Navigating modern love …

In these modern times, we sometimes enter into relationships and just don’t know what is going on. From experience — mine and others — and observation, I have gelled some thoughts that may help to create a safe emotional climate in which to navigate modern love.

The most important characteristic of modern love is that the individuals involved don’t enter into a relationship based on “how it should be”. In modern love, partners develop their own rules of relationships. This is especially relevant when there are distinct differences in the mindsets of the partners arising from a difference in race, religion or social upbringing.

These differences are not new and have been sufficiently discussed and information on how to deal with them is available all around us.  However, there is one distinct difference which is less obvious, and hence rarely recognised. If unrecognised, it can’t be dealt with. It is that difference that I would like to address here because it is one of the most common pitfalls in modern relationships but rarely acknowledged because it is not duly recognised.

I am referring to relationships between liberals and traditionalists/conservatives. If your partner is a traditionalist or someone trained to conform to conservative notions of love and relationships, you would have a problem because the expectation — knowingly or unknowingly — is that you conform to his or her notions of love and relationship. The liberal-minded partner, however, may see no reason to conform as he or she may see conformity as stifling personal growth or justifying emotional unavailability, both of which have no value to him or her. If love is not strong enough to rise above this difference, the relationship will be doomed from the start. In such a case, the best thing to do is to withdraw from the relationship or just don’t start it at all.

However, if the two genuinely love each other, in a modern relationship, they will negotiate for a compromise they can live with. In a modern relationship, working things out to each’s satisfaction is much more important than making things look like how they ought to be. The partners must be prepared to amend or modify their notions of how things should be to working things out together. If they can’t do this, again, it is best that they don’t enter into a relationship with someone not of like mind.

Secondly, in a modern relationship, it doesn’t matter who takes the initiative to start the relationship. It can be the man or the woman. The problem here is that if you lack confidence, you will never chat up anyone. In a more open community, everyone is free to strike up a conversation with anyone, and, naturally, things begin to happen. But, if for whatever reason, an individual can’t summon the courage to stand next to a person, eyeball him or her and just chat, it is a clear sign that this is not the right choice of a partner.

Some people may think that you need to keep on trying. That is a colossal mistake because you end up trying and trying — not to start the relationship but to find the confidence to do so! It becomes an exercise in futility and is unfair on the other person who is expected to wait. That is both an unfair and unkind expectation to force on someone. A sensible person will move on and not wait. A person who can relate with you would just start it and follow through without any excuse. No point skirting and skipping around the person; one either levels up to the partner as an equal or does the mature thing and walks away.

Once you start chatting up, it may lead to flirting. That is fine if both sides know that is exactly what they are doing. But — and this is a big “BUT” — if at any one point one party expresses displeasure at a way the partner has acted, the latter must stop that action immediately. The individual who respects his or her partner will back off and stop the behaviour or action that is offending the other. If he or she continues behaving in the same way despite being told that the partner doesn’t like it, that would be harassment. And, drastic action needs to be taken to stop that partner. A self-respecting person who respects you, however, always backs off and won’t need to be told twice.

If after some flirting, one partner discovers he or she is serious about the other person, that too must be expressed. The other partner, of course, must stop flirting and decide whether to reciprocate. If in all honesty he or she can’t, then, breaking up is the best thing to do and that, too, must be accepted. There is no point in going after that person to change his or her mind, because, that amounts to harassment! If the partner discovers later that he or she really likes this person, then the former will come around. No need to badger and harass!

Thirdly, you will notice that in modern love two personal qualities are of paramount importance — emotional honesty and honest communication. The former requires the individual to know his or her feelings and the latter requires the individual to articulate them sincerely. In other words, it challenges the partners to give emotionally.

Modern relationships don’t conform to an ideal. They begin from where the partners are at and grow as they evolve to where they want the relationship to be. So, in modern relationships, interest may prompt someone to start a relationship but it does not mean it will end up in marriage!

