeks ago I noticed one of my Doberman guard dogs, Big Foot was curled up in a corner. When I examined her closer there was a gaping wound on her neck. It’s hard to say how it happened, it could have been a collar rash…a bite from a scorpion, snake or monitor lizard. But whatever caused it, it looked bad. She was in a bad state. Perhaps 8/10 serious.
I felt an acute wave of shame and regret following this discovery. As a rule I play with the dogs while checking on their vitals every morning. It’s a SOP that I wrote and carry out religiously everyday. However lately due to the pressing need to hit the field one hour before dawn I’ve been skipping these daily checks and now the wound appears infected and there’s a distinct possibly Big Foot is going to die because I let him down! This just sucks.

I happen to be especially fond of big foot. As his temperament is so undoberman! Hardly a no neck soldier dog. Much closer to a golden retriever. Big Foot is a hippie dog, if was a man, he would probably be sporting circular John Lennon rose tinted glasses and wearing one of those ‘same shit, different day’ tees – the quientessential odd one out who always has this look of bewilderment why the rest of the pack are always so serious. Dogs don’t nearly have to be functional to be endearing – in the case of Big Foot, he fulfills the essential function of connecting me to a rare currency that comes from prolonged spells in the field. Humanity. That why I love him.

Anyway to cut a long story short. I quarantined Big Foot in my room and took great care to clean and dress the wound daily along with putting him on a recovery diet. Fortunately the wound healed marvelously and now he’s running around like the happy energetic dog that he used to be.

Close call.



‘Of course I still believe in the idea of paradise. Only now at this point in my life. I am not so sure it’s a pristine stretch of beach in some shark infested island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific where cartographers may have missed. Or one of those picture postcard scenes with snow capped mountain and rolling hills where the skies are so paraffin blue it hurts your eyes. I don’t deny that’s how I once saw the idea of paradise in the moment of my youth. But I now know something that I had never known before – paradise is not some place because it’s not physical, it’s cerebral…emotional…it’s all up there in your head – it’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something that makes you whole and complete. And if you’re lucky enough to be in that moment…then you have all the power to stop time and that moment can last forever….that to me is how I see the idea paradise.’

First Impressions

January 28, 2015


She is built to be slightly unstable and finicky. That is the nature of all hand built high performance mountain bikes – they are all like bad tempered primadonnas. One mistake and she will have no hesitation in throwing me cleanly off the saddle….very little margin for sloppiness…fortunately, the curse also comes with the blessing – she is diabolically fast on the straights, climbs tight as a drum and so very sure on the hairpins – yes….she is slowly beginning to grow on me.

I will have to be very gentle and cautious in my moves…slowly….so very slowly. We will come together marvelously like my previous bike….you will all see.

Meanwhile there is a tinge of sadness putting my old bike out to pasture. There are some things that i will always miss about her (if you look closely there is a red and yellow ribbon on my retired frame. These are race ribbons, very much like kill flags on a fighter plane….yes, we have been thru a lot…so many trails) – it is so strange how ordinary everyday things we use regularly have this uncanny ability acquire a soulfulness about them. It makes me wonder sometimes whether our spirit has some how managed to permeate deep into these things and suddenly infused them with a life.

She does not look very pleasing to the eye…not at all. In fact as far as first impressions go even by the most forgiving standards, her lines look very unsettling when compared to my other bicycle that has smooth and clean classical lines.

But when I look at her longer…and study the geometry very closely, then very slowly her hidden beauty oozes out like amber from ancient wood. Yes very slowly I can tease out the various nuances along with the strands of logic only to be filled with understanding – why she has to look the way she does to perform…so true to the adage form must follow function……to insist on the other way would be to put the cart before the horse. One can only derive the lowest form of beauty…a vapid and decaying beauty for beauty sake and in this manner that which was once ugly is suddenly rendered an aching beautiful.

A good bicycle is not so different from a woman I reckon.


This is a true story

‘Two years back ago I came across a Singaporean friend of mine who hails from Bukit Batok in the emporium of one thousand pleasures. This is a seafood restaurant in the kampung (you can always tell as in cowboy towns, they all have license to exaggerate). The pleasures that this gentlemen was partaking that evening comprised a dish of drunken prawns, chili crab and a buxom chinese prostitute.

Usually when I come across such carnal encounters even with people who I may be acquainted with – it is not unusual for me to feign profound indifference. I am after a worldly chap who understands the imposition of discretion when it comes to such delicate matters – my lips are as tight as a Doberman in the dentist shop. But since I happen to know the history of this fellow – you see he started a mushroom farm with his wife not very far from where I turn the wheel of life. I even know recently he came to money as his business is flourishing. A large part of the credit goes to his wife. Not him. As since she has a pleasant disposition unlike this fellow, she has been able to open so many doors for this ungrateful fuck of a half man.

I felt a wave of mischief shimmering across me that evening for some inexplicable reason so I proceeded to take pictures of this couple like a Mossad secret agent. I even followed them to their love nest. Bribed the concierge to allow me to climb up the drain pipe and spy on them from the balcony. If only hotel 81 is like all the kampung hotels – where life is so interesting as it also probably so open minded – provided one can keep ones brains from spilling out. Life would be so transparently. These were my thoughts.

The following day I presented the evidence to this man. His first reaction, this is blackmail! I replied, you are most perceptive. He began to recount to me in ear shattering terms – what I do with my life is my bloody business and demanded to know my motivation.

I told him quite plainly my motivation was purely altruistic and all I desired was to restore the balance of heaven and earth along with preventing him from taking a wrong turn in life. He exclaimed wtf! At some point, the man broke down and told me in a wavering tone that deep down he was a very sad man and had never known any excitement in his whole twenty odd years of marriage. This man even when on to intimate to me that he now found his wife staid and boring. I went on to tell this man I have it under the surest authority, his wife to the best of my knowledge based on the village CIA and Mossad intelligence services that operates from a benign village barbershop was a woman of impeccable standing – that if not for her 24/7 dedication in growing his business, it’s unlikely that he would ever have come to money. As since his wife often speaks highly of him and makes it a point to win the hearts and minds of the villagers to his side – this is the only reason why he has been successful thus far. I went on to add, left to his own, he would have floundered a long time ago. As he had the EQ of a doorknob and the table manners of a pig. At one point when anger got the better of me. I suddenly jumped out of my chair like a ninja and proceeded on to knock this fellow on the head with my bare knuckles twice to give him two decent sized balaku’s to which after cringing with pain. He threatened to call the police. I dared him. He called me a gangster (can you all imagine that! Me…a gangster) – I went on to tell this fellow, if his wife was really fucked up as he claimed. I wouldn’t have seen the wisdom to interfere. Not at all. I went on to add, it’s conceivable that I would have even encourage him with other women….two would be better…three betterest.

After that from time to time whenever I came across this fellow, I would wink and nudge him and exclaim in a sardonic tone, ‘are you looking closer!….remember I can always post this all in Youtube if you are not!’

After a period. The man called on me one day and recounted in a very humble tone, that he now knows the error of his ways. He went on thank me for my timely intervention. As since the last time we talked, he has been counting his blessings and since then not a day goes by when he doesn’t give thanks to heaven for uniting him with such a wonderful wife who could always be entrusted to help him in his business.

I told him that I always knew he would be able to see the beauty in her….if only he looked closer.’

