Saturday, November 23, 2013


THE Home Ministry, hard-pressed in arresting the problem of employment agents cheating employers and abusing Elizas by "recycling" them, will charge them under the tough Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act 2010.
Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Mahmood Adam said while cheating Elizas was a clear-cut offence committed by the agents, the authorities also considered them as people smugglers.
If convicted, the culprits could be slapped with fines of up to RM1 million or sent to jail for up to 20 years, or both. 
Mahmood said both the police and Immigration Department were in hot pursuit of these agents and individuals who had cheated thousands of Malaysians who had turned to them for  Elizas in desperation following a scarcity over the last two years.
Livid at reports that many employers had been cheated of their hard-earned money by such agents, cashing in on their "deliver, run and recycle" modus operandi, the authorities will for the first time charge them with trafficking.
"What these unscrupulous agents are doing with these maids is also a form of human trafficking. 
"This is because there are elements of exploitation involved. I urge people to contact the police if they have information about such agents," Mahmood said.
Ministry sources said many agents had, since the 2009 moratorium on Eliza's imposed by Indonesia, turned this massive shortage of Elizas into a lucrative business.
It allowed them to generate thousands of ringgit per month through "recycled" Elizas at the expense of Malaysian employers.
Prior to the ban, which Jakarta imposed following alleged cases of abuse of their Elizas, about 3,000 Indonesian Elizas were coming into the country every month. 
The NST, which roped in the Immigration Department enforcement team to look into this issue, found that these agents had either been picking up illegals in the country or bringing in mostly Indonesian Elizas under social visit visas to meet the tremendous demand for domestic helpers.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning:

One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo's fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl.
Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl," properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.
Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you're drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I'll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose.
But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can't recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It's weird.
"Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl," I tell someone.
"Yeah?" he says. "Good-looking?"
"Not really."
"Your favorite type, then?"
"I don't know. I can't seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts."
"Yeah. Strange."
"So anyhow," he says, already bored, "what did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?"
"Nah. Just passed her on the street."
She's walking east to west, and I west to east. It's a really nice April morning.
Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I'd really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.
After talking, we'd have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for cocktails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.
Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.
Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards.
How can I approach her? What should I say?
"Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?"
Ridiculous. I'd sound like an insurance salesman.
"Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?"
No, this is just as ridiculous. I'm not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who's going to buy a line like that?
Maybe the simple truth would do. "Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me."
No, she wouldn't believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you're not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I'd probably go to pieces. I'd never recover from the shock. I'm thirty-two, and that's what growing older is all about.
We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can't bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She's written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she's ever had.
I take a few more strides and turn: She's lost in the crowd.
Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical.
Oh, well. It would have started "Once upon a time" and ended "A sad story, don't you think?"
Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.
One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.
"This is amazing," he said. "I've been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you're the 100% perfect girl for me."
"And you," she said to him, "are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I'd pictured you in every detail. It's like a dream."
They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It's a miracle, a cosmic miracle.
As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one's dreams to come true so easily?
And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, "Let's test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other's 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we'll marry then and there. What do you think?"
"Yes," she said, "that is exactly what we should do."
And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.
The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other's 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.
One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season's terrible inluenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence's piggy bank.
They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love.
Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.
One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:
She is the 100% perfect girl for me.
He is the 100% perfect boy for me.
But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fourteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.
A sad story, don't you think?
Yes, that's it, that is what I should have said to her.
From 'the elephant vanishes' - by Haruki Murakami

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

i wonder how long she waited for me:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

POST II - May Kasahara on the Gooshy Source of Heat (Part 2/15):

"C'mere, Mr. Wind-Up Bird," said May Kasahara. She raised herself on the deck chair.
I got out and went to hers.
"Sit down right here Mr.Wind-Up Bird," said May Kasahara.
I did as I was told and sat down next to her.
"Show me your face Mr. Wind-Up Bird."
She stared directly at me for a time. Then, placing one hand on my knee, she pressed the palm of the other against the mark on my cheek.
"Poor Mr. Wind-Up Bird," said May Kasahara, in a near whisper. "I know you're going to take on all kinds of things. Even before you know it. And you won't have any choice in the matter. The way rain falls in a field. And now close your eyes Mr. Wind-Up Bird. Really tight. Like they're glued shut."
I closed my eyes tightly.
May Kasahara touched her lips to my mark-- her lips small and thin, like an extremely well-made imitation. Then she parted those lips and ran her tongue across my mark-- very slowly, covering every bit of it. The hand she had placed on my knee remained there the whole time. Its warm. moist touch came to me from far away, from a place still farther than if it had passed through all the fields in the world. Then she took my hand and touched it to the wound beside her eye. I caressed the half-inch scar. As I did so, the waves of her consciousness pulsed through my fingers and into me-- a delicate resonance of longing. Probably someone should take this girl in his arms and hold her tight, I thought. Probably someone other than me. Someone qualified to give her something.
"Goodbye Mr. Wind-Up Bird. See you again sometime."
excerpt from Haruki Murakami's 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'

