The question popped out on my phone. Sent by Jik. It got me thinking. The thing is, I have many.
The days I spent with my cousins, driving around Jakarta to buy the best road-side food.
The weekend I went to Malaka with my Uni friends and made more friends by the time we went back to Singapore.
Our three weeks honeymoon in Japan.
The weekend I went to Goa to attend my cousin’s wedding.
The first time I saw the Autumn colours IRL.
The many moments I shared with Cheryl when we worked together.
The day I went to the theme park as a kid with just my parents. I was wearing a red dress, and they let me do water rafting. It was so fun. I felt so happy and excited, and a bit of a grown-up.
The day I got a salary hike.
The day I got approval to move to Australia.
The day I stood in front of the sixteen floors National Library in Singapore.
The day I noticed Vi entering the classroom wearing her purple pyjamas.
The days I spent in Phi Phi Island, wearing a bikini for the first time and learning to be confident in it.
The day I bought my first MacBook.
The hours I spent in the bookstores. And the hours I spent in Spellbox.
The night of the New Year’s Eve when I met Fafa.
The drunken night walk with my cousins in Copenhagen.
The day I ate MSG ridden fried-rice in a Chinese restaurant in Italy after not having rice for more than a week for the first time in my life.
My first snowfall day.
The days where Fafa kindness was the only support I had.
The weekend in Uluru.
The hours Jik and I spent in coffee shops in Hong Kong.
The time with LOL memories.
Quality times I spent with Amma and the moments of hugging her.
The day my Amma complimented me on my cousin’s engagement day.
Drinking Karak Chai in Dubai.
The nights I sat on the beach.
The hours I spent in the kitchen with my workmates – having lunch or just taking breaks.
The days I spent with Erwin and Vivi, rediscovering Jakarta.
The days and nights I spent with Thu just messing around while trying to figure out life.
My days in Singapore.
First dates. Second dates.
The days where I do very little but don’t feel guilty at all. The days when I do so much and feel a sense of accomplishment.
My post-grad days.
My wedding days.
The day I realised I had all the support I needed in life.
The afternoon in Brisbane when we took an hour Uber-ride to eat good Indo food.
The day I discovered Serial podcast while travelling in Europe, which led into the true-crime rabbit hole.
The day I took Shinkansen for the first time, the second time and every single time after that.
The day I set up my blogs excitedly.
My last working day in Singapore.
Those are some of my best days—the ones I would love to redo. I realised now that most of them involve being surrounded by my loved ones, travelling and discovering myself. Here is to creating space in my life for more of those kinds of days.
“You are reading The Alchemist again?! Why?” Fafa asked me this morning when he saw the paperback on my bedside table.
“I am reading it for the first time” I confessed to his surprise.
I didn’t plan to not read The Alchemist. It’s just, for some reason, I hadn’t gotten around to it. Which, I know, is a bit weird coming from someone who read books just because it was recommended by semi-influencers on IG (next on the list: Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast. A recommendation by a Singaporean blogger).
Unfortunately, The Alchemist had managed to stay outside my book-craze radar for the most of my reading life. At least until last Sunday, when I had a boozy heart to heart conversation with Aina. We were talking about how, at times, it takes more time for us to learn something about ourselves even when it’s painfully obvious to those around us. That’s when she quoted the book. When I told her I have yet to read it, she gave me the most concerned look I have ever gotten from her. Enough to make my drunken self order the book (the 25th edition of the paperback was cheaper than the Kindle version) immediately after I got home that night.
To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation
– The Alchemist
It arrived today, and I have just started it. Now, please tell me, I am not the only one who hasn’t read it!
Though it’s no match to I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman, it’s so apparent from the first few paragraphs that Heartburn has also been drizzled with Nora Ephron’s magic. I finished the book over the weekend and enjoyed It immensely. Except for the cooking part. I wasn’t there for it.
Heartburn is a work of fiction that is heavily based on Nora Ephron’s life.
I find it refreshing that in the book Rachel, although was carrying a child and attending to a toddler, didn’t make the story about her pregnancy nor the baby. Instead, it’s about her, specifically her heartbreak.
