Thursday, May 28, 2015

Have you been sent to die in the wilderness?

“Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” Exodus 14:11

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that. I didn’t laugh because I was mocking the Israelites, or at their unsteadiness and doubt. But it was because I heard God speak to me through those verses;

“Oh you poor kid, have I not promised to you? Have I not told you? Have I not remind you for the umpteenth time, that with my mighty hands, I will deliver you? That I will have my way executed in your life because that’s what you chose from the beginning? Have you not already seen the things that I have done in your life? Have you forgotten the fulfilled promises in your life?“

As I lay in bed, I recalled the story of how Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt. What started off as 70 Israelites migrating to Egypt, ended up as 6 lakhs men (excluding women and children) after 430 year. They were slaves to Pharaoh over those years. The kind of slaves who were ill-treated, over worked, and had no rights over anything. But on the other hand, they were God’s children, whom He never forgot. One fine day, God sent Moses and Aaron along to deliver these people from the Egyptians. After a whole episode of prayers, signs and wonders, the Israelites were finally on their way out of Egypt, on their way to the promise land.

Even before leaving Egypt, the Israelites were complaining to Moses to let them be as they were, as slaves. As soon as they left, Pharaoh came chasing after them. And when they saw this, the Israelites feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “It is because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is it not that we said to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. ” Exodus 14:10-12.

Every one of those words were pointed to towards God directly and not at Moses. These are the people who’ve had first hand experience and were privileged to see God’s miracles. Moses and Aaron performed miracles and sign through God in front of Pharaoh. When there was harmful things that was happening throughout Egypt, it had affected everyone right from the palace to the workers, but it didn’t affect anyone in Goshen, where the Israelites lived. When there were deadly plagues in Egypt, the Israelites were untouched by it. No frogs, gnats, swarms of flies, plague of the livestock, boils, hailstorm, locusts, darkness or even plague of the firstborn affected the Israelites. But they saw with their own eyes how the Egyptians suffered with these things.

We, people of today’s day and age, are all just like the Israelites of those days. The moment something looks as if it is not working for us, we immediately think it’s working against us. When there’s a vague sense of uncertainty, all the miracles become misty. All the promises are long forgotten. It may not be as verbal and real as going through slavery, wilderness etc. But that's the gist of it. 

To all those who are in such a situation, be reminded of just one thing: God is faithful.

“The Egyptian whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Exodus 14:13,14.

I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgement. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I am the LORD.” Exodus 6:2-8

PS: This is a note to self on the 28th of May 2015 at 1am (Malaysian time), and to all those who need it and would care to read it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

To give or not to give - dowry

Giving and receiving dowry has been an age-old tradition. Age old as in really age old! Something that has been religiously followed for generation after generation and centuries after centuries surely cannot be changed. But there have been some changes in the very reason of asking/giving dowry and people’s attitude and mind-set about it.

What I slowly came to realize was that the girls parents were giving so much money, household utensils, jewellery and clothes all in the name of dowry to make sure their girl is well dressed and well settled when she starts her new life with her new family. Its not that the groom’s family don’t have vessels or money, it’s that the girls parents take it as their responsibility to provide for the daughter initially.

I only came to realize this when I was getting married myself. We were out and about doing shopping for the wedding and the reception, and I found myself looking at more clothes and sarees, which would be appropriate to be worn after the wedding while going out to other families and friends’ houses for dinner or things like that. To add on to my shopping craze, a few other people were saying its best to keep stock of new clothes, especially if you were going to other people’s houses and if you would be taking pictures everywhere.

It made complete sense, and that’s when it occurred to me that this is why every India wedding I attended in the past always had an impressive show of sarees complete with matching inskirts and blouses, punjabi suits, matching handbags and shoes, make up stuff and accessories, and also household necessities such as cooking vessels and utensils. All this because the bride’s family wanted to make sure she carried the family name well in the midst of her in laws and friends. 

Sometimes, parents who were able, also gave some cash according to their capability, which is to be at the girls’ disposal, not anyone else. In those days, girls were not meant to be educated or sent out to work. Thus, it was believed that girls couldn’t take care of themselves and need to be provided for at all times. Hence, the money that is deposited in the girls’ name. In cases of emergency, they could always use this money.