People who are insecure NEED to control. Once they believe they can no longer control a thing, person or course of events. They will feel anxious and fearful. This is why these people often have an over whelming desire to control the relationships around them. To know what is happening. Often these people are not even aware, they are intruding into the privacy of others and dabbling into affairs that should not involve them.

This is very natural of insecure people….as I said, they need to be in control. Once they lose the perception they are in control. Insecure people can be suddenly overwhelmed by confusion and anxiety. This leads to irrational fear. And this in turn opens the door to suffering.

Because of this, when dealing with insecure people, it’s best for one to give them the illusion that they know you….that you are even an open book…that you are benign and never a threat to them.

Acknowledging the reasons why insecure people think and do the things they do allows us to see them as victims of their own circumstances. When one knows the Tao of insecure people. Then one will never be angry or frustrated with them and it becomes much easier to empathise with their mental conditions.


Disrespectful people

January 26, 2015

When it comes to managing yourself with disrespectful people – less is always more. That’s to say, silence is golden.

To me it’s very simple. If one is stupid enough to engage disrespectful people in the hope of gaining their respect. All you are really doing is giving them power over your life.

If you are foolish enough to do this. There are only a few possible outcomes. One you end up getting sucked into their contorted world of irrational hate, mistrust and resentment only to end up mad. Or that you will end up committing some hedious crime and end up in the police station.

Either way it will not be a happy enterprise. There is no money there lah.

So the wisest thing to do is to completely ignore those who are rude and disrespectful to you.

You will find this will not only keep you mentally healthy, but since you have adopted a militant refusal to give these toxic people even so much as one molecule of power over your life – they are suddenly rendered harmless, benign and inconsequential.


‘There are some people who whenever I think about them. I just want to reach for my parang and hack them to pieces. I don’t really care what happens thereafter. I care even less whether that is right or wrong. This is information that I would usually never volunteer for obvious reasons. But since I run my own enterprise and don’t work for others. My feel it’s worth sharing only because it’s serves as disclosure – this may seem odd to you only because Singapore is really a very safe place where if things get too hairy one can always call the police. Only understand this! Not everywhere else is like Singapore. In some countries you don’t even want to call the police as they are in cahoots with the rich and influential landowners – that’s life. So the buck stops there. It is what it is – and all that a man can do is work within those constraints – so I hope you understand why disclosure is necessary whenever we speak about the subject of disrespectfulness and how it may lead to violence.

Fortunately in the business world the people who bring out the very worse in me keep their distance. That’s to say to manage our irreconcilable differences intelligently, we have a tacit agreement, where they know should I attend this function, then they will probably give it a miss. So we alternate.

It’s not a perfect armistice, hardly a ceasefire, but nonetheless it’s a workable detente. A way to live and let live. Because the alternative is simply too horrendous to imagine.

Truth is I am not a forgiving man. The only passage that makes any sense to me in the bible is an eye for an eye….the rest I cannot understand.

This is why I can fully understand what happened in Paris recently. It doesn’t mean I agree with these people who killed the cartoonist. Not at all. It just means I understand completely how once perfectly well adjusted, normal and level headed people can just lose it all so completely when they are disrespected. Especially when they are pushed beyond their limit.

Unfortunately the killings in Paris have been politicized. I can understand why politicians and reporters prefer to see this as some great clash between Islam and the attitudes of the Western Hemisphere. But my feel, these people elide the obvious and it’s conceivable what we are really witnessing is just one group of people disrepecting another and how it all goes out of control.

Neither do I see the need to be coy about having to speak or write about violence with that usual air of detachment which we so often see in cultural leaders and the press corps. My feel is when these people speak along such lines – as if they’re trying so hard to distance themselves from that primal force to suggest its has nothing whatsoever to do with the human condition. To me that not only disingenuous, it’s dishonest.

Because IMHO it’s a fallacy to suggest anyone has that reserve of sagacity, forebearance and wisdom to keep it all together. People like that just don’t know themselves and others….they have no conception how to manage themselves and others effectively. Fact is everyone has a limit….you have one…they have one and so do I! And those who continue to insist they don’t have a ounce of violence in them. Well to put it in the language of the diplomat – they should consider themselves very lucky as they have never ever been pushed to that point of nihilism when everything just becomes a churning gyre of hell. So in my experience, it’s usually pointless talking to these bubble wrapped people about this subject, it’s really like talking about snakes in Norway…the bloody thing doesn’t exist!’

It’s getting hot!

January 22, 2015


Rode around my land this afternoon. It’s slowly getting hotter. I don’t mean just hot like a high number on the thermometer. That doesn’t really tell me anything at all. It’s hot like it is in the desert where it’s cool in the shade, but skin peeling hot in the full blast of the sun. There is a cool breeze that blows from east to west – I know this wind, it comes all the way from the Siberian steppes. The Mongols who used to roam the Gobi desert called it the whispering death – Namtakanama.

In 1942 when Hitler invaded Russia in summer many of his legions marched around deliriously in circles. When asked why, they all swore they heard cries of maidens. Before that Napoleon’s grand armee suffered the same fate…only they called it la mort – such is the nature of this wind…’s a cunning wind….a hallucinatory wind…the sort that is a skeleton key that opens up musky cobwebbed attic doors in a man’s head….sending him barreling like a speeding bullet thru that ocean of time.

I must remind myself not to talk to any maidens on my land. Or for that matter any strange females that I may come across. I will adopt a brusque and curt demeanor like an aloof landowner.

I do not trust this wind. There is something melancholic about it…..yes I remember……. I remember….

Many years ago in Africa….

The Chinaman Cocoa planter who stood ramrod for hours on the hill scanning the Northern horizon with his field glasses knew that trouble was brewing up north in Uganda – three days ago a strange metallic pod was found on the Western part of his lands – he had picked up a fragment of this cigar shaped container and surmised, it was a recently jettisoned fuel tank from a jet fighter – the Cyrillic and Arabic markings with the hyphenated “Jin,” suggested it was a Sudanese jet, probably a MIG-21 – through the whole of last week, the Chinaman had stood on the same spot and traced out jet vapor trails high across the far Northern steely skies – he could make out from the neat trident shape of the vapor trails high above, they were military jets probably on a bombing sortie – even in darkness, the Chinaman Cocoa farmer had stood on the same spot and watched the eerie glow of arklight throughout the whole week, as they waxed and waned in the distant horizons to the far North – he knew it to be heavy artillery.

Even in the early morning, the Chinaman had still stood on the same spot – he had noticed how even the red footed falcons that usually only began their long epic flight home to the Russian steppes in July had began their journey earlier that year – he noticed, that his fine feathered friends who flew in from the North were all tired, so tired that some even rested in the rectangular apertures that the Chinaman had constructed to allow many of his fine feathered friends to rest, hunt and fatten themselves before they began their aerial marathon across the Ugandan Great Rift Valley and swung off sharply Southwards towards the Indian Ocean through to the Himalayas to make the 10,000 mile flight all the way back to the Ukraine. The Chinaman had even looked closely at his fine feathered friends – he noticed the tips of their feathers were stained with a fine powdery white substance – when he plucked the feathers out and brought it close to his nostrils, he recognized instantly the deadly yet sweet smell of cherries that he knew to be phosphorous mixed with paraffin – napalm.

Even the yellow fitches that usually flew through Kenya and rested in Lake George of Uganda to the far South did not come his way that season – the man surmised his fine feathered friends had taken the treacherous route northwards through the falcon invested Sahara instead of the northern arid plains through Chad and Egypt that led to the Mediterranean – the Chinaman realized even his fine feathered friends, the yellow fitches knew that there was trouble brewing somewhere northwards.