The book managed to bend my opinions on people who forgive their spouses for cheating, before straightening it again.
It reinforces my life approach as an adult:
“Well, it might be absolutely shit right now, but maybe there is a story in it“
She showed me that you can hate someone (Thelma Rice, her husband’s mistress) but still be classy about it (e.g. she wrote about Thelma being funny or that she has long legs), inspired me to sign up for group therapy once this pandemic dies down as it might be good for me to talk things out, reminded me that strong friendships are important and to take my life lightly and my oath loyally.
I also find being proposed on a plane rather cute. And that Washington isn’t all that, New York is.
There were many more pages in the book I resonated with, but the last chapter, when she told herself: “No he doesn’t love you, you can throw the pie on his face” was the one that lingered until now, a week later when I type this post
What a relief it’s to realize no point staying in a relationship when the other person doesn’t love you after feeling hurt repeatedly. I remember the moment I felt the same, though it happened more than a decade ago, it was the moment I’ll never forget because that was the moment I chose myself. And that was also the moment Nora chose herself and moved back to New York.
In conclusion, Heartburn is absolutely a must for every woman who has been hurt, forgiven, and moved on. I wish I had read it sooner.
I took off today (hence the happy part of the earlier greeting) to read and write which I didn’t do until 11 AM because I was watching 73 Things You Missed in Final Destination 2 (2003) — adding zero value to my life.
Alas, I managed to muster enough discipline cells to close my laptop and turn on my Kindle to continue reading Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies.
One page in, the author gave a test:
Right now, write down then things you like about yourself.
Paragraph 1 Chapter 3 Part 2 of Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster.
She acknowledged that it could be a daunting challenge, but to do it anyway.
I decided to one-up her test by not only coming up with the ten things but also sharing it here with you. By which I am hoping you would indulge Tara and me by writing your version of the things you like about yourself. It matters not how many (three or ten) nor where (here, online or in your secret diary), try to write it as soon as you can without overthinking about it.
Here is mine:
I am good with directions.
and in Maths.
I strive to grow and keep learning.
I am pretty independent.
I am open-minded.
I am adaptable – a trait I build from migrating to Jakarta then Singapore then Melbourne.
I am curious by nature.
I enjoy my own company.
I can eat and enjoy food without an ounce of guilt.
I don’t care much about people’s opinion about me. Case in point: I am writing about ten things I like about myself on a Monday morning and share it on the internet.
Writing the above list reminded me of what Adrienne from Yoga’s Adrienne said in at least two of her videos that I watch the most:
I was browsing The Paperback Bookshop’s online catalog when I saw a book in pink with Japanese type of houses and a Sakura tree pictures on it. Titled People From My Neighbourhood, it’s written by Hiromi Kawakami.
Hiromi Kawakami’s first English translated book was The Strange Weather in Tokyo. I bought it at the WHS at Singapore Changi International Airport and finished reading on the plane on my way back to Jakarta. It’s the book that topped my reading list in 2014. And I thought that was reason enough to get this book from the bookshop.
When the book came in the mail a week later, I kept it aside, planning to savor it once I had finished my exam. And I ended up reading and finishing it hours right after my exam.
People From My Neighbourhood was a light read as was The Strange Weather in Tokyo but it wasn’t nearly as good.
Japanese fiction, at least the ones I gravitate towards, usually are peppered with surrealism and absurdity. Which is something I expected from People From My Neighbourhood, especially since it was the second book of hers that I was reading. But I didn’t expect surrealism to be the main theme of the book.
The book, divided into 36 chapters, talks about the people who live in the narrator’s imaginary town (neighbourhood). Each chapter/story went on for a few pages. All were too short to build any connection with the characters. Nor to accept the absurdity of their personality, stories, and or situation. I didn’t understand any of the characters, let alone empathizing or liking them.
Except maybe for the middle-aged woman who runs a drinking place called The Love, who puts up the same menu every single day, which includes iced-coffee and iced-coffee only no matter the season or weather.
Another good thing from the book was the ending, the last page of the book, which I very much enjoyed. But that’s it. Nothing else.
