Tuesday, November 18, 2003

CL6: Chocolate; Here Today... Gone Tommorow

Background:

This is speech no 6 in the Competent and Leadership manual. I am using the old manual and this assignment is about working with words. It is a light hearted speech. Humorous to a certain extent depending on how well you pull it off. Most of all its about my love for chocolates. :)

Actual Speech:

Mama always said life was like a box a chocolates, never know what you're gonna get. You might think that this is a philosophical speech about life but let me assure you it is not. I am going to instead speak about one of life’s most guilt ridden pleasures. The delicious wonder of chocolates.

Yes, Chocolates! Ladies and Gentlemen… The embodiment of the feeling and word pleasure…

Contrary to popular belief chocolates did not come from the west or Europe. It actually originated from Mexico in the ancient & mysterious cities of the Aztecs. The Aztecs were the kings of many riches such as gold and spice. But none of these riches came close to “Chocolatl” !

The Aztecs believed that this divine drink was a gift from the gods. In fact, the cacao tree’s botanical name, Theobroma Cacao pays homage to its mythical origin. Theobroma means “food of the gods”. It is often said that contentment is at the bottom of a bottle of warm chocolate. This is not far from the truth because chocolates help the release of endorphins – the happy drug. It is no wonder then why women reportedly prefer it to bedroom activities.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to bring chocolates from these native lands. They were led by the handsome and often cruel explorer Hernando Cortez who brought about the extinction of the Aztecs. Cortez swore by chocolatl and his men were the first to sweeten up the drink with sugar cane.

Spain kept this secret to themselves for a good 100 years. Despite secretly planting cacao trees all throughout their colonies, the cat was eventually let out of the bag when the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa decided to give her French lover boy King Louis the 14 cacao beans as an engagement gift. France was on its knees. Enamoured with the pleasure drink. It is reported that even the mighty Emperor Napoleon used to carry chocolates whenever he wanted to enlarge his empire.

Chocolate often goes hand in hand with love. Although chocolate is not an aphrodisiac like what the Aztecs initially believed, it does contain PEA or phenylethylamine (a word, which I cannot seem to roll my tongue around). PEA is a natural substance that stimulates the same reaction as falling in love. It is no wonder then why the cool and smooth Casanova used chocolates as a means to pick up women in the late 17th century.

Chocolate drinking arrived in America in the 18th century after the first chocolate factory opened in New England. It won over the hearts of everyone who tasted it including the great Thomas Jefferson. There is a legend surrounding him eating chocolates while writing the Declaration of Independence.

Mass production of chocolates began with the steam engine invented by James Watt. In the 19th century, two chocolate revolutions occurred. The common everyday solid chocolate was invented and its delicious cousin – the milk chocolate emerged.

These days, billions of people enjoy chocolates. More than 7 billion US dollars is spent on chocolate every year. That is more than 24 billion Malaysian Ringgit. Not bad for a small black bean. All this chocolate even though people constantly complain about how they make you fat…

But here is something astounding. Chocolates do not make you fat. The myth came about was because of the way chocolates were consumed. If you really think about it, any type of food would eventually make you fat if you over indulge. Chocolate is no exception. The problem with chocolate is in its divinity. People cannot help but over eat. As the saying goes – I would give up chocolate but then again I’m no quitter.

By, Vijay Balasegaram

Monday, October 13, 2003

Teh Tarik For the Soul - Risk Taking

Background:

This speech was for a short teh tarik session. Executed in no more than 3 minutes 3o seconds. The actual speech varied from this script but the general idea is there. It was well received and insprired some risk taking by the audience.

Actual Speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When was the last time any of you took a risk? Went out on a limb? Faced your fears and conquered challenges? Today? Yesterday? Last week? Never!?

I do not think the last question is applicable to all of you though. The fact that you are here. In Toastmasters carries a lot weight about how each one of you view challenges… I believe that everyone here has the ability to scare his or her fears away.

You see too often in our lives we become complacent. We stop taking risk. We stop learning. We stop conquering. This is especially true for me as I am becoming older. I have become more comfortable these days. I did not realize how set I have become in my manner until I sat down and spoke to my senior manager at work one day. Now here was a man who was never afraid of challenges. Or so I thought. This was 43-year-old man who just recently celebrated his birthday. He was in the apex of his life. He was a senior manager, primary adviser to the CEO of my company and leads the biggest department in the organization. He was powerful and capable. Not only that, he was a very admirable and personable man. Articulate, funny, self assured and supremely confident. Traits which come with leading a life showered with many successes.

