Of Boxes and Pigeons

Driving back home from an impromptu exploration in Kuala Lumpur got me wanting to write this piece immediately before that light bulb dims. On my way on the public highway, I saw a string of cars with a certain red political party flag blazing through the traffic jam. Maybe there was some kind of gathering nearby but every time I pass by one vehicle with the flag, I cringe.

To say that I have lack of pride for Malaysia is the total opposite.

I just think for a nation with diverse races and ethnics, it’s time for all of us to take a bigger step and embrace the differences as a whole instead of pigeon hole everything. After 58 years of independence, I would think that we’ve advanced in accepting who we are. I suppose, given the powers that be, in order to stay in power for as long as one dreams, rather than making decisions for the nation, the decisions are based on what goes into one’s pocket. Hence the need to still fill up forms acknowledging you’re either Malay, Chinese, Indian or Other for official documents.

Back then, I get the need for such system, but we’re in the 21st century and the society have evolved from being identified as just one race. Today, more than anything, we’re made of many religions, heritage and bloodline. So how is this still relevant today?


Since I was young, I had a difficult time figure this out. I always wondered to myself – how could I possibly tick only one box? If anything, I could tick all of the above and “Other” as well since I am made of all that. Wouldn’t be unfair to only acknowledge one and not the others, right?

Apparently, it’s wrong.

The moment you have Malay blood, it automatically takes helm in everything because of the Bumiputera status. Not that I think the value of one race is of much higher value than the rest, because how would I measure myself as Malay, Chinese, Indian and French since it’s all in me.

That’s why, when a certain minister best not mentioned, made the most ludicrous statement last election about asking the Chinese Malaysians to go back to mainland China out of spite, I questioned the state of affairs in Malaysian minds. How can this be accepted at any level? That would mean, I too have to be sent away then because I’m not Malay “enough”.

Again, the unfortunate thing that has been happening in Malaysia is that, the minority monkeys do not represent the nation. They happen to get the spotlight because the powers that be holds the rights to shine upon whoever whenever whatever according to their instruction. To our dismay, it’s these idiotic manners that’s been picked up internationally and one way or the other have painted a bad picture for the rest of us.

Oh how I weep inside for the turnaround of events that made us look foolish. Yet, I keep reminding myself, they do not reflect me or many of the amazing Malaysians in this country and therefore, I hope the fire keeps burning to help rebuild this nation into a better society. A better mindset.

Of course, being the overambitious idiot that I am, such drastic changes will take dog years to have an impact but that doesn’t mean it should deter you, me or other people to keep working on making Malaysia a better country.

It may seem baby steps, most of the time, it doesn’t even have that big of an imprint but longterm wise, every tiny decision we make to rebuild this country means we’re doing one thing better in that given time.

So, coming back to that particular flag incident, I’ve always thought that some parties have become irrelevant because it doesn’t represent Malaysia as a whole. It can force itself to be THE face of a particular type of mentality and race but it will not justify the decades of heritage Malaysians have helped brewed in this country. I wonder, how many of us come from pure blood lineage, anyway? Why can’t we be who we are without dividing based on our race?

As a country and nation, we are indeed a walking contradiction. We pride in being courteous, warm and harmonious but are these only verbally mentioned but not virtues we lived by?

Actually, take away all the material things, when you do explore Malaysia on your own, whether in the back alleys of the city or rural areas, you will find that soul that makes Malaysia, Malaysia. That essence that binds us together. We don’t need flashy neon lights labels to verify what we’re about. More of often than not, the harder we try to “sell” ourselves, the less authentic or genuine we become.

So all these political statements are just that, words. And it’s ashamed considering how much money they pump in to make campaigns out of it to only be mentioned at official functions when it’s an empty message at best.

If Malaysians allow themselves to be Malaysians, I reckon, we’d be a much more cultured, mindful and tolerant of each other. There’s a certain tenderness this society is slowly losing it’s grasp on and it saddens me more now than ever.

Coming back to Malaysia hasn’t been the smoothest transition physically, mentally and spiritually but I’ve slowly gone into a self recovery mode, doing the things I love and enjoy in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. I’ve slowly come to realise why I have the need to be back and do impactful things for the community, for myself.

Yeah, I’ve been told by many of my decision to come back instead of settling elsewhere – apparently the grass is greener elsewhere but seriously, is it really that bad here when if you were to take a moment to observe, Malaysia is the best place to experiment and build foundations. If we stop looking at other countries, other people and their lifestyle, perhaps then we can start watering our own grass for once.