Saturday, September 23, 2006

POST I - Quae Admiratio Concilio An Pervidi:

To my dear anonymous readers who have made the superbly-fantastic effort(!) to check this out, I reward you in spirit with one-hundred thousand brownie points and with this wonderfluff of an excerpt, that should itself be an article published in the Journal of Wonderful. Should it exist. A note of advice however: Length-wise, this article pushes it, so I suggest printing it and reading it at your leisure. But hey, who am I to dictate your pleasures? And if it suits your fancy, read the book dolls. It does not dissapoint. On to the main show kids...

Excerpt from David Lodge’s ‘How Far Can You Go’ (Penguin Books: London, 1980. Pg 113 - 121):

4. How They Lost the Fear of Hell (on birth control and the Catholic Church):

In 1968, the campuses of the world rose in chain-reaction revolt, Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and the civil rights movement started campaigning in Ulster. For Roman Catholics, however, even in Ulster, the event of the year was undoubtedly the publication, on 29 July, of the Pope’s long-awaited encyclical letter on birth control, Humanae Vitae. Its message was: no change.
The omniscience of novelists has its limits, and we shall not attempt to trace here the process of cogitation, debate, intrigue, fear, anxious prayer and unconscious motivation which finally produced that document. It is as difficult to enter into the mind of a Pope as it must be for a Pope to enter into the mind of, say, a young mother of three, in a double bed, who feels her husband’s caressing touch and is divided between the desire to turn to him and the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. It is said that Pope Paul was astonished and dismayed by the storm of criticism aroused within the Church. It was certainly not the sort of reception Popes had come to expect from their pronouncements. But in the democratic atmosphere recently created by Vatican II, Catholics convinced of the morality of contraception were no longer disposed to swallow meekly a rehash of discredited doctrine just because the Pope was wielding the spoon. Of course, if the Pope had come down on the other side of the argument, there would no doubt have been equally loud chorus of protest and complaint from the millions of Catholics who had followed loyally the traditional teaching at the cost of having many more children and much less sex than they would have liked, and were now too old, or too worn-out by parenthood, to benefit from a change in the rules—not to mention the priests who had sternly kept them toeing the line by threats of eternal punishment if they didn’t. The Pope, in short, was in a no-win situation. With hindsight, it is clear that his best course would have been to procrastinate and equivocate indefinitely so that the ban on the contraception was never explicitly disowned, but quietly allowed to lapse, like earlier papal anathemas against co-education, gaslighting and railways. However, by setting up in the glare of modern publicity a commission to investigate and report on the matter, first Pope John and then Pope Paul had maneuvered the Papacy into a dogmatic cul-de-sac from which there was no escape. The only saving grace in the situation (suggesting that the Holy Spirit might, after all, have been playing some part in the proceedings) was that it made clear on its publication that the encyclical was not an “infallible” pronouncement. This left open the theoretical possibility, however narrowly defined, of conscientious dissent from its conclusions, and of some future reconsideration of the issue.
Thus it came about that the first important test of the unity of the Catholic Church after Vatican II, of the relative power and influence of conservatives and progressives, laity and clergy, priests and bishops, national churches and the Holy See, was a great debate about—not, say, the nature of Christ and the meaning of his teaching in the light of modern knowledge—but about the precise conditions under which a man was permitted to introduce his penis and ejaculate his semen into the vagina of his lawfully wedded wife, a question on which Jesus Christ himself left no recorded opinion.
This was not, however, quite such a daft development as it seems on first consideration, for the issue of contraception was in fact one which drew in its train a host of more profound questions and implications, especially about the pleasure principle and its place in the Christian scheme of salvation. It may seem bizarre that Catholics should have been solemnly debating whether it was right for married couples to use reliable methods of contraception at a time when society at large was calling into question the value of monogamy itself—when schoolgirls still in gym-slips were being put on the Pill by their mothers, when young couples were living together in what used to be called sin as a matter of course, adultery was being institutionalized as a party game, and the arts and mass media were abandoning all restraints in the depiction and celebration of sexuality. But in fact there was a more than merely ironic connection between these developments inside and outside the Church. The availability of effective contraception was the thin end of a wedge of modern hedonism that had already turned Protestantism into a parody of itself and was now challenging the Roman Catholic ethos. Conservatives in the Church who predicted that approval of contraception for married couples would inevitably lead sooner or later to a general relaxation of traditional moral standards and indirectly encourage promiscuity, marital infidelity, sexual experiment and deviation of every kind, were essentially correct, and it was disingenuous of liberal Catholics to deny it. On the other hand, the conservatives had unknowingly conceded defeat long before approving, however grudgingly, the use of the Rhythm or Safe Method. Let me explain. (Patience, the story will resume shortly.)
