Tuesday, 20 November 2012

November Rain

What a month it has been so far. President Obama was re-elected despite the lingering dissatisfaction with the US economy. Israel bombs targets in the Gaza Strip but is ready for a diplomatic solution to end rocket attacks by Hamas. Lynas Corporation has been given the green light to process rare earth products in December. Logging and development continues in the Kanching Forest Reserve despite a post-election assurance from the State Government that they would hold a moratorium on logging in forest reserves. And so we play the waiting game, with a sense of restlessness and hope combined, doing what we can to ensure the best possible outcome. We're just going to have to make the most of the damp days.

Deepavali week was one marked by car troubles and bouts of illness, with both Aravind and I taking turns to have colds and sore throats, thanks to the weather and dedicated colleagues who keep turning up for work despite being ill.

I went shopping in Brickfields on Deepavali Eve with an incredibly patient man. I took particular relish in the crowds, noise, colours and insanity.

The Vivekananda Ashram looks even more picturesque and melancholy in the rain.

Deepavali celebrants thronged the shops for good deals on fresh food and groceries. This is where I usually shop for vegetables and Indian goodies. 

Food gifts for my friends, and our Nepali office security guard bhaiyas who are always so helpful with wheelchairs, prams, heavy boxes, difficult individuals and flat tyres. I know this is nothing like being able to celebrate with one's family back in one's home country, but I hope my little gift would make them feel appreciated. 

In the course of cleaning out his apartment, Aravind found these Amar Chitra Katha comics from his childhood, and made a gift of them to me, since I didn't have these in my collection yet. He really hit the jackpot with this one. I was so happy I couldn't sleep, thinking about all my "new" comics. 

This is our SPCA shelter canine reception officer, Lulu. November is an unproductive month for us volunteers. Due to the poor weather, we couldn't manage to get much dog-bathing or tick treatment done. I would start bathing dogs and before I could even complete bathing and tickwashing the dogs in one section, it would start to rain and I would have to dry everyone off. Aravind and I spent Deepavali evening with our good friend Rangamal after we left the SPCA.

Sunday, 18th November, marked the 16th Anniversary of Waikiki Bar, which is located at the PJ Palms Sports Centre. They conduct a charity event each year to raise funds for worthy causes. This year, their 'Tribute to Kindness" charity event has impoverished families whose critically ill children are in oncology wards as its beneficiaries. My buddies and I seized the opportunity to have fun for a worthy cause.

The festivities kicked off at 11 a.m. with a flea market, food stalls, and fun activities including diving lessons, water walker Zorb balls, photo booths, tarot readings and arts and crafts. These lovely ladies sold delightful little cupcakes and cake pops. How could we resist?

Nicole, Aravind and I contributed books and knick-knacks to the flea market and made a few purchases in return. Here is Nic, looking thrilled with the books she is adding to her collection.

A Zumba demonstration attracted a number of participants and lots of spectators. The clowns decided to strut their stuff, too. Those clowns... they have the moves like Jagger!

No carnival is complete without cotton candy or popcorn.

I had been looking forward to this all week after I found out that there would be Zorb balls (technically, these are water walking balls and not Zorb balls) at the event. RM5 entitles one to 2-3 minutes in the ball. Anything longer would pose a danger of suffocation, as the balls are airtight. Still, it was a fun and novel experience! It was quite difficult to keep my balance in the ball, and walking forward just kept making it move backwards. 

Water walking, swimming and diving under an overcast sky -- all for a good cause.

Well, seeing as that it is November, it just HAD to rain torrentially after a few hours of good weather. We took refuge in Out of Africa and had hot beverages and lunch to bide our time. I had the vegetarian pie, which came with mashed potatoes and collard greens. Here are Aravind, Mary and Nicole, waiting for their food to be served.

I bought these adorable Zumreed headphones at the flea market to replace my ancient earphones which went under the wheels of my office chair last week. There were about 10 units of such headphones for sale and I thought they look sturdy enough to last me a good long while. I was right! They work a treat. I love my new headphones.

We learned later that the organisers raised over RM38,000 from the event. I am sure the amount would have been higher if not for the crazy weather. I am glad we were able to play our part, no matter how small.

This crazy weather. It can't last. It has to run out of rain sometime.

So never mind the darkness / 
We still can find a way / 
Cause nothing lasts forever / 
Even cold November rain.
~ Guns N' Roses, 1992.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Octobirthday Week

“God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well." 
~ Voltaire, 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778.

 There comes a time several years after our childhood when birthdays cease to be special anymore. But I think birthdays are a good time to take a break, take stock of all the blessings in one's life, surround oneself with family and friends and do something memorable and meaningful.

 And so when Aravind's birthday came around, I didn't think one day was enough to celebrate our friendship and the exceptional guy that he is. We took most of the week off so we could do the things we love, as well as recover after a busy and productive weekend of volunteering with the MNS during the Festival of Wings and to sort out some bureaucratic and housekeeping issues. One of our initial plans was to donate blood but the Blood Bank was unfortunately closed on the day that we stopped by, so we will have to postpone that plan to another week. I also managed to squeeze in the usual afternoon of volunteering at the SPCA as well as spending time with our respective parents, but that's just something we always do as a matter of course.

I didn't want to just get him a store-bought card, so I made him one. It's not perfect but it's a start.
Gift-wise, I am guilty of the uniquely female habit of "gift squirrelling". For over the past 4 months, each time I saw something that I think he would like/need/want or would look good on him, I bought it and squirrelled it away. So Aravind received a bagful of gifts from me, which included sportswear, workwear, cologne and chocolates. Nothing is complete without chocolate.

