The Amelioration

a·me·lio·ra·tion [əˌmiːljəˈreɪʃən]

n

  1. an improvement, betterment
  2. the act or an instance of improvement or the state of being ameliorated
  3. 1650s, from French amélioration, from Old French ameillorer (12c.),
    from a “to” + meillior (Modern French meìlleur) “to better,”
    from Late Latin meliorare “improve,”
    from Latin melior “better,” perhaps originally “stronger,”
    and related to Greek mala “very, very much.”
I set out to open doors this year. To live life.

 

Did I know exactly what I was doing? Of course not. I just followed my guts. Perhaps I should change that sentence. Do I know exactly what I am doing? Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’m just following my guts. I don’t know what I’m doing, but then again, I know what I’m doing. Perhaps a little futile to explain, but it has to do with the essence of my being. The things I see, the air I breathe, the thoughts that hit me, the peace I seek, the words of grace my veins speak.

 

Somewhere along the line, seeking amelioration.

 

I’m human, a creation of the Creator, I’m perfectly formed with all my imperfections. Imperfections that only make me who I am, yet set me on a mission for amelioration. That beautiful challenge, we’re blessed with abilities to accept.

 

I don’t mean to write like this, in this tone, right now.. but often when I write, words appear on paper leading me to a place I didn’t quite set out for in my mind. The general direction of wind, yes, but the wind itself has strange behaviour that you can only anticipate yet not fully predict, and therein lies its beauty. Similarly with life in itself. We can only ‘plan’, set forth our feet, but life often surprises us.

 

I think of my artwork as poetry in visual form, similarly, I think of my poems as drawings, only in words. The ‘poem’ behind this artwork, essentially, is as the title suggests. Amelioration. In the spirit of the words I’ve just shared above. In my previous entry, I set out starting to really draw again in hopes of improving my skills, technical art skills as well as conveying-my-meaning-skills. It lead me to ponder upon my drawing conscience, which then helped as a piece of the larger puzzle for my self-improvement.

 

And I felt the need to draw this piece. This piece is really close to my heart. It’s not meant to be solely a pretty picture for drawing purposes.

 

I drew a child, because, we are all children. Not knowing what we’re doing, yet knowing what we are doing. Yes, we grow up, we grow older, a little bit wiser, but a child is constantly learning, constantly growing, and perhaps has purer wisdom. Exploring new territories in life, I feel like a child, and that is ok. That wide-eyed innocence and burning hunger to learn, striving to walk despite constantly falling, looking at a tree and seeing a whole different world… That is not something one should let go. When we grow, we grow up, we don’t regenerate and throw away who we were. Who we were is a part of who we are. A ring in the tree trunk. If you throw part of you away, how will you grow? The rings make each other stronger, and compensate for each other’s weakness.

my brother Khair and sister Maryam, with baby me in the middle. Bonnets et al.

Every child is born an artist, the problem is to remain one once they grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

 

That wing-like seed thing is a maple seed. I wanted to draw a seed, to signify sowing growth, but I didn’t want to draw a run-of-the-mill seed. I immediately thought of maple seeds, because they are beautiful things. They have wings, and flutter gracefully to the ground, like a pirouetting ballerina. Not only are they beautiful and signify flight and growth at the same time, but I have fond memories of them. We had a maple tree in our backyard, where I used to climb after school and fall asleep nestled in its gently swaying branches.

this maple tree is where I used to climb up its skinny branches after school, and just close my eyes to drift away with the wind. I wasn't tiny anymore, yet it still allowed me to lie on its caressing branches. The wing-shaped maple seeds would flutter down like little ballerinas in flight. When autumn came, the leaves would be deep red, but the hidden joy of this tree was during spring. Around its trunk, we could see green peeking out mischievously. And soon enough, it bloomed the vibrant red and yellows of my favourite flowers: daffodils and tulips!