Getting news things is part of the whole festive and moving into a new phase of life, which is all good. All of the above was the initial idea and purpose of dowry.

Today, it has evolved into a whole new ball game. What used to be all about the bride, has now become all about prestige and competition. This dowry business has become nothing but a business, a dirty, stinky one. It has gone to the extend where wealthy groom’s family demand for money equivalent to their riches, or demand according to the boy’s profession, or even demand more just to create their on world Guinness record of highest dowry ever obtained in history. These kinds of people should be given the Guinness record for uncivilization if you ask me.

What has become even more atrocious now is that there are grooms family who demand houses, cars, and even expensive jewellery and accessories for their sons with the excuse that he’s a doctor/lawyer/engineer/business man. Excuse me, if your son is actually a qualified doctor/lawyer/engineer/business man, doesn’t it make sense that he maintains his dignity and get his own stuff? There are also those who demand for more money from the girl’s family because the groom’s family is filthy rich. Again, excuse me, if you are already rich, why do you want someone else’s money? Also, if you really insist on doing it, go and find someone else who is equally rich and not as stingy as you.

Dowry is really not about prestige at all! Prestige is a useless manmade attitude and thought. Dowry is not about giving to those who already have! Dowry is not about setting a bar and raising it whenever you feel like it. Marriage is not all/only about how much so and so has given. There’s more to marriage then worrying about finances and meeting to the grooms families’ demands or boasting about how much money and jewellery was exchanged.

Although I understand the necessity of dowry in those days, I’ve always been against the whole idea of it. How is it fair to give so much money to the groom’s family to marry their daughter? It actually seems as if the bride’s family is buying the groom by giving so much. Is it not fair then, to demand the groom to come to the girl’s family instead of the other way round?

I would really like to see someone break this tradition. If the boy is a professional, earning well and come from a well to do family, why don’t YOU give the money to the girl and bring her? If you are earning, you can very well get what you want, instead of demand from the bride’s family. It’s way below the belt to fantasize over someone else’s money while trying to save your own.

I really wish I would live to see the day when the coming generation would change these traditions. May the grooms to be take the challenge, grow some backbones and survive on their own capabilities without tormenting the bride’s family.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Internet. You can't live with them, you cat live without them.

I was about 16 when the Internet was very cautiously disclosed to me. I was personally tutored to create an email id, and taught about some safe sites such as yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail. Not a word about about Google or YouTube though. Come to think of it, I don’t think YouTube existed back then yet. And definitely nothing about what was then infamously known IRC chat, ICQ, MSN messenger and so on. But what are friends for if they don’t teach you the most important and useless things all at the same time right?

My friends and I used to gather around the PC to ‘study’. By studying, I obviously mean chatting on that nonsensical IRC chat and ICQ. Our internet usage time was strictly monitored, not only for safety’s sake and for economical sake as well. Internet in my generation came along with a modem and it was charged according to usage. It was also hopelessly slow!

Eventually, Malaysian telecoms grew some sense to quickly adapt to foreign countries’ fast speed Internet. There were internet connections with faster speed and better contracts. Meaning, it was cheaper to go online longer, but it wasn’t good enough, because we were restricted to using it only at home.

Today, every network available in the country has data plans and influential bundles, both for mobile usage and home usage. Sounds like you’d be connected to the whole wide world out there when you are here, doesn’t it? Might as well, cos every Tom, Dick and Donkey has a smart phone which supports data and wifi connectivity to get connected to all sorts of social media and so on.

I myself have got a data bundle on my phone, and a home internet plan. Perfect! I can be connected to the internet when I’m on the move and even while at home. Actually, not so perfect at all. Internet connections and data plans are quite temperamental. They only work when they decide to, which is quite rarely. Both the bundles have decided to take a break when I desperately need it. Here I am, falling asleep while waiting for a YouTube video to buffer and waiting for some pages on Google to work!

So much for fast internet. So much for bundles and packages. Whether it works or not is not part of its terms and conditions. Once you’ve bought it, it’s your problem and you have to deal with it, especially when it doesn’t work. If it works, good for you! If it doesn’t work, I’m sorry, but try not to take it too hard. Even if we know this is what happens, it doesn’t stop us from getting the best package possible that is advertised. Probably in hope that it would work on most days if not all.