Tuesday is Earthquake Day at Swensen's, so we went to my favourite ice-cream parlour and sat at a table under my favourite lamp and ordered one of the most gratifying things one could possibly have on a hot afternoon -- an Earthquake.

Eight scoops with eight different toppings -- and they all went straight from our lips to our hips with no detour! The servings are still of a reasonable size, and the ice cream flavours still have a classic, crowd-pleasing quality about them. The fruit, nut and dairy-based toppings complemented the flavours and texture of the ice cream very well.

We met up with our good friends Jo and Mark the same night at Home and Away Pub in Desa Sri Hartamas for a pint and a pow-wow and ended up participating in the weekly pub quiz. It didn't take much to persuade us to participate -- we love those things. Aravind is good at almost every topic. Jo's forte is popular culture and alcohol-related trivia. Mark is good at sports and technology-related topics. I usually rule when it comes to books and natural history. (P/S to the gang: Trust my instincts next time when it comes to Oscar Wilde.)

Team Stratos a.k.a. Absinthe-Minded a.k.a. Green Mango Rojak did it! We won 2 jugs of beer and a bottle of Black Label whiskey in the quiz! What a haul for an hour's work! We are formidable!

Wednesday was a rather wet day, and we spent it mostly cleaning Aravind's apartment.

I had heard so much about a neat little burger bar near my bachelor pad that I was eager to check the place out with Aravind. And so we dropped by and placed our orders despite the tremendous crowd which necessitated a 45-60 minute wait.

Our verdict? MyBurgerLab's burgers are worth the hour-long wait!
(Reminder to self: Bring a book to read next time.)

Here is Aravind, sinking his teeth into an A+ chicken burger, which was a scrumptious combination of sharp cheddar, shiitake and enoki mushrooms and caramelised onions.

We ordered the set meals, which came with a side of rosemary-infused fries and free flow of soda. I had the Shroom Shroom Shroom, a delightful fusion of portobella, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, Swiss cheese, lettuce and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes. As you can see, I was in vegetarian heaven. Most fast food joints have one token vegetarian option, but MyBurgerLab has three. I can't wait to sample the other two.


The black charcoal buns look diabolical but are supposedly healthy, so that should assuage our guilt about consuming all those fries. I was hungry by the time our food arrived, so I took a bite out of my burger before remembering that I should have taken a photo for a bloggy food review.

I would highly recommend this place for its food but I would suggest either getting a takeaway (there aren't enough tables and seats) or bringing a book to read while you wait. But it does have very exuberant and whimsical decor and ambiance, and food that we won't get tired of easily, so we will be back.

I had a hard time keeping Aravind's surprise party a secret from him since we spend so much time together, but I did manage to pull it off eventually. He sort of guessed something was up, but I think he just thought that we would be going to our usual pub for drinks with a couple of friends. He almost certainly did not expect 2 boxes of customised cupcakes delivered to the pub and about 20 of his friends turning up. I think he realised something was afoot when I decided to wear a sundress instead of my trademark football jersey and shorts to the pub.

Adorable yet manly Liverpool FC-themed cupcakes, made by my talented friend, Jennifer, whose baking initiative Buttery Bites raises funds for all the injured and stray dogs that she rescues and fosters.

Some baked goods are a feast for the eyes but taste pretty ordinary. Jennifer's cakes and cookies are not that big on decor, but taste deliciously sophisticated without being cloying. I made the Liverpool picks for the cupcakes, by the way. This is Jennifer's first attempt at a football theme.

Aravind's friends turned up despite the driving rain and bitterly cold and wet weather, and a great time was had by all. I am so grateful and happy that so many of them turned up to honour him! He is usually such a quiet guy that he was quite overwhelmed by all the attention and well-wishes, especially when the band struck up the birthday song and we all sang along and raised the roof.

And so Aravind's birthday week turned out to be a pretty satisfactory one.

I want to thank him for our 16 years of friendship --
* for all the years in which he had been my big brother and mentor, and now the love of my life;
* for always having faith in me even when I didn't have faith in myself;
* for teaching me how to take the bus to the SPCA animal shelter back in 1996;
* for helping me with my law school assignments when I was his junior;
* for being so brilliant and so good at imparting knowledge;
* for all the phone calls he made to my family home back in the day before we had cell phones, just because he wanted to chat on the weekends and during vacations;
* for agreeing to be my companion for Hip Hopera back in 1998 when I won 2 tickets to the play (I don't care if you didn't "like" me yet then, dear, I am still going to count that in as our first date);
* for actually reading my Letters to the Editor and newspaper articles and actually saving some of the newspaper clippings from way back in the '90s;
* for trying not to eat meat in front of me even though I told him countless times that it didn't bother me in the least, most of the people I know who did the most for animals aren't even vegetarians;
* for being such a thoughtful, sincere, kind, humble and generous person;
* for helping me with my research work when I had to stay back late in the office to complete some urgent research;
* for being such a pillar of strength;
* for loving all my quirks and forgiving all my bad qualities (I'm still working on them, I promise);
* for always being so unfussy, laidback and accommodating;
* for being such a quietly dependable volunteer and doing far more for the community and environment than people who brag about being "volunteers";
* for making sure I wake up early and get to work on time;
* for being the kind of boyfriend all my friends like to have around because he is so laidback, non-judgemental and genial;

and simply for being the lovable guy that he is.

Happy Birthday again, Big Guy. 
You mean so much to me.