Of course, the other small things have their own little meanings as well. Water… well, water needs no explaining. Just think of rain, and the river… two things I love, and ‘flow’ being a motto in my life. There are things signifying building blocks/pixels, strife, and of course, I love flying pencils and what they symbolise for me.

What sets her apart from my other drawings are her hands. Although I took a reference of a girl blowing a kiss, I drew it to be her hands held out for du’a (prayer). Any du’a, all du’as, a beautiful direct line to call. To ameliorate.

A few days ago, Weekender’s Club had our Cook & Feed program in Raudhatus Sakinah, and the experience left me with a deep impression. I don’t really know how to describe the feeling. I felt humbled. And terharu. And deeply touched. Siapalah aku ni, nak bimbing mereka, padahal aku pun bergelumang dosa. It left me longing to strive for amelioration even more intensely.  I felt no different from them, no, instead I felt deep respect for them. Really, we were no different, I am no better at all, I never even felt that way; I felt closer to them rather than to someone who has been saintly all their life. I was just lucky. They are normal girls who perhaps just made a bad decision in their previous life. I repeat, I was just lucky. They are hundreds of times better than me, for their amelioration is far bigger. They may have gone away for a bit, but they came back closer and stronger than ever. I respect them for that, and for that, they inspire me.

at Raudhatus Sakinah. Pictures credit to Aneesah

Hisham summed it up perfectly;

Imam Bunga Syurga by Hisham Mahir

 

Aku mengimami bunga syurga,

mekar di bawah rahmat Yang Esa,

Aku membongkok di hadapan mereka,

yang tunduk patuh pada Pemiliknya,

 

Aku mengimami bauan syurga,

sujud akhirnya lama, tanda ia cinta,

Aku mengimami hiasan syurga,

indah kesalan tak terungkap kiasnya.

 

Tuhan,

benarlah yang ke syurga bukan suci orangnya,

tetapi mereka yang menyucikan hati dan jiwa dari noda,

 

Tuhan,

aku sujud memohon jadikan taubatku seperti mereka,

 

kerana aku mengimami bunga syurga,

tetapi aku sendiri mungkin bahan bakar neraka.

 

so here’s to amelioration.

My 2011

 

When I was a teenager, I used to write on new year’s eve, recounting the year’s events. To whom? To no one in particular, mostly myself. Well, I wrote in a journal. So that’s a given. I was never tempted to join in New Year’s celebrations, all the fireworks and soirees, even when my high school friends did go to KLCC to join the countdown and watch the fireworks. I used to climb up the edges of our balcony and watch the fireworks from afar, over my neighbourhood’s rooftops. Then I’d join my journal, alone, writing a summary of the year’s events, and the progress (or non-progress) I’ve made as a person.

I don’t know if I’ve done that for 2010. In 2009, I tried to make a 365 personal project of making a simple artwork each day out of found scrap material. It went well, but only until April. The goal was at least till my birthday in May. But I didn’t make it. I loved the process though, because sometimes I’d have absolutely no idea what to draw/make, and some other times I just went with it. Those little scrap arts were little vignettes into my frame of mind on each particular day in that particular year. Like a time capsule. Unlike facebook status updates or tweets, because they were abstract physical objects. A leaf picked up from the side of the road on the way back from class, a bus ticket from the day’s events, a library fine, scrap material from the studio… It was more about the process than the actual end product itself.

The next year, I wondered if I could do it again. I didn’t. I didn’t even seriously attempt it. The following year was also the same. And this year I’m asking myself the same question. Will I manage to get through all 365 (366) days? If 2009 it was about being an architecture student and turning 20, what will 2012 be about?

To me, 2011 was a lot of things.

Personally.

And to me, 2011 was a lot of things. To the world. The events the world faced this year were huge, and left an impact on me emotionally. However even though I do think about them a lot to myself, I can’t even begin to discuss it all here in this meager blog post. Those deserve a post of its own, a book of its own. About an idea that struck like a match lit to kerosene. Spreading across the globe. I found it tragically beautiful, and inspiring.

In 2009 I wrote a tiny poem, which I called ‘Stars’.