Only now when I am typing this I realize People From My Neighbourhood was the third Hiromi Kawakami book I have read. Last year I eagerly anticipated and utterly disappointed by The Ten Love of Mr Nishino. I only half-read it as I couldn’t continue reading after a paragraph somewhere in the middle of the book put me off so much.
Hiromi Kawakami’s novels are not my cup of tea, I know this now. The Strange Weather in Tokyo was just a beautiful one-off. Read it if you are into Japanese fiction and gratify more towards Haruki Murakami’s style of writing instead of, say Banana Yoshimoto’s.
It has been months since I stayed past my bedtime to finish a book. The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida made me do just that yesterday. I turned off my Kindle, only leaving the epilogue part unread. There are only a few things that can match the luxury of reading in bed right after you wake up. And the last few pages of The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida would be a perfect companion to savor at that moment. Which exactly what I did right before I write this post.
I found out about The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida only a few hours before reading it while browsing through the Avid Readers event catalog online.
The first thing that caught my attention was the name “Sumida” — it must be about Japan. And as you know, something, anything to do with Japan interests me. I then went on to read the synopsis. The first paragraph said:
Miwako Sumida is dead.
That was all I needed.
I’d read the book for those two reasons alone. But then, while searching what’s the best (ie: cheapest) way I can get it, I realized that The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida was written by an Indonesian-born Singapore female writer, Clarissa Goenawan. I don’t think I have ever read any Japanese fiction written by a non-Japanese before, let alone by someone I share a certain degree of identity with.
I feverishly waited for the workday to be over. I finished my dinner, took a shower, and told Fafa that I am retiring to bed early today. With a final click on a button that says $14.99, I entered The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.
The book was written from three different perspectives, none by Miwako Sumida. Though all of them centering around her. The story gives equal importance to the other three characters and their life.
The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is also layered with many sub-stories and details which add depth to the novel — from the watch that Miwako wore, the Salt Studio to the Secret Diary Zine — turning it into one delicious read.
It also took me to all the familiar places I have been yearning to go back to in Japan — from the English bookstore, Shinjuku train station, the convenience store, and the shrine. And then there was the part set in a small village below the valley, which made me pause to daydream about my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage in September next year in the middle of the night.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the book is written in a distinctive style of Japanese novels, with a bit of absurdity and melancholy, which if not overdone, can be utterly beautiful. And Clarrisa managed to do it perfectly.
So beautifully written The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida might top my best book in 2020 chart. But that’s a decision to be made for another day, as I have just download Clarrisa’s first book, also set in Japan, titled RainBirds.
Update: Avid Readers is hosting a free online Queer Book Club on The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida on 4th November and a conversation with the author the day after.
Recently, I bit the bullet and joined an online book club because I miss people. I miss talking about the books I read. And I miss talking to people about books.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved the concept of book clubs. Just that reading an appointed book for the month can be a bit of a drag. And listening to people talking passionately about a book with a title that I can’t even decipher the meaning of, is not all that appealing.
But pandemic changes people. in a desperate time, one takes desperate measures. I emailed Natalie. Natalie is a librarian I got to know from my days in Southbank BYOD Community Club. She used to host a monthly meet-up to discuss the books we read in the past month (it’s a book club without a designated book — you know, the best kind).
I was a member for the most part of 2017- 2018. But then I stopped going, though if you ask me now, I can’t really remember why. I want to say it’s because of the weather. Winter in Melbourne is pretty gruesome. I never want to do anything in the evening other than rushing back from work and hiding inside my electric blanket at home. But the weather alone seems like a stupid reason to stop going.
Anyway, past action reflections aside, Natalie replied to my email which basically was a plea to her to take me under her online book club wing. She has stopped managing book clubs, she said. But she hooked me up with her colleague Ivy who was currently hosting a few book clubs online.
Ivy replied to my email. She was happy that I want to join an online book club. Unfortunately, only the eAudio book club has the capacity to add a new member at the moment.
“eAudio, jeez,” I thought.
The only reason I have an Audible app on my phone is just so I can listen to various chapters of The Secret (and its’ family) in the loop.