Every step of the way in a modern relationship, the partners are communicating and testing to see which way to go. Such emotional honesty allows the partners to speak the truth about where they are at and what they want and gives the other the chance to reciprocate in love or opt out of the relationship.

In modern relationships breaking up is an exit strategy. It means one partner or both can’t give what the other wants and they respect each other’s decision and walk away. Because they speak honestly, there will be no chance for manipulation. Because they respect each other, they are prepared to break up and spare each other the pain of a relationship that is not working out.

Conservative men and women may keep at it but that only creates stress and conflicts and an unhealthy emotional environment where everyone is trying to conform at great personal sacrifice. Liberal-minded people will reject that as it makes the individual emotionally stunted.

These are broad guidelines but they reveal the context of modern relationships. So, if you are not ready to give emotionally and are not honest about your feelings, can’t accept rejection or a “No”, and can’t respect your partner’s decisions and can’t talk with the object of your desire, modern relationships are not for you. Better to walk away with dignity and look for partners with similar views.

NEXT WEEK: For those who love and believe in marriage



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It’s the maudlin season again, gong xi fa cai!

Is it just me or is it the case with everyone or most people? Every time a festive season comes around, a series of tear-jerking videos would make the rounds aimed right at the place where you start to cry!

It can be Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali, Christmas etc, etc, when the videos surface and are widely circulated so it is difficult to miss them. You’d be listening to something else online, only to be intermittently interrupted by a number of these videos and you can’t but help listen to them unless you heartlessly resist the urge and click on skip!

They tug at your heart and you continue watching them. Then, uncontrollably tears well up in your eyes, you try to stifle a sniffle, clear a phlegmy throat and before you know it tears are streaming down your face!

It happens not once or twice but all the time! Goodness! The family theme of coming around when you are alone just grabs me — or my heart! My reaction is immediate and irrational! I can’t quite understand it. I don’t even cry at funerals! But these videos by some of the leading companies in the country which pay a tidy sum to produce a well-crafted message of family coming around to look out for you or keep you company when you are alone seem to hit home. Perhaps, it is a message many can relate with.

Family ties are part and parcel of our culture and, perhaps, we are an extremely sentimental lot! And the companies know it! They capitalise on these qualities to keep their brand names in the public mind. They are succeeding. Petronas and MAS’ videos are hugely popular and at every festive season, they are awaited with eager anticipation!

Through the tears, they create a wave of well-being, befitting the season! But, I’ve had enough of tears. I hope they switch to something funny next time. I want to laugh not cry!

Have a good long break, drive safe and a very Happy Chinese New Year to all!


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Israeli athletes — a missed opportunity for a counter narrative

It’s a pity that the Malaysian government chose to resort to the usual rhetorics against Israel to stop its disabled athletes from entering the country to participate in the World Para Swimming Championship in Kuching, Sarawak from July 29 to Aug 4.

Discerning people are aware of Israel’s aggression and the effort to isolate it in order to stop it. But, discerning people are also aware that Israel is not the only nation in the world which is an aggressor. Myanmar, North Korea, the Islamic nations which engage in proxy wars in the Middle East, and even the United States of America are aggressor nations with a history of criminal behaviour but we don’t stop them from crossing our borders. We, too, are no better. Didn’t Malaysia allow Filipino Muslims and Indonesians to occupy Sabah land without the approval of Sabahans and freely issued them with Malaysian identity cards?

So, why are we claiming the moral high ground in order to politicise the World Para Swimming Championship in Kuching by targeting innocent Israeli athletes? As a nation with a worldwide reputation for her hospitality and as a moderate Muslim nation, couldn’t we have demonstrated a greater largeness of heart and made an exception for the Israeli athletes with a disability to attend the championship without compromising our stand against Israel’s aggression?

Instead, we fell back to the outdated posture of rhetorics and confrontation when we could have preempted tense relations by arriving at a solution through engagement.

