Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#NoMuslimBan #NoWall

I received a message last Saturday night from Daniel Harray, an American friend whom I met at Penn Station when we were heading to Princeton - me with my rice cooker* and him with a big box of Krispy Kreme.
Anyway, Dan reached out to me because of the chaos that is happening in America. He wanted me to know that "nearly everyone I know is horrified by what our President is doing. I have signed petitions, made phone calls, and marched against his inhumane policies. I will continue to do so, and will cast votes for the most humanistic, progressive candidates."
Even though Dan and I lost touch these years, it warms my heart that he took the effort to assure me that not all Americans agree with President Trump's hateful policies. America was my home for a while and I have met many wonderful Americans who embody the true spirit of America - that unwavering spirit to stand up for the oppressed and fight for what they believe in.
America, I believe in you. Please do not disappoint this Lehigh girl.

*Read The Journey of the Rice Cooker

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Dear Travel Mate, 

At some point during our trek through the Portse Tenga of Life, we lost each other. Remember our climb to find Hatshepsut, our cold journey to catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster, and our evening tea while admiring ancient temple ruins glowing amidst the red, majestic sunset? Remember the extremely packed African train ride? Or seeing the Rock of Gibraltar in the early hours of the morning, and 'speaking' Spanish while ordering food in Granada? Or just confiding in each other about the ones who got away and the ones who stayed?

But for the first time, our conversations got interrupted. And I lost you.

Remember, you always wanted us to go on an adventure to Petra? This time, I intend to see the historical and archaeological city before my fellow Lehigh Fulbrighter and his family leave Jordan (very soon). Are you ready to embark on this trek with me once again? Or have you found another travel partner?

Whatever the case might be, I hope to sit on the rocks of this "rose-red city half as old as time" and dream of my next adventure... 

Then, I will reach "out with every note I sing
And I hope it gets to you on some pacific wind
Wraps itself around you and whispers in your ear
Tells you that I miss you and I wish that you were here."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Story 4 - A (in)Sidious Game of Matchmaking

Why do some nice nice guys and girls finish last? C'est ne pas juste! This last story is called 'The Deception on the Innocent One'. It happened to one Jar Jar Binks in Naboo...

Yes, Jar Jar Binks (let's call him JJ) wasn't the handsomest or smartest Gungan. But he was hardworking and had a kind heart. Some people made fun of JJ and even used him. But JJ was one who believed in forgiveness. 

Anyway, JJ received a proposition from Darth Maul, a powerful Sith Lord. Darth Maul, unlike other 'villains' was comfortable in his own skin and didn't hide his face behind a cloak. JJ admired this about Darth Maul and felt that since he didn't hide his face, he didn't cloak his intentions. 

Darth Maul 'persuaded' JJ to marry a young woman named Ysanne from Kessel. Darth Maul said, Ysanne's conservative and poor family needed someone to take their daughter away from the mining planet that had been fought over by crime lords for its valuable spice. They feared for Ysanne's life. Darth Maul told JJ that he needn't have to sleep with Ysanne. Just marry her, take her away from Kessel and then he could divorce her after nine months if he wanted to. "Don't you want to be a hero, JJ?" Darth Maul whispered.

So, the big-hearted JJ married Ysanne. He noticed that Ysanne was vomitting and having stomach cramps during the first week of their marriage. Strange? Maybe she caught a bug. Alas, Ysanne was already carrying someone's else child and the family wanted to cover up the 'embarassing' affair. Gosh, could the father of the baby be... Darth Maul? JJ was angry but as he had made a promise, he stayed with Ysanne and agreed that his 'son' would be a Binks. After Ysanne had delivered safely, he left her and lived in the outskirts of Naboo, feeling dejected and useless.

I heard JJ later remarried and had daughters. A sickly old man now, JJ's family worries that his 'son' would come back and claim JJ's inheritance (he had earned a considerable amount of money as a general in the Gungan army later on in his life).

*Moral of the story: Never rush into something just because someone you so-called 'admire' asked you to.