I was really curious though. I wanted to find out what made this man tick. I wanted to know if given the chance, would this successful persona ever change anything in his life. His answer surprised me. No… Actually it downright shocked me. He said “Vijay! If there is one thing I can do differently in my life… that would be to take more risks”.

Among his main disappointment was that he wanted to start off his own firm but did not because entrepreneurial spirit was blasphemy during his time. His parents wanted him to hold down a stable job and because he was scared of new challenges at that time… He did just that… And now despite his success, he feels he is leaning on the wrong ladder of success. His real desire and ambitions were washed away when he decided to play it safe. 20 years down the road and he is stuck. Like a rock wedged permanently in unwanted albeit comfortable surroundings, he is unable to move to where he really wants to be.

Hearing him speak made me wonder and reflect back to the conditions surrounding my life. I find myself sliding into the same curve as he did. Its really scary.

But Ladies and Gentlemen, no more! I am tired of playing it safe. Life is so much more than what you see around you. Can you imagine what it would be like to be someone who is fearless and is not constraint by limits or barriers of the mind? Imagine being someone who can do whatever he sets his mind on. Imagine being someone who is free…

How do you become that someone? Where do you start? You start right here! In toastmasters! It is a place where you can let go of your chains of familiarity and become that someone that you always wanted to be… No fear. No limits. Risky business all the way.

Just remember what [Person below] said:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.- Helen Keller

CARPE DIEUM!

By, Vijay Balasegaram

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

CL5: Cycling

Background:

This is my speech no 5 in the Competent and Leadership manual. I am using the old manual and this assignment is about vocal variety. It is from a personal experience where I went on a cycling trip...

Actual Speech:

Good evening TME, fellow TMs, Honored Guest… Ladies and Gentlemen,

Physical exercise! A scary word! I spend most of my life in front of a computer screen… Physical exercise for me meant moving my fingers at blinding speeds on the keyboard and occasionally stretching my arms to signal to people that I am alive. So, you can imagine the amount of persuading it took to get me to go for a cycling expedition. But now that I have been through it and survived! I can honestly say it was by far one of the highlights of this year.

My earliest memories of cycling were in primary school when I used to cycle my BMX around my house. Now, a BMX is nothing more than a small bike used eXtreme Sport athletes to do cool tricks like cart wheels and cycling on one tire. Unlike those days, my cycling range this time around was expanded 20 km in all directions. We went to Bukit Cahaya, Shah Alam. It was last Sunday and my band was made up of 7 engineers. We started off early enough. The time of departure was 9 am but staying true to the Malaysian way, we only left home at 10…

Bukit Cahaya beckoned and we arrive there in high spirits and song. The sun was shining, the air was crisp and the roads were wide and seem to go on and on. It was exciting looking at the path. It took us less than 10 minutes to choose our steeds of steel and before you knew it we were on the road. It has been ages since I last rode a bike but like someone once said, once you get on it, you would never forget.

It was pleasant enough initially. The road was straight and flat and we took our time to get to the first stop, which was a bird park. I can almost see Bings’s ears pricking. It was big bird park. I never been to that many bird parks before but from where I was standing, this one seem really huge. We had a problem though, we did not bring any bike locks and someone had to stay behind to watch over the steeds. Naturally I volunteered… I was having too much fun cycling. Unlike Bing, I do not have the keen appreciation of featherbrains.

Our next stop was this small animal park. First bunch of animals we met there were a herd of goats. We had a doctor in our team. A PHD holder at that but for a brief moment, he turned into a goat herder. He wanted to get a shot with one of the goats but they were rather shy especially the female ones. I think they were uncomfortable flirting with a guy from a different species. In the end, we had to give up trying because the chief goat - An impressive male with horns bigger than my primary school headmaster was doing this. [Action of a bull].

The next animals on the menu were a pair of bulls. Oh man! I never realized it but I have never seen a bull up close and personal. Boy! Were they HUGE! Even sitting down, those two were about the same size as my car. I tried the red handkerchief trick on them but that did not work. They were very calm oddly all throughout.

