Welcome January

Photo by Pok Rie - pexels-photo-132037
Source: Pexels – Photo by Pok Rie

Almost two weeks on, the euphoria of staying awake through the last hour of the last night of 2017, ushering in the first minute of the first day of 2018, would have somewhat faded away. The excitement of being together with dear friends and families, would have come down a notch or two, if not more. The vivid awesome display up above the sky and the reverberating loud booms that followed it, may seem to be a distant memory now. Memories of the fun experienced and the joy felt, celebrating the New Year that is now 2018, might have moved an inch or two by now, deeper into the dark recess of the mind.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

As the sun rose and set as it has always done, over the days after the 1st of January 2018, the euphoria, excitement, fun and joy felt throughout that day, may have receded for some and might have even been forgotten by others. The reality of the things that needs to be done, waiting to be done or should have been done ages ago, may start setting in. The regrets of not having attained the things that were planned to be achieved in 2017 or those carried forward from 2016, may start weighing in. The helplessness felt at not being able to achieve the lofty goals that were set last year may start sinking in. Worse still, that sinking feeling of not having done enough to complete that one or few things, that was the focus of much, if not all of 2017, is something that can engulf one in, easily. It is easy to drown oneself in self-pity and become paralysed, if allowed to, when looking back on what was not accomplished, in 2017.

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Source: Pexels – Photo by Kaique Rocha

The reality is, helplessness, regrets, sinking feelings, self-pity and being paralysed about those that we did not yet achieve in the past year, does not have to be what we carry into and through this brand new year that is 2018. See, that is the beauty of the month that is January. It provides us an opportunity to start off with a clean slate. It gives us the time needed, to make use of the lessons learned from past errors to achieve greater victories, over the 365 days of the year. It allows us the chance, to build a stable platform from which we can climb and scale greater heights, over the 52 weeks of the year. It leaves us with the avenue to pace ourselves and move slowly but surely towards inevitable yet glorious victories, over the 12 months of the year. Come January, we have the space of one entire year to achieve anything and everything that we want to achieve, in 2018.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

Simply said, just as surely as the radiant sun rises and sets every single day, regardless as to if anyone actually noticed it or not, we too will be able to achieve what we have set out to achieve in 2018, with the right mindset and tools. To begin with, we should have a vision of what to accomplish and then come up with the plan on how to achieve it. If the destination seems to be looming large and overbearing, break it down to smaller parts. A wise person once told me, to think big and start small. Just as how one feeds little children small and bite-sized portions, so they manage to complete their meals, so too should our plan be, with simple and achievable milestones along the way, until we reach the final destination.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

 

Where we have many goals to be met in 2018, start of with the simpler ones and pace ourself for the long run to meet the less simpler ones. Another alternative would be to prioritise the goals and focus on those that gives the most benefit. My former boss, would always advise my team and I, to go for the low hanging fruits. They are not only quicker and easier to harvest but it also makes it faster to show results with. These quick and easy wins will allow us to accomplish the milestones along the way. More importantly, they boost our confidence during the long journey to achieve the seemingly difficult yet attainable goals. The fact is, there are always profitable low hanging fruits in our life, if only we allow ourself to seek and see them. Don’t ignore them just because they don’t seem to be as worthy as the ultimate prize at the end of the long journey.

All goals, requires planning in order to attain them. The more complex the goal is, the more meticulous the planning may be. It is as simple as driving from one place to another. The drive becomes smooth and straight forward when we are clear and certain as to where we are heading and how we are going to get there. It is only when we are not sure of the actual destination, do we become lost and end up late or worse still, skip the destination altogether. It is not for nothing that Benjamin Franklin[1] is attributed to have said “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”. Determining clearly what we want to achieve and then planning out how to achieve it makes the goal that much easier to attain and seem so much closer to being attained.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

Last but not least, is to simply keep track, look and reflect upon the progress of the pending goals and even those that we have managed to accomplish. Some of them may have been easily attained. Some may have become even more challenging to achieve. Some goals may even no longer be a priority and can therefore be canned. Vital resources can be redirected to other important goals. The thing is, if we don’t take a look at where we are heading from time to time, we may not accomplish much or be spending more time on things that aren’t important. At the same time, soak in the excitement and joy of having accomplished a goal and use it as a boost to work on the remaining ones. Take heed of the lessons from past misadventures and missed opportunities, to improve on how we go about working on completing the slightly more challenging goals.