In the evenings, when the Chinaman strained his ears to listen to the wireless – even that only seemed to confirm his suspicion that something was amiss – he had been in Africa long enough to realize that the white man was the first to leave a sinking ship like crafty rats – for the last three consecutive days, the VOA, the Voice of America had began to play, Bing Cosby’s, “White Christmas.” Even though it was only June – as for Radio Moscow, it had been more subtle yet equally revealing – He had noticed how the news announcer who usually spoke with a fake Bostonian accent had used two consonants on three consecutive sentences during the beginning of each news broadcast of the African service for the last three days – this the Chinaman realized were secret codes that something terrible had broken out to the North. Neither could he count on the UN which the man considered to be the UNITED NOTHING. As for the legion he surmised even those cowards had secretly pulled out in the cover of darkness and had now begun the long retreat back to Djibouti.

That evening the Chinaman drove to the German school teacher’s house at the edge of his plantations – this time, he had insisted that she pack up her bags and he was here to drive her all the way to Kampala proper where he knew she would be safest in the German embassy in Kololo – the nun had refused vehemently and even protested at considerable length, but the Chinaman was in no mood for a prolonged conversation – and when it seemed a war of words was just about to flare up between the school teacher and the Chinaman; the latter had slapped her so hard that even her habit had come clean off. He had regretted instantly what he done and when he had reached out for her, the woman cringed away. And though she was none the wiser as to why he had behaved in such a brusque manner – the nun began to pack up her belongings.

That night as the Chinaman sat behind the half sobbing nun in the car; the car stopped on the fork road – the road to the South, he reckoned would probably be filled with LRA militia and the entire Acholi tribe all the way to Kampala by now – so he instructed the driver to take the longer Southern Westerly less used village road which would have doubled the journey time to Kampala. Hardly had the car proceeded more than 20 kilometers – the car was stopped at a makeshift checkpoint. In the half glow of the crescent moonlight – the Chinaman could just make out a man in his thirties armed with a semi auto along with a couple of other kids perched like birds on the metal railing blocking the car – he saw the way the man looked at the European woman with the long flowing blond hair – he knew what would happen next – without even so much as a word, the Chinaman stepped out of the car drew out his revolver leveled it at the man and shot him squarely in between his eyes – the boys immediately cocked their AK-47’s but the man could make out these weren’t battled hardened child soldiers, their weapons lacked the patina that came with regular use. So he stood his ground fired another shot into the man and after lighting a cigarette he shouted in a booming voice,

“Aki Shahidi, name tombu mama kaba di mabuto jia-kimba!” (I am the Shahidi, now run or I will kill you all like this pig. Obey me!)

They dropped their weapons promptly and ran like hell. The Chinaman looked relieved. His gamble had paid off.

That long night as the German nun and the Chinaman sat at the back of the car as it barreled towards Kampala –– it was as if both of them were hermetically sealed in their own world – the Chinaman features looked distant and implacable as the few passing cars from the opposite direction illuminated his granite face and blood stained bush jacket from time to time – it seemed as if he might not even have been aware that the nun had gripped his hand so tightly throughout the entire journey. Harder if not impossible to really know whether he was even thinking why she needed to do such a strange thing – perhaps she realized then that she had meant much more to the Chinaman – perhaps she realized how naïve, stupid and irresponsible she had been to have kept on insisting to stay on even when he had previously pleaded with her to leave and now that she had pushed him to this point….this point when all hell had been unleashed….the point when the man even knew deep down. It was really impossible for him to ever run away from whatever he was running away from – when he decided to settle in Africa to turn the well of life as the Shahidi – she knew only too well at that very moment the Chinaman may have once lost someone dear to him and he was not going to ever let it happen again – he had crossed an invisible line in his head to that other world that had brought him all the way to Africa – but when the Chinaman had made a decision to protect her no matter what the cost. He not only cared. He went back into that other world in his past – a world that he once turned away from. In that world, he did not have the luxury to care. He had after all made a decision to protect her.

Even if it meant that she had to see a part of him that he had never ever wanted her to know about him…..never….never ever. A part of him that had probably brought this Chinaman to Africa in the first place. And with these thoughts she griped the hand of the man who she knew probably cared more about her than even the God she served and worshipped with all her heart – the man who she knew may very well have been the devil everyone said he was….but that night Eva Meyer, the woman and not the nun had crossed an invisible line….like the man who now sat beside her in the speeding Mercedez……he too had crossed a line….. with these thoughts her grip on the man’s hand tigthened further as the car barreled through the velvety night towards Kampala.

trees of my dreams
Tell me. Do you happen to remember a grand 150 year old Hopea Sanggal tree that was cut down by a greedy developer in Changi thirteen years ago? What about the 200 year old Chingay that used to be stand tall and proud in Tampines before it too had to make way for yet another mall? No….I don’t expect you remember. That’s how it is. It’s not an indictment on humanity, if anything it’s a sign of how we have all been streamed to value things. These days in the age of kitsch and make belief – the things that really matter no longer count for squat. That just the way I see it.

Btw ever wondered where those trees ended up?

As for the nasty contractor who tried to shoo me off when I was collecting the seeds from the cut down tree. I told him his day of reckoning would come very soon. Not long after that on one rainy day when he was driving along the PIE, a branch the size of transformer forearm came right down on him and he ended up in hospital.

He should have heeded my warning….it’s not as if I didn’t tell him. I have friends in high places.


Many years ago somewhere along a busy street near a school

Tree: You again! The boy who likes to stare at me.

Boy: If I told the rest. You are a talking tree. The headmaster will tell the gardener to cut you down.

Tree: No they wouldn’t silly boy. Trees don’t talk to humans. Except maybe to peculiar boys like you – and if you should be silly enough to tell them. A white van with men wearing white costs will take you away. No it is best that we keep this our little secret boy. Now run along before someone sees you talking to me.

Boy: I will go now, but I will be back again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and forever.

Tree: No child. They will cut me down one day.

Boy: No, they wouldn’t I will protect you!

Tree: with what boy?

Boy: With my love tree….my love

(Present day in the lower section of my lands overlooking the river)

Toddler Hopea Sanggal tree: Who am I farmer? Are you my father? Where did I come from?

Farmer: One day all will be revealed….meanwhile you should not talk to me when my farmhands are around. People will cut you down. As for me the villagers will think I am queer and send me away. Do you want me to be sent away?

Toddler Hopea Sanggal tree: I can’t help it.

Farmer: Yes…your mother was like that too child.

Miss my kids

January 20, 2015


Haven’t seen them for a long time.

Just around this time of the year when the winds shift….so do I. I’ve never told anyone about this. That’s not true. I told a teacher once during the moment of my youth. But after listening to me I allowed her to convince me it was all imagined.

I go thru changes. By this I mean my body and mind goes through a series of small imperceptible changes. You could say it’s always been this way with me.

Only since I’ve gone thru it so many times. I am just more acutely aware of it than ever before. Perhaps my newfound awareness has something to do with the fact these days I spend most of my time alone in a natural environment instead of a crowded city.