On our journey out, this delightful monkey caught our attention. He was an intelligent fellow with soulful eyes. A very good listener… Every woman’s dream primate I would say. This Fabio of the furry kind was amazing. He had all the girls in my group eating out of his hands.

We then headed to a watchtower on the other side of the park. This was challenging! The road was no longer flat. It was very steep at certain places and by the time we got there, my legs could not be felt anymore. On top of the leg-killing ride there, we still had to climb the thing and so we did. Pure determination. I could almost hear the Rocky music playing at the background as I scaled the tower. I huffed and puffed and finally got there only to discover there was nothing to see…. The top of the trees was really dense. It is only then we had another look at the map and realized we were on the wrong tower. The good one was on the other side.

Nonetheless, we cycled on. We came upon a cactus park. It was a dry place with a whole bunch of thorny cactus. I do not know what it is about cactuses and me but ever since I won a cactus during the TM installation night, these cactuses have a thing for me. I cannot pass a cactus without getting pricked! When I came out of there, my whole body was scratched…

Not to mention, by this time dehydration was taking control and we needed water. Most of our water store was dried out. Hallucination was setting in. At one point, I could have sworn that Sharon Stone was doing this at the cactus park [act cactus]. A mirage that disappeared painfully when I tried to hug her and a thousand thorns plunged into me. Ouch!

Things looked bleak. I was hungry, thirsty, painful and bloody and just when the vultures were circling above ready to pounce, we stumbled upon a fruit park and Hallelujah! There were no park attendants. Muahahaaha! Lets just say the cikus were great and the mangos were really good thirst busters!

At the end of it all, we practically saw every part of the park on that day. We even got to the edge of Bukit Cahaya, which was located after the fruit park. Our legs ached, our sexy buttocks fell asleep and most of all our body was screaming in pain and yet I never felt more in tune with life. It made me think… You spend so many Sundays doing nothing and then when you go for something like this, you start to realize how awesome life is. I cannot think of times when you feel more alive than when you are out there in the world living it out and living it large. It’s an amazing feeling. Can you imagine all this from a simple cycling trip?

By, Vijay Balasegaram

Thursday, July 31, 2003

A 2003 regular meeting snapshot

For once, I walked into the DU room quite early. Ann and Bing were already there manning the registration. My mood immediately soared. After a hard day’s work, Bing with her ever-bubbly attitude and Ann’s demure smile was a real tonic…

Jack started the meeting off by introducing our president. As usual, Wei Seong swept the floor with his enthusiasm and got the crowd inspired. The main point our perched leader was trying to evoke was memories were worth much more than any amount of money. Well conveyed by his use of RM 1 note and a picture that I couldn’t make out but no doubt held significant meaning and memories.

Gan took over shortly after and as usual he was calculative accurate in all his addresses. To help ensure that the meeting used the Queen’s favorite language correctly, Siva was ever watchful as the Language Evaluator. The evocative word of the day – “evoke” was a an early indicator of how the meeting would turn out…

Our Teh Tarik invocator, Mr. Terrance “I believe in destiny” Koh then took over. The message was clear, believe in destiny but play your part as destiny should never be used as an excuse for losing in life.

Table topic session ensued. Topics ranging from serious ones like “Global Warming” and “Grading Children” to the less mind taxing ones like “Would you marry a women who is higher qualified that thou?” was dished out. Besides the excellent speeches delivered by the participants, the stand out performer was Naomi who was a guest but delivered her speech with the class of a veteran TM.

As usual, the table topic evaluation session followed led by our resident sergeant in arms. Her evaluation was presented with a lot of zest and plenty of remarks to note for the speakers.

Humor was in the air as Chiam Kah Boon walked on stage and made us laugh with effortless jokes. They were sequential in nature but were funny enough to make us laugh loud and hard just before we broke for food.

Food was delicious and very much welcomed. Nothing like a bit of cake and fried rice after an energetic TM session.

We then went back in for the mean business of prepared speech delivery. It was all started off with TM Esther clearing up the term icebreaker with a wonderful delivery, which kept the audience captivated and lost at the same time. Next up was William with an interesting piece about the importance of branding.