Many Malaysians always say, there’s nothing for me in Malaysia. Yeah, how much have you don’t for Malaysia to come to that conclusion?


Freedom to Feel

The teachers in our lives have one thing in common – that is to have an impact in the way we do, see or feel. It doesn’t matter if said teacher is an object, a living insect or new born baby. There is always something for us to learn about ourselves and the others if we look at life from their point of view. Take a page from their experience and be in that space, embrace the gift of feeling.

I’ve been bouncing from one wall to the other feeling from one extreme to the other. Happiness and sadness exist on the same spectrum, perhaps even on the same degree to make us realise what it’s like to be alive. It’s purpose is to reawaken the sleeping giant in all of us, to be a reminder that we have arrive, we have made it.

I’ll always have to justify the things I do, the feelings I stumble upon and the thoughts I’ve created. More for myself, just so I have a grasp of reality even though I’ve come to terms that reality is subjective. What is reality to you may not be the same case for me. Yet, the society I’ve been brought up to have somehow distilled the perception that how I feel is second to how the others are feeling (in question or in power) because as an individual, the concept does not conform to the norm. As an individual, one does not matter. Well almost, unless one is asked for an opinion.

This belief about individualism is almost so foreign to this society because it is made to (also) belief that being individualistic will create chaos. It’s as if by design, we’ve been taught to fear doing things unconventionally, to find our own understanding and journey regarding politics, religion and/or idea. Or maybe that’s just how I’ve been feeling as a Malaysian. We were once harmonious in the way we live – different yet respect each other’s space and time. The progressive thinking back in the day after our forefathers fought for independence were so valuable to making the nation a forward-thinking factory. It was that essence that made the country innovative back in the 70s and 80s. Always curious, always experimenting, just always looking to do something better – yeah that spirit somehow gave way to passive, spoon fed energy, almost as if people of today resigned to fate. What fate are they resigning to is another question altogether because if you don’t work for something (consistently, persistently, diligently), what is fate then?

No sense of pride in the work we do might give us a hint why the social ideology and moral have shifted so much in two decades. How do we fix this? There are too many causes to point out, not enough soldiers to fight for the betterment of the nation. I say this because, too often, majority have been whining and wailing about the condition of Malaysia – that giving up on the country is the best excuse to come up with a solution to get things moving forward. As if the country owes us all everything when most of us hardly to anything for the country.

The simple question to ask ourselves is (or the lack of asking), “What have we contributed to Malaysia?”

Maybe we have forgotten the infamous quote from John F. Kennedy that still rings truth to this day.

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

This notion of being entitled (without working hard for it) is such a destructive ethos to live by, it’s becoming a crutch to this country as we speak. And even if one do work hard for it, chances are entitlement is not even part of the quality adopted. Or I’m just being mighty idealistic. The latter sounds about just right too.

Being disruptive doesn’t necessarily mean negative destruction. The act of asking why also creates curiosity, one that we’ve been succumb to not do since young. If you do, you’re seen as a trouble maker because the why’s tend to make people dig deeper, know further and be more invovled. Therefore, to say in power in whatever position, never question. Assume all is for the best, accept that there’s nothing anyone can do and believe that we have nothing to do with it. Wash hands and stay away. What a dismissive practice for a country that has so many things to offer.

Oh well, despite feeling the way I do being here, there’s always something to do that sparks fire. So, it’s all good, just that need to spread that fire even further to reach out to the others to join the fun. I think 2015, albeit being a mindfcking year thus far, the potential growth I’m forcing myself to do where career and life cross path together is monumental. So many things happening, projects taking place.. I’m looking forward to the graves I’m digging.

Oh yeah! And..to also finalise my thesis most importantly. Heh.


She Wears Her Heart on Her Sleeve

Like a strange familiar place I’ve made this world to be for the last two months since my previous update. I’ve moved on from “I don’t know” to jumping into a pool of work without realising. Subconsciously, I needed to be busy, to have my mind occupied doing work that matters so I have control over myself to stay away from dwindling into nothingness.

Partly, I’m lucky to have people who while I don’t know how much impact I can do, believe that I can whip something up. Or maybe I’m just that kid who just can’t say no.