“so many stars at night

but I can only count

one at a time

 

so many wars to fight

but I can only fight

mine.”

– Feb 2 2009

My final long semester for my first degree was early in the year. In fact, I welcomed 2011 at my desk in the studio, in front of the PC. I doodled on a piece of scrap board I found lying around the studio, and used gold foil from a piece of chocolate that was a wedding favour from earlier on in the day.

I nearly flunked a subject that semester, but thankfully, me and a few friends were given a chance to redeem ourselves.

That semester blurred into the next, the final short semester, as the preparation for our trip to Dhaka soon became the trip itself. The last subject ever for us. The last group project ever. The culmination of ideas and anticipation since our first year. Our experience in Dhaka itself was exhilarating, eye-opening, soul-opening, beautiful. I never managed to write about it because I never manage to write about these things. It seems unfair to the experience. Truth is, I often find it hard to find the words to describe these experiences and emotions. Which is why I often resort to short nibblets.

 

 

Heritage Studies is always the fondest memory an architecture student in my university will have in his or her first degree. The last time to work with all of your batch mates, the time spent with them, it is all so precious. You really get to know them, it is such a fitting bittersweet end.

Graduation was surreal, I hardly remember it because it was such a blur. We spend hours being bored in our seats, a few minutes being nervous before we go on stage, and on the stage itself, taking the scroll, it happens for all but a few seconds.

Following the graduation-induced high that lasted a couple of weeks, was the confusion. The anxiety. I felt like a teenager again. I hated that, and it confused me. Why would I feel like a teenager again? Haven’t I just graduated? I should be an adult, a self-assured confident adult that my teen self had hoped I would be. But I knew, I felt like a teenager again, just as I did when I just finished high-school, because I was back to that position. That position of thinking, “Now what?”

Of course, I wasn’t entirely clueless of what I wanted to do. It was the questions that got to me. Once or twice was fine, but it seemed everyone around me was asking the same questions.

“What next?”

“Sambung kat mana?”

“Tak amik part 2 ke?”

“Kerja apa? Kat mana?”

“When are you getting married?”

It was too much pressure. I guess I was guilty sometimes too, I asked those questions to people as well. I looked forward to joining the 3D animation course, because at least, for 3 months, I could put off making a decision. The questions still came, but at least I could say what I was doing at the moment.  Even before I joined the course, when I was working part time, they would ask why I wasn’t continuing my studies yet. It’s a fact of life though, these type of questions will never stop.

Usually it begins after you complete high school. “Where are you enrolling?” And then throughout your life, there would be, “What are you pursuing?” “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancee?” “When are you getting married?” “Where are you going to settle down?” “When are you having kids?” “When will you have another kid?” “Where are you sending your kids to school?” “When is your son/daughter getting married?” “When will you have grand kids?” “When are you going to die?”

The last part, of course, was just me feeling frustrated and adding it in there. I felt like screaming, “Lay off the questions! Do I need to make a decision NOW? Can’t I just live?”

I was scared, and frustrated at myself. I felt that as an adult, I should have had it all figured out by now. But I know the truth. I am still new to the whole being an adult thing, but adults are just as clueless. They still don’t know what they are doing half of the time, but they try to figure it out. I ranted about this to a fellow friend of my batch, and was glad to know I wasn’t alone in this. I guess we all have our own post-graduation crisis. Or quarter life crisis, as I liked to put it.

I guess to me, 2011 was about growing up, basically. Isn’t that every year? Maybe what I meant there was it’s a milestone year, where I’m parting with things I’m familiar with, and upon closing that student life & young adult door, I am faced with many doors to open. Which door do I open?

But then again, who is to say I can only open one door? Maybe I just want to knock the whole wall over.