Suddenly, out of the blue walked up TM Alex Tan looking really sharp in his tie and suit. First impressions are vital to a speaker’s success and just for that alone, Alex would have won the best speaker. But that was only one of his strength as he launched into a very evocative speech about how he conquered the length of Penang Bridge during a run. Descriptive, energetic and mesmerizing! Alex swept the floor.

With a winning speech like that, anyone doing his assignment after would be daunted. Anyone that is but Mr. James “Boomingly Sexy Voice” Tan. This time around James amazed everyone by picking on a subject, which did not have a single avenue for laughter and he pulled it off and I quote Allen - “with the class of a presidential address”.

As TME Gan aptly coined it, evaluation is like breakfast for the speakers and Sau Cheong and her able team of waiters cum evaluators served the meal of the day well. I had the honor of discussing Esther’s entertaining speech, which left us all gaping at the mystery that was still Esther Chen. Angelene then took the reins at giving her impression of William’s brand of speech. After that, it was TM Anna Lee’s turn of evaluating Alex brilliant speech and finally Mr. Allen “Charismatic” Kam gave his two cents on James. Sau Cheong then gave her general evaluation of everything that went on during the meeting. She broke the mold by giving her evaluation first and then diverting to Language Evaluator Siva, Ah-Counter Yeo Yoke Bee and Time Keeper Henry Fu for their reports.

After a long and evocative night, the meeting was regretfully coming to an end. TME took over and read out the winners for the night in which the seniors overwhelmed the juniors TMs. Bing won best Table topic speaker, Allen took home best evaluation but the main man of the night was junior TM Alex who ran away with the best speaker award.

Shortly after, the president took over the meeting and a new member, TM Calvin Lin was inducted. He immediately won the crowd over with his firm reasoning of wanting to join TM so that he can learn how to be the best from the best. He got my vote.

With that, the curtains came down on another TM meeting and the TMs broke out after another night filled with words and actions evoking laughter and drama simultaneously…. Trademark DU Toastmasters!

By, Vijay Balasegaram

Monday, June 9, 2003

Battle of Wits 2003

The tension was mounting. The anticipation was unbearable. There we were. Gladiators looking up at the coliseum of battles. But, unlike the physical challenges of bygone days, this was a battle of wit. The only size that mattered was the size of your intellect and how fast the wheels of rebuttal turn under your thinking cap.

I entered the fabled DU room of war at about 7.35 p.m. The audiences were already there, savoring the tension and anticipating blood. As I walked in, the room suddenly seemed bigger. It was almost hostile. Yet I was comforted because there they were - my fellow battlers. It is often quoted that in the heat of war, there is no one dearer to a soldier than the man or women standing beside him ready to take the bullet in his place… With that thought, I sat next to my brethrens – Anna Lee and Charles Boey and we waited.

It was not a long though. The woman in authority, contest chairperson Bing Yee announced the rules and regulations in her cheerful but forceful manner. The clock hand turned and Bing wrapped up her introduction. There was silence. And then, it begin… The first battle – the battle of the free entrepreneurs against the might of the respected workers. The topic in debate was “It is better to work on your own than for other people”. Our opponents were none other than the formidable James Tan, Esther and Siva backed up by research man, Dickson. We stood firm despite James towering presence on stage. We had nothing to fear. After all, we had a professor, Dr. Loh Sau Cheong doing our research.

It was a scrappy match because none of the contestants had much experience in a witty debate. Except for Siva, the rest of us were pretty green. The lack of experience was however more than compensated by enthusiasm. The whole battle went smoothly even though fiery passion was cursing through the veins of the battlers.

First up, James bellowed and Charles suppressed. After that, it was Esther’s turn to fire away, which Anna dodged and returned with good aim. Finally, Siva closed for the Ayes after which I firmly said Nay. Exhausted and tired, the contestants along with their loyal audience were let out to feast and reflect. The judges conferred.

Not long after, the second debate took center stage. The title this time was “Men make better cooks than women”. The proponents were Delia Yip, Martin Hen and David Ingram. The naysayers were Angelene Chong, Kam Jin Khoon and Sharon Ng.

Delia begun with an emphatic speech, which was both funny and sarcastic. She had the crowd in the palm of her hands and sat down to a thunderous applause. Then came Angelene. She started clinically by disposing all of Delia’s good arguments with a surgical precision that would have made a brain surgeon proud. She then pounded her points home with an almost cheer leader like presentation. The crowd had no choice but to cheer her on.