Cassian, surely Father Sidious has hidden motives to push you to marry his daughter? This is not rocket science. Still, even if it is, you as a Rebel Intelligence Officer, could figure that out!

**Story is based on real events. Names are changed for privacy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Story 3 - A (in)Sidious Game of Matchmaking

The Trap for Wedge Antilles.

In a galaxy far, far away, lived a young man named Wedge Antilles.

Many didn't know about Wedge's upper-middle class upbringing. They knew him as the pilot who fought in the two Death Stars and the AT-AT showdown on Hoth. Who was the real Wedge Antilles?

Well, he was a very nice man who was a little shy around women. Though he didn't talk much, he was generous and kind and was loved by his family and his small circle of friends.

At a party one day, one of Wedge's friends teased him of being 'girlfriendless'. Suddenly, an older, burly man at the party said that he could introduce Wedge to Zam Wesell, his 'beautiful' sister. Wedge's friends encouraged the shy Wedge to just meet the man's sister. Wedge reluctantly met Zam Wessell. It was a short and uneventful meeting.

The Brother then asked Wedge to come over to their house the following week. "Meet the family," he said. Wedge felt a little nervous as he wasn't sure he wanted to date Zam Wesell but he still went.

When he reached the house, he was surprised to see about a dozen of people and a priest! The Brother told him that he must marry Zam Wesell as "in our culture, we don't condone dating". Quel horreur! Wedge panicked. He didn't want to marry the woman he hardly knew! Wedge protested but no words came out from his mouth. He 'lost' control of his muscles. He couldn't run out of the house. He felt a lump in his throat. The people were closing in on him. What happened next was a blur.

A year later, Wedge went home to his family, bringing along Zam Wesell and a baby boy. Wedge's family was surprised and upset. They had been frantically looking for him for one whole year. As there was no news from him, they thought he was kidnapped by Jabba's men who wanted ransom money. Wedge's mother noticed that Wedge was quieter than before. Zam Wesell eagerly told them about their son and said, "He carries the Antilles line!"

Wedge's mother broke down when Zam Wesell forced Wedge to leave the Antilles' mansion. The family was confused. Their Wedge would never abandon his family or upset them. Could Zam Wesell had held him hostage and allowed him to return only to tell them that their wealth would fall onto Wedge's son? Was that son really Wedge's?

Luke Skywalker eventually told Wedge's family Wedge's sad story. According to Luke, Wedge felt he had been trapped by Zam Wesell's family. He was not allowed to see his own family. Heartbroken, Wedge went away to Tatooine to train as a pilot. He wanted to get as far away from 
Zam Wesell. Though he was far from his children (he had four, Zam Wesell insisted, perhaps as a means to 'control' him), Wedge was a very responsible father and provided well for his children. He felt that he had been conned into marrying an unscrupulous woman.

What happened next, Luke? 

Apparently Wedge divorced Zam Wesell when the kids were a little bigger. Wedge never remarried, he said he had endured enough sufferings. He blamed himself for making his beloved mother fall sick after she found out what had happened to her son. Many battle scars later, Wedge Antilles passed away peacefully beneath the Tatooine moons. 

*Food for thought: Isn't the Brother's tactics somewhat similar to a certain Malay ethnic group who, in the 1940s to 1980s, forced the guys to marry the girl and not date her? 

Cassian, don't you think Father Sidious is behaving like the gangsterly Brother? Forcing you into marrying his daughter when he didn't even know you... Fishy much?

**Story is based on real events. Names are changed for privacy.

Story 2 - A (in)Sidious Game of Matchmaking

The Unfortunate Case of Rae Sloan

This story happened to Maz Thur who stayed in Takodana. Any relation to Maz Kanata, you ask? We don't know. Anyway, Maz Thur had a daughter, Rae Sloan who at the age of 30 was named captain of the Star Destroyer Ultimatum and had risen to the rank of admiral.

Maz Thur was concerned in finding a mate for Rae Sloan. Rae Sloan held a high position and men felt somewhat inferior to her (this never changes!).