It has always been recognized that the sexual act has two aspects or functions: I, procreation and II, the reciprocal giving and receiving of sensual pleasure. In traditional Catholic theology, Sex II was only legitimate as an incentive to, or spin-off from, Sex I—which of course was restricted to married couples; and some of the early Fathers thought that even for married couples, Sex II was probably a venial sin. With the development of a more humane theology of marriage, Sex II was dignified as the expression of mutual love between spouses, but it was still forbidden to separate this from Sex I, until the twentieth century, when, at first cautiously, and then more and more explicitly the Church began to teach that married couples might deliberately confine their sexual intercourse to the infertile period of the woman’s monthly cycle in order to regulate their families. This permission was still hedged about with qualifications—the method was only to be used with “serious reason”—but the vital principle had been conceded: Sex II was a Good Thing In Itself. Catholic pastoral and theological literature on the subject of marriage took up the topic with enthusiasm; the bad old days of repression, of shame and fear about human sexuality, were denounced—it was all the fault of St. Paul, or Augustine, or Plato—anyway, it was all a regrettable mistake; and married couples were joyfully urged to make love with, metaphorically speaking (and literally too if they liked), the lights on.
This was all very well, but certain consequences followed. If Sex II is recognized as a Good Thing In Itself, it is difficult to set limits, other than the general humanistic rule that nobody should be hurt, on how it may be enjoyed. For example, the traditional Christian disapproval of extramarital sex had an obvious social justification as a means of ensuring responsible parenthood and avoiding inbreeding, but with the development of efficient contraception these arguments lost most of their force, as secular society had already discovered by the mid-twentieth century. Why, therefore, should responsible adults have to be married to share with each other something Good In Itself? Or to take a more extreme example, anal intercourse, whether homosexual or heterosexual, had always been condemned in terms of the deepest loathing by traditional Christian moralists, sodomy being listed in the Penny Catechism as one of the Four Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance (the others, you may be curious to know, being Wilful Murder, Oppression of the Poor, and Defrauding Laborers of Their Wages). But if the sharing of sexual pleasure is a Good Thing In Itself, irrespective of the procreative function, it is difficult to see any objections, other than hygienic and aesthetic ones, to anal intercourse between consenting adults, for who is harmed by it? The same applies to masturbation, whether solitary or mutual, and oral-genital sex. As long as non-procreative orgasms are permitted, what does it matter how they are achieved?
Thus it can be seen that the ban on artificial birth control, the insistence that every sexual act must remain, at least theoretically, open to the possibility of conception, was the last fragile barrier holding back the Catholic community from joining the great collective pursuit of erotic fulfillment increasingly obsessing the rest of Western society in the sixth decade of the twentieth century; but the case for the ban had been fatally weakened by the admission that marital sex might be confined to the “safe period” with the deliberate intention of avoiding conception. In practice, the Safe Method was so unreliable that many couples wondered if it hadn’t been approved only because it wasn’t safe, thus ensuring that Catholics were restrained by the consciousness that they might after all have to pay the traditional price for their pleasure. Clerical and medical apologists for the method, however, never admitted as such; on the contrary, they encourage the faithful with assurances that Science would soon make the Safe Method as reliable as artificial contraception. (Father Brierly’s Parish Priest, in the course of a heated argument, assured him that “the Yanks were working on a little gadget like a wristwatch that would make it as simple as telling the time.”) But the greater the efforts made to achieve this goal, the more difficult it became to distinguish between the permitted and forbidden methods. There was nothing, for instance, noticeable “natural” about sticking a thermometer up your rectum every morning compared to slipping a diaphragm into your vagina at night. And if the happy day did ever dawn when the Safe Method was pronounced as reliable as the Pill, what possible reason, apart from medical or economic considerations, could there be for choosing one method rather than the other? And in that case, why wait till then to make up your mind?