Perhaps there was some mistake made in the choice of Malaysia as a venue for the championship. If so, the minimum decent thing to do is to let the organisers know that Malaysia can’t host this championship because we don’t have political ties with Israel and will be unable to welcome her athletes to our shores and leave it to them to choose an alternative venue. Problem solved amicably. No need for raving and ranting and confrontation.

Make no mistake, call out Israel for its wrong-doings as we would do with any other nation. The issue isn’t that we should become more pro-Israel or change our stand against Israel. The issue is to change the posture of our stand from one of belligerent and emotional rhetorics to problem-solving through intelligent engagement.

Let me give an example. When I was teaching refugees a couple of years ago, I had a number of Palestinian students in my class. In class discussions, most of the Muslim refugees will jump up to express their loud and usually uncontrollable rhetorical protests against the United States and Israel. I let them ventilate.

On one occasion, I had an opportunity to have a quiet conversation with one of the more intelligent Palestinians. I asked him what he thought was the solution. I was quite surprised by his answer. There were no rhetorics. Calmly, he told me, “Ms, we don’t like Israel. But, the solution for peace is co-existence.” I realised then that the rhetoric was for public consumption to show support for the cause but, in reality, what they want is peace and they are willing to compromise for it. That Palestinian student and many like him want peace but they won’t express it publicly for fear of seeming pro-Israel when they are not!

Leaders who continue using the politics of rhetorics and confrontation may be ultimately depriving the very people they want to help of what the latter really want. The grassroots may publicly go along on the same trajectory of these leaders but privately they may be open to new options which they may be freer to express only when personally engaged.

Rhetorics helped in rallying the masses to support causes in the past. People are now exposed to these issues and may now want resolution more than publicising the cause. Unless leaders begin engaging the grassroots, the former will be unable to develop a counter narrative based on current realities which may be more helpful in paving a way for problem-solving.

In modern times, the key to managing people is engagement. It exposes you to current realities, which in turn will help in building a new narrative that offers better possibilities for resolution.

If leaders change their posture to one of engagement, we wouldn’t have had such a backlash to  The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd). A counter narrative would have been created which would have facilitated rational discussion and less mob aggression.

It would also preempt the need to fall back to the old narrative in order to get support from conservative rural voters. If we engage them, we get the real facts and based on that come up with a new narrative that is fair, just and inclusive preventing discrimination against any one person or group,


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The need now is to engage the PM and Malay voters

Much disappointment has been expressed lately over the way the Pakatan Harapan leadership has handled some of the issues of the day. Many feel that the anticipated Malaysia Baru hasn’t arrived and it is still Malaysia Lama as usual.

The disappointment is understandable. After the 14th General Election (GE14), expectations were high that changes would come, but when they saw that changes were at the most only incremental, they felt let down. Yet, when I spoke to the people on the ground — the shopkeeper, the hairdresser, the teacher, the retiree — the response has always been, “It will take time before we see the changes! Maybe four or five years later.”

It seems to me that they are more realistic about what PH can deliver and are willing to patiently wait for the changes to come. Introducing new policies and submitting reforms must be well thought through and written out, which are time-consuming jobs, though work can start on them now.

What is of more importance and which will show results, in the long run, is a change of mindset. That is a very hard thing to achieve and that is what, I believe, is stalling the process of change.

This was clearly evident in the way the introduction of The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) for ratification was handled. Icerd would have evened out the playing field for those discriminated against while making allowances for the disadvantaged to benefit from affirmative action.

The reaction to Icerd was typically Malaysian. Many in the majority community — the Malays — saw it as trespassing on their constitutional rights when, in truth, Icerd doesn’t. But, they felt it was because it would now give rights to less advantaged minority groups.

In their minds, that meant depriving them, which, in truth, isn’t the case. This is not the point of view of all Malays. Urban Malays who have benefitted from the New Economic Policy and now form the bulwark of support for Pakatan Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) were not the ones who protested. They understood what Icerd meant.

It is mainly the supporters of Umno who largely represent the Malay rural heartland who felt threatened and vocalized their anger. They were reacting according to the mindset they were traditionally nurtured — that the Malays are the majority and poor and they need to be helped.