The stage was then ready for Martin. Logical arguments were his forte. It gave the audience time to digest what they heard so far. Unfortunately, Martin was up against Jin Khoon whose main strength was in targeted and almost nonchalance sarcasm. He shot down every argument that was proposed with hilarious wit and one-liners that made his own point stand out like a beacon.

At this point, the Nays looked like they were in control. But the battle was far from over because the final speaker from the Ayes comer was CTM David Ingram. DU’s best started off strongly. From the first word uttered to the last point driven, David mesmerized the audience with his powerful and engaging brand of speaking. All one could do at the end of it all was nod in perfect agreement. Looks like the Ayes were saved. They were going to win after all…

Not quite true though. For all throughout David’s speech, a lady was slowly gathering force and ammo. Shortly after David concluded, an explosion occurred in the Nays table. Ms. Sharon came alive and suddenly the tides of war were whipped in the opposite direction. Sharon’s clever rebuttals had no opposition and the energy that she expounded was like a hurricane. The audience were just spun around to her opinions. She concluded on cue and sat down to a rapturous applause of appreciation…

The battle was over. The audience were divided. The judges had their minds made up. They trooped out for a short deliberation. During this time, the audience were allowed to have a go at the topics discussed. Some of the audience boldly attempted their own opinions. It was a good session where one could judge the general feeling of the crowd about the topics in debate.

In the midst of it all, the judges walked in. Bing took charge again and the president was summoned to present the trophies. The results were in. James’s team emerged victorious with their argument that it was still better to work for your own than for other people. Accompanying them were Angelene’s team sweeping the floor with the fact that after all that was said and done, the ladies were still the better cooks.

It was truly a wonderful debate chaired with authority by Bing and ably helped by her team of supporting toastmasters. At the end of the day, the peace treaty was signed and the battling parties reconciled. The battle scars were proudly displayed and the flags of war were finally put to rest…. Until next year that is.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Background:

This speech was created when I entered the 2003 humor speech contest. It was well received but didn't win any awards. It is centered around the age old question of why did the proverbial chicken cross the road...

Actual Speech:

Good evening TME, fellow TMs and honored guest. My topic tonight is very significant. I have taken great pains in trying to answer one of the fundamental questions that have been puzzling the human race since the dawn of time.

The question that I speak of is none other than:
Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why indeed. What on earth could have possible induced this poor fowl to undertake such a perilous journey. You see ladies and gentlemen, as long as there have been roads and poultry, there has always been this profound question about the crossing of the chicken. In fact, this question is so important that some people believe its answer contains the secret to all the mysteries of the universe. Many great people have tried explaining this phenomenon and I would now present you their thoughts.

Before I start though, we must dispel all skeptics from the crowd. We must be able to say for sure that the chicken actually crossed the road. For this purpose, I would call upon the words of the ultimate believer – FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder. Mulder would say - You saw the chicken cross the road with your own eyes. How many chickens must cross the road before you believe it? How many Scully?

Now that we believe, let us start with a taking a religious viewpoint. Let us start with the words of Buddha. Buddha once observed that asking this question – Why the chicken crossed the road denies your own chicken nature. Annnnddd if you are wondering what that means? …. Do not look at me. I have no idea what so ever too.

Now if you are like me and you can’t understand the depth of the above statement, perhaps Moses would make more sense to you – Moses proclaimed once long ago in Jeruselam - And God came down from the Heavens, and He said unto the chicken, "Thou shalt cross the road." And the chicken crossed the road, and there was much rejoicing in the world.

Oh well, if religion doesn’t provide the explanation that you seek, perhaps philosophy is the key. Let us visit Ralph Waldo Emerson - widely regarded as one of America's most influential author, philosopher and thinker from the early 19th century. Now according to Raplfie, the chicken did not cross the road but he transcended it. Once again, if you have no idea what that means, join the club.

Alright, so philosophy did not help us. Lets us try looking at it in a evolutionary manner. Perhaps Darwin can help us shed some light. The father of evolution figured that: Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically disposed to cross roads… It was after all, the logical next step after coming down from the trees.

Then again maybe not…what we need I think - is a scientific explanation. Quantified measurements and logical reasoning. We present this question to Einstein and the most acclaimed physicist of our time replied that whether the chicken crossed the road or the road moved beneath the chicken depends upon your frame of reference. Well, Einstein was too smart for the rest of us anyway.