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Source: Pexels – Photo from Pixabay

This year, I am going to take heed of the advise from the wise man and my former boss. I will think of big goals but start small as I pace myself along towards them. I will go after the low hanging fruits, as I scale perilous heights is search of my goals for this year. There will be the usual ups and downs on the journey, filled with twists and turns, which life simply seems to be always fond of doing. With planning, re-planning and periodic reflection on what I am doing and where I am going, achieving most, if not all my goals for the year, seems to be that much easier now, than it seemed to be a year ago. I, am glad to say “Welcome January”, so I can start of yet again with that clean slate. With God’s grace, I will achieve what I am meant to achieve, this year. So too, shall you. Trust yourself, put in the effort, allow God to guide you along the way and experience 2018, as a great year.

Traditions and festivities

 

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Source: Duasenku.com

Last week, I took a drive downtown into Masjid India, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. In what has now become an annual ritual around the weeks before Deepavali,  I brought my parents out to do some shopping. Yes, the annual Deepavali shopping. The shopping trip that almost all in the family looks forward toward, except, perhaps the one who is funding the trip. The trip with my parents, brought back old memories of similar trips with my mother and myself and later on, with my brother, to outlets such as Globe Silk Store and Tangs located just outside of Masjid India, along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Back then, my mum, brother and I, would board the bus in the morning heading to Globe Silk Store. We would first go into Globe Silk Store and then Tangs, located a shop or two away, sifting through shirts and pants, finding one set that we liked and more importantly of the right size and within the budget. After spending a significant amount of time, we would finally make our choice. During that time, mum would pick a set for our father.

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Source: Wikipedia

Once we were done, it was time to follow mum to the various textile shops that sold materials as well as sarees. Mum would painstakingly go through the material over a few shops. After spending considerable amount of time at each of them and looking into what is left of the shopping budget, she would make her purchase. Then, depending on how much was left, we would get some savouries, to mark the conclusion of the shopping trip, before heading home by bus.

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Source: Duasenku.com

Aside from shopping, the other major preparation was the making of traditional savouries. My mother, in cooperation with some ladies in the neighbourhood would get together after lunch, to make different types of savouries and complete them by dinner time. Different savouries would be made on different days.

My brother and I contributed to these activities too when we were not away at school. Our official role, was to assist with bringing over the raw materials when the ladies were comfortably seated by the stove, washing of the utensils and later on, arranging the savouries into the designated containers as well as the post-cooking cleaning.

Then, there was our unofficial role as the food taster. Unofficial, because none of the elders were aware of such a role. Food tasting would be done stealthily by first removing the said artifact to a secret location and then savouring it before being caught red-handed. One of my fondest memory of this part of the preparation was that try as hard as I may, I never could locate the savoury filled container, once it is hidden away, until the day of Deepavali. I never quite figured out how my mother managed to hide it, in a little house, even till today.

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Source: Pixabay

The final days before Deepavali, would then be filled with the annual spring cleaning. Curtains would be brought down and washed, while a fresh set would be hung up. Cushion covers and bedding would be removed and washed, while fresh sets would be put in place.  Fan and lights would be dusted and wiped. Cobwebs would be cleared. The floor would be swept, scrubbed and then mopped. Every single surface and corner that we can lay our hands on would be cleaned. Late nights were the norm. With lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion, tempers tend to flare before cool heads prevailed.