Let me share with you these changes. The first thing that happens is razors tend to lose their edge faster usual. This is followed by a gradual perceptive shift in form, symmetry, color and texture –shapes and colors acquire an uncanny precision. Reds aren’t just splashes of clumsy reds as they are very exacting patheons of ochre and maroon patinas as for blue they are filled with nuances of hues of lapis, aquamarine and paraffin blue. And when it comes to smell – civet, ambergris, musk, and castoreum seem to be the only scents that predominate all other scents. Another thing, it’s not unusual for me this time of the year to caress things for longer than usual. During my youth, when I wasn’t yet fully aware of my seasonal tendency to morph, I usually crunched ice like candy while rolling and sauntering in grass. These days I don’t do that any longer as I want to spare my neighbors high blood pressure and I genuinely want to be kind to those who really need a padded cell. I just stick to chewing gum and bursting bubble wrap in my car.

I change this time of the year.

When it goes dark

January 19, 2015


Dogs are not like humans. They have this supernatural ability to intuit when they’re going to die. It’s as if they have a counter somewhere in their head like a odometer that tracks the journey of life and when it all comes full circle to zero – they just know deep down in the marrow of their bones, it’s time.

Today my lead dog Richie ambled slowly up to me and licked my hand. As soon as I felt his touch, I swear I could taste mortality. I could sense what he was trying to say…..master it is time…..I will no longer be able to serve and protect you…..I will have to go to the other side.

There will never be enough words in this whole wide universe to describe the deep spirited bond between a farmer and his dog to a layman. Dogs in a plantation aren’t just casual pets. They are the farmers hands, it’s a relationship based on love, respect and trust. So I wouldn’t even bother to try….it’s just impossible. Besides there will always be some things in my life I never ever want to share with others and much prefer to keep to myself forever.

This just happens to be one of them.

What counts most is we had a good run. Perhaps even one of those epic runs that people write and make movies about between man and dog.

I am a simple man who has experienced great hardships and so even a little happiness that comes in the shape of a dog goes a very long way to make life sweet. I don’t need a lot of happiness to keep going. I am not like other men, who need this and that. I just need a bit and I am grateful that it came to be in Richie. When I reflect back he was like a constant shadow stretching all the way back to my humble beginnings. He was always there. These memories will always be etched in my heart where they will always live forever – they will always be some of my happiest and most edifying moments in my life.

Few men in this world can claim to have what I hold dearly in my heart. So I remind myself I must not be sad. This is after all the highest expression of what it means to live.


‘When I first started out as a planter. Life was very hard. I lived in a wooden shed on a my land. It was a very modest dwelling without electricity or running water – this is the way it usually is when a man begins to build an enterprise with so very little. Life is just hard. My only possession comprised of a mountain bike, torch light, three changes of clothes, a shelf of books, a baseball cap and radio which I had to ration the batteries.

One day I bought a old wind up phonograph from the village junk shop. I said to myself this wouldn’t need any batteries and fixed it back. It came with only three vinyl records….only one could play. Richie and I would listen to J’attendrei after dinner that I reckon was our favorite which became a sort of ritual as we watched the sun go down. It could always just sweep us like a magic carpet into that other world.

We did not have much then, but we were happy.

That was a very long time ago.’

Whenever one encounters rude and offensive people. One would do well to remember these people who live in fear. They fear, things will not go their way….they fear, losing control over how they want to live….they fear, what is happening will not pan out in the way they hope it will.

This is the tap root that makes otherwise reasonable and level headed individuals – rude and offensive people.

When we know this about people who are rude and offensive. We will also gain a valuable insight into why they think and do the things they do. Knowing this allows us to empathize with them instead of labeling them as difficult or anti social people. When one gains an understanding into this – it could be said, we know rude and offensive people better than they know themselves and this will empower us to manage ourselves and rude and offensive people effectively.

If we remain ignorant about this. Then all we will do is react or worse still allow them to bring out the worse in us. We too will eventually be sucked into their fearful state. Fear is the highest form of suffering.

Observe this in your daily interaction with people who may be rude and offensive to you.


In the palatial colonial house on the top of the hill where the Chinaman Cocoa planter of Gabundi estate lived – the legionnaire deserter who worked in his kitchen knew that his master always preferred his eggs runny and his bacon flamed with Cordon’blue for breakfast.

He also knew that his master found the sonorous background drone of the BBC world service comforting whenever he scanned his estate from the upper deck of the alfresco roof top dinning area – usually, the deserter could make out that his master always began the morning by looking through his field glasses at the tiny village at the edge of his lands – the legionnaire deserter servant could tell that whenever a smile tore across the Chinaman’s face – that meant, he was training his eyes on the only well in the village where he delighted in feasting his eyes on women balancing earthen pots on their heads as they walked in straight neat lines early in the morning.

But that day the China planter did not smile as he peered through his field glasses. Neither had he smiled for that whole week either. Perhaps not even for longer – even the Chinaman’s tall Matabilli tribesman bodyguard who was a wired framed muscular man in his late forties who always seemed to follow his young master everywhere couldn’t remember when he last smiled either.

The only person in the vast expanse of Gabundi Estate who really knew the last time the Chinaman Cocoa planter smiled – was the new German school teacher, foot doctor and scientist nun called Eva from Germany who replaced – the sixty something two metric ton Fraulien Gunther from Muchen, Bavaria – who the Chinaman didn’t really care very much for.

With Fraulein Eva it was quite another thing. The Chinaman planter not only smiled very often whenever she was around. He even made it a point to improve himself – he had even exchanged his flared ridding breeches, boots along with open neck khaki shirt complete with shoulder holster and revolver with a stylish bush jacket and laced shoes that came in by special courier service directly from Cape Town.

The German nun and school teacher had even approved of this new look and mentioned that the Chinaman planter now looked like a dapper “gentlemen planter.” She was so pleased that she had even invited the farmer to attend a reunion party which she had arranged in the school to celebrate the return of a lost child that had been recently found by the ever wandering medicin sans frontier who had discovered the half dead boy somewhere along the porous Northern Sudanese border. The nine year old boy from the Adomako tribe had gone missing a year or so back ago along the river bank and had somehow been magically reunited with their parents – it was a one in a millionth – and the whole village had come out in full force to celebrate with beating drums, asseki juice along with generous lashings of K’du leafs which the women folk chewed.

Everyone remembered how happy the farmer had been as he stood beside the German nun – the boy had after all being presumed dead by all, eaten probably by a crocodile and now he had been magically reunited with his parents – who seemed eager to show off their child to the rest of the village.

The nine year old boy named Komu had after all learnt a range of tricks that seemed to enthrall the rest of the villages since his return – he knew how to drive a truck, operate a generator. But one of Komu’s most impressive tricks involved field stripping an AK-47. When the farmer watched Komu remove the linchpin of the Soviet Amotov with a small horn tip by clamping the entire barrel and stock against his tiny neck and limbs that held together the breach and firing mechanism he realized that the boy already knew the AK-47 had 8 parts – the hardest section to remove was the gas piston assembly and the cumbersome spring mechanism that often proved so unwieldy that even adults struggled with this section. In many cases giving up completely – in this case, the boy had used the Sudanese horseback open palm method of slapping this complicated mechanism apart in one single smooth action – everyone clapped. Except the farmer. Who insisted that Komu do this again. And again. Which he did specially for Dada Shahidi – as he was after all the guest of honor.

For the grande finale, the young boy was blindfolded and within a matter of seconds, he assembled back the 8 parts of the semi automatic flawlessly – the show ended when Komu finished off the show by cocking the assault rifle menacingly which the farmer knew chambered the first round into the breach and smiled to the rapturous applause of the villagers – that day, everyone smiled except the Chinaman Cocoa planter who looked stern and grave as if lost in his own thoughts.