His predecessor had a similar notion about chickens too. Mr, excuse me I mean Sir Isaac Newton theorized that Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest. Chickens in motion tend to cross the road. He was absolutely right too… As anyone trying to stop a moving bus would tell you.

Since I’m running short on time, I would wrap it up by repeating what my Grandpa told me about the chickens in general. He may not have been as famous or influential as the previous mentioned people but he made a whole lot more sense, as senior members would probably agree. My grandpa always used to say - In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken had crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

Thank You!

By, Vijay Balasegaram

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Cameron Highlands - A hill with two views

Background:

On 9th April 2004, I had the wonderful chance to go on a fellowship trip organized by Bing. This was story devised by me and former member Charles Boey where we played the roles of an anonymous visitor and a wild birdie observing him while visiting the MNS camp in Cameron. Click on thumbnail for photos:

Cameron Trip April 2004


Actual Story:

Anonymous Man:
9th April 2004. The day that we were all waiting for had finally arrived. Off to the land of strawberries and tea! We began our departure shortly after meeting up at the Super Club. As agreed, the rest of the troop traveled in Bing’s car while Carol. Delia and I traveled in Vijay’s. With a sense of excitement we began our four-hour long journey to Cameron. Vijay and I did what men do best; navigating and operating heavy machinery, while the Carol and Delia did what women do best; taking care of watermelons and catching up on sleep. Not long after we arrived at MNS Boh Tea. The place is impressive, with rolling hills peppered with tea bushes and trees. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Vijay must had been inspired by the view too, because not long after we arrived he began passionately sharing with us his novel idea of selling mutton from goats fed with tea leaves. With thoughts of fame, fortune and caffeinated goats, we got out of our cars and headed for the campsite watched intensely by a curious bird.

Local Birdie:
Dear Diary,
It was another bright beautiful day in my personal home up in the hills. Acres of rolling hills covered by a soothing carpet of green tea plants. Life cannot get better that this or so I thought.

It was about 1pm and the whole place was abuzz. The noise was unbelievable. The place, which those humans call Man’s Nauseating Society, was crawling with those hairless apes. I should have disappeared and flew off to my uncle Hawking’s place for the weekend but I had the date with Robin later and I cannot possibly miss that.

Anonymous Man:
The dorms were well equipped and comfortable. I was particularly fascinated with the water heater. It uses cooking gas instead of electricity to heat up water. It was like bathing with a kitchen stove. Not long after we gathered at the main dorm/hall for lunch. That’s where we met the kitchen maestro, Mrs. Moorthy, the person responsible for stuffing us with delicious food for the next 2 days. After lunch, Bing, Keat Ky and Terence went off to clear up the trail for tomorrow’s jungle trek. The rest of us retired to our dorms. Alex, Vijay, Calvin and I were enjoying the view at the veranda and sharing a good conversation when two birds flew into our room. One of the two immediately flew back out when it sensed imminent danger. However the other one stayed behind and seemed to take fancy with our ceiling light. With the thoughts of tasty roasted bird wings for tea time, I switched on the lights, in hope of electrocuting it.

Local Birdie:
Just when Robin and I got tired of flying through the clouds and thought about doing some nesting at MNS, it had to be filled by those dumb monkeys. Robin was not into voyeurism, so she flew off on the double. Sigh. Months of planning down the drain…

Those human sure are weird. There was this one who was really ugly and he kept on flipping the light switch whenever I tried to rest on the bulb… What was he thinking!? Trying to electrocute me or something… Stupid Human!

Anonymous Man:
After consuming the delicious tea prepared by Mrs. Moorthy, we gathered at the veranda again to play a game of cards. We had a few interesting games. But what was more interesting was the punishment that awaited those who lost. Vijay and Calvin, being the last players to lose, got the worst punishment of all; they had to spell “Mississippi” with their rear ends, while hugging each other, front to back. After that they couldn’t look each other in the eye for the rest of the day.

Local Birdie:
I still cannot get over the fact that Robin ran off. I was that close. Instead of brushing some feathers together with my sweetheart, I get to watch two humans getting really close. Odd thing was, I could have sworn they were both males.