Either ways, I’m working with amazing people doing different things but has one thing in common – a humanitarian element. Perhaps, that’s my Achilles heel. One I’m drawn to, where my heart resides. Without having a purpose leading up to this, I would lose sight easily and I’ve spent many years long ago knowing what that felt like.

Currently, the project I’m blessed to be part of is an initiative by WOMEN:girls – an apprenticeship programme called Kejar Kerja (loosely translated as Chase the Job?) for girls aged 18-28 years old without any degree or school dropouts who are interested in fashion, product design and culinary arts. The idea is to have 10 girls and matched them with a mentor and company each in the industry for 6 weeks. Our end goal for them is to get a full-time job and build skilled labour locally.

So far, in the last one week, we’ve been going on ground to several residence area where the urban poor communities live in Kuala Lumpur. Way before this, when we were preparing the details of the project, I knew it’s not gonna be an easy task. If anything, there will be so many set backs and limitations for us to reach out to these girls due to family, culture, mentality or lifestyle barriers.

But like everything else, you’ll never know until you’re there in it. Experiencing it.

Initially, we were targeting to get 20 applicants per residence area but as days go by, it already takes so much effort and hard work just to get one applicant to sign up. Just to pull them away from their comfort zone in their home to walk down the staircase felt like a magnet was pushing us away from them. So each day, just the thought of getting 3 people signed up was an achievement on it’s own. That each one had different reasons for doing so – mothers who pushed them to talk to us, neighbours who were aware of the need and sister who had to accompany.

There are a million ways to device a plan when it comes to reaching out to people and more often than not, it’s never a straight forward process. That’s probably why word of mouth is still the strongest form of marketing time and time again.

The channels to reach out are endless but to be able to know the platforms to breakthrough takes time and courage to try. A mind that withholds rejection. A soul that marches through walls. That’s the kind of spirit projects like this will require from each individual.

Having said that, after six days looking for them, I met with a roadblock.

I was waiting for this moment to happen. Waiting for the time when I will question myself and watch myself run in cirlces to overcome this notion. It’s almost a twisted satisfaction, this.

But, unlike past projects I’ve been involved, this is one where the team was not assembled by me. I’ve never worked with them before and vice versa. Imagine the sinister voice in my head, just waiting for the right moment to say “This will be interesting to see how you’ll be seen by others who don’t know how you’re like”.

I don’t think I’m capable of ruining something on purpose. If anything, I will do anything and everything before something crumbles. Or it’s just me putting a ridiculous expectation of myself to complete the work and when shit hits the fan, I become a different person.

“You know your leadership style is one that involves emotion right?” I hear Fei’s voice from our days in Hyper Island.

“You connect through emotions,” another friend once mentioned.

I think coming back from Manchester has untangled a few knots for me ever since. I don’t remember being more aware of the way I lead a team but looking back I remember episodes when I do have long conversations and figure out a way out for the rest so everyone can work better.

It’s not that I need to know but I do. No matter how much someone says you can push aside personal issues at work, to me, if there’s a way to solve those personal issues, then eventually your work will be more positively affected. Well, that’s just the super optimistic side of me thinks.

It doesn’t help that the projects I’m involved this year are mainly about emotions. Or maybe it helps me. We’ll see.

Here I was listening to others and their stories when at one point, I was wondering, how much should I open up about myself to them? After all, we are working on a professional level. Where do we draw the line that there are things you shouldn’t know about the other? Do we even have a line?

Because there was a point in time when I was questioning myself – should I be this vulnerable? Should I admit that I feel like shit and responsible for the downfall even though we’re only at the beginning of the marathon? Do they want to know? Does it even matter?

This goes back to what type of leadership style we fall into and I so happened to be more aligned with the coaching type. Not that I think I’m a good coach given that I too am learning on the job but I guess, that’s just the way I create the work culture. To be invested in the projects you do, you have to have some level of investment in the people you work with to. It’s a personal preference how much you want to dig in so long as it keeps the dynamic balanced.

After all, we are living in a world of noise. Of other people talking. Of no one listening.

So someone has to listen and fill up the gap.

‘Cuz at the end of the day, people can easily tell the way I feel just by looking at me. I’m that’s girl who wears her heart on her sleeve.

You will know if I’m into it or not. You just do even without me trying.

Blah, the perils of embracing yourself. Vulnerability is part of the package.


