Digital Deepavali

After putting it off for some days now, with the benefit of having some prior engagements rescheduled at the last moment, my wife and I finally dropped by a Deepavali bazaar, last Friday. We just wanted to take a look at what was on offer at a nearby bazaar. With the times being what it is, we decided to go with a strict budget, one of the low-budget type. This was to be a reconnaissance only trip. Yes, strictly window shopping only. At least, that was the plan.

Source: Pexels

So there we were, moving from one stall to the other. Looking at clothes of all shapes and sizes. Clothes in all shades of colour, all sorts of texture, decorated with simple to intricate patterns and designed for adults and children, as well as for men and women. There were stalls that offered all the mouth-watering delicacies that one can’t help indulge in, never mind what the doctor says. Delicacies ranging from the sinfully sweet candies to the ever so crunchy murukku.

Source: Pexels

Then there were the stalls offering an array of accessories for the women to match with their beautiful and vibrant outfits. The accessories ranged from bangles made out of metal and glass to ear-rings of all sizes and designs. There were stalls displaying incense stick-like sparkles, boxes of the noisy pop pops and some packets of firework. There were also stalls that sold decorations to spruce up the house for the upcoming festivities.

Having walked among the stalls from one end to the other, taking in all the sights, while trying to speak with each other over the cacophony of various songs blaring out of the speakers, my wife asked me a question. She asked, if I noticed something or more accurately said, if I noticed the absence of something. She mentioned that she did not notice any greeting cards displayed for sale at any of the stalls we passed by and asked if I noticed any.

Source: Adapted from Pixabay

Now, I am not sure about other bazaars as we have only been to one thus far but I was quite certain that there were no greeting cards being sold at the bazaar that we were at. In fact, I was not even looking for it as I had not planned to send one nor have I sent out a Deepavali greeting card in years. It took me a while to recall when I last gave someone or mailed out a physical Deepavali card. I think it was some time in the 00s, that I gave or posted a Deepavali greeting card.

That’s when it struck me, how technology has in some ways, changed the way we celebrate festivals with our loved ones and friends. At the turn of the century, with increasing access to the internet and emails, greeting cards were slowly replaced by electronic cards or better known as e-cards. E-cards, made up of a mix of colourful texts and images to short animated clips, conveyed the same greetings, albeit electronically, replacing the need for physical greeting cards. Sending e-cards was also faster and cost almost close to nothing.

Source: Pixabay

This expanded further to the usage of MMS as a form of greeting during festive season. Then, as the usage of smart phone and with it, messengers like Whatsapp, became widespread, usage of e-cards themselves dwindled. They made way for even more creative messages, sent out via messengers in the form of text, images or even short animations. These could easily be edited with personal messages or simply be reused and sent out immediately to others in the contact list. These messages can be sent out in an instant, to a large number of people, all within a few clicks and best of all, from the comfort of one’s own home instead of a trip to the post office.

With lesser greeting cards being sent around one other aspect of the festivities also changed. Back in the days of the physical greeting cards, it was quite common for the cards themselves to be part of the festive decorations. The colourful physical cards of all sorts of design, would be placed on the tables and adorn the walls during the festive season. These days, there are less or zero cards being used as decorations. Besides, I don’t recall seeing anyone having printed versions of MMS, e-cards or messages from messengers, used as festive decorations, at least.

Source: Pixabay

Technology, to an extent has changed the way we celebrate and share the festive joy with our loved ones and friends. It has made it easier and faster, to send greetings and wishes to others during the festive season. It has even saved us the embarrassing realisation of not having sent out a card to someone who took the trouble to buy, write and send out a greeting card to us. Besides, it may have helped us in some ways, to be environmentally friendly during the festive season.

As my wife and I drove back after our visit to the bazaar, I wondered how much more would technology change the way we celebrate festivals. With online shopping and the availability of everything and anything on it, I did wonder if festive bazaars like the one that I just left, would survive in the current form or change in any way to be relevant with the current times. In case you are wondering, our plan of a reconnaissance only trip to the Deepavali bazaar, it failed miserably. I suppose one can’t do “window” shopping at a bazaar, among stalls that lacked windows. No, the change in plan was not affected by technology. It was simply a battle than the mind lost, over matter.

P.S.: The image of the vilakku was sourced from Pixabay.

P.P.S.: Yes, I am hoping to post more regularly, instead of one every few months. Hope that the next one will be up around Deepavali.

Great friends and wonderful memories

Image sourced from Pixabay

17th of May 1998, is a date etched in my memory, for life. It happens to be the day I stepped foot in the hallowed grounds of University of Malaya. On that day, I started off on a journey of three years, marking a colourful new chapter in my life. It brought me the qualification that I needed, to secure my first job, upon graduation. More importantly, I was acquainted with interesting and wonderful people, both at the residential college that I stayed at and the faculty that I studied at.

Today’s story is about a motley crew of people that I had the pleasure to study and mature with at the university. They came in all shapes and sizes, some of which has grown with time. This diverse bunch of people that I am proud to call friends, shaped a huge part of my life in those three years. Since that day twenty years ago, they have been an important and cherished presence in my life and that of my wife. Thanks to Whatsapp, it feels as if I “meet” them everyday, just as if we were still bantering at the “foyer” of the faculty, a space that we made “home” during our time there.

Image sourced from Pexel

It wasn’t always like this in the beginning. For a start, this diverse group of people hailed from various parts of Malaysia, from the northern town of Kulim to the southern city of Johore Bahru and places in between like Ipoh, Sunway, Klang and Kuala Lumpur. There wasn’t much that all of us had in common, or so we thought. Some of us did have the benefit of knowing each other from back in school but that just meant we stayed together with those that we already knew well enough.

