Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Last Cab Ride

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. after waiting a few minutes I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned
on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years.
All the furniture was covered with sheets.There were no clocks on the walls,
no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. 'Would you carry my bag out to the car?'
she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept
thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.' 'Oh, you're such a good  boy,'she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, she gave me an address and then asked,  'Could you drive through downtown?'

      An old lady getting into a waiting cab

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly. 'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry.I'm on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice.. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. 'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything
more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once
been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'. We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a  wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her
purse. 'Nothing,' I said . 'You have to make a living,' she
answered. 'There are other passengers,' I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She
held onto me tightly. 'You gave an old woman a little
moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.'

The old lady receiving a kind hearted visitor at the hospice

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning
light.. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

You might help make the world a little kinder and more compassionate by sending it on and on,reminding us that often it is the random acts of kindness that most benefit all of us.
Thank you, ..

This short touching story has been circulated in the net mails for years. It is coming back round and round the earth many times over. It is a good read; it makes you wonder how humanity in the form of kindness can affect one’s life positively. The identity of the original writer remained unknown.

Alan CY Kok

Friday, 20 May 2011

Portrait of a thief

Artist at work
                                   The Dove symbolises World Peace
There was an aspiring artist who struggled to earn a living, by painting portraits for wealthy people. He lived in a rented shack which doubled as his studio. One day a rich man came passing by and took an instant liking of some of the young artiste’s works. The millionaire sought the service of the artiste and they agreed a price tag of $10,000/-

         Picasso's early works
Upon the completion of his portraits after a week, the millionaire came to the poor artiste’s studio to collect it. He was more than satisfied of the job done but the greedy man brewed an evil thought: This artist was too young and little known, why should I pay him $10,000/-? He offered $3,000/- to the painter of his portrait despite an agreed price, thinking that after all it was his looks painted in the portrait, and who would want to buy a portrait bearing his face? “If I chose not to buy, who would?" The unscrupulous rich man was deep in his heinous thought.

                                                                   Self portrait Picasso 1907            

The young man was stunned; he had never encountered such a delicate situation. Regaining his composure the artiste tried in vain to convince the millionaire not to back out on his promise to pay $10,000/- to claim his portrait. He went as far as telling the rich man to be a man of principle, a person who would stick to his promises etc. The rich man was visibly annoyed and became impatient. “$3,000/- is my final offer to you and I will be leaving with my portrait” still thinking he had secured an upper hand in bargaining, “ will you accept it?” The young artist was really frustrated with the sly man’s offer but he was determined not to bow to the unreasonable demand. He exclaimed, in a tensed shouting tone to the snobbish man: “No, I won’t sell it at $3,000/- One day you would have to fork out $200,000/- for the portrait I painted for you. It will be a punishment for your dishonesty. Right now I rather keep this painting and I will not give in to your demeaning insult.” The haughty tycoon was surprised at the response of the artist but he still wanted to show his arrogance: “You got to be kidding, who would pay a junked piece of painting at $200,000/-, I won’t be that foolish!” Hence he stormed out of the artist’s studio. 

Soon after this unhappy episode, the diligent artist left town to look for greener pasture elsewhere, as he could hardly earn a proper living. At the new place, not too far away, he enrolled as an apprentice at a famous art school where he enhanced and improved his artistic flair. Fast forward and ten over years had lapsed; the artist had successfully carved his name as a polished painter of recent times. He became famous and was popular among the art critics who rallied to have his works exhibited at their galleries.