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Source: Pixabay

The eve of Deepavali was typically spent with all of us glued to the t.v. screen after a hearty dinner. The few available t.v. stations would play the latest Tamil movies for our viewing pleasure, helping us usher in Deepavali. As typical Tamil movies goes and adding on the numerous advertisements consisting mainly of Deepavali wishes as well as the late night news, we would end up sleeping way past 1 or 2 in the morning.

The morning of Deepavali would be spent with baths, excitedly getting dressed up in new clothes, seeking blessings from parents and more importantly, receiving our annual bonus, in the form of Deepavali “ang-pow”. After that, it was off to the temple by bus while our father would follow on his ever reliable “Rolls Royce”, his ever dependable Raleigh bicycle. Once we were done with prayers and quick visit to our relative’s house, it was time to head home, rummage through the containers of savouries that have magically appeared and most importantly doing justice to them by consuming them, while watching, again, the various Tamil movies being aired on t.v.

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Source: Pixabay

These traditions or rituals, pretty much remained the same with some differences, as my brother and I grew up through our teenage years, before going away to the university and then becoming tax-paying citizens of our beloved country. The differences were in how involved we were in the preparations prior to and even up to the eve of Deepavali. Mum would still do her annual pilgrimage to Masjid India to buy new clothes for us, with the difference being, without us most of the time. Mum would still prepare savouries for Deepavali, with us being absent through most of it. Mum and dad would clean-up the house, with us making occasional appearances to help out.

During the transition between the teenage years, young adult and then adulthood, the significance of the festivities changed. It was no longer as exciting as it used to be as a child. It was just another annual affair like the many other festivals scattered throughout the year. For a time, it became an event that we arranged annual leaves around, get together and spend time with ones that we love.

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Source: Pixabay

Over the years, as my parents aged, I matured as an adult, started my own family and then my brother got married and started his own family, I have begun to appreciate these age-old traditions and festivities. More so, as my wife and I embarked on our own journey as parents with our little boy. I realise that I have gone a full circle in regards to how I viewed these traditions.

I was again involved in Deepavali shopping with a slight change in the role, in that I am now the worried financier of the shopping trip. This year, there was also the added shopping, for our little boy. I was again involved in making Muruku at home with my wife. I was again involved in cleaning up the house as comprehensively as I could, with my wife. I will most likely spend time watching whatever movie is being aired on the t.v., on the eve of Deepavali.

Going back to last week in Masjid India, after almost being done with our shopping I took my exhausted-internally-yet-putting-up-a-strong-face-externally parents for much-needed lunch. Over a hearty vegetarian meal, I realised how grateful I was to God for giving me the opportunity of a happy conversation with my parents. We spoke about the old days and the mischief that my brother and I would get into. We spoke about how my little son is working hard to live up to those standards. We reminisced a little on some events of Deepavalis past. Thanks to traditions and festivities, I realise that I am able to create more wonderful memories and opportunities with my loved ones. Memories and moments created with the help of traditions and festivities, that remains with us for as long as we live. Something that I hope our son will cherish when he is older. That is indeed something to look forward to.

To moon and beyond

 

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Source: Pexels

About a month or two ago, while surfing the many channels that I seem to have subscribed to via Astro, I ended up watching a small part of a documentary entitled Moon Machines[1][2]. Luckily, as most shows aired on Astro are repeated at a later time, I managed to watch all six episodes of the Moon Machines series of documentary over a six-week period. The documentaries brought back a warm feeling and some fond memories of my childhood. It reminded me of my deep fascination about the moon in particular and the cosmos in general.

As a little boy, I have always been fascinated by the moon. I can’t really remember when this fascination started or what exactly brought it about. However, I am pretty certain that I wasn’t fascinated with the moon because I happen to be a werewolf, just in case you were wondering. What I do know, is that as a child I gazed up longingly into the star littered sky on clear nights. I enjoyed looking up at the beautiful cream coloured moon, imagining what it would be like to be on it and how earth would look like from up there. I used to wonder how the moon changed shape as it waxed from a new moon into a full moon and then waned from a full moon back into a new moon. I also wondered how the moon stayed up in the sky with all the stars at night, just as I wondered what kept the sun up there too.