Running in Circles

I kinda understood what other people tell me, that when you’re away for a while and go back to where you came from – it takes a while to settle in. For some, they could never feel settled and I’m quite wary of that feeling. Of that restlessness.

To be quite honest, my return to KL is meant as a short break. But I can already sense that uneasiness when I’m around other people. I just don’t want to deal with all that yet. I don’t want to hear “So, what’s next?” or “What will you be doing?” again and again because I don’t know.

I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.

There, that’s as honest as I can be. And I don’t like the look I get after they sense it from me. The “What are you going to do with your life?” look is one I detest right now because I feel like a failure. Yet I haven’t even achieved anything or done anything to prove that I will fall.

All I want to do right now, is just be. I know what I can do, I just need to figure out how to build that path here because it’s currently neither here nor there.

Three years ago, I created my own job after a year of experimenting. I know I’ll be creating another one for me to feel useful again.

Although, there is a new project I got to be part of last week and that awaken a sleeping monster. Again, I’m still unsure what I’m capable of doing. Like, I know I can do something but trying to put things together is where I feel lost. There’s this blank space I need to fill in but I don’t know with what.

I got to know so many amazing souls, so many I don’t know what to do about it.

That’s also another thing that’s driving me nuts.

Oh well, this is kinda part of the journey to figure myself out. I just hope I can wrap it up fast. Blah. I have roughly a month plus before I fly out and seriously get my shit together.


The Epitome of Love is Food

The Hundred-Foot Journey

My favourite scene from the movie, the most moving one for me.

Since the day The Hundred-Foot Journey trailer premiered, I’ve resoluted to watch it by hook or by crook and when it was shown at Odeon all over UK, I somehow missed the chance to catch it! Given that the cinema is only 4 minutes walk from my place is not an excuse either.

Since I got home early today, I pre-heat my dinner I made yesterday and watched it for two hours.

Deep in the recesses of my brain, I somehow knew there has to be a reason why I didn’t see this movie when I should’ve – I wouldn’t have been ready for a tsunami filled with nostalgia crashing over me. That much I knew.

I was flooded by memories of long forgotten person in my life and the moment I saw Om Puri playing as Hassan’s father, I’m immediately reminded of my late granpa. Of whom I only spent 6 years knowing.

The essence of Om Puri’s character struck a chord in me and the floodgate opened like there’s no tomorrow. I haven’t missed him in the last 10 years and suddenly today, I’m back to being heartbroken again. A decade ago, I wrote my first ever monologue dedicated to him and read it out loud in class. A monologue meant as a closure after his 13 years absence. And then, I pushed it so far back in my mind, I don’t have that attachment memories to him as much as I did.

I feel somewhat guilty after realising it now. The first person I was thankful for existing in my life (no matter how short it was) who embraced me for me. My granpa who didn’t have qualms getting his little grand daughter her very first train set, a string aeroplane and entertained me with car rides to meet his friends, inviting me to sit outside of the petrol station to keep him company selling newspapers while my late granma attended the cash counter in Penang. That was how I remembered my early childhood of me and my grandparents from different culture, ethnicity, countries and at one point, religion too.

Part of the reason why I have this constant battle being different is because in Malaysia, you’re in one of this boxes to tick – Malay, Chinese, Indian or Others. My fucking problem (pardon my French) is that, I’m all four, for god sake. I’m not just one or the other. On face value, many Malaysians will say to you that they are not racist by nature (sure..) but when it comes to cursing or making comments, you can find every derogatory words describing one or the other so offensive, it makes me wonder what does being racist truly meant to them?

There is a point to this post about The Hundred-Foot Journey.

The scene above is the most powerful in the movie for me. It captures what Asian values are about, especially when it comes to the food they present. It’s this family equation that makes their food so rich and captivating.

Sure, there’s a reason why Michelin awarded restaurants exist for a reason and they do make good food. The amount of insanity they put in to create a dish to look so delicate, refined and complex yet simple is commendable. It might justify the price we pay to dine in as well and I’m all for the theatrical elements in fine dining cuisine but watching this movie reminded me why food is part of my life. Part of me.

If you’ve known me long enough, you would know that I’ve got this sick obsession with (good) food and more often than not, Asian food ranks the highest for me. Malaysian food is ace for me because we have chinese, indian, malay, thai and every other cuisines mixed into the pot. The only problem with Malaysia, like most things – we don’t know how to market ourselves and own it. It pisses me off a lot of the times but oh well, that’s Malaysia.