Right after the next day of his spar of harsh words with the artiste, the rogue millionaire had already forgotten about the whole incident. One day He was with his usual composed self until his friends and associates, one after another visited him and told him something unusual and that unnerved him. They told him that there was one portrait displayed at the city’s art gallery had a non-negotiable price tag of $200,000/- Funny though; the portrait resembled uncannily the millionaire’s looks! And the worst news the rich man wanted to hear: The portrait was titled “The face of a thief”. The rich tycoon fell off his chair, feeling like he had just been stricken with a booming stick. He struggled to get up and in a release of his anguish, he muttered: “I have got to do something.” He managed to recall the incident when he let down the struggling young artist.
                                  A suave Picasso in his hey day

In the evening hours of the same day, the millionaire knocked on the now well-known artist’s door at the gallery. He tendered his apology profusely and paid promptly $200,000/- for a portrait painted with his look. 
                                Picasso portrayed a very confident aura
More than a decade ago, the young artist refused to bow to pressure even he was in abject financial distress. His perseverance bore fruit and he triumphed finally as the winner of a bitter tussle. His name is Pablo Picasso. (Renowned Spanish artist 1881-1973)

Story translated by Alan CY Kok
from an article received via e-mail

Thursday, 19 May 2011

My Ghostly Encounter in Beijing

                   The North Gate a.k.a. Gate of The Divine Prowess

My Ghostly Encounter in Beijing
A few years ago, my wife and I embarked on our maiden journey to the ancient city of Beijing, China, for an eight-day tour. We were awed by the historical splendor of the heritage buildings, temples, relics and ruins, museums and other tourism related hot spots there. One must visit the Imperial Palace of The Forbidden City to consider this tour of Beijing complete as the UNESCO-declared World Heritage site itself is an important landmark of China.

I would never anticipate to come face to face
with a ghostly figure like this in Beijing!
Towards the end of the tour, our group of excited Malaysians was heading for the Northern Gate a.k.a. Gate of Divine Prowess to exit the crowded place. Whilst some still surrounded the tour guide for more information regarding the Palace Museum, I went to look for a toilet before boarding the bus. I knew very well the traffic jam in Beijing could delay us before reaching our next destination, so a toilet stop could be a very long wait.
                           Side view of The Gate of Divine Prowess
I found a very old toilet that catered for thousands of visitors daily. Rows and rows of half partition boards lined the darkened drains of the public toilet. As I stood at one of the narrow cubicles to ease myself while standing precariously, I caught a glimpse of a moving object at the next cubicle.
It was a round thing like a hat with flowing hair or threads, black and blue in colour, and there was a silvery sharpened object in the middle. Amidst confusion and half-fear and in semi-darkness, I shouted ‘Kui, ah!’ (Ghost in Mandarin) Almost immediately the unknown object stood up, holding his pants, equally disturbed with an anxious expression, asking me in quick succession: Na Li? Nali? (Where? Where?)

 A Western man dressed in a
Qing Dynasty palace guard regalia
He was none other than a modern day palace guard, fully dressed in Qing regalia to pose for shots with tourists to earn his living. The unidentified thing I saw was his head gear. I had a good hearty laugh.
Alan CY Kok

Friends and folks,

I'm glad that The Weekender of TheStar April 23rd Sat. published
my story of an encounter of a funny kind. The reward is attractive
though it's no big deal as I always stay over nite at some good
hotels due to my work. Well, it's a two days one nite stay at Port
Dickson's famed Corrus Paradise Resort ocean view delux room with
breakfast for two, worth RM430 nett. So anyone interested to go to
PD for a day of fun please contact me. Ahem, no sorry, only ladies
need apply. Thank you for your understanding. Hohohaha! You believe
that I'm that bad, that bad bad DOM?

Please read the short anecdote I put into writing for light reading by  
Clicking the URL of TheStar below, Light and Easy read, No fear:

How will you be recognised as one Tour Guide Extraordinaire?

                       A long walk to enter the gateway of Angkor Wat

I wrote this short note to Malaysia Tour Guides Council's forum, highlighting the superb service rendered to tourists by a distinguished tour guide of Cambodia.

My fellow guides,

You will be recognised as one Tour Guide Extraordinaire if your customer (tourist) without reservation posted a generous compliment on Yahoo!Travels with regards to your service. Ms Sarah (Sorry, her nationality unknown) who visited Cambodia in 2009, was so satisfied with her tour guide a Mr Ratanak
from Siem Reap that she stayed on in Cambodia for one and half year. Read her mail she sent to Yahoo!Travels in which she extolled her guide to an unusual high. With his committed ethics and dedication Mr Ratanak surely deserved to be amongst the elite tour guides group of Cambodia. Shouldn't we emulate him?