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Source: Pixabay

At some point in my childhood, I had this weird believe that the moon was made of cheese. I am certain that this must have been the result of a cartoon that I watched as a little child. At that time, it made silly young me fret as to what would happen to the moon if mice managed to get up there and build a colony. Perhaps that is what caused the moon to wax and wane, I thought. Thankfully, a combination of clarifications from my parents, a book about the moon and a section of an encyclopedia on the moon, helped set the record straight on what the moon actually is. Otherwise, I may have well gone to school, thinking that the moon is made of cheese and it is hung on the sky, just like the stars and sun.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong [3]

Growing up being inspired by the images of lunar landings from my encyclopedia, I wanted to travel to the moon. I wanted to walk on the moon, just like the astronauts from the Apollo missions had done[4]. Back then, what Neil Armstrong, followed by “Buzz” Aldrin, did, on 20th of July, 1969, encouraged me to read up all that I could find from the limited books that I had access to, about space programmes and missions to the moon. On hindsight, I think my ambition to become an engineer had some roots in my desire to go to the moon, as much as my incorrect childhood believe that it is an engineer who drives the locomotive engine at the head of the train.

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Source: Pexels

Watching the documentary gave me some fresh insights into what happened in the background, from the conception of the idea to the actual landing on the moon and beyond. To start with, it took the vision and inspiration of great leaders to set the tone for the trip to the moon. Then American President, John F. Kennedy (JFK) made a speech in Congress, on the 25th of May 1961, stating his vision of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth[5]. JFK’s speech in Congress, got the Americans started on their mission to land a man on the moon.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” – John F. Kennedy[6]

Other than JFK, there was also the leadership of various people within the space programme, from NASA to the various vendors working with them, who led teams of thousands of people to work on the complex and challenging programme. There is no doubt that the space race with their Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union, was a big motivation in America’s thrust to go to the moon. Afterall, until Apollo 11 landed successfully on the moon, the Soviets had always been one step ahead of the Americans in the space race, from having launched the first man-made satellite into Earth’s orbit to the first man-made satelite to orbit the moon[7].

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Source: Pexels

Besides leadership, the amount of technological advancement and progress that came about from the mission to the moon is mind-boggling to say the least. There was the question of how to get man to the moon in the first place, which resulted in perfecting the already available rocket technology, from the fuel to the various stages of the rocket during its flight up to Earth’s orbit. It also brought about the design of the various modules in which the astronauts will travel in and return to earth. The final design, resulted in the command and lunar modules as well as the cone-like landing capsule.

Then there were the other questions, like what the astronauts were going to eat and drink, how they would go about with their regular bodily functions, how they would walk on the moon, how they would maneuver their space vehicle and so much more. Other than the rocket technology, most if not none of the questions had ready answers when JFK made his speech in front of the Congress and set the timeline to land man on the moon. Interestingly, each question resulted in new discoveries and huge leaps in technology. Integrated circuits, spacesuits, freeze-dried food, insulation, improvement in computer programming as well as the reduction in the size of a computer, were among some of the results of the advancement in technology, just to name a few[8][9].

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Source: Pexels

There is no doubt that the mission to the moon back in the 1960s and early 1970s, had inspired an entire generation of people, not just in America and the Soviet Union but all over the world. Today, at a time when many countries around the world seem to face a lack of visionary leadership and people trying to destroy each other while attempting to send us back centuries into the Dark Ages, perhaps what we need is another mission to the moon or an equivalent to that. Such a mission might just be the catalyst that we need to get humanity focused on a common deed centering on something constructive and productive rather than trying to bring about Armageddon. A mission beyond the moon, perhaps to Mars, might just be the answer that we need to inspire yet another generation of humanity and bring us forward.