The thought of listening to an eAudio fiction doesn’t excite me at all. But Ivy did say that the next book for the book club is a thriller and I do have all the free time thanks to the pandemic.
I sighed to no-one and replied back with “sign me up”.
Soon afterwards I downloaded the book The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham and listened to it whenever I did chores around the house or right before drifting off to lalaland.
To be fair, listening to eAudio fiction was not half as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe it’s got to do with the book’s genres. Anyway, a week later I finished the eBook and the week after that I logged into the book’s online meeting.
There were 18 of us in the Zoom meeting. All women. I managed to identify a lady who I used to discuss the latest reads with in the previous book club hosted by Natalia. I wanted to greet her, but I didn’t remember her name. I peeked at her name on the zoom screen. It said “iPad”. Great.
The book discussion started almost immediately, led by a few who must have been regulars.
I listened mostly, other than interrupting once to defend the main antagonist (she doesn’t have the capability to hurt people anymore).
We moved on to other books they are currently reading and wanting to read and lastly, the books to read for both November and December for the book club.
An hour and a brief goodbye later, I closed my laptop, feeling fully satiated, both in mind and heart.
I read Kind of Hindu, from Mindy Kaling’s Nothing Like I Imagined, a 6-parts Amazon Original Stories, on Kindle Unlimited yesterday. I chose to read Kind of Hindu first (other titles include Big Shot and Help Is on the Way) just because I find it the most relatable, as I too am kinda Hindu.
The book started with how Mindy identified as a secular American. Growing up as an Indonesian Indian, with very less exposure to both Indian culture and Hindu religion, I can relate to her. Though I have always held on to both my religion and cultural heritage. Even stronger now as an Indonesian Indian living in Australia.
The book is a light entertaining read. Dripped with the usual Mindy-ism. One of my favorite phrases in the book: “my Indian Hindu assistant, Akshara, had once hired (an Indian priest) to bless her new VW Jetta“.
I got a bit emotional towards the near end of the book when she talked about her mother. Maybe because I read it past midnight, after a couple of glasses of alcohol. Or maybe because I haven’t hugged mine for almost a year now, no thanks to Corona. Either way, I was like “I get you, sis!”.
But there are parts in the book that made me go “huh?!” — like when she categorized paper towels, scissors and apples as mysterious items just because the Indian priest had asked for it. Because, as she said, Mindy had been to Hindu pujas before, where all these items are must-haves. And even if, you have never been to any Hindu ceremony before, I can guarantee you there is no mystery about a regular household paper towel.
Also, I don’t get the joke about not knowing whether to call the Indian cities Chennai as Madras (former) and Calcutta (former) as Kolkata. Even I, the third generation of Indian Indonesian, know the reason they changed the names of some cities in India — and my parents were born in Indonesia! I didn’t find that bit funny. It was kind of knowledge-white-washing of your own heritage. I didn’t expect that from Mindy, my brown heroine.
The rest? Well, you gotta read it, I am not going to give you any more spoilers of the 23 pages book.
Kind of Hindu would make a perfect blog post or two (it’s divided into two stories in the Kindle version), not something I would pay $1.99 for. But since it’s on Kindle Unlimited, which means I am getting it for free, I have downloaded the next one, Please Like Me But Keep Away.
This time I am going to listen to it. Because listening to Mindy reading a Mindy’s adds a lotta charm to it.
Memento Mori. A reminder that we all will die one day.
We all know that, don’t we?!
So, why do we need a reminder for that? Because sometimes we go through life as if we are immortals; standing at the edge of danger for a perfect selfie, accumulating money in multiple currencies, carrying the emotional baggage instilled by a distant aunt more than twenty years ago.
Hence, the age-old variation of the regrets-on-the-deathbed question. As someone who’s more than a little curious about death, I have thought about this plenty. At some point in your life, I am sure you have too.
But how about the other side of the coin?
Have you ever thought about the things you won’t care about when you are in the last seconds of life?
Things that are occupying space in the brain, things that we think a lot about, things which probably are not going to cross the mind on the deathbed?
I pondered about this question over the weekend and realized that I won’t be thinking about food in the last seconds of life.