Alan CY Kok

                           Diligent Tour Guide of Cambodia Mr Ratanak

Angkor Wat Tour Guide
By Sarah, 7/30/10
I ended up staying in Siem Reap for a year and a half after coming to town and seeing the temples. I don't think I would have been moved to do so if it weren't for the mystery I felt when my tour guide took me to some of the out-of-the-way temples. I lucked into meeting Ratanak when the original guide I had contacted flaked out, and in retrospect I'm so glad the guy did. Ratanak is a consummate gentleman and his English is fantastic. More importantly, though, when he shares the current and ancient history of the temples, I felt like he was very invested in them as a creation of his fellow Khmer. So many locals I knew in Cambodia cared about the temples as a necessary economic engine, but few seemed to dwell on the fact that their own ancestors built them. Chhen does focus on that and it makes the experience of seeing them much more engrossing. And he took us off the path to other temples; I couldn't begin to spell the names of most of them, but there were fantastic nonetheless. Sunset at Pre Rup is an excellent alternative to the mass tourist freak out that is sunset at the temple most tour companies use for sunset. We managed to visit a lot of temples during our 3 days stay... exactly the ones we wanted, and at the best times (He knows the hours to see every temple, so we are always able to visit when there are fewer people there - we have lots of photos in which you see no one...). Also, he knows how to take pictures with great photography skills with all the best places and poses to take photographs. It is also good to mention that he carries, in his car, lots of refrigerated water, that is kept fresh throughout the day, with missive amounts of ice, and that he is always offering to you - included on the price. As it is too hot, Mr. Ratanak is always making sure that you catch the cold air from the car's A/C. With him, our experience was the best of all. Just enough words, just enough temples, just enough explanations, and we honestly believe our journey would not have been the same if we had other guide. Ratanak is awesome because he doesn't treat his customers like means to an end. He likes people and that made me like him. Do yourself a favor and check out his site: And, believe me, although we are experienced travelers, we did not know what we were going to find.
Posted by Sarah
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11 of 11 Yahoo! Users found this review helpful

                    A serene lake adorned the frontal view of Angkor Wat

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Very sorry, my desktop PC breaks down, so no new post.

Hi there,

Many apologies to my faithful followers and readers of my blog; looks like there isn't much new posts for May 2011. What a shame! It's all because my old faithful desktop PC crashed and I had no access to many
files I saved in it. It's already more than 10 days and I still couldn't get it restored to its former glory. On the
comforting side, I didn't let the bad saga bog me down; I'd since written some write ups and stories for your reading pleasure. Let me get myself organised and I will post them soon after editing. Many thanks to you folks out there! Have good times ahead, remain happy and healthy as always. Regards from me to you!

Alan CY Kok

                                Just looking at this harmonious pair
                                           will make your day better

Monday, 2 May 2011

Qiu Jin 秋瑾, China’s first known human rights crusader for women

                                       Qui Jin in Japanese costume
                                 when studying at Yokohama (1904-1906)

Qiu Jin (1875-1907) was a maiden never shied away from injustice, a front runner for human rights, especially for the women folk during those tumultuous years. I admired her for her intelligence, her daring defiance against the rotting, disgusting feudal system that harmed China drastically since many dynasty changes centuries ago. Qui Jin was known as a vociferous writer and poet, a feminist fighter against injustice towards women folks, an educationist principal founder of a school for girls, an advocate for freedom and human rights that went against the then despotic Qing Dynasty, a revolutionary and an eloquent orator.

Qui Jin was born in Xiamen, Fujian Porvince though her parents hailed from their ancestral city of Shaoxing, in Zhejiang Province, where she grew up. In 1896 she married Wang Ding Jin at her father’s order. After the birth of her son and a daughter, and the death of her father, she followed her husband and moved to Beijing where her husband assumed an official post with the local government in 1902. Her desire for further education grew stronger by the day and in 1904 May she left for Japan to learn about Western styled culture, education system and democracy, leaving behind her children and her husband. She was self funded in her pursuit of knowledge (Of course including Japanese language) by selling some jewellery and gold chains her parents gave her for her wedding. No sooner she joined as a member some triads actively with an aspiration to overthrow the corrupted Qing Empire that had ruled China draconically for three centuries.  In 1905 she left for home briefly and returned to Japan in the month July; by August 1905 she joined the newly founded TongMengHui 同盟会, a clandestine society led by Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Qui Jin left Japan in 1906 February in disgust of a new ruling by Japanese government to enhance surveillance over foreign students and to curb their activities.