There is a line in the movie when Hassan repeated what Marguerite said when they were picnicking,
“Food is memories”.

That’s spot on for me, like I was hit by a lightning. It got me thinking about my memories of people with food and for my granma, it would be her winter melon and ham choy soups. One time when I was sick for about a year, she flew all the way to take care of me and I would remember going to the pot every time to have a peek, to see if I could have another bowl. My mum on the other hand, while isn’t the best cook but there’s one particular dish I love from her and always look forward with a plate of hot rice – fried assam fish. I remember the briyani I tend to eat with my granpa back then but I don’t think I was old enough to remember the food he cooked (many people told me of his infamous dishes). I have more people I go to for a specific type of food they do very well and it’s what makes me feel connected to them.

Food to me is not just food. It’s the hard labour of love consisted of blood, sweat and tears when cooking up a storm for a family. It’s that essential ingredient that makes what you eat heaven in your mouth. That’s where I put my money mostly. The smallest, corner shop making home-cooked meals. Yep.

There’s just something about food and me that’s inseparable. Sometimes sickening but more often than not, I find joy when I discover a new eatery worth my tummy singing.

Btw, this is my second post for today, a first since a decade ago (when my first blog was set up, I used to blog daily, sometimes twice or thrice a day) 🙂 I guess, I just need to get it out about missing my granpa.


Saving the World Business Love Affair

One of my favourite discoveries in Yorkshire

One of my favourite discoveries in Yorkshire

Eye rolls, grins and that typical look I get whenever someone ask me about what I intend to do.

I have to admit, whatever I end up saying or plan to do will most likely sound like I’m trying to save the world. So I get why I get those looks from people most of the time. I really do.

Because, if I was them, I’d do the same too.

I don’t know what is it with me and the idea of doing something that resonates with this superhero complexity I have. Maybe, a part of me wants to undo the past, of what I didn’t have the power or wisdom to do anything then but today, given the knowledge and experience, perhaps I can right the wrong somehow. Give other people the opportunity to live in better state of mind.

I have roughly 9 days before my adventure with Hyper Island in Manchester comes to an end. Yesterday marked our sixth month residency in this city that I’ve come to find comfort in and I realised that being in HI has elevated my determination to do whatever I want because they allow us to do what we want. Therein lies a crux for some of us, well more for me really. I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, what is it about HI that made me be the way I am today? How is it different from the rest? Am I looking at the rose-tinted glasses that I’m potentially setting myself for some kind of down fall once the bubble burst?

To be honest, I don’t know.

It could be a long love affair with my life of fighting against the current since the day I was born. There is always something I had to pull out of the hat to prove that I’m here, alive and relevant. It was also part of the 10 year love affair with the black hole I spent spiralling through my growing up years.

So yes, being in Hyper Island wiped off all that history of breaking walls and burning bridges with society back home. I may be one of the weirdest alien in Malaysia but over here, HI forces us to go deeper and embrace our differences. That, my weirdness is not weird enough to be called weird.

Wait, does that even make sense?

Essentially, that freedom to explore all corners of my interests, fascinations and weirdness have made me felt like I’m normal. So normal, I need to kick myself to push harder. I don’t know where Be Autistic, my industry research project will be taking me to..because I’m setting myself so freaking high, I’m hanging onto anything at this point.

I wonder if one day I’ll wake up feeling “Yes, I’ve conquered my confidence!” and be done with all the insecurities. Then, I remember, confidence is a work in progress, it’s not something we can overcome once and for all and move on from there. There’s always something to shake it up, to make things even.

For now though, I’m done feeling inferior with myself. I’m ending this turmoil about feeling like I’m so different that I’m never gonna figure this life out because.. as Tash once told me at a party we were at (not sure if she even remembered), I’m not that different as I thought.

Seriously, coming here really opened my eyes about myself. I may have been fighting an endless battle all my life because back home, whoever I’m suppose to be is not yet an “accepted” concept but over here, you have to fight harder to stay true to who you are.

Fuh, that’s a lot of battles but without them, I don’t think living is worth it at all. We just have to pick the right battles that will enrich our mind and soul. If anything, it should empower us to do things differently (in a good way, of course). And if it doesn’t, there’s always tomorrow to change that.

I’m not looking forward to moving out of my apartment in Manchester. Not even sure if I’m ready to leave Manchester yet. I hope somebody from some company will see a potential to bring me in somewhere. This adventure is only the beginning, I have so much more to learn! Argh! The agony.

