Tribute to a radical

Talk about exposure.

Yesterday, I brought (correction: ‘dragged’) my 17 yr-old niece to watch a 4.5 hours documentary on the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Singapore Film Festival. My husband made me. It will ‘widen her horizon’, he said.

That docu, filmed by Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan (a Palestinian and an Israeli) is still one of the most gripping, raw and *unplugged* documentary I have ever seen. It was my second time watching it, the first being at the DOXA Film Festival in Vancouver last year. I marvelled at how I can put myself through watching it again, and still shed a tear or two during the same scenes! It cannot be two PMSs occuring at the exact same time 2 years in a row, can it?!

But it is not about me today. It is about my niece, and of course, my husband. My hubs is someone who fervently believes in exposing young minds, not constraining their potentials and never, don’t you dare – decide on what the young ones can achieve when you have no idea what his/her rezeki will be. I have seen how he applies the same principle on his 15 yr-old sister, and now, to my niece too.

I was very hesitant on bringing my teenage niece to watch the docu – it was back-breaking long, no frills,no banjo music ala Michael Moore’s and on top of it – the subject matter is about the impact of politics on the common man. It is not about 911, MacDonalds or the pop culture.

Route 181, that’s the title of the docu, was full of history, bitterness, soundbites too honest and painful to hear and tonnes of reality check on us ‘isolated’ Singaporeans. Could a 17 year-old take it? Would it be an interesting watch for her at all? In her life right now – boys, iPod minis, friendships and exams take centrestage. Who cares about the Middle East?!

True enough, she was bored. At some point during the docu she was busy SMSing too, and fell asleep during some parts. The Double Decker Snek Udang I brought kept her awake for the duration it took for her to finish the packet, and I am sure after that her mind drifted again.

At the end of the show I asked her if she liked it. Of course her answer was no. At that precise moment, I was so tempted to make a long-distance call to my husband to gloat and say ‘See! I told you these young kids won’t like docus! It does nothing to ‘widen her horizon!’- but something in me stopped myself.

I realised, that many of the wisdom I acquire now is because of the things I was exposed to when I was her age. It was during my teens that my worldview was shaped, my adult life was just a reinforcement of THAT worlview. Or debunking it, depending on the outcome. She may not know NOW why she spent 4.5 hours of her precious life watching how deep-seated the conflict between the Palestinians and Jews is, but the images, the soundbites and the characters interviewed will be remembered when she is older and when she has to make sense of the world around her, the Middle East to be exact. Who knows she will be a journalist, or an academic, or a diplomat – and boy would this docu come in handy!

So thanks hubs for the push to widen my niece’s horizon. And many of the young ones in our lives too. For that, this post is a tribute to you – you won this debate hands down.

Now, can I get that iPOd mini soon? 😉

Pubbing, are you?

Back then in newspaper days, I used to have a colleague (let’s call her Nelly) who would pay homage to the pub almost every night, drank her Corona blues away and smoked the chain at every other hour. If she has to rush out of the air-conditioned newsroom for a puff, she would -“Eh, got to go lah – need a smoke!” even when she was merely 10-seconds away from her turn to debrief our newsdesk supervisor. And with her 5-cm heels she would actually dash out of the newsroom for that single,liberating puff.

Many a time, when dawn broke the next day and most of us would saunter into the newsroom 30 minutes late, someone would tell me a story about how Nelly was so drunk the night before, she danced with the guitar.Not the rocker-style, mind you. She was not a tall lass with leggy, moisturised legs to boot – but she always,always looked sexy. So the guitar number must have been quite a scene for the guys.

Fast-forward to 2 days ago, I gave her a call to let her know of an opening in KL for a senior reporter job with AFP. Her mobile rang, but no one picked up after 4 rings. By the time it was the 5th ring, I looked at the time and realised it is 9.30 pm on a Friday night. How stupid of me, I said to myself. The girl is drinking away in a pub and she would not have heard her mobile ringing. The thought came, settled, and then was somehow rudely disrupted by a calm and warm ‘Hello’ on the other end.

Nelly was at home, resting (on a Friday night!). She just came back from work, she said. I spent more time screaming in disbelief that she was not pubbing, then actually telling her about the job opening. Her response about not being in a pub on a Friday night was, “Ah ?! Sudah tua lah!”. That hit me like a rock. We are both only in our early 30s.

Before you kepos start inviting flies with your mouth wide-opened, no I do not go pubbing. With a hijab-on-head, that would have created a scene much more puzzling than a Nelly doing a Corona in one hand and a guitar in the other. I am just in shock that Nelly, of all people, outgrew the pubbing phase. There are people I know, our supervisor was one – who was still drinking, smoking and going to the pub every night. She was then in her late 30s, and she obviously did not outgrow the phase. The newsroom stress was too much for her I guess, and the pub was her sanctuary. Last time I saw her, her hair was dyed blonde.Poor supervisor.

So who are the ones who outgrew a certain phase, and who don’t? Nelly’s case spiralled my confidence downwards in my ability to read people’s character, because I thought she would be a pub-loyal. I thought Nelly would be one of those who will retire and open a pub with her son or nephew as the operations manager just so she can get close to the drinks and the live music. Sigh. I was so dead wrong.

Life has such a way of turning it around for people. Secretly, I am glad that Nelly is not pubbing anymore. One day, if you sport a not-so-tall girl walking around smiling sweetly without smoke-stained teeth, have a Christian name yet speak a spattering Malay and can rattle all the house-hits of the late 90’s pub scene – think of Nelly. It may just be her.

And oh. Hide your guitar.