Tuesday, April 1, 2008


This is something I rarely tell people.

Years ago, as part of my training, I went to all these charity homes. As a volunteer. For three months, I went to old folks' homes, orphanages, houses for kids with HIV, juvenile delinquency centers, homes for children with special needs. The works.

Actually, I didn't have to go to ALL the houses, but it was hard for me to find a place where I could actually do something.

First stop was something I thought would be least dirty - an old folks' home in Petaling Jaya.

I went there, sauntered in and asked the woman handling it, "So what do you need me to do - clean the drains, mop the floors, what?"

She said, "Well, I just want you to talk to them."

The old folks hardly get any visitors. They only talk among themselves, and most of them have lost their minds.

I sat down with a former sub-editor of NST. Indian guy. Can't remember his name. Don't want to remember his name. He was 72.

The man sat on his rocking chair, like Jackie Shroff, and he was mumbling gibberish. I was waiting for some sequence of numbers, so that I can play Magnum 4-D or the Jackpot, but all that came out was Benito Mussolini this and Tun Razak that and Mokhtar Dahari whatever. Halting speech, slurred pronunciation. All in perfect grammar, though.

"Alzheimer's," said the woman. Earlier, years ago, she had left her job at a bank and opened the old folks' home. She took the money from their pensions, and rationed their meals.

For a house filled with 40 people, you'd need RM8,000 for their food a month. That's not counting the wages of the nurses and cleaning staff. That one I remembered. I remember numbers. And food.

One Chinese guy kept telling me about his children and how they're going to pick him up next week. I went the week after, and he was still there. But he still kept photos of them. Black and white and sepia-toned stupid photos of small kids. They must be 50 by now.

One old Chinese lady was the headmistress of a school, and the other residents spoke of her with great pride, because they see being the headmistress as an honourable profession. They spoke favourably of her, as she screamed while the nurses sponge-bathed her and tried to pry her arthritic hands from the wooden chairs.

When I last left the place, she was still screaming quitely, her mouth forming a perfect 'O' like in one of those Gary Larson cartoons.

I went to orphanages, looking for hope. I painted the walls, washed the windows, set-up the networking for their computer room we begged IBM to give.

Most of the kids were Indians. I don't know why. I don't want to know.

I gave a kid a book. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf. Penguin Classics. Six bucks. He hugged my leg, not knowing that years later, the book will set him down the path of destruction as a drag queen.

One girl wanted to be a doctor or a nurse. I told her that selling pharmaceuticals can get her more money and shorter hours. I gave her a book I won when I was 15, when I entered a stupid interschool writing competition. Biofacts. It had cool pictures of red blood cells and juvenile salamanders. There was another book I won at the competition, The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahamme - a book he wrote for his son, before he died of fucking suicide. Grahamme drank himself to death or something. I don't know. Whatever. I didn't give that book away. I didn't care that much.

Most of these kids will grow up to join Hindraf. I don't have to worry about them because they're gonna get US$4 Trillion.

The worst, though, were the special needs kids. Imagine a boy, aged eight, blind and deaf and paralysed, abandoned by the parents since birth.

He can't talk. He can't walk. He can't see. The only thing anyone could do for him was to feed him, wash his shit and hold his hand as he waits for death. No one would kill him and end his suffering.

I mean, the kid couldn't talk, couldn't hear, couldn't walk, couldn't jack off to porn, couldn't board a plane and go to Phuket. What else is he gonna do? Crap out the Four Seasons? Write My Life? This ain't Helen Keller, foo! Helen Keller was not paralysed. This ain't no Disney movie.

What was so frustrating was that I couldn't do anything for the kid. I wish I could have killed him. Pushed down his favourite pillow or something down his throat. I can't teach him, I can't give him books. He's not even good looking, so that I can hawk him around for some faggots to fuck. He just lies there, waiting for his breathing to stop. Fucking A.

I was supposed to go for three months, but just after two weeks, it was becoming quite a chore. I hate talking to senile old people. I hate cleaning windows and debugging Windows. I hate washing the crap of some people.

And yet, now, years later, sometimes I think that is the only thing I do. Wipe the crap off someone's bum. Clean up the mess they made.

Nowadays, when I think I have too much responsibility, I look back to those days with the old folks, with the orphans, with the kids with special needs, and I am glad I am not the sucker who have to take care of them. I am thankful that I do not have that responsibility.

Aren't we lucky that we all are not responsible for wiping the drool and later the shit of an eight-year-old who can't see, hear or move on his own? That we're not responsible for telling an orphan that she will NEVER, EVER become a doctor, cause she's stupid and poor, that the world is not nice. That even geniuses become whores, albeit for a very good rate of GBP130 an hour. And there are people waiting, itching, outside the gates to tell you how much better they are than you? People who backstab. Liars. People like Milx who will borrow RM11,700 from you and never return them?

People who sabotage you for the sake of sabotage, in the name of sabotage. People who will break your trust.

People who want to look good, even though they're ugly both inside and out. Man, that's the worst.

Fuck, man. We're all so goddamn lucky we don't have to deal with that shit. So goddamn lucky we don't have THAT responsibility.

End of the three months, I walked away. I never looked back. I don't want to know.