She began her underground movements swiftly by organizing meetings and recruiting young citizens so as to inculcate them with modern democracy, Western administration of government, and freedom from oppression by authoritarian rulers. She also advocated the abolishment of binding girls’ feet as young as 5 years old.  The practice of which would result the feet becoming small but the person would be crippled and would walk with a limp. Sadly the excruciating pain inducement of the feet binding remained until the 1940s. The places where she was active in carrying out her ambitious project were Shanghai, HangZhou and Shaoxing in the Zhejang Provincial areas.

A jade-white statue erected in memory of Qui Jin

During a raid on her society building by the Qing Imperial army, some of her comrades were arrested, interrogated and subsequently executed. Her name was mentioned and brought to the attention of the authority. She was fore-warned but she refused to go into hiding as she believed that there should be blood shed for an epoch changing revolution. Eventually Qui Jin was rounded up at her school together with eight others. There was one young man drown in his escape from pursuing soldiers, and another killed while falling off from the roof. Qui Jin was standing on the roof but the raiding party was given order not to shoot any woman folk. Instead she was caught alive but she denied any wrong doing. The next day she was brought outside the perimeter of the Shaoxing county jail in the wee hours. With her hands tied at the back, she was summarily beheaded. Before her death she asked for a brush, a piece of paper and some painting ink. She wrote the first line of a famous poem of seven words that cast long lingering sad overtures till this day: Autumn wind and autumn rain often bring forth unbearable sorrow  秋風秋雨愁煞人.  Knowing very well she could not escape the ill-fate she was too distraught to complete the poem. She died at 31 year old.

Qui Jin died as a heroine and a martyr for her ideology. Her death was not gone wasted as it inspired more young Chinese to continue their struggle for a freed nation from the draconian rule of the Manchu regime. She was a revolutionary alright but her fight was for a challenge to return to Chinese administration from the rule of a suppressive border indigenous tribe-The Manchurians. The war she fought was different from that fought between Kuomintang and the communist party of China; hers was one that was greater, more meaningful, and more stunning, one that changed China drastically.

                                   Monumental Statue of Qui Jin at the side of
                                            West Lake, HangZhou
Dr Sun Yat-Sen paid respect to Qui Jin at her gravesite at the shore of West Lake, HangZhou in December 1912, one year after his success in overthrowing the Qing Empire and led China into a new era. Sun Yat-Sen unreservedly called Qui Jin a national heroine, 巾帼英雄. Sadly in 1965 her grave was vandalized and destroyed with malice by the over zealous red guards of China during the Cultural Revolution. Fortunately her remains were saved and reburied a short distance away at one end of a bridge, at the West Lake shore, with a jade-white statue erected in her honor in 1981. A plaque bearing Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s manuscript engraved with the words: National Heroine巾帼英雄 was placed at the pedestal of the statue. About the same time a memorial museum was built in honour Qui Jin in Shaoxing city.

                                      Dr Sun Yat-Sen ( 1866-1925 )孫中山
                                            Father of Modern China國父

After her death at the tender age of 31, there were countless dramas, movies, and literary writings taken place to highlight her struggles and to remember her eternally. Her demise sent a wake up call to modern Chinese, particularly to women folks not to forsake their chance for better living, and never bow to nefarious pressure. Qui Jin remained one of the greatest ladies of modern China since 1900. Her feat was no ordinary task with her fearless guts and bold ambition to realize a modern era China. Till this day, Chinese women folks revered Qui Jin as one gallant feminist who liberated them from the ugly clutches of feudal oppression for centuries.
Alan CY Kok