Muffled Voices (Part 1)

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Life can be a painful experience. Without hope or joy, life leads us all toward a bottom line, and quite frankly, would not be worth living only if not for the in-betweens, the subtleties, the little things.

Like a conversation, where the truth is only revealed when there is understanding. In conflict, one may never assume the joy that is life, or the fulfilment that comes with it.

It began when I was barely out of my teens, when I was gifted with a dream of greater and grander things. I remember only ever spending time on my sports and interests(things like comic books and trading cards of my favourite basketball players). As guiding lights do, an angel directed me through the heavens, drifting from cloud to cloud, time passed me by with no end. By now three hours had passed. And, to think I was only after a 15 minute nap.

The dream itself had me believing that I had astral projected my soul, an angel of light guided me through the morning sky, passing cloud after passing cloud waved goodbye, my angel guided me home.

As I got older, I had always been in good spirits, always high on endorphins from all the sporting activities, which I had been privileged enough to be a part of.

I studied Tae Kwon Do until I was fourteen. I did this for 4 years and trained twice a week. I played basketball and I swam competitively. I never found time to do anything else, which resulted in very average grades at `o level. By the time I was 16 I had already experienced my first crush and went on several dates with a much a more mature young lady in the name of Tan Ming Shan.

Life was good, but what does one really know about life at the age of 16.

By the time of my seventeenth birthday, I stood as a man of that very age, bold, proud and strong… not to mention quite handsome. The world was at my finger tips.

‘My life was set, from the outset’, I thought.

According to my folks I was an angry young man — something I do not remember too well, but as memory serves me foul, I recall the moments of aggression I displayed when not in my own domain. Maybe, they were right all along.

Flash forward to several conversations with my father’s rich and powerful associates, later, and I suddenly forget of my siblings. My brother Justin always had a penchant for greater things, traits he would have picked form me, I believe. As for my sister, well… ‘she wanted her own life,’ I say to myself in retrospect.

I had expressed an interest in art. But, again, what did I know of art? What I might have meant at the time of my first spiritual rebirth, would be more likened to the novelty of expressing oneself.

To be blunt, I was almost blinded by what I had planned for my own life and the things to follow, negating any effort from my immediate family members to reach out and communicate with me. I was to be a swimming instructor by week and a lifeguard by weekend. Oh… did I mention I also played competitive water polo? Yes it is all true.

It only made me angry, but who was I to speak of my rights, when none of it is to my own predilection. I was vain, selfish and of the deportment of a child.

So, one day my father pulls me aside, and informs me of the plans, which he had for me. Of course, many a deals were made, things which spoke lowly or highly(depending on how you see this) of societal orders and making ends meet — things my mother and brother would often have heated discussions of, while in direct conflict with me, only to change their tune as my transition from one stage in my father’s life and into his passing. How naive I was!

I ventured forward, with no preconceived notion of the struggles that beseech life, for there I stood as a man of seventeen.

I competed in the national trials for the National Water Polo team, getting cut at the 17th player. A national coach from China had come to lead us to the South Asian Games Gold Medal Glory. Needless to say, I did not make the squad that brought home the bronze from the subsequent games… or so I was to hear.

It was at about this time my parents had uprooted us all, shipping us across the pond, as if by boat, we were to travel to the United Kingdom to further our studies.

My brother and sister were to attend boarding school, and I was to pick a university, having not completed my A`levels. I had been fooling around with my latest squeeze, propositioning her with everything I fancied myself for. To be more specific, the State Water Polo Team.

My brother and sister were set and had their sights set high for the next stage in their lives. It goes without saying, we lived a gloried life. Hardly a hiccup when you are prepared for the road that is to follow.

The first real sign of trouble came in the form of a transcript, which I did not have. Of course, my siblings had no pickle of any kind, not then not ever. I, on the other hand had not completed my A` Levels.

My father had planned to see to it that I got accepted into a good university. I picked the Surrey Institute of Art and Design and they had accepted me based on a prerequisite. I was to apply to the Arts foundation Course with my C in IGCSE art. It made sense at the time, but only served as convenient a decision. London might have proven to a safer bet, but as destiny has fault lines, no sweeping statement or passing remark will save me from the bold, terse comment, which I am about to pass.