That evening as the Shahidi approached the innocent nine year old Komu seated beside his happy parents – his eyes seemed to radiate an awareness that bordered between fascination and fear. He leaned close to the boy and in a slow and stern voice whispered,

“Komu tell Dada (in Africa, the prefix father follows before, as a sign of respect) Shahidi who taught you how to do this.”

From that day onwards the German school teacher and nun who ran the only school in Gabundi noticed the Chinaman Cocoa planter never ever smiled again.


Imagine being able to hold a moment like a heavy succulent fruit in the palm of your hands as you would a snow globe. To shake it from time to time when the world goes crazy and just still your mind as you peer like a child mesmerized by this other tiny other snow filled world.

To just stay there watching it all unfurl wondering from time to time – how many times you have returned to this place in your mind’s eye – to remember the smiles, laughs and sunny skies that never ever seem to fade.

There was this time when I just started my business – I spent six months in the jungle. I don’t think words can truly measure up to what six months really means when one is in the jungle. I wouldn’t even try to explain it to the lay person. As its impossible to imagine it unless you have a very good imagination – all I wish to say is, six months is roughly about the time when you will begin to discover why Robinson Crusoe never bothered to shave any longer – six months is also just about the way point where you will probably discover there is a very fine line between sanity and madness.

But through that six months of ordeal – one thing kept me centered. This idea of a snow ball in a room tucked somewhere in my head. When things would get really nutty. I would just run to this place, lock the door, shake this snow globe and watch the snow fall. Then it all comes back to me slowly – and I am suddenly whole again.

I know who I am and what I must continue doing. It all comes back to me. That is just my way of carrying on. I guess. My way of keeping my sanity during those six long months in the jungle. My way of continuing that is.



There are only really two varieties of men who go to that God forsaken interior of the deepest bowels of Africa to turn the wheel of life. The first are of course those who are stupid enough to join the French Foreign Legion to try to escape from their averagely miserable lives.

The other was that variety of man who lived on the hill overlooking the vast expanse of Gabundi Cocoa Estate. The Chinaman Cocoa Farmer who was now looking at a spent heat stroked white man with cropped auburn hair who claimed to have lost his way somewhere along the dusty road between the Seritati and Kafuri road 200 miles from Kampala. 

The Chinaman knew he was a deserter from the Legion – it took him exactly 5 seconds to form that conclusion – he could make out the bruised callouses on the outer edges of the man knuckles – a physical disfigurement brought forth by a design flaw on the cocking device of the St. Entiene standard issued FAMAS that the legion used – the last two laces of the man were parallel and finished off with a butterfly knot. The Chinaman knew again, legionnaires used this to keep out fine sand from their boots on long marches. 

But despite all this – the Chinaman nodded to the tribesman who had brought him in that hot afternoon. At first the Matabilli tribesman looked to the rest of the braves – he too had after all known that this was probably a deserter from the legion. The tribesman had wanted to say something to the Chinaman Cocoa farmer, but he had been cut short by a stern voice as the farmer narrowed his eyed and now the tall Matabilli tribesman had looked down submissively.

The deserter was taken into the plantation house by the Chinaman’s servants – the Chinaman was after all the Shahidi – a chieftain and medicine man and above all rain maker in his own right. Such a man commanded respect in these parts. This was how politics was conducted in the deepest bowels of Africa. To the far North, East, West and to the southern reaches of Uganda where the confluence of the Nigiri and Togoba river met – the Shahidi was known to all the tribes, the Adomako, who were once descendants of the fierce Zulu. They guarded the Chinaman’s estate. Only the Adomako were permitted to roam the grounds of the Shahidi’s plantation. To the South, the man knew the Kashari who once transported salt cones on caravans of camels across the barren plains of the Sahara – they served as the eyes and ears to the Shahidi and had told him the legion were scouring the western plains in search of the deserter.

The Chinaman was the Shahidi – the rain maker, the man who could open the heavens and bring down the water of life. This he did by firing his world war II antique 88mm canon which he filled with silver halide at clouds to seed rain – the tribesmen considered this a form of magic. And so they all obeyed him.

The following day a column of legionnaires in light armored entered the gates of Gabundi estate – the officer who was in charge was mindful of the Chinaman Cocoa farmer. He had heard so many things about the Shahidi that he ran an illegal goldmine in Nariobi that stretched even all the way across Burundi, had dabbled in the illegal ivory trade in Kenya and had even smuggled arms right up the Serengetti through Zambezi and Congo rivers – he had even once saved some of his own men from certain decapitation three years ago, when he had intervened and negotiated for the safe return of two kidnapped legionnaires and a French TV crew with the dreaded Askhali tribesmen who made it their living hijacking tankers off the coast of Burundi. That day as his armored column approached the planters house at the top of the hill the young legionnaire officer was wary that he was very far from civilization. As the armored column passed by the many Cocoa trees, the farmer’s Adomako tribesmen who eyed them suspiciously as they cradled their AK-47′s – while the younger braves looked on with their spears. 

When the Chinaman planter was shown the picture of the deserter – he was brusque and replied in crude African Pidgin French also called Guinea Coast Creole Francaise – this was the lingua franca, or language of commerce, spoken deep in the interior of the heart of darkness known as deep Africa. And had been used since time in memorial along Western coast of Africa during the warring period of the Atlantic slave trade. It had all been lost – but in these  remote parts where only the omnipresent law of the AK-47 ruled – this dead language which was once used by all stretching across the Coast of Guinea had come alive that day.

The officer of the French foreign legion who wore his pristine white kepi blanch knew that the Chinaman cocoa planter could have used, le français standard, le français normé, le français neutre – civilized French which he much preferred. But that day, the Chinaman had chosen to reply to the representative of the French government in Creole Francaise – perhaps he was simply reminding the French officer that he was very far from civilization. It was the Chinaman’s way of conveying to the nervous French officer that in these remote parts where only a godless sky ruled – a man could very well die in a thousand and one ways – the legionnaire realized that it was pointless to continue the conversation. He realized only too well, that it wasn’t worth trying to intimidate the Chinaman Cocoa planter. He was after known to the Legion – and his superiors had warned him – “we may need his help one day, so don’t push your weight around with him, otherwise you may end up having to go back in a plastic bag.” with these thoughts, the young French officer turned around and left. After all this was how politics was conducted in deep Africa. This wasn’t Kenya, Nariobi or Cape town – the laws were malleable here, elastic to the point where it even meant so very little. And everything under the sun was negotiable. Besides all the Shahidi had to do was snap his fingers and half his men would probably be cut down by machine gun fire – it was after all the legionnaires last tour of duty in this God foresaken part of the world. Besides he only had less than a month to go before returning to wife and kids in France. The last thing he needed now was to stir up a shit storm. So that day the French light armored column did a U turn and drove right out of Gabundi estate.

That same evening as the man dined with the deserter on the thirty or so feet long table on the plantation house on the hill – he was impressed by the man’s cooking. He has earlier allowed the man to wander around his kitchen. Somewhere between desert and cognac, the man turned to the deserter and asked in a slow and grave voice like rolling thunder,

“Tell me why did you run away from the Legion?”