And strangely, while walking back to my place earlier, I don’t have that “homesick” feeling for as long as I’ve been here. I don’t know why (there’s so many don’t knows in this post, it’s driving my mad). I know I’ve always felt more home away from home. Over here, I just feel like I’m free from my inhabits that I am able to just be me. That and I have so many amazing people all over the continent, they make me feel like part of this giant extended family network too.

I just don’t want to see this end without a proper conclusion. At least not anytime soon.


Different but Not

Often, I might come across as some arrogant dweeb because for some reason, I just know.

I can’t prove that it will happen but I know it will.

I don’t have special powers that allows me to see the future, I can’t predict it nor do I have premonitions about the future but when I do see a trail coming, I can see the outcome.

I recently discovered the existence of pattern thinking when Dr. Temple Grandin wrote about it in Drawing Autism and this is what it is (or I like to believe). I can only see when I connect the dots between one piece of information with the other. The more the better. And often, the theories I come up with ends up like a piece of abstract nonsense no one can resonate with. Maybe it’s too farfetched for them to grasp, the idea that I join the dots from no where and have this crazy thoughts presented on a silver platter for them to digest must have freaked them out.

So that’s my problem.

When I can’t explain it for people to understand and I see that they are either confused or not take it seriously, I get upset. This is when some people who experienced it think I’m too in their face. Too much to handle. Then I spiral in that frustration hole because I know that if something doesn’t change, the hypothesis I made will come true. Anxiety builds up, communication breaks down and the bridge falls apart.

“How would you know?” people would ask.

“I just do. I can see it. I just don’t know how to explain. I have this feeling..” I used to say.

And the conversation tend to end with me being weird statement or I just give up entirely trying to convince people because most of the time, I expect things to go the opposite but..more often than not, it doesn’t. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m just seeing things or people just don’t want to see what I see.

Then, there’s the second part I find it most difficult dealing with.

“You can say ‘I told you so’..” they say.

I don’t like saying that. I don’t enjoy being right because I don’t want to be that person who thinks she knows everything. I don’t and I will never be. It’s just circumstances happen to end up like that. It’s as if I’m being put in my place for doing something bad or negative.

I know you will say it’s all in my head. Perhaps you’re right. But I don’t find satisfaction having people coming to me after telling me that I’m right after all. Why?

Because I don’t know to respond.

Am I suppose to say “See, what did I tell you?” or should I sympathise that things end up the way it did? Latter would have depend what kind of situation because …

the third part of my issue is, after three rounds of trying to make things clear and no changes were done, I remove myself from the situation. In my head, I have to make one of two decision – do I stay and get wrapped in the spiderweb of frustration or do I get out before it gets too deep?

The moment I realised what the situation is, I will assess all ways to improve because I don’t like feeling like trapped. If I can’t improve after doing everything I can, I have to make the decision to get out. Otherwise, it will affect my energy, mood and mind. The three elements that makes up my compass and not having control either one of it, I will be screwing myself for something unnecessary that I foresee beforehand.

To me, I break things as logical as possible. If it’s beyond my understanding, I try to look it up and read about it. Find some form of explanation to answer all the questions in my head. The same way when people ask me if I drink. I don’t because I don’t like the taste or smell. Also, I don’t like the effects it gives when I get intoxicated. Using religion as an excuse to me is a copout. Not to say I don’t believe in God but I have my own journey with religion. I look into the details, the reasons because in the end, the religion I embrace is actually logical. People’s interpretation makes the true meaning of religion diluted and superficial. But that’s for another story.

Tash told me that I’m intimidated by the way I think and do things differently but in reality, I’m not that different. She’s right. Just that, I grew up with this perception that I’m such an alien, I don’t belong in this world but being here doesn’t seem like I’m all that different. In fact, I’m quite normal. Nothing special.

Blah. At 29 years old, we all have to grow up every other second. It’s a never ending journey and mine just so happened to have the table turned around.


Be Autistic

So I wrote “at some point I will dedicate a whole blog for my Industry Research Project” turned out to be last Sunday. That’s where a whole chunk of my data hoarding will be unloaded – be-autistic.com and all because I went on 3 hours of digital detox when I wrote The Future of Autism below.