Whatever evolves in this country, good customer service and sincerity will never improve. Why does it feel like I am walking into a huge storage tank of empty brain whenever I go to the customer service centre for help? Aren’t they supposed to know how to check data balance, or how to sort out this data thing?

Monday, May 11, 2015

A dream wedding that I didn't dream of

11th May 2015

So, it’s been a month since I’ve been married. I still haven’t come to terms that I’m married. The very thought of it baffles me. I’ve been looking at the wedding pictures everyday in the last month, and have had so many thoughts about it, but never managed to gather my thoughts in black and white.

It was a dream wedding that I didn’t dream of. I didn’t plan it. But God took care of all the planning. In fact, he had planned this wedding before any of us even realised anything. The recollection of how the date was fixed, how my husband came to Malaysia, how the wedding event was, the invitation, the guests who came, the people who stepped up to help, etc. leaves me at a loss for words.

We did not choose the wedding date. The 11th of April 2015 was reserved for our wedding years before we even knew each other.  When we finally knew that the wedding would be on the 11th of April, we had exactly one month to prepare for it. Almost everyone said it was impossible to have a wedding in one month’s time when we hadn’t a clue about anything. Some of my friends said they had 1 year to plan for their wedding and even that wasn’t enough time.

From the 12th of March till the 11th of April, not only did we arrange for the wedding, we fixed the house, sorted out everything for the wedding, sorted out immigration work, managed things for the grooms family, did pre wedding photoshoot and managed everything that came up in the last minute. When we started planning on what to do, we were only hoping for the simplest of everything due to the lack of time. But what we ended up with was the best of everything.

Instead of a hall with simple decorations and congested buffet dinner, we got a 5 star award-winning hotel with excellent service and 8 course Chinese sit in dinner, the best of its kind. The staffs were so accommodating and quick to organize things according to our personal preference. Instead of a leaflet type of wedding invitations, which would normally take 7 days to be printed, we got grand extra large sized wedding invitations that were ready in 2 days!

As for church decorations, all I asked for was a simple arch and basic ribbons on chairs, but we got a full set of decorations complete with backdrops, entrance decorations, flower poises, red carpets, ribbons and what not. There were 4 groups of people working on different things, but it all matched so well. The pre wedding photoshoot at the bridal shop was something that I didn’t want at all. But now that’s easily one of the best things I liked about the wedding. We found so much favour from even the bridal shop about the photoshoot and the wedding gown and their services. My bridal bouquet was ordered on the morning of the wedding due to unforeseen circumstances, and even that turned out perfect. All my brides maids, flower girls and pageboys looked so cute and were at their best behaviour!

All the guests who came for the wedding and the reception were so kind and supportive. Some were making time through their busy schedule to help with distributing invitations, some were organizing decorations, some were at home helping with even organizing food and washing dishes, transportation, some stayed awake till 2.30am the night before the wedding to do my manicure for me.

There was a debate as to which country the wedding and reception should happen, whether in Malaysia, Glasgow, Germany or even in India. And then it finally boiled down to Glasgow vs Malaysia, and it looked like Glasgow was winning. But God had other plans. He had already pre planned for it to be in Malaysia.

Above and beyond all these things, I was truly overwhelmed by the support and cooperation that came from every direction. Even people whom we least expected came in to help. I still remember everyone’s speeches and wishes. It was the sincerest amongst everything. I least expected any of those, but I’m so glad we got to experience so much love from everyone. After the wedding, we got to know that we weren’t the only ones who were so surprised by the amount of cooperation, the locals themselves were taken aback by such acts of kindness.

All this has been possible purely by God’s grace, and of course with the help of family and friends both near and far. It was purely a miracle and beyond our expectations. I am truly amazed. When we were planning for the wedding and reception, we wanted to honour God, but what happened was just the opposite of it. God had honoured us more than we honoured Him.

This is surely a wedding to be remembered. A wedding where God’s presence overcame the lack of anything and everything, where the rain was a shower of blessings although many people couldn’t come due to the weather.