I was able to meet some very colourful characters, characters which were to shape my outlook and perception on life. I may not be an avid reader, but who is to say, ‘destiny isn’t really a straight line,’

Alessandro Baricco, Lands of Glass —

These things may not always come to me in context and relevance by which they stand, but as it goes, for the sake of story-telling, who is to say I would not have met these people in London as opposed to Farnham?

They more than shaped my life. They shaped my destiny. I believe in it now.

So, it was at this time, I believe, I began having dreams, visions of the future; visions of what could have been or what is to be and forever, into oblivion.

I don’t sleep well, but in REM sleep these dreams do not go unnoticed.

I dreamt of several characters… people, really.

Sarah, Dominic, Benjamin, Richard, they were to affect this fault line I call destiny.

I had not known anything of cinema, film, story-telling or movie-making up until this point, my Diploma year in Art Foundation Studies. Who was I to even be there?

I hardly had time for anything outside of university, let alone family and Secondary School friends. It was this time I began to become extremely lonely and homesick. No one had spoken to me for the first half of the Diploma year. I began sending emails to a couple of my best friends in Aaron Ow and Tan San Chuan. It provided temporary solace in times of loneliness.

Edited sequences of moving image was the most basic form of contemporary story-telling, which was really the only thing to do, while at the first of four years, which we(Dominic, Benjamin & Richard) were to dub Film School. Why so aptly dubbed? Kevin Smith, thank you for the View Askew Universe. If you recall the movie, ‘Jay & silent Bob Strike Back,’ maybe I would be inclined to also mention a friend, someone who reached out to me, and believed in me, when there was no hope, in the likes of Anthony Ward.

I had grown and immediate affection for the man known as Dominic Mitchell. He seemed ahead of the curve, the most talented at the time, not to mention the most demanding.

His film(shot on Hi8) was about a young man, much like myself, except he had not grown up in privilege, instead, in moderate poverty. Young, bold, brash, the character, played by Ant Ward had been thrown out of the house, following a spat with his folks, took to the streets and was forced to enact sexual favors in exchange for money. The subject of the film may not be compelling, certainly not at first glance, but once again, it is the sequence of shots by which he uses to convey the message of hopelessness. It became compelling and served as the foundation for greater grander things, that I was to become accustomed to.

This went a step further, the sequence of shots by which by which my story created at the end of semester one spoke of a character who was alienated by his surroundings, mirroring my own struggle in the process. I had starred in my own film, and I was to be shot by the end of the movie. Dominic was moved, as he clutched his heart in terror, sounding off the end of a prolonged gunshot and resounding climax at my first attempt at making a “FILM”. We became friends and grew in admiration of one another, but not without a bit of taint in a topsy-turvy relationship.

This is what life is worth! Not so much a roller coaster, but an elevator, which goes up and eventually must come down. Dominic and I are a pair of elevators. When one goes up the other must come down, and as one comes down so too does the other choose to go up. This would appear again in a dream, coinciding with an unrequited love. In this dream, Dominic reaches out to all of us at the class of SIAD 2004, ‘I don’t leave my friends behind.’ And, this is a mystery that will only unveil itself in time… if you aren’t afraid to live!

The beginning of the summer holidays was a incandescent glow of cold showers and hot sun. I was back in Malaysia liaising with my rich friends from a upper middle class Kuala Lumpur. A friend of mine has a Seiko but always looked to my adopted father for advice when speaking of the poor man’s riches. I somehow cannot help but feel that a man of his standing would only think to adopt street lore as part of his reportage if for nothing but to assert his standing in community. Lee Gan Ping enjoyed his company. He wanted a fake Rolex going for the cost of roughly the same as the Seiko he wore around his wrist.

Have I ever mentioned that I also have had meet-ups with societal members of the community at large. I say so, there somehow there is always a bigger fish.

This is the end of part 1 of the article. For the second part, click here.

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