The deserter knew instantly the Chinaman who wore flared ridding breeches and ankle high mirror polished boots with a revolver slung from his shoulder holster had seen right through him like a pane of glass – he was transparent – he had known it all along and pretended not to know till this moment when he had raised the question when he was most relaxed and comfortable.

“I couldn’t take it anymore. I rather take my chances on the run than to spend another minute in that hell hole.”

The man nodded his head. He murmured, “I understand completely.” Then he continued, “it is not easy for a man to run away from the legion….tell me what will you do if it was possible for me to arrange to get you the right papers to make it all the way back home safely?”

“I am a cook. That’s what I do best. I am happiest when I am in the kitchen…..”

The Chinaman sighed as he emptied his third cognac that evening – he began to loosen his shoulder holster and remove what to the deserter seemed like an oddity – an old Webley revolver. He knew instinctively that the Chinaman knew his weapons – as only this clumsy British firearm was the preferred side arm of the Bedouin as only such a weapon could stand up against the fine ochre red dust that blew from the North to the South every year clogging and jamming even the best modern firearms – the deserter had once served in Sudan and Chad. He began to look at the man – and wondered whether perhaps the respectable cocoa farmer, illegal gold miner, rain maker who the tribesmen called Shahidi with his magic rain making canon might have been a man who had also once seen the terror of war. 

“Yes, I understand how it must be like to be hunted…to be on the run….you should stay here longer…..when the coast is clear…..I shall make arrangements……meanwhile please be feel free to cook wander around kitchen….cook for me…..and one day perhaps many years from now…..we may look at this time and place….and even laugh out loud… see civil war will rip through this country very soon…. I have really cashed out…soon you wouldn’t even need papers to walk from here all the way to Kampala. But for the mean time… will be safe here.”

The deserter was relieved. And thought this was where the man had felt that the conversation should have ended. For some inexplicable reason – he felt compelled to ask one more question – perhaps it was the effect of the fine Cognac, the faint and calming murmuring of the cicadas or the gentle breeze that blew that day from the Kalahari.

“Tell me what would you do? Where will you go when this country explodes into civil war?”

He hadn’t expected the man to reply, as the Chinaman seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. But he was mistaken, that evening the Chinaman was happy to have a dinner guest. He seemed to be in a talkative mood.

“I want to go to a place where people don’t regularly point guns at me. I want to go to a place where I don’t have to carry this with me.” he gestured to the old Webley revolver. “I want to go to a place where if I call the police, they will come. I want to go to a place where I can write a cheque and use a credit card and not carry gold bars in a lorry with ten men armed to the teeth. I want to go to a place where I only see tanks and soldiers during parades. I want to turn the wheel amongst people who only care to talk about what schools they should best send their children too or which restaurant they prefer to have dinner in – I want to sit down in a coffee shop and eaves drop on housewife’s as they vex about the colors of their curtains or some harmless rash their children seem to have caught from school. Above all I want to just want to lead a normal and peaceful life….maybe even join a church….help out and believe that the world is filled with good intentioned people who are working hard to make happy place…maybe I will go back to Singapore….Maybe I will met a nice girl and marry her….yes, when all hell breaks out here Uganda….Singapore….”

People who live all by themselves usually say they much prefer it that way. That at least is what they always say to others and probably themselves I reckon whenever they look in the mirror – they much prefer it that way because it provides them with the illusion of choice. This is how they have choosen to live.

It might look simple to live all by oneself, but I say look again….look carefully, it never is. It just seems that way. Like one of those iceberg rocks. That at least is what I call them – where only a small part peeks out from above ground. Enough to deceive one it can be easily be moved. But when one tries to shift it, there is hardly any give at all. Then one realizes there is much more of that rock beneath the surface – so one tries to dig it out only to realize after a full day of shoveling this small rock is part of a larger boulder that runs so deep and wide beneath the ground, it has to be at least the size of a car…..or house. Perhaps even a whole continent. It’s hard to say with iceberg rock. They just seem to go right down forever no matter how deep one digs. Then suddenly it strikes you like a diamond bullet right between your eyes. There and then. There is no possible way to move this rock and one fills back all the earth with a mix feeling of resignation and being some what cheated.

Many people don’t know about the existence of iceberg rocks. It’s not a term you can google up on. Most people don’t even notice rocks let alone ask how deep and wide do they go beneath the surface – but I have always harbored a curious fetish for things that most folk never give a second look. I know things are never what they appear to be. They can often prove deceptive. Besides there are a couple of of them on my land. Not many, but enough to remind me, its futile to try to move them – that’s really how it is when someone says he much prefers to live all by himself – all you’re really able to make out from that one statement is only the person himself knows the real reason why, but like all iceberg rocks. You will never ever know why….never….not even if you spend the whole day trying to dig it out from them.

Somewhere in Northern Uganda many years ago….in another life

The Chinaman cocoa planter of Gabundi estate looked from a hill in the distance as the Akholi tanks rolled into his plantation. He stood there on the same spot through out the afternoon, evening and even through the dead of night right to dawn.

There he stood on the hill watching it all…his farm razed, distant gun shots renting to the shrills of the fallen. Even his tall Matabali 40 something wired framed bodyguard, who had the unusual habit of carrying a karfu spear and a Kahasilli bow, instead of the de riguer AK47 – even he lowered his eyes along with the many braves who watched the carnage from a hidden thicket in the a distance.

They all lowered their eyes – when the saw spired wooden church the Shahidi has built for the Bavarian nun, Eva Mayer – the Chinaman Cocoa planter of Gabundi estate was good with his hands, he could hammer a steel girdle into a ruler. He could weld and so one day….he decided to built a Bavarian church for his one and only love – Eva Meyer.

Yet the Chinaman Cocoa Planter who stood that night peering into night never lowered his eyes.

He just looked on as the fires raged on through the night. From time to time, he would light a cigarillo or pop another Mentos into his restless mouth – he just looked on through and beyond the place he was in and beyond it, to another realm….another place….faraway from this place called hell….to a place that could only be called hope.

Many years latter a wooden legged Sudanese who had a habit of lounging in one of the many tea houses in the emigre quarter of Cairo. A man who claimed to be one of heroes of the Ascension wars would be heard murmuring in whispers. As that is how the Adamako tribe who once served the Shahidi would speak of chieftain – even a dead one – with his right hand over his mouth and in hushed whispers….the emigre that became his tribe would one day say when they sip their pipping hot Sudanese cardamon flavored tea,

‘He watched on through the night… they burnt down everything in his plantation…..he even looked hopeful……I wonder. Did he perhaps see paradise like a man who stands behind the veil just before it was parted…

Yes? He must have. The Shahidi. He looked hopeful. So very hopeful.”

Dancing dogs

January 15, 2015

Dogs have a way of finding those who are lonely. Only they know the art of filling the emptiness in one’s heart.


‘As I dive deeper and deeper into the cesspit of the business world. I find myself at times grasping for humanity like a drowning man for air. Here in this God forsaken place where I regularly encounter crooks masquerading as good men….everyone is out to undercut or kill me….Though I accept the rules of how the game might be played. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it accords well with me – they all fear me. I wonder why do they fear me so much? Why? I can see it in their eyes. Smell it. Sense the mood of unsettling as they shift uneasily whenever I am in the room. It’s as if they can all register my yearning. Yes desire for more…more.

