Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My dad sent me an message telling me that she had passed away peacefully at 1am last night. She had suffered a bad fall a few weeks back, and I think no one really expected that fall to have been the trigger for a series of unfortunate events. At least, I didn't. So she wasn't as healthy as everyone had thought. She certainly had us fooled -- who would've thought otherwise of her? Impossible.

But my mom told me the scans showed she had two mild strokes previously, so mild that even she herself must've ignored it as a bad headache or just a bad day. Her heart was also weakened, but I'm not sure why.

When I read the message, I had just fallen asleep after returning back from a shoot at 5am. I don't think I quite digested it. I had a dream about it, though, in which I was yelling to someone about the wake arrangements.

It didn't even sink in when I woke up. It was so utterly unexpected that I didn't really know what to do. I was going to go back in March to see her again. My mother had warned me previously, that the doctor had said there was no telling with people her age, but I just shelved that worry aside because, it was her, you know? She had never been ill before this fall, and now this? What the fuck?

I want to write about my last memories of her, because I know I will forget in time to come. My mother and I having tea at Ya Kun in Junction 8. We took some photos with my camera. I want to write about the experience of bringing her to watch 881 in the cinema, and how she kept talking so damn loudly everyone in the front of us kept giggling and laughing. Oh, how she embarrassed us.

But mostly what I feel now is guilt. And anger. I hate guilt, because it is the most self-indulgent of all emotions. But this woman held my hands and told me that she would wait for me, because she wanted the chance to drink wine at my wedding.

I know it was all just rhetoric, just her being naggy and doing her usual get-married-soon routine. It wasn't some kind of serious vow that I should take seriously. But it meant a lot to have heard that, and I haven't forgotten it in the four years since she uttered it, and I haven't forgotten it now. And that's where the anger comes from, that she didn't keep her promise to me. I know she didn't mean it as a promise, but I took it that way.

It's all too late, anyway.


Lau Ma

We all thought she would live to a hundred. Ah well. Anything else I say now will sound contrived and horribly unnecessary.
IMG_8788.jpgIMG_9046.jpg IMG_9148.jpgIMG_9274.jpg

As I go to sleep at 6 am in the morning, admittedly perversely disappointed at the lack of 'action' today, the Awami League is surging ahead with unofficial results declaring them the winner of more than 80% of Parliament seats.

The dudes in the AL office seemed pretty pleased, albeit horribly tired.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

D (Democracy) Day.


The day before democracy?

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Monday, December 15, 2008

Eid-ul-Azha, 2007

Taken a year ago. Yes, it took me a year to get around to editing the others. Jess has nothing to say for herself. Posting this in lieu of this year's event, during which I spent my time cooped up at home engaged in other forms of productivity.

Well, let me just reassure you that when it comes to the sacrificial slaughter of cows -- nothing much has changed in a year.

Eid-ul-Azha, 2007

This was during the time when I still lived in Zigatola. I had asked for permission the day before to take pictures of the sacrifice of this particular bull below. I saw him the night before, and silhouetted by the glow of a single tungsten light bulb, he was absolutely magnificent.

I found out the next day that the sacrifices were pretty much a public event and permission wasn't really required.

Eid-ul-Azha, 2007

The sign on the gate is an announcement for people to come sign up for driving and singing classes.

Eid-ul-Azha, 2007

The photo belies the true size of the animal. If I may be so indulgent to post a photo I had posted a year ago so as to make a proper comparison between the size of its hooves and human hands/feet:


Watching the sacrifice through the lens of my camera, I do believe I was somewhat sheltered from the situation. I told my friends that I would likely cry, but I didn't. I was rather unmoved by the killing itself, and the blood only bothered me because it was everywhere and I couldn't walk back to the house without wading through it. What I remember was being very impressed by the strength of the animal -- the number of men it took to bring the bull down, the number of ropes they had to use to secure it, the fear the men had as they approached it.

Eid-ul-Azha, 2007

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I've often wondered, passingly, how my life would be like if I were still in Singapore. Such thinking is rather unusual for me - I've always hated the "what if" question.

The thing is, I've been exposed to so much (or maybe, too much) drama, experienced emotions more extreme than I'd ever experienced, and I wonder if these things are important in shaping the kind of person I am. Would I have turned out any differently if I hadn't gone through these things? Or would I have found some way to inject drama and extreme emotions anyway?

This is a rhetorical post. Just musing for a bit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New experiences: Being very, very, nauseatingly productive.
I remember reading a book somewhere, in which the female protaganist, in a bid to control her displayed emotions, stabbed her hand with a fork under the table. Does anyone recall what book this is? Or was this some movie!??
insomniac night ahead! bad idea to sleep at 7pm. now am wide awake.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Addicted to Malcolm X.

I 'stole' his portrait off the stairwell to place in my office.

I spent a long time discussing him, and other much-too-serious-matters with Annica last night, and I may have finally found the right answer to the rickshaw-wallah conundrum.

Meanwhile, am very high on coffee.

How am I going to design a 160-page book in the midst of all this madness?

Deliberately woke up late to miss the slaughter. Not feeling particularly enthusiastic about photographing it this year (unlike last year, when I was practically wading about in blood). Will miss the goat downstairs which was so affectionate it rubbed its head on my hand and rested on my arm as I sat next to it. Am not eating meat today. Will resume carnivorous activities tomorrow.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The most wretched of feelings is that of liaising with the editor of Nat Geo News while looking at my own camera gather dust on the shelf. I am enjoying the organising work for Chobi Mela immensely, but all I can say is this -- I wonder if I would enjoy it more if I were attending it from the other side.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Selective histories

Tonight, hundreds of people are gathering outside a derelict factory to mark the 24th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

I was first acquainted with the incident in 2005, after viewing the WPP winner for 1984. Later, I learnt about a photographer named Raghu Rai, who did plenty of work covering the aftermath of the disaster.

So, over the last 24 years, plenty of things have been written about the incident. Plenty of photos have been taken. The activists are still out in full force. Thirst for justice doesn't go away, it seems. But, who talks about Bhopal anymore?

My point is simply this: this was the world's worst industrial accident. And yet, I believe more people know about Chernobyl.

I'm not about to start comparing death tolls and such -- we shouldn't remember things based on the number of people who died. We've never really done things that way anyway. If we did, 9/11 (slightly less than 3,000) would barely register on the radar, and the genocide in East Timor (around 300,000) would be a really big deal. What about the Bangladeshi famines? Four million in 1943, slightly over a million in 1974.

Ah hell, its late and I'm rambling. I'm saying all this because I spent the last hour hunting for photos about the Mumbai attacks for the magazine -- and I just know, not including the people who have been directly affected by it, that all this will fade away from our collective memory in a matter of time, because that's just the way we do things.

Magnum Photos: Raghu Rai

INDIA. Bhopal. 2002. Muhammed AZIZ returns to the cemetery where 4.000 people were buried in the first days of the 1984 disaster.

INDIA. Bhopal. 2002. These women have all lost their husbands in the Bhopal tragedy. They now live in one-room tenements in a seperate widows' colony in the outskirts of the city, built by the state government.

INDIA. Bhopal. 2001. Skulls discarded after research at the Hamida Hospital. Medical experts believe that the toxic gas inhaled by the people of Bhopal may have affected the brain.