Monday, 1 August 2011

Do Things REALLY Happen for Reasons?

It was a Saturday, I ought to be relaxed and refreshing myself with recreational activities, instead I spent several hours waiting for two people who made separate appointments with me about supporting this project. No phone revert back as to their no show. 

I sighed and assured myself that all was normal, "Who says fundraising for non-profit is an easy thing?"

As the hours went, I began to feel tired. Lethargic. Passive. Small. Timid. Want to feel light-hearted but I can't.

Then, my daughter burst into my work room, arms akimbo, she reprimanded me, "X and Y are here to see you. They sent you an SMS this morning but you NEVER turned on your handphone! Huh?"

I rushed out to meet the smiling couple who were dressed in the usual shorts and t-shirts, just like what they have done for the past six  years. Simple and unassuming.

"What a Wonderful World" by Louise Armstrong.
I like to listen to this song whenever I feel like
I am standing in a dark tunnel with no way out.

"We brought you a camcorder for your project!" Y handed me a box, smiling brightly.

"How much does it cost? We haven't raised the funds yet!" My heart pounded as I popped the project coordinator's million dollar question.

"It is a gift from us to your project. Now you can do your video journals and upload them in YouTube, and also film some footage for the documentary."

What? Hah? Really? My entire being jumped out of my tired self like a rabbit startled out of a ground hole. WAHHHHHHH!!! 

I have been writing proposals to companies to sponsor high definition cameras for the videos and the documentary, but no one has reverted with affirmation yet.  Most of them explained that the project's women profiles, especially the transgenders', conflict with their corporate branding.

It was heart-stopping to stand in front of two people who was bearing the gift we have wanted for several months without asking for tax free receipt, and any rewards back to themselves, just like what they have done for some women in the "Network of Angels".

X and Y live and work outstation.  They rise early to leave for work and come back late. They are a hard-working couple who earn fixed salaries, eat out in stalls and lead a simple lifestyle. Once every few months, they travel to KL, bringing equipments or gadgets, checks and cash for some women and even foods for the eHomemakers admin staff to thank them for helping others. They once donated a phone which can play music to Justina who was in depressive mode due to her bi-polar syndrome. The phone saved Justina from many bouts of depressions.  They never ask for anything from us, but they only want one condition to be met, "Keep us as 'anonymous'. We just want to help from behind the scene."

Justina Low received donated handphones
from X and Y over the years.
The phones opened up a whole new world to her.

After they left, I sat down to sip my favorite mango tea, a big sigh escaped my being as I felt a gentle, soothing atmosphere settled around me. My mind began to dance with the scenes I would shoot with the camera....The phone rang. It was from one of our volunteers who has been introducing business people to eHomemakers. "They are all philanthropists," he said.

I listened. It was the same kind of business proposal which I turned down --do some business activity for or on behalf of a business man, the business man will make money and then donate some money back to eHomemakers' operations.  So, I turned it down as I didn't agree with the basis of the operations.

 He became angry and striked, "You have this single mom inferiority complex, you always think men are out to sleep with you, cheat you and take advantage of you!"

I took in a lungful of air and kept it circulating in my being for a full minute  before I expelled it out of my body. A small voice told me, "Do not react!"

I have heard this statement several times from him when I turned down his friends' business proposals. It was also the very same verbal lashing I received just about three months ago when I turned down a male CEO's proposal to trick our members into his internet marketing scheme which was  really a multi-level marketing scheme. eHomemakers does not endorse such schemes nor sell our databases.

"We stand by our principles", I told him firmly  in a calm, even voice.
He  in a loud voice, "Principles ? This is money and you don't want? Cash, hard cash for you! You single moms hate men! This is why you can't work with men! You have problems! Go sort out your men-hating emotions before you go out of your house!"

The Chinese character for 'Patience'. This value is very much a part of my father's teachings,
it is embedded in me deeply since childhood.  As an adult in finding my way in this dog eat dog world,
I often wonder if he has taught me the right value to survive as a woman.

Years ago, I reacted to such lashings like a hurt dog, retreating into myself to lick the wounds for weeks and I never striked back verbally at the attackers. Instead, I poured my woes onto my confidantes in eHomemakers who in turn, promised to move on to battle the prejudice on single moms by doing BETTER and BETTER even in the face of many hurdles.