Man has always been referred too as a thinking animal. Such at least is the claim. I reckon it’s a boast that’s still open to considerable dispute. Indeed, my personal observations of humanity has convinced me that he is at best a unreasoning animal… In truth, man is incurably foolish, vain and prone to self destruction. Simple things which animals seem to take too so very naturally, man seems incapable of learning. Dogs for example live in only the moment – they don’t live like humans in the shadow of the distant past or the unfathomable future. One can almost sense their immediacy for the moment in their liveliness and how they give themselves so completely to now. It’s as if they have the uncanny ability to intuit, quite correctly – life is too short and precious to waste wallowing about what happened or would happen. Even ants seem to be able to do this….but not man.

Holding on to the idea of faith in humanity can indeed be tenuous when one has this insight into a failing common to all men.

Dogs I believe can well be our teachers….if only we can still our cluttered minds and have the patience to hear they have to tell us. I am reminded even cold blooded monsters such as Stalin and Hitler both has deep spirited relationships with dogs. I wonder was it perhaps their way of preserving whatever little of their ravaged humanity. It’s hard to say. What I do know for certain is mankind would be poorer without the company of our four legged friends. They serve a necessary purpose – to teach us how to manage ourselves and others in a world that only seems to know how to take, take and take. Since dogs don’t know evil, jealousy or any of the cunning intrigues of the thinking man. To simply sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon when the sun sinks slowly into the hills must be a sort of return to Eden…to an age of innocence…when colors were bold and bright….to an age when a man can still believe the world is a very beautiful place.

If only all things in the business world can be as simple as how dogs regularly see the world….if only.’

Last month, conditions in the tropical Pacific were looking increasingly El Niñoish. But right now, a better term for what’s happening might be “El Limbo.”

The odds of a full-blown El Niño occurring are now just 50 to 60 percent, down from 65 percent last month, according to the monthly report from the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, released this morning. What’s more, if El Niño does finally emerge in the next few weeks, in all likelihood it won’t last long. Neutral conditions are most likely by March, according to the CPC.

But it’s hard to say….Mother Nature can turn 180 degrees in one blink of the eye.

I don’t know what to think any longer. There used to be a time not very long ago when I could read the weather by just smelling the air by sticking out my tongue like a lizard…to taste the faint smell of cloves when the winds would shift as they do just around June. But these days it’s hard to impossible to tell. At times, I feel like superman chained to a kryptonite bowling ball.

Farming is all about the weather – if one knows what Mother Nature is going to throw out next week, month or in a full Calendar year. Come what may lah. It’s easy to work around the constraints to maximize yield. Or if it’s going to be lose lose… can plan to lose less by blunting the assault or planing a counter attack. But when one doesn’t even have the slightest clue how the cards are going to fall – then it becomes a high blood pressure inducing game of Russian roulette. If one gets it wrong – then one loses money big time….do this consecutively enough times and I will be selling tissue paper in Bedok bus interchange very soon.

I am not like some landowners who have a unlimited war chest. If they don’t get it right….they have the luxury to try and try again. All I have is a few chances. I need to get it right the first time….no corrections…no safety nets….one shot, one kill!

Spent a full hour by the river to gauge the amount of rain that fell to the North the night beforin the hope of beaconing out the murk…..but none the wiser for it.

I seem to have lost my mojo. I need to get it back. Otherwise it’s no good. I can’t win…..There is no way.


‘On a separated note. I am seriously considering getting a new bike frame. I have my eye keenly trained on a 2012 Van Nicholas Titanium hard tail. My current frame is the legendary Klein attitude, had it for over ten years.

(I will write when I return back from the field. Meanwhile if any of you out there have actual riding experience on a Van Nicholas do provide me with an insight, it would be much appreciated.

This is my criteria. I need a bike that rides true (though it’s hard to tops a thoroughbred like a Klein attitude) or at least equal to what I have. I ride predominantly on plantation trails which requires me to use fatter than normal
tires – which I usually under inflate for increased trail traction.

I spend a lot of time on the saddle, it’s not uncommon for me to cover 70 to 80 miles a day predominantly on plantation roads.

I like to keep my set up as basic as possible. The philosophy. Less parts – less can go wrong – less preventive maintenance -overall less grief. Hence it can only be a hardtail. Full sus is no good.

Set up needs to be feather light. As certain sections of the plantation trail require me to carry my bike on either my shoulder or like a military backpack. This is key.

When I ride. I rarely put all my weight on my saddle. I find doing so tends to beat up my back leaving me wasted at the end of a hard ride. Weight displacement 20% butt / 80% pedals – I bend my knees slightly and use them as shock absorbers. On downhills I ride fast and clamp my inner tight to the saddle to keep the frame stable. I have no plans to change the way I ride. Using a ultra rigid allows me to do all this. My hope is when I switch from aluminium to Titanium. I can do the same without altering my ridding style. This is super key point.

My wheel set up is 26. I know 27 or 29 would offer better comfort and less roll resistance. But since I am accustomed to fat tires. I have no intentions of migrating from a 26 wheel set.

Don’t ride with cleats. This means I always run the risk of being thrown off the saddle or losing control when tearing down the downhills. But since my skill level is perfect 10 out of 10. Professional. I am good to go! Even then I feel my current rigid aluminium frame offers very little margin for error. This requires too much concerntration. Hence titanium which hopefully would be more more forgiving and less demanding.

This is the most important part. I don’t ride like a recreational weekend warrior. My bike is a mechanical horse. So I carry loads. Usually with surveying equipment when I out spying, the load is around 25 to 30 kg. On extended field trips with bedding, MRE etc etc, can be 70. I don’t use panniers. Carry it all in a sling bag set up low to the saddle for low center of gravity.

On my new titanium set up. I would need rear panniers. This is a significant change.

When you write your report – fun and form is strictly not relevant. Function. Performance. Durability. Ease of component interchangeability. Ridding characteristics is. Factor in weight bearing @ 30 kilos. Keep in mind I ride with size 26 wheels wide tracks which are usually under inflated. Drive train set up Doere XT. Brakes disc with -30 modulation on read and +5 upfront. Cassette 9 speed. Primaries 3.4 / ratio 16.5 – 17.3 – 19.1. Split report in wet and dry trail and road conditions.

Keep it factual. Your personal theories on bikology is irrelevant. Actual ridding field experience will be priority.

My life is not all work, work and work. At times I need to strategically socialize. By this I mean, I need to network and influence the planters to do my bidding.

I am visiting an old estate. It’s one of the last colonial vestiges located smack in the middle of nowhere. Here time has always stood still. Men still duel and talk at lengths about honor. Women wear wide brimmed hats and can at times be counted to faint. White linen is still very much in vogue along with black tie prim and proper dinners, candles, leaving out the shoes to be polished by the servants etc etc etc very colonial British.

The planters world has hardly changed at all. It’s as if the 21st century was merely a punctuation…a burb…a rude repartee that everyone just laughed off while life went on as usual. That sums up the attitude of the planter…they are perhaps the only community in the world who still believe in the idea. They can stop time.

I am here to persuade a few planters to enter into a land deal with me.

I would need to be in my best behavior. Hence my Tony Leung slicked back hair debonair polo player mode.

Ello Ello

January 7, 2015

Never sweat the small stuff. Truth is some people are just seriously unhappy, maladjusted and frustrated with life…..and if you allow them to press all your buttons without ever having the wisdom to press the CTRL. ALT, DELETE buttons to disregard completely what they have to say.

Then you will just end up like them….seriously unhappy, maladjusted and frustrated with life.

