Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Cry In The Night

She step off the factory bus. It was almost midnight after the second shift. She had to walk on a narrow path through the village to get to her home about two hundred meters away from the main road. The familiar path posed no problem for her as she had trudged though it all her twenty-five years living in this house with her family which included her mother-in-law.

But that night felt a little different. She couldn't say why but she was uneasy. There was a chill in the air but she felt a thin layer of sweat on her skin. A sudden gust of cold wind rushed by and she felt goose pimples all over. At the same moment she heard a lonely, mournful voice of a woman crying piteously. It was the cry of an inconsolable soul in unfathomable suffering. Her feeling of compassion for this pitiful being seemed greater than her fear and she stopped in her tracks and called out, "Whoever you are, what is it under the heavens that is causing you so much suffering? Tell me so I may help you. Otherwise, please don't scare me half to death!"

She had no idea what made her speak in such terms. Those words simply came out of her mouth before she realized what she was saying. But as soon as she uttered those words, her fear left her and the cold air became warm again.

She lingered a moment and listened but couldn't hear or feel anything out of the ordinary. She became aware again of the sounds of the night - the chirping of crickets, and croaking of frogs. There were the familiar shadows of trees and bushes and dark shapes of the houses of her neighbors in the dim light of the moonlit night.

She wiped a tear out of her eye, turned around and walked on home.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Egrets

Sungai Petani has very few hills, hence the open view. And the few existing hills are being relentlessly cut away, one of which is almost gone. It's more flat land, rice-fields on the west and housing estates all around. Trees are getting lesser due to the fast pace of development of satellite towns, especially on the eastern side where once rubber or palm oil estates flourished.

Fortunately, there's still a huge track of mangrove trees beside the Petani river where hundreds of egrets make their nests. At dawn they'd fly off in groups to the padi-fields to forage for food and every evening they make their way home again. It's lovely just looking at them leaving the river at dawn or heading for home at dusk.

Sometimes we get to see them flying in their customary V-Formation. Some of them have probably lost their migratory instincts. They come home late and alone, looking lost, and just heading in the general direction of the river.

The Egrets

Against an evening sky with dashing strokes of brush

The great Artist paints with colored ink and wash

Gentle breezes warmly stroking hair and face

Greeting folks on evening walks keeping healthy pace

In the fading light of yellow and orange hue

To the mangroves where young ones feeding is due

From soggy rice fields to cozy nests for the night

Straggling egrets on their home bound flight

Each dawn a relentless struggle in search of food

Till dusk a continuous duty to feed their brood

People, environment and nature to blend we must

From birth, nourishment and growth till all turn to dust

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

7 deadly sins

From the prettiest of princes and princesses down to the ugliest looking golums;
from the filthiest of the rich to the lowliest of paupers,
the 7 deadly sins has been there and actively treacherous
since man first walked the face of the earth.
It is up to each and his/her set of moral values and priorities to get through all that,
and if luck be with him/her, untainted if possible.

So, pick your priorities right and if you're up to gambling, place your bets.
Just don't wail about your luck if you're caught with your pants down.
Just say sorry to those who got caught in the path of your fall.
Just pick up the pieces and go lick your wounds,
for tomorrow they will find something else to fill those front pages...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Walking with a pebble in your shoe

Know what it is like walking with a pebble in your shoe? To solve the problem all you need to do is get rid of the pebble. But you'll have to do it while the rest of the gang keeps marching on. If you stop to do it, you'll be left behind.

You know you can catch up if you hurry. But no, you're not up to chasing, panting and out of breath and get sneered at. No, it's actually only in your mind. I mean, the sneering part.

But if you don't get rid of that pebble it will start to hurt your foot. Soon you'll get sores, and if you still insist on walking on, your foot will start to swell. Eventually, you'll have to stop because the pain will get unbearable. By then, you may not be able to walk any further.

So it is the same thing with a necessary task which you feel is totally unpleasant. But whatever happens, the job has to be done. If you don't complete and get it over with, it will keep nagging at your conscience.

Mostly another factor is, other people's progress depend on your job input to complete. The project will not get done in time. Eventually your boss will be breathing down your neck. Come what may you'll still have to do it.

Usually once you get started it becomes easier and less unpleasant. By the time you complete the job you might even feel great.

This one also applies to straightening out someone in your team who gets out of line, stopping a machine to tighten a loosened nut, or replacing a worn-out tire.

Do it now.

For Want Of A Little Nail

I once worked with a General Manager who came from The Bronx, NY, USA. It was a tough neighborhood where he grew up. He said many of his childhood friends were either dead or doing time in US gaols (jails).

He had a long list of experiences setting up factories in China and Taiwan. He could tell the thickness of a piece of paper down to a decimal of an inch just by looking at it. He married a Taiwan lady and eventually settled in Singapore. He was in his late 40s.

We were discussing an additional production line we had just set up and was ready for production. Going through all the equipments wasn't enough for him. He wanted to check the material inventory as well. He was right of course. We couldn't just take things for granted that they'll all be there like clockwork. Someone has to wind up the clock too.

We found that the screws were not in. Those were special screws. Stainless steel. They had to be flown in from the US.

And here's the story he told me that day.

A great general was about to go into a crucial battle. It was one that would decide whether they won or lost the war. He told his men to get ready. They checked all their weapons, supplies, food, equipment and transport. All seemed perfectly organised. All, except one little detail that their stable hand did not mention. A nail was missing from one horse-shoe on the general's horse. He thought little of it. Only one little horse-shoe nail. Beside's the general had several horses he could choose from. But that happened to be the general's best horse.

For crucial battles one always choose the best. It was to involve a lot of hard riding, covering many miles over rough terrain and difficult maneuvers.

In the thick of the battle the general noticed his horse limping. But it was too late. The horse went down taking the general with him.

They lost the battle and they lost the war.