As someone who plans the daily schedule around food, marks the beginning of romantic relationships with the moment food was shared and has an ever-growing to-eat list, the realization bummed me out a little. Unless a certain percentage of people in this world are right about heaven and it has an unlimited amount of peeled grapes I can eat there while watching TV.
Speaking of TV, though I spend an embarrassing amount of time watching embarrassingly titled TV shows (Deadly Women, Scandal, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 — to name a few), I don’t think I will be thinking about my Netflix subscription on the last seconds of my life either.
If you think that the early realization above is a reminder for me that there are better things to focus in life other than being a couch potato, then you are wrong! Because I know I won’t be thinking about books as well.
Not about the piles of unread books scattered around the house, the urgent desire to reorganize my bookshelf that resurfaces with the changing of the season, and the constant nagging whenever I pick a semi-familiar book in the bookstore and wonder whether I already purchased the book and kept it in the bookshelf at my parents. Nor of my bookworm’s dream of building a bookshelf in the bathroom consisting of only waterproof books and build a house that looks like a book (– and filled with books).
I won’t even remember feeling guilty for buying overpriced books at the airport even though on the 1st of January every single year, I make a new year resolution of not doing it anymore. And If I am dying anytime soon, the slip up of buying 11 books at Changi Airport during a short layover last year, won’t even come into mind.
The airport talk reminds me that, if I am being honest, I won’t be thinking about traveling as well, something that I constantly think, plan, and obsessed about throughout my adult life (even now, while I am typing this, I have Skyscanner open in another window tab, you know just in case Victoria opens its’ border by end of the year).
Also, hello, no one knows where they will be “traveling” to the afterlife, so why bother?
The good thing is that I should not also think about flying, more specifically, my irrational fear of flying which usually creeps in a few days before I travel (assuming that my last seconds of life is not inside a plane that is crashing). Not thinking about flying also means I won’t go through my friends’ faces in my mental Rolodex of whose message I “forgot” to reply nor replaying the moment when I yelled back at my mom back in 1997 which I haven’t apologized for.
Another thing that I gladly won’t think about is: adult-ing and all the responsibility that comes with it, such as staying in a job long enough before it’s acceptable in the CV to leave, keeping some of the money earned after giving both the government and AMAZON Prime a huge chunk of it and keeping the house acceptable clean to show my parents that as a 30-something grown-up woman, I actually can survive without their supervision.
On the contrary, I am truly saddened by the thought of not thinking about my blogs. The only thing I slogged on and powered through the winter cold (with the help of my cheap electric blanket) continuously, the one I come home to after a busy day at work to “nurture”, that make me skip hanging out with friends and lost my sleeping hours for. Theses blogs are my joy and pride, but if I am being really honest, I don’t think I will be thinking about it. This realization is kind of devastating because the blogs are what I have closest to a child or at least a pet.
Wait, that’s not true!
I do have something else that is closest to a pet for me. Something that I keep at home and Instagram-ed regularly. Something that I worry about when I travel, therefore, pass to friends to take care of while I am away. Something I fed, talk to, and named. The house plants.
And I am sure I won’t be thinking about it either. They are hard to take care of and I am happily won’t use my remaining thoughts not thinking whether I have watered Carrie, Samantha, and Charlotte that week. And hopefully, by then, I already made peace with murdering the majority of them (including Miranda) by either over-watering or under-watering.
On the note of obsession, even though I am utterly obsessed with true crime and have gone so far to form friendships based on the other parties’ knowledge about the serial killers’ full names and regularly googling their mug shots using an office computer, it’s safe to say that I won’t be using the last oxygen being an armchair detective. Nor will I think about my crystals collection, Japan (unless I get to be lucky enough to live and die there one day), and many other things I am borderline obsessive about.
At first, I thought it would be hard to identify what is it that I won’t think about on my last seconds of life, but soon after I realized that almost nothing occupies my mind today, this week nor this year matters then. And that the ones I will think about are a few button taps away. So I picked up the phone and spent the rest of the weekend FaceTime-ng with them.
What about you, what are the things you won’t care about when you are in the last seconds of life?