Suddenly a Random Woman approached Maz Thur and recommended Kallus, an officer from a good, middle-class family. "They are so compatible!" cried Random Woman who arranged for a meeting between Rae Sloan and Kallus. Rae Sloan being the dutiful daughter let her mother make the decision. She trusted Maz Thur's judgment. Maz Thur, after meeting Kallus' family and upon Random Woman's urgings, finally relented.

Rae Sloan and Kallus got married. And all seemed rosy, or did it? Rae Sloan filed for divorce after many years of marriage. Reason being? Kallus had always preferred the company of his male partners. Wait a minute, did Kallus have HIV AIDS? And worst, did he infect Rae Sloan?
Mon Dieu! And the worst part was that Kallus' family knew about his sexual tendency, yet they wanted to marry him off to 'cure' him of his inclinations. Maz Thur suffered from a stroke when she found this out. Rae Sloan never blamed her mother for her failed marriage. And Random Woman just disappeared.

*Food for thought: If Kallus was so good, then, how come none of the high society folks whom his family mingled with, wanted Kallus to marry their daughters?

Cassian, remember Father Sidious mingled with the people from the Temple of the First Order... yet no one from the congregation wanted to marry his daughter.

**Story is based on real events. Names are changed for privacy.

Story 1 - A (in)Sidious Game of Matchmaking

The Madness of Random Father

Many moons ago, Jedi Ahsoka Tano recounted a strange story about a father in Devaron. The father was said to willingly offer his daughter to Jabba Desilijic Tiure or popularly known as Jabba the Hutt, one of the galaxy’s most powerful gangsters, almost like Lord of the Criminal Underworld. Everyone had a shock. Even Jabba himself. The father didn't want any favours nor riches nor power, nothing. It appeared like a good deal. The daughter looked normal and ordinary but it was ok since Jabba had seen worse looking female slaves. A normal person would probably think, why would the father give away his precious daughter to a gangster who might mistreat or sell her away?

Many years passed and Jedi Ahsoka finally found out the reason for the father's seemingly bizarre behaviour. His daughter had a genetic, mental illness of the gravest kind, and he knew that nobody would want to marry his daughter if they found out. So, he took a chance with a GANGSTER. C'est pas vrai!

*Moral of the story: If it is too good to be true, then, there must be something inherently wrong. 

Cassian, are you paying attention? 

**Story is based on real events. Names are changed for privacy.

Daria's Rantings - A (in)Sidious Game of Matchmaking

*I am posting this sixteenth ranting as my alter-ego the misanthropic Daria Morgendorffer

So, I decided to stop 'biting' through my rantings. Think of it as my new year's resolution. Alas, like all resolutions, we break them. But in my case, it comes with good reasons. You see, my best pal (Cassian) recently went on holidays to Coruscant where he met up with some old pals. Lo and behold, he told me a tale of the dangerous persuasion kind. And since I am still feeling the sentiments from Rogue One, I will use all the visuals from my all-time favourite film series in retelling my story.

One Father Sidious' wife met a random stranger known as Korr Sella. Mrs Sidious asked Korr Sella if she has single brothers to marry her only daughter, Brianna the Handmaiden. Korr Sella said 'No', but her brother has a friend, Cassian, who was visiting. Mrs Sidious asked her to introduce Cassian to the family. 

In the meantime, Father Sidious, did his investigations and of course, Cassian seemed like the perfect mate for Brianna or for anyone for that matter. And the mayhem began...

Cassian being nice (and who by the way, is still training in Corellia) agreed to meet the Sidious family. Father Sidious asked Cassian, on the second meeting, to marry Brianna (she is not uneducated) who is by the way, 'slavishly' obedient to the tee. If Father Sidious say, 'Shut Up', 'Go to your room' etc, she would obey him. What do you expect, she is after all a handmaiden and worst, a Sidious!

Father Sidious even persuaded Cassian to come to their lair many times and even wanted to send Cassian off at the Terminal. Mother Sidious had also been aggressively contacting Korr Sella daily to persuade her to convince Cassian to marry Brianna. Arghhh... I can't believe that this is happening in this modern age and in a cosmopolitan city! 