While that is a fact, it does not follow that helping less advantaged minority groups would deprive them. That is the slight shift in mindset that they have to learn in order to coexist with other just as poor if not poorer minority groups.

The Malay rural voters need to be educated that their constitutional rights are intact in Malaysia Baru. Those messages should be communicated to them to allay their fears. That has not been forthcoming.

PH’s coalition partner, Bersatu, whose chairman is the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mohamad Mahathir, was most affected by this mindset. Bersatu had successfully pulled former Umno supporters over to its side because Tun made a good case of the corruption issues surrounding 1MDB.

When PH won, the few benefits they had previously enjoyed were lost. This is what most of the rural Malay voters feel. Then, Icerd came along and now it seemed like the benefits they were used to may be given to others, and they kicked up a fuss and Tun gave in because Bersatu would be in a precarious position if the party lost its support base and if the rural Malay support it was wooing turned against it.

PKR is a solidly urban Malay party but it can’t reach the Malay heartland which Bersatu was able to penetrate. Right now that Malay majority is not represented in government and Tun, realising it did not want to estrange it any further.

This is the harsh reality. It was the same before and it is the same now. The question is how do you deal with it. Tun dealt with it in the old way — giving in to the Malay majority for fear of what they will do if they don’t have their way.

Couldn’t it have been dealt with in a new way? Couldn’t PH leaders have gone down to the rural Malay grassroots and explained to them that their rights are enshrined in the Constitution and are not threatened? That whatever fears they feel are imagined rather than real?

Malays today are not like the Malays of yesterday. Like all reasonable people, if the correct messages are sent to them, they will comprehend the new realities.

This is an area where the Malay PKR leaders could have helped Tun, advising him and receiving his input in engaging the Malay rural voters. But, the PKR leaders played no part in wanting to change the Malay rural mindset. They were more busy with party politics.

The Malay rural voters cannot be ignored. If they are, the risk is they will go back to Umno or worst still to PAS. To ensure they don’t, they need to be engaged.

PH leaders need to work with their prime minister, engaging him and earning his confidence and respect. Then, they will be in a position to give him good counsel to deal with the old issues in a new way.

When that happens, we may finally begin to feel like Malaysia Baru.

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A change of name, again!

Folks, I came across a better name for my blog over the past week and, hence, a new name again! This name better reflects where I am at now.

Over the past couple of years, I underwent a major overhaul in the way I think, rejecting the obsolete, irrelevant and untrue, and, alert as ever, arriving at a sober, sensible and commonsense outlook of life. The thoughts I express will come out of that thinking, which I believe presents a better grasp of reality. Hopefully, these thoughts will help you and me live active more meaningful lives.

I assure you, I won’t be changing the name of my blog again — unless at some distant future I need to!

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Moving forward with a new blog name!

I’ve changed the title of this blog because I am moving away from the spiritual struggles which motivated me to start this blog under the previous name. Those struggles are over as I have discovered a sensible and balanced approach to life’s issues!

The change in outlook was initiated by a verse which I read on Dec 31, 2018. The verse — actually, verses are:

“This is what the Lord says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’ (Isaiah 43: 16-19)”

The verses resonated with me, especially because it was the last day of 2018. I realised it was time to leave those spiritual struggles behind; I won’t be revisiting them again unless I perceive something new emerging from them. If not, I won’t be looking back, but forward to the good things ahead!

Those past struggles are resolved and I have become aware of a sensible approach to life which anyone — whatever their background, race, religion, history or culture– can relate with. Hence the new name!

I hope you continue enjoying this blog.  Looking forward together to better years ahead!

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Hello, from Janda Baik! And a Happy New Year!

Having a good time here and forgot it was Friday to upload a post! Janda Baik is very pleasant.

Loved water tubing down the river and discovered the thrill of all-terrain vehicle driving! Pic below.

As I’m enjoying myself in the last few days of December, I hope you do too and usher in the new year with a whole load of goodness!

Me, far left, on a ATV with family members.


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