And I took on a personal journey to dispell the prejudice against single moms by occasionally writing about their strengths and their plights in my weekly column in a newspaper. For many years, I received very bad bashing from some male readers about single moms. Most threathened to get the editor to cut my column off for writing about 'women with no value to society'.  One even called me 'an old bag whom no one wants, you should go hang yourself'.  Email like these told me that I had striked a very deep and dark emotion which stemmed from a very deep-seated prejudice --- something that will take more than one generations to change.
The Chinese character for 'Fire'.
It can mean determination to do well.

It is only in the recent years that I am able to deal with such verbal hurlings in a more positive way.  I  stew over the strong male putdowns in my mind for an hour or so, and then I move on to do other things, burying it in the deepest part of my mind.                                                                   

But, every time I do so, a log has just been added to a slow burning fire.

And slowly, I have learnt to look at such verbal lashings as a game of the mind. Someone once told me, "Put downs are part of the techniques of negotiation. If you feel powerful, you whack your oponent untill he has no self value and he gives in to you.  This is especially so when you are a woman of low status in your opponent's perception. So when you are faced with such opponent, do not be cowed by his words. Say somethng nasty back to him!"


I have never been born to purposely throw hurtful words at someone's wounds or weaknesses just because I want something from them. I will never do it to any one because I know how much it hurts.

In those moments when the volunteer hurled the single mom bashings on me, a hundred putdowns about him did cross my mind but they went away in a flash. I chose not to say anything else except asking him to respect my principles, and my right to say 'no' to such business proposals. And I finally boldly said this to him ( and to other men who threw the same single mom verbal lashings at me in the past), "I am a single mom with dignity, I deserve respect. I am financially poorer than you and your friends, but I am not a beggar! Your words are like violence, and they should not come from respectable gentlemen like you!"

That night, I met some very nice happy people at a party at a beautiful place with a lot of positive energy. I began to relax. Who says life is a bowl of cherries? Just enjoy whatever come your way......

Then I met a friend who told me about the news of Aleesha Farhana's death on his twitter.  The court had turned down her application to change her gender from 'male' to 'female' after she had a sex change operation. She was going to be included in this project as Nisha and Sulastri's friend in their struggle to battle the extreme legal and societal prejudice.  (On  Sunday night, July 31, Nisha organized a candle light vigil at Dataran Merdeka for her, braising the possibility that she too can be arrested by the police for cross-dressing.)

I felt numbed.  This project seems to be marked by deaths right at the beginning. First, it was Justina who passed away in January, then it was Lucy's mother, and then her  mother-in-law, then it was Pong's beloved mother in June. And now it is Aleesha? She was not just another woman!

Hello, God, where are you?

My friend suspected that Aleesha died of suicide because she gave up the struggle to be who she wanted to be. Her life, like many other transgenders', was marred by so many barriers that result from prejudice against them. It is hard for transgenders to get a formal job as their IC cards bear the 'male' status while they appear as women. It is also hard for them to even seek medical help in the public health system. They can't party like the normal people as the police can raid them for cross-dressing.

When the party was winding down, I got to relax on a hammock. Swinging sideways, the hammock sang lullaby silently to me in the gentle breeze. I looked out at the dark shadows of faraway mountains, the day's events rushed past me again.

Is this a bad day or a good day?

The hammock swang -- right, left, right left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right left, right, left, right, left, right, left,right, left, right left, right, left, right, left, right, left, left, right, left, right left.

When it stopped, I mentally pat myself. "Hey, you, for the first time in your life, you FINALLY stand up to someone who can't take a gentle 'no' from a thinking woman! Congratulations for growing up!"

"And don't get work up from single mom bashings, they are pale in comparison to the kinds of verbal and physical assaults that Nisha and Sulastri's community faces! They have it worst and they still dance and sing and they never give up!"    

I asked the faraway mountains, "God, am I on a self-discovery journey as this project unfolds?"

The faraway mountains answered in silence. I embraced the silence before I got out of the hammock to go home.

I will wait for the answers.  


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