Anonymous Man:
Later in the evening we were blessed with more company; David and Shandy’s group finally arrived. After our delicious dinner we all sat at the fireplace and traded jokes. “Innocent” Mae started the ball rolling by surprising us all with her colorful sailor jokes…

Local Birdie:
Argh! Tiring day. Missed all of my short naps thanks to the apes. Sigh… Night fall sure is beautiful here. The stars were out. The air was fresh. Everything is where is suppose to be except for the humans. I cannot really make out what they were up to but I think they are exchanging jokes. Dirty ones at that. So, this is what civilizations does to a species…

Anonymous Man:
10th April 2004. Woke up to my hand phone’s alarm. Not too cold though which was surprising. But then again, looking at how Vijay was shuddering even under 5 layers of clothing, maybe it was a bit chilly. We had to pack our own lunch for the trek up to Gunung Cantik. It was tuna sandwiches. We started at about nine. The first one hour was a killer but like the view it got better. Breathtaking hills covered by endless rows of tea plants. Pictures or words never do justice to a place like this. You have to be there to appreciate it. We trekked up for quite a while. Shandy and her sister, Yelonda were left to rest as they were tired out. The last mile of the trek was through a forest. It was dense. Oh well, goodbye civilization!

Local Birdie:
Well, that’s the last of the group. I hope Porky the wild pig gores them. But not all of them went through the woods, two was left behind. One seems to be trailing behind in the distance. Moments later, she disappeared through the forest too. The other one is taking the wrong trek. I smell trouble… Goodie!

Anonymous Man:
It was not very hard getting to the peak. The initial stage was more challenging. Nonetheless, we were glad when Bing cried out “5 minutes more to the peak” in her giggly voice. I was looking forward to the view. Slipping past the last branch, I came upon the highest peak of Gunung Cantik. The view was shocking…… It was not cantik (beautiful) at all. It was overgrown with trees. A small patch of flat grass with no view. Gunung Cantik indeed!

Lunch was quick. Before long, we were trekking back down. Nothing beats a watermelon after a long hard trek. Good wisdom from Bing as she insisted we bring along the fruit. What a peaceful and sedentary life… Suddenly, Shandy rushed up out of breath and worried. Yelonda was missing she gasped!

Local Birdie:
Something is wrong at the MNS place. They came back in high spirits. Annoyingly high but all seems to be deadly quiet now. I sense panic in the air. I think there is something to do with one of the humans going missing. Seconds later, a few of them left for the forest again. Let me go in for a closer look.

Anonymous Man:
Bing went up with a local man and some of our non-TM friends to find Yelonda. We were all intensely worried. Our trip to the tea factory had to be delayed. To keep ourselves preoccupied, we used Bing’s bird spying lenses to keep track of her search party. It was hard work though as this silly bird kept on obstructing my view.

Just when the night was settling in, there was a cry of delight. Yelonda was found. A great sigh of relief went through the camp…

Local Birdie:
So, they did find her at last. Boy! Did that missing human looked worn out. She looked as if she went head to head with Porky. What a celebration. The humans were noisier than usual tonight. No one can sleep with that racket. So much laughter and merriment for such a small company. Must be because of the alcohol they were consuming.

Morning came about quickly. I still have not slept. However, things are looking up. The pesky humans are packing. Let me give them a going away present for two days of hell.

Anonymous Man:
11th April 2004. What a night. Games galore. David Ingram came up with a whole host of games which got everyone roused up. I still can’t believe that Alex won the marshmallow competition despite my aesthetic burned to the crisp entry.

Oh well! Its time to say “So long Cameron!”. Bye bye Mrs. Moorthy… Bye bye tea plants. Bye bye gas powered water heater. Bye bye Birdie. Hey! Wait a minute, I recognize that bird. What is he trying to do?! Looks like he is gonna…. Oh no! Vijay, look out! Your windscreen. SPLOSH!

Gross… Darn bird. I’ll fry you next time! We’ll be back!

Local Birdie:
Haha. Bulls eye! Bye bye humans. There is plenty more where that came from. Come again. I’ll be waiting!