So, in the beginning, it was simply just “Hi”, “Bye” and perhaps nervous smiles among us. It then progressed to, “Can I borrow that?”, “Have you done this?”, “Can you help me with that?” and such. The faculty-wide orientation activities that were ongoing may have played a role towards this progress. Anyway, from there on, it morphed into having tea-breaks and lunch and then on to dinner as well as supper together. With God’s grace, we did not look back since then.

Image source from Pexels

As engineering students, the numerous assignments and lab reports meant that there was a lot of cooperation among us, ensuring that we completed and submitted them on time. When faced with difficult questions, some would try sourcing for solutions from elsewhere while others worked at solving it. In the end, a few of us would put our heads together and solve the problem based on all the information that we had. We would then ensure that the everyone else were on the same page as us.

There were also the late nights when we bunkered down in someone’s room, printing pages and pages of reports for each other. Then there were the visits to lecturers’ rooms, to slip in under the door, just-completed assignments before the lecturer arrived for the day, therefore submitting assignments on time.

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Back in an era before Uber or Grab, we already had our own fleet of bikers within the group. Between them, we were assured of safe and timely passage to and fro from the faculty or somewhere nearby when needed. There was also that little “Baasha Van” (named after the movie Baasha) which was able to load just about anyone and everyone and the occasional Proton Saga.

We also had the penchant towards eating. Come to think about it, who doesn’t? Anyway, we had our own Food Panda service back then. Someone was usually available to go out and pack meals for the hungry ones. Somewhere along the way we uncovered the affordable yet delicious, slices of marble cake at the nearby 7-Eleven and nasi briyani at a little mamak stall within a Chinese coffee shop.

Image sourced from Pexels

We discovered the joys of SMS together. Yes, it was an era, where there was neither Whatsapp nor smart phone. When Digi initially introduced SMS as a free service, it was all the rage as we sent messages back and forth. I still remember one of my friends coming in late one night into my room and sharing with me and my roommate the magic of SMS. Besides SMS, time not spent studying or eating would be spent with “Snake” on someone’s Nokia. More than getting a high score, it was all about breaking the existing record on somebody’s phone.

We also used codes to communicate with each other with the mobile phone, to keep costs at zero. No, we didn’t use Morse code. It was based on missed calls, though I can’t recall if it was the number of rings before the caller hung up or the number of missed calls itself. Suffice to say, there was a code to say, “I am on my way.”, “I am already here.” and much more. There was also the interesting case of 37 or so missed calls, in a futile attempt to wake up someone who was fast asleep.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Listening to music together while studying was something almost all of us enjoyed. As this was during an era where neither Spotify nor smartphone existed, we achieved it with the Walkman. I do recall that at the very beginning we did listen to music with a radio under a huge tree but that didn’t last long. Anyway, since some of us didn’t own a Walkman, we shared the earpiece or took turns listening to music as we studied. Sometimes though, we didn’t need access to a Walkman, as one or more of the ladies sang out aloud.

Besides that, there was also a lot of treasure hunting. There were the times when we would go high and low around the faculty looking for someone’s misplaced motorcycle keys, only to eventually find it embedded safely within the helmet or the ignition of the motorcycle.

Image sourced from Pixabay

Then of course, there were the exams. Afterall, that was the reason we went into the university, to graduate with a degree and gain employment succesfully thereafter. That meant exams had to be passed. So study hard we did, during an intense period of just days before the exam. Oh, we planned it quite well alright, from what, where and when we were going to study to when we were going to break for meals or sleep.

These pre-exam study sessions held many fond memories. One that stands out was the  unique way that each of us studied, such as the one who studied while walking around the “foyer” area in an elliptic manner, akin to how planets orbited around the sun. Then there were the numerous times we would all walk single file to the exam halls in the morning after studying through the night, only to repeat the cycle for the next paper, on the next day. There was also the interesting incident, where one opted to go back early in the morning to sleep but ended up coming in late for the exam because her dear roommate unknowingly turned off the alarm.

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Through it all, this disparate group of people shared both happy and sad moments together. There was always someone around to cheer and lift up the spirits of the other. There was always someone around to speak to, about our troubles. There was always someone around to provide sage yet timely advise. We even had someone who could provide us with basic medical advice or helped get us that advice when it was needed.

There was always someone around in the “foyer” to talk to or simply sit down with. There was always a shoulder to cry on. There was always support when one was needed. In short, we helped each other out through the trials and tribulations of not just studying but also through the journey from teenagers to adults. We had our disagreements, arguments and crises but these were eventually navigated gracefully and patiently.

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As we graduated, we agreed to keep in touch and meet up often. We did go on annual holidays together and met up as often as it was possible. However, as work commitment crept in, as some moved away for work, as some married and started their own families, as some went away to live overseas, the frequency of holidays and meet-ups dropped. Yet, through it all, we managed to stay together and be there for each other. Weddings, birthdays, birth of a child and the passing away of loved ones, just to name a few.

The events that brought kept together in those three years, kept us together through time. The shared memories and experiences held us in good stead through the years. With Whatsapp, we have managed to stay in touch more frequently and be together  through the day and even night, regardless of where we were. I am truly blessed and grateful to God, for having set me, down that path on 17th of May 1998, where I met this motley crew of people, who even today are an important part of my life.

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.

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.

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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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.

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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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.

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.