Yet, I foresee I’ll come to a point when danywhere.com and be-autistic.com will meet in the middle personally. But I’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. Right now, as a surprisingly overachiever and overambitious alien, I’m running two blogs at the same time. Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas to me!


The Future of Autism Spectrum

I know at some point I will have to write about this. At some point I will dedicate a whole blog entirely to my Industry Research Project (IRP). At some point was suppose to be in January 2015. However, writing about this makes me realised that I need to make this happen a lot sooner than I anticipated.

I need to pour out my thoughts into structured sentences for things to make sense because being analysis paralysis about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is drowning me.

While it’s not exactly a surprise, it still create that “Seriously?” look on people’s face when I told them that my IRP is based on How to Harness Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Individuals’ Special Abilities in Today’s World.

A subject I’m too familiar with.

Why do I think this is an important problem to solved? (At this point, it sounds like I’m trying to save the world..and in a bonkers kinda way, secretly..that’s what I want to do or attempt to at least)

Apart from a personal interest, I have been observing the pool of talents available out there from people on the autism spectrum and a majority of the talents are wasted because most people don’t have enough understanding about autism or don’t know how to communicate with them. It appears that as of 2009, only 15% of adults with autism in the UK are employed full-time. Whether it’s the right profession is another question altogether.

How is this even relevant to the real world, you ask?

Autism Spectrum Disorder individuals have unique ways of processing information compared to the rest of the people in this world. They just function differently from other people but it doesn’t mean that they are incapable of understanding what goes around the world. One of the most amazing people on this earth who happens to have autism, Temple Grandin (a professor, innovator, author, PETA and autism activists) explained it best in Jill Mullin’s remarkable book Drawing Autism that changed my life:

Photo Credit: Dabid Dabid

Photo Credit: Dabid Dabid

” Many individuals on the autism spectrum often excel at one thing, while struggling with something else. There are three types of specialised autistic mind – visual thinker, pattern thinker and word specialist.”

Because their minds are so defined, they are capable of interpreting facts and complex data in ways that normal people can’t. I find the idea of collaborating with their minds exciting because if there’s anyone who is able to be innovative in a world filled with noise, it’s them.

Yet, we are not. Why is that so? Are they so alien to us that we exist in different reality?

Naturally, as a self-professed grave digger (a term I call myself ever since I got into Hyper Island), I dig deeper into why is autism a mystery in the 21st century. It didn’t occur to me at first but I found out that for the last few decades, many assumed autism can be cured but recently, researchers have slowly moved their mindset from being a disease to a way of life.

If more people adopt the concept of autism being all about functioning and thinking differently, perhaps we’re able to break the stigma around autism spectrum.

But for this to happen, we have to first have a universal understanding or definition as to what autism spectrum is truly about because every other year or so, the definition, characteristics or symptoms keep on changing. That itself creates a big confusion for the public to take in.

This is the current definition of Autism Spectrum Disorder by NHS:

ASD is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. It includes Asperger syndrome and childhood autism.

In essence, it doesn’t say much but in reality, the spectrum for autism is so wide! It ranges from very mild to classic autism where ASD individuals might not even know they have it unless they get diagnosed because they found ways to cope (this indirectly make people think autism can be “cured”).

Credit to Cornwall Council

Credit to Cornwall Council

It’s apparent that autism spectrum needs an overhaul. A rebranding from being a disability to a capability.

How is it that, it’s normal for people to say “I’m feeling depressed” in a conversation and not take it too seriously but at the same can’t be applied when someone say “I’m feeling autistic”?

This thought only popped up in my mind when I was trying to talk to people on the autism spectrum. I was so afraid of offending them with my words that I was mentally “paralysed”.

It’s this stigma that’s hindering us from making that connection with autism spectrum individuals and utilise their analytical/technical thinking.

Just imagine what industries like engineering, creative, R&D or business could benefit from their gifts? The moment any one of these industry is able to tap into their skills, they are able to push the envelope to innovate something new and force everyone else to be on their level, or at the very least enable the rest to apply critical thinking in a different way.

Photo Credit: Brandon JP Scott

Photo Credit: Brandon JP Scott

Hey, Tim Burton is believed to be in the spectrum (so was Einstein, Newton, Mozart and Warhol). Look what they achieved with their special abilities?

This correlates to what Google has been doing since late October 2012 when they started Autism Daily Newscast. Their objective is to be the Reuters in ASD and it’s interesting to think why Google is dedicating a whole division for ASD if it’s not to help them identify the talents they can acquire for the company, simultaneously transforming Google to the next level.

