I heard. I thought. I said.

Some of the things which I heard and some of the comments which I made throughout the past one week.

An ex-student showed me a name card designed with Foundry Gridnik. My immediate reaction: “Wim Crouwel would have been very sad. Modernists don’t justify text that way.” He went to google Wim Crouwel and came back with “Damn. My tutor didn’t know typography.” I should not have said, but I said it “You were expecting her to know Wim Crouwel?” That wasn’t nice.

Admittedly, that is cynically made, and on retrospective, do appear arrogant and should have been kept to myself. This cynicism is something I have to constantly keep myself in check. It is not good.

I  met up with David Hirst, a British who had been staying in Malaysia for the past eight years. He’s a brilliant trainer in presentation and communication skills and was in Mumbai conducting a training course. I mentioned about the crazy daily 2.5 hours on-the-road experience and lamented about it being bumpy, and not exactly of the same standards as Plus Highway, Kesas, NKVE, LDP or Sprint – at least on Plus Highway I could still read, or write notes, or do something constructive and not just wasting my time away. David reminded me that (despite him being a British ex-pat) it is only when we are away from Malaysia, we realise how much we miss “our” country. For all its flaws and inefficiencies, it is still a very comfortable place to stay in.

I always thought India was IT high-tech. I have heard and read so many times about it being the call-centre for all the IT-driven companies in the world, and having the most number of skilled programmers – all working with Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Infosys, Novell, etc etc. I was expecting Mumbai to be fully wired, with high-speed internet everywhere. I wasn’t prepared to find out that most people are paying RM250 to have 256kbs access (10g download limit) in offices. To get what Streamyx offers us at RM99 per month (1024kbps/unlimited downloads) would cost RM3750/month. I wanted to know why is it so and the answer boils down to numbers. There are too many people! IT-related businesses had to be given first priority, followed by primary industries. The remaining of the population simply has to make do with whatever that’s leftover from the internationally allocated bandwidth. Needless to say, dividing an allocated bandwidth amongst the Indian population is obviously not an easy task. For me, it simply meant learning to deal with the frustrations of artworks crawling through the net, connection errors when updating Joomla driven sites, and waiting forever to get my latest dosage of Jack Bauer or Michael Scofield (who amazingly, had to be back in prison to make way for a season 3).

One of the conversations swayed into the observation of Asian students/workers abroad. I remembered clearly my University days where Malaysians would just flock together in Malaysian Students Organisations, Malaysian Residents Association, or some unofficial cliques, all of which I tried very hard to avoid. I made efforts to be with the local Canadians, through Amiga users meetings, through the Students’ Union, through volunteering in the local Science Center and the University’s newspaper. I do know many went as Malaysians with poor command of English, finished 4 years of education and returned home – other than a degree, received practically nothing new from the overseas experience, let alone an improved command of English. A Hindi pointed out the same observations about Indians going abroad – some would have been staying in New York for 15 years and come back as if they never left. For they worked in the Indian community, worked within the Indian community, eat only Hindi dishes, and speak only to people of the same race. I commented: “There’s nothing wrong clinging on to one’s roots, but however, if an opportunity is given to be at a foreign place, and one is not opening his way of living to new experiences – that is very regretful and no more than a wasted opportunity.”

Over Easter I was being reminded of my faith. Someone related an incident where he was challenged with the thought of God is expensive and religion comes with a cost. “Churches need money. Religion validates the means to invoke war.” I am reminded that God’s grace is without a price, and whatever men do to validate their acceptance (or rejection) of God is a man-made decision. God made men with free will and the faculty to make decisions – even though the consequences could be destructive. I quickly made a mental note that the challenger may have been hurt by the actions of men, and hence out to prove that God does not exist by implicating the actions and the consequences of religious activities – churches included. That is, missing the point.

When I was struggling to come up with a name to incorporate a private limited company, I was led to Luke 13:7. There’s always a second chance to make things right – what matters most is to seize the second chance and make things right. A constant reminder of one’s mission to be fruitful, or might as well just wither away. That’s the reason why my studio is named Figtree.