2012, here I come.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Dot by dot


English translation:

drip
by drip
by
drip
the cracks of the road soaked by the rain

drop
by drop
by
drop
red blood colours the body of white

Pop
(open) the eyes that were veiled
fog & haze blown away
the blue skies beg & say

Pick
that roadside chalk
a favourite colour of yours
the number you were created for
carvings of your words
pieces of your ambitions
every dream and aspiration
and thus trace
a dot

dot
by dot
by
dot
till it becomes a line
no illusion or shadow to hide behind
clear, a reality
will you be able to cross its boundaries?

will you step, and erase
the border lines of reality?

You know that feeling you have when ideas are squashing in your brain, rolling about, stewing in the heat of your meta-thinking, images lucidly flashing before your eyes, and voices speaking the words you are endlessly writing in your head? You fear giving it life because once out there, it almost never is up to your expectations. In other words, you believe in the idea, but you don’t believe in yourself.

This little video may seem like just any small project anyone might do. But I knew, this exact small project was the chance to explain to myself what I needed to do. I needed to let go of the fear. The fear that I will never be good enough. Because I will never be. I will never be good enough for my own self. I will never be satisfied. Isn’t that the dilemma of all aspiring artists? Their outcome will never quite match their vision. So what does that mean? Should I let the vision dwell entirely in my head, knowing I will not risk disappointment? Or by doing exactly that, risk disappointment in myself for being such a coward to even try?

Sometimes, it may seem like I confidently hold my head high, when in fact, most of the time I feel tiny and invisible. Like, who am I kidding? My writing isn’t good enough, my drawings are chicken scratch compared to artists I admire, and who will ever like my ideas? But then again, if I try to trace back to the time I started drawing or writing, which I can’t even remember because I was so young, I never cared if anyone liked it. I just did my thing. I would steal my dad’s papers, bind them with staplers, and illustrate and write my own ‘book’. Ideas that I’m not entirely sure where they came from. I once wrote a little ‘storybook’ about a group of friends who are in a society that has magical peacocks as pets. I must have been about 8 years old. My sister and I used to make all sorts of books and comics. A few months later I would read them, and disgusted by the amateurishness, I chucked some of them in the bin.

Even when I was 13, I wrote some poems and songs in my little journal. When my 15 year old self read them again, I was so embarrassed with its childishness, I ripped the pages, soaked them in water, tore it up, microwaved it and flushed it down the toilet. Must have been quite awful. If only I’ve kept them till today, I could have at least laughed.

I’m sure I’m not the only one having these insecurities. I looked around me, and people, despite their flaws or insecurities, gave their craft a shot. Gave their ideas a chance.

Coming back to this little video, I had an idea, far bigger than the actual product. But I gave up before trying, because I felt I didn’t have the time. I just abandoned the idea. But it took me one swift moment of feeling like a complete loser for failing even to try, to gather myself, determined to at least finish it. A little animation project conceived in less than 24 hours? It took us around 12 hours to record, film, illustrate, mix, animate and render everything. I have to thank Zamri for willing to collaborate with me and teach me After Effects.

This short poetry/animation film thing is the dot. Titik. I know some of my friends make fun of me, but that’s only natural. Sometimes I get upset, other times I laugh with them. In the end, I am my harshest critic. I don’t feel disappointed with myself, because I tried. If I haven’t, I’d kick myself. This thingamagig, with its last-minute illustrations, amateur animation and funny narration, is that dot for me. Not a dot as in noktah, but a dot in a hopefully much bigger picture. I’m finding my place in the world, and hopefully I will have many chances to combine all of my passions into the work that I do. This new blog and website of mine, is also another dot.

You might have grand ideas, but don’t feel the pressure of realizing that great idea immediately. If you have a hard time starting, for the fear of everything or anything, just start something. Anything. Works just as well if you don’t have any ideas whatsoever. Just do something. Just a dot. To get you started. Then you follow those dots up with more dots, eventually forming a line. Then you know where it goes from there 🙂

Cross your own borders of reality. From mind, to pen, to paper, to life.

Titik demi titik hingga menjadi garisan, tanpa ilusi bayangan, jelas ternyata…
mampukah kau melangkah hujung garisnya?