Photo Credit: Sesame Street

Photo Credit: Sesame Street

The same can be said about Sesame Street’s See Amazing in All Children Autism Initiative campaign that’s happening in United States. In one glance, you can see who their partners are and it’s no surprise that they come from various background. It’s also interesting to note that BAE Systems (a British multinational defence, security and aerospace company) is one of the funders and imagine what they can do with the data regarding children in the autism spectrum in the future.

Fact that Groupon has joined the bandwagon with Sesame Street to support the initiative through a sweepstakes three days ago made me think about what companies are currently getting by supporting such programs. Altruistically of course it’s a good thing but there’s a bigger goal here that we’re not seeing, at least not with naked eyes. Strategically, having Sesame Street marching in the forefront is the most brilliant move not only because they have a diverse audience, they have a strong voice in this world to command any kind of movement in any community. People will listen.

So, looking back, the tech industry is definitely looking into the future of ASD skills, to prepare companies for future jobs to fill in. Right now though, the focus and message are mainly for families, caretakers, friends of ASD individuals on how to manage their behaviours.

I definitely think autism spectrum in general is the next big thing to disrupt all large industries. Soon, there will be a need for a job agency dedicating to ASD individuals (thanks to Mary, our industry leader for Business Transformation module in Hyper Island, plucking this out among the many information I was hoarding).

A job agency for people in the spectrum is unheard of at the moment and will become my main goal in the Industry Research Project. A purpose I can see that will benefit everyone from the bottom of the chain right up to investors. It will also affect the education sector because this will force the system to re-evaluate and reassess school programs. Indirectly, this will also affect the depression rate among people in the spectrum by identifying and focusing on their strengths. If more people can apply this behaviour strategies, will we be able to create more safe haven places in this world for them? Come to think of it, would the behaviour strategies work on people in general? How will this affect the way we work in the office?

Yes, that grave I speak of is deeper than I can ever imagine but one I’m fired up to do. In the end, if we have to do something that’s going to take a big chunk of our time and energy, it should be towards something we’re passionate about.

But first, a rebranding is needed!

Perhaps the question here is about the way people communicate with individuals on the spectrum.

“Parents, teachers, doctors and everybody who works with individuals on the spectrum need to help these individuals develop their abilities.” – Temple Grandin, Drawing Autism


A Matter of Perspective


Everyone has their own expectations and outcomes from things they want to learn. I came to Hyper Island with no clue what I got myself into.

But everyday, I learn something new, from different people, same people, other people or just myself.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m living in the moment, paying as much attention to the little things that my perspective might be somewhat different when I hear what others thought about their experience being here so far.

Maybe because for all my life, I’ve always been that kid who had to figure out how to do things alone. Have to build a pathway so others can see clearer. Pretty much self-learning since I could remember because that’s how I’ve been brought up.

Working with Tourism Selangor, at a time when digital media was the biggest mystery to Malaysia cemented the fact that with a lot of reading, determination, passion and awareness, I manage to make the most of what I didn’t know I had. I spent countless hours to get my head wrapped around this responsibility that could’ve destroyed my career given the politics that surrounded it.

I even remember YB Elizabeth Wong, then one of Selangor’s Exco who kept telling Fazly, my then manager to ask me to not “work too hard” but for a couple of years, I kept at it because there’s so much I needed to learn and it excites me when I found a breakthrough (some experiments didn’t go as we planned but that’s why it’s called lessons).

So being in Hyper Island is no different to me, except that experience is amplified by infinity more. To me, self-learning is the only way I know best. So when people ask if I had learned anything from a particular module even when it’s so vague and abstract, I would say I have.

Different people have different expectations and outcomes.

To me, it might not be something obvious that we can use but I know in the future I will go back and apply it. I wouldn’t say I know everything, because I don’t. Pushing myself to dig deeper is still something new. A better way of doing things.

I’ve written about this for my Design Thinking Critique paper – using my past experience as a case study. It’s just about looking at things from another point of view, another window to see how I can do better in the future.

Business Transformation begins today. Just the thought of going through a whole new group for the third time does scare me a little. Although, I’m very excited how this module takes off from the last module Digital Technology, which happens to be my favourite.

Life is a work-in-progress when it comes to learning. Altering the way we think can do wonders to ourselves.