By, Vijay Balasegaram and Charles Boey

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Singing with the songbird

What is the definition of a hip and happening Saturday night? – It would probably be last Saturday on the wings of the Songbird at SS2. What do you do when you are soaring with such an exquisite creature? You leave your fears behind and sing like there was no tomorrow and today was a day of eternal happiness…

I arrived at the SS2 Gloria Jeans a few minutes before 9 p.m. Dave, out gracious host and organizer of this interesting affair immediately greeted me with his infectious smile. He directed me to the 2nd floor where the Songbird karaoke was located. Like all places where fun was the trade, I was welcomed by a very charming and gorgeous host (in layman terms – a babe). I gave her my reservation number and host name and she responded by escorting me to the designated area. Unfortunately, she left me at the door dismissing all hopes of continuing the pleasure of her company.

Undaunted, I walked in to find a small and cozy room, which was only filled with Jin Khon looking so calm that one may make the fair assumption that he owned the joint. Together we waited and it was not long before our company was serenaded by the arrival of a certain Miss. Sharon Ng. She immediately took possession of the mike and started to work on her melodious vocal harp with Jin Khoon as I sat back quite enraptured with the proceedings. In the middle of the golden oldies, Ei Leen, Michele, Joanne and eventually Deliliah walked in one after the other. Like traditional DU TM meetings, we had 3 non-TM guests as well. By this time, the music was in full swing and the party was warming up quite nicely.

And just when I thought our motley assemble was complete, along came our charming knight in shinning armor spotting a new ultra-short haircut – Mr. Allan Kam. Typically, the knight brought along a damsel who seemed hardly distressed. Until now, I could still hear the collective disappointed sighs from the ladies in the room at the sight of the knight with a lady already perched on his arms. The knight with his customary charismatic personality lifted the tempo of the party to a raunchy level. Oldies with some of the strangest names but familiar tunes flowed on non-stop. Beetles, Begees and the Carpenters had their singers pre-empted by local talents.

In the midst of it all, walked in Angelene. Now, if the writer deemed Sharon to be the queen of the night and Allan to be the debonair knight, Angelene would definitely be the star (expectations heightened by her marvelous performance when she executed her first speech). The angel of the night has finally descended and us mortal men were glad to greet her.

And greet we did. Angelene was always given the mike!

For the writer whose voice is often blamed for the excessive rain around Klang valley that sometimes causes flash floods, it was a comfort to know that her sweet voice would drown out all imperfections to produce the perfect karaoke duet even when singing a ridiculous (shudder) Britney Spears hit…

It was sometime around ten o’clock when the waiter brought in a birthday cake to my utmost surprise. I found out soon enough that it was for none other than the queen of the night. She was apparently celebrating her 21st birthday, which was quite shocking because I would not have guessed her age to be beyond 16…

Predictably, the birthday song was rendered out and the mademoiselle under the spotlight blew out her candles and made a wish, which remains a mystery till today.

The night was now getting on and moving at lightning speed. Our charming knight was the first to leave, which was a shame but he had done enough merry making to enable the mood to last the night even after his departure with his damsel. A few songs later, the queen of the night also made her way to the door much to the disappointment of the younger bachelors in the room but fortunately for the narrator, he managed to steal a dance and a kiss from her royal enchantress….

The party rocked on until 11.30 p.m though. Eileen performed “Runaway Train” to the delight of everyone. Abba came on to a lot of applause. The host surprised and amazed by doing a heartfelt rendition of “Moon River”. Angelene passionately sang the likes of “Belaian Jiwa” and “Di Persimpangan Dilema”. Ang (One of the guest) and Jin Khoon dominated with their powerful tones. Joanne intermittently mesmerized with some Cantonese songs. And despite the round robin mike passing, somehow or other Delilah escaped - not even singing a single tune much to the annoyance of the writer.

The hours slipped by and the night started to wind down. It was long past bedtime for most of the attendees and the rogue yawns were escaping all efforts of concealment. Just before the clock struck 12, the TM Presidante did a “Cinderella” and followed her sister’s early lead.

The rest of us stayed behind to finish up the last of the oldies and disbanded after the final Cliff Richard hit was played out. In the tired aftermath, a few of the energetic ones gathered around a mamak, which was close by. There we spent the night engaging in friendly gossip before finally driving home with the melodies of the songbird playing in our ears and the events of the night still fresh in our memories providing ample and lively fuel for exciting dreams lasting many nights afterwards… Till the next song.

By, Vijay Balasegaram