I find the whole matchmaking/introduction thing very dubious. Why would you want to quickly marry off your only daughter to a complete stranger tout de suite? C'est ne pas normale. I sense an ulterior motive. As per Admiral Ackbar, "It's a Trap!"

Cassian seems confused and afraid but he seems to be drawn into Father Sidious' trap. He doesn't seem to want to listen to his friends (me included) on why he shouldn't rush in. Doesn't he know that only fools rush in? 

I told Cassian about how a Sidious used the same tactics on a close relative. The cajoling, constant calling and pushiness were too much. That Sidious family even used religion to justify their behaviour. But that relative remained firm and said 'No'. Phew! Can you imagine being related to a Sidious? I shudder at the thought.

I am going to tell 6 real stories in 6 separate postings to highlight the endings of such an insidious game, and why Cassian will be making a big mistake to listen to Father Sidious. And if after reading the 4 stories, Cassian still decide to marry this not-Jyn Erso and ignore our kind advice, well, I'm not going to bother ranting to him anymore. You know, for the first time in our long and close friendship, Cassian said and did some mean things to me, perhaps under Father Sidious' influence? Apparently, according to Cassian's best friend, K-2SO, the family Sidious seemed like one who would force Cassian to sever ties with his friends. This, I don't doubt for Cassian was even afraid to answer my phone call when he was in their company. Sigh.

May the Force guide you to a rationale decision, Cassian. 

Farewell former President S.R. Nathan

I know this posting is late. I wanted to wait 6 months after Mr. S.R Nathan's passing on 22 August 2016 before penning down this story...

I was away when I received news that Singapore's 6th President Mr S.R. Nathan has passed away. It was about two months before his passing that he wrote me a note to compliment me about the book that I had written. I was saddened by the news and wanted to attend the public wake when I returned to Singapore. 
When I came home the next day, I received a WhatsApp message from a journalist asking me if I had visited the family. I replied, "No" as I wanted to attend the public wake.

"Pls come to the house now. Mrs Nathan asked for you."
"She knew me?"
"She asked one of the Malay women, "Are you Hidayah Amin?" The woman replied, "No. Hidayah is much younger." Mrs Nathan asked, "Where is Hidayah Amin? I want to meet her. My husband talked so fondly of her."

Oh my. I quickly went to the Nathan's residence to pay my respect. I introduced myself to Mrs Nathan.

"Finally, we got to meet you! My husband always talked about you. You're the one who got burgled in Cambridge, right? He thought highly of you and asked the grandkids to be like you. He said, "Whatever I invest in this girl, I got back every penny."

I was introduced to the grand-children and Juthika, Mr S.R. Nathan's daughter who seemed happy to meet me. What a sad occasion to be meeting the family who got to know me from their father's stories. Juthika told me her father was going through the Kampung Tempe book before he fell ill.

When I saw Mr Nathan resting in his coffin, tears flowed down my cheek. How many Presidents do you know, took a keen interest in you and your education/achievements? And how many Presidents do you know, took time to listen to you over coffee? Farewell Mr Nathan. Thank you for believing in me. 

What I wrote on my FB on 24 August 2016: 
The late Mr. S.R Nathan had helped many of us when we were students. May he be rewarded for his kind deeds.
"He recalled a group of Malay students who did well and were admitted to prestigious British universities including Cambridge University and Imperial College London.
But they could not go on their own dime or that of self-help group Mendaki, which does not fund overseas education.

When he heard about their plight, Mr Nathan personally arranged for donors to pay their fees.
He went a step further and asked public agencies to give the students internships and jobs so that they would return to Singapore.
"He said we should do what we can to help them succeed in the universities there and then come back and be leaders of the community here in Singapore," said Mr Tan." - read article
*Shame on Mendaki, which despite having millions in funds, didn't help us. They didn't even groom us whom Mr Nathan believed could be future leaders of the community. Get rid of the Hang Nadim syndrome - it won't benefit the community and Singapore!