‘With some people and their nonsense…..I just adopt the attitude….I have no time for you. Like the Singaporedaily, Strait Times, Five stars and the moo. Et al. No time means precisely what it means….no time. That’s to say I never allow them even one millimeter of space in my mind. That’s because if you allow them space. Then they will establish a beachhead in your head and eventually color your day. But if you just treat them like lint that falls on your coat. They will remain as it is….nothing. And if you think about that is all the bandwidth they deserve….nothing!’

Dignity of labor

January 4, 2015

I am a great believer in building safety nets to protect the well being of the community. I don’t believe in that other bullshit economic theory of leaving everything to the vagaries of the free market.

When cash crop fail as they invariably do due to freakish weather. A reserve economy kicks in. To enable villagers to gainfully turn the wheel of life by producing stuff that they can sell.

This way they are happy and so am I.

In the kampung, the divide between rich and poor is starkest. Landowners are wealthy. As for the villagers most live hand to mouth.

To maintain the tenuous social balance and nourish the collective harmony takes commitment and effort. I make it a point to touch base with the villagers as often as I can to find out ways to strengthen the safety net.

The bicycle is a great way of accomplishing this hearts and minds program since it doesn’t come with all the intimidating trappings of status and wealth, unlike a big 4×4 car. At this level one is able to gather intelligence discreetly and make strong emotional connections – since one will always come across as a simple and humble soul.


‘The rich do not often have the imagination or social intelligence to realize by just the mere act of breathing and living they can inflict tremendous pain on the poor.

That is because we live in a society where the rich has successfully managed to convince the poor – they have no one to blame but themselves if they are poor!

To me this has always been a form of psychological warfare that the rich has deployed to keep the poor docile and complaint – they, the rich will gleefully tell the poor – if I can make it…why can’t you? See, there is nothing wrong with the system…..the problem must be you!

But this does not alter the fact. Money will always be a commodity that is hard to come by and even if one is industrious there is no guarantee one can successfully escape crippling poverty.

In truth when we closely examine the lives of losers and winners – it boils to down to only a couple of set pieces if we discount hard work, intelligence and social skills. Usually luck plays a preponderant role. Of course this is a reality that a wealthy man never ever tells others unless he wants to commit social hara kiri. As he would certainly get more mileage reputationally by wordsmithing his own mythology as to how he made it – he was born with superior intelligence….he is related to Nostradamus so that gives him uncanny foresight – he was a natural born risk taker etc etc etc.

But in truth if we discount those who truly deserve to be poor and just limit our little experiment to the rest of the hard working masses – the actual difference between the losers and winners has to come down to just pot luck – one was just there at the right time and place that allowed everything to come together marvelously.

Admitting this usually takes a certain degree of candor and soul searching on one’s part – but to me this has always been a necessary right of passage for every man of consequence.

Because following in the wake of this awful realization is the very idea – before one can look down and judge the poor….one would do well to remember many of them may not have had the benefit of good fortune that once came this man’s way to transform him into a successful man.

Maybe they weren’t born into a wealthy and an influential family like him…maybe the father was a alcoholic and the mother was just a drug addict….maybe they started their business at the wrong time when even the best idea could only turn to mud…maybe, maybe, maybe…and in this way, that man who would otherwise be proud, arrogant and judgemental can only be wise….as he knows a thing for what it really is and not what others say it is.

This is what the sages mean when they say, never forget your roots!’

Another new year

January 2, 2015

A good year to me is like playing catch the ball with someone who really knows how to throw a ball. A good partner throws the ball directly into your glove, making it almost impossible to miss a catch. That’s what a good year is to me….that at least is how I’ve always seen it.

Last year was not a good year….not at all….I had a lousy partner who kept throwing out curve balls. The sort that arcs ever so slightly like a banana and even when I manage to catch it, it always struggles to find that satisfying thump of finality that confirms it’s a good catch.

No good throws at all last year. I found myself jumping up and down like a crazed Jack in the box, reaching further in vain, diving, charging and tumbling all the time.

I know what people say, what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. But these are probably the same people who have never played catch the ball with a partner who can’t throw for nuts!

I so want to be able to catch the ball well this year. I just don’t mean catch it. But really catch it in the way two Lego blocks come together with a satisfying ‘click.’ More than that, I want to keep catching the balls this year that comes my way in exactly that same way manner. If possible I even want the bad throws I make to come out as if I did it on purpose, as if my only object had been to make the game more amusing….intresting….and fun.

If only I could have that one epic game of throw the ball where everything comes together just the way I imagined it would in my mind. I just know this year would make me feel better than last year and strengthened my confidence.


‘The great idea of humanity is – we are supposed to exist only for ourselves…to live life under our terms….to be beholden to no one except maybe the beckoning of our inner voice. Inner voice? Whatever…..but you get the gist of it.

This at least is what most people would say about man and how he should live.

Perhaps they’re right…..I don’t really know. Truth is I am never really sure about myself and even less certain about whether I can make it from the land of theory to reality.

The only reason why it doesn’t seem so is because most of the time….I just come across as cocksure. It’s easy when one has a strong jaw line, booming voice and really fiery eyes like Rasputin. I have all those things, that’s why people around me always feel that I know what I am doing even when they and I have absolutely no idea whether we can make it over the other side safely.

That’s the unabridged version of the truth.

That’s why this inner voice and being true to oneself along with living life under your own terms narrative – just sounds cardboardish. You know like those one liners that you see in motivation posters that nobody really knows anything about but everyone pretends to know so much about it – because if they didn’t, then you just know they’re not in the game of life.

Truth be known. At times all we can really hope is to have a glimmer of who we are. When we stand before this thing that comes our way….could be a health issue, broken relationships, a challenge, the weather but in the end we can never be sure whether we can emerge safely to the other side. Or that it will overwhelm us. Not 100%. You’ll be lucky if you could manage even 60% and if you believe otherwise that just means you have never gone thru it all and emerge from the otherside to earn that sobriquet term of endearment – ‘phew’

‘Phew!’ supplies an explanation of sorts about how I see myself when I emerge from the otherside. I know it’s not a word that adequately splays out the entire narrative of what it means for a man to past with relief from theory to reality. But to me it’s enough. To be precise sufficient. Good enough!

I am not sure about how this year will turn out. I would be pretending if I told you that I am hopeful. Truth is I am constantly assaulted by doubt. Doubt that I am not good enough. Doubt as to whether I have what it really takes to make the best of what comes my way. Doubt that the things I consider permanent and timeless will suddenly give way. Doubt , doubt and more doubt. It’s as if the more my life unfurls and go on, the future becomes more and more opaque and the only thing that is certain is I become increasingly aware of my own incoherence.

Hemmingway’s main protagonist in his novella about the promise of redemption in the face of failure – old man and the sea – was probably meant for times like this.

Every man goes thru moments of self doubt…..

But that old man had the distraction of baseball. He could take solace in the multitude of his defeats from the thrill of victory and agony of defeat from whether Carajuo managed to hit a home run in the World Series….but what balm do I have?

I need a fish. I big fish. Go on eat it….come around one more time….it’s delicious….take a bite….it’s so delicious….but what happens when she takes in the hook, line and sinker?

I really need a good harvest….if I can just have that in the very beginning of the year. I know everything else is going to work out just fine. Even if it didn’t, I could just as well console myself I had a sweet run during the beginning of the year. I am not like some men who ask for the heavens to turn and stand on it’s feet. A little is enough to take me a long way. I am not asking for much. I just want to believe in myself again.’