From now onwards, 11th of April is not just to celebrate the anniversary of Laxman and my union, but to celebrate God’s fulfilled promises and faithfulness in our lives.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Anbulla aiyaavukkum aayaavukkum

A letter I wrote to my grandparents to be published in the family magazine during my grandfather's 80th birthday celebration this year. I wanted to put it up here for keepsake. It is one of those things that came right from the heart with no time to re-read, edit or update, but it doesn't need any of those anyways. Counting the days till i can meet you both again aiyaa and aayaa, and the rest of the family too. 

Anbulla aiyaavukkum aayaavukkum,

I’ve always remembered all your letters addressed to mummy started this way. At that young age, I didn’t understand what ‘anbulla’ meant. But today, I understand how deep it is. Therefore, I want to greet you with ‘anbulla’ instead of a shallow ‘dear aiyaa and aayaa’.

As we celebrate your 80th birthday this year, we celebrate your fulfilling life, your zeal for life and achievements. While at school, children are always encouraged to be inspired by historical characters. We, the Palaniappan Chettiar clan, need not look into any history books to read up about other people’s accomplishments and draw motivation from it. We just have to look at you. I am truly awed with respect for you with all your achievements aiyaa. Regardless of any hinderances, you are such a strong-minded person and so focused in your goals.

We might not have spent a lot of time together chatting or catching up with each other aiyaa, but you are a grandfather that every granddaughter would love to have. As strict as you are, you’ve always had a soft corner for me. I remember the numerous times when I was unanimously nominated by the whole family to get permission from you, be it to go out to the theatres, or shopping, because I was favoured by you. I remember the countless times when I went ‘shopping’ in Kumaran Stores during lunch time and walked away with everything I wanted, because it was my grandfather’s shop and all I needed to do was take it and it was mine.  I remember growing up watching pattimandram with you on Sunday mornings during our annual visits. Thanks to you, I’m still very much interested in those things. I remember seeing you taking each and everyone of your children’s family upon your own shoulders and making sure everything was settled for them.

Aayaa, you are a perfect example of an obedient and submissive wife, caring mother and protective grandmother. Ever so giving and selfless. I’ve never heard you say no to me, I’ve never seen you not cook for me even when you weren’t at the best of health, I’ve never seen you tired to meet the needs of your family. I remember the times when you saved firecrackers, toys and accessories for me even after Diwali. You always made sure you fed me with everything that was on my ‘To-eat’ list during every holiday. No one else can make that perfect maavu thaengulal, athirasam and puliyotharai like you do aayaa. No one else will make sure our luggage was filled with sufficient ribbon pakoda, sathumaavu and paal alvaa. No one else knew how to make Milo in India like you did. I seem to associate you with food in every way, but believe me when I say I love you more than I love all the food you made for me. You stand as a testimony to the English proverb that says, there’s a woman behind every man’s success. You are the woman behind the whole family’s success. You’ve always stood by our side at all times. You are always my favourite grandmother.

Even during times when both of you were not pleased with our choices in life, you were more concerned for us rather than the thought that we were disobedient to you. As the first grandchild of the family, I’m glad I got to enjoy both of you all for myself for a few years before the others came into the picture. But even after that, I’m over joyed to know that I’ve always been special to you.

As I recall how content life was those days being with both of you in aiyaa’s house in PDKT and aayaa’s house in Vallaiyapatti (as I fondly use to remember), my eyes is filled with tears and words fail me, but my heart is filled with joy that I’ve been blessed to have experienced these things with both of you. I’m thankful to God for all these memorable thoughts that has been a foundation to my childhood.

As personal as this letter may be, your love for us has always been very public. The love, affection and concern that you’ve showed to me and mummy is beyond us. My heart is filled with pride when I say that I am the granddaughter of Palaniappan Chettiar and Unnamalai achi.

Just the words thank you doesn’t justify the amount of sacrifices you both have done for us. I want to let you know that from the very bottom of my heart, I wish for both of you nothing less than love and joy. I pray that you both will be blessed with good health, prosperity, and most importantly, peace. I pray that you will receive peace from God, the kind of peace that surpasses all worldly understanding.

Migavum anbudan,

Ungal paethi Chumi