Following such a train of thought to its logical conclusion, millions of married Catholics had, like Michael and Miriam, come to a decision to use artificial contraception without dropping out of the Church. Some couples needed the impetus of a special hardship or particular crisis to take this step (Angela went on the Pill immediately after the birth of her mentally handicapped child; and Tessa, though happily her new baby was born sound and healthy, followed suit, with Edward’s full support, neither of them being inclined to take any further risks) but once then had done so it seemed such an obviously sensible step to take that they could hardly understand why they hesitated so long. It helped, of course—indeed, it was absolutely vital—that, as explained above, they had lost the fear of Hell, since the whole system of religious authority and obedience in which they had been brought up, binding the Church together in a pyramid of which the base was the laity and the apex the Pope, depended on the fear of Hell as its ultimate sanction. If a Catholic couple decided, privately and with clear conscience, to use contraceptives, there was nothing that priest, bishop or Pope could do to stop them (except, in some countries, making the wherewithal difficult to obtain). Thus contraception was the issue on which many lay Catholics first attained moral autonomy, rid themselves of superstition, and ceased to regard their religion as, in the moral sphere, an encyclopaedic rule-book in which a clear answer was to be found to every possible question of conduct. They were not likely to be persuaded to reverse their decision by the tired arguments of Humanae Vitae, and some previously loyal souls were actually provoked by it into joining the rebels (Adrian, who had been teetering on the contraceptive brink for years, was so exasperated by the first reports of the encyclical that he rushed out of the house and startled the local chemist’s shop by strident demands for “a gross of sheaths prophylactic”—a phrase he dimly remembered from Army invoices, but which smote strangely on the ears of the girl behind the counter). Of course, there were many Catholics who with more or less resignation continued to believe that the Pope’s word was law, and many who disobeyed it with a residual sense of guilt that they were never able to lose completely, and yet others who finally left the Church in despair or disgust; but on the whole the most remarkable aspect of the whole affair was the newfound moral independence of the laity which it gradually revealed. Indeed, it could be said that those who suffered most from Humanae Vitae were not married layfolk at all, but the liberal and progressive clergy.
Conservative bishops and priests had the satisfaction of seeing their beliefs and pastoral practice endorsed by the Pope, but those who had, in the period of uncertainty immediately preceding the publication of the HV, interpreted the rules flexibly, or actually argued the case for their revision, were now awkwardly placed. What was for the laity a question of conduct which they might settle privately according to their own consciences was for the clergy a question of doctrine and obedience that was necessarily public. The Holy Father had spoken, and bishops and priests, whatever their own opinions about the matter, were required to promulgate and enforce his message from the pulpit and in the confessional. Some were only too pleased to do so; but many were not, and feared massive disillusionment and disaffection among the laity of the Church simply reverted to the old hard-line teaching. Bishops were in a particularly difficult position, because they could not reject Humanae Vitae without the risk of provoking schism. What the more liberal hierarchies did was to make a minimalist interpretation of the encyclical—to say that, while contraception was, as the Pope affirmed, objectively wrong, there might be a subjective circumstance which make it so venial a sin as scarcely to be worth worrying about, and certainly not a reason for ceasing to so to mass an Holy Communion. By this casuistry they accepted HV in principle while encouraging a tolerant and flexible approach to its enforcement in pastoral practice. Most of the priests who had been dismayed by the encyclical accepted this compromise, but some were unwilling or unable to do so, and if their bishop or religious superior happened to be conservative and authoritarian, the consequences could be serious.
Such priests were apt to become acutely conscious of internal contradictions in their own vocations. For the more deeply they were driven, by the pressure of debate and the threats of ecclesiastical discipline, to analyze the grounds of their dissent from HV, the further they were carried to an endorsement of sexual pleasure as a Good Thing In Itself. And the further they were carried in that direction, the more problematic their own vows of celibacy appeared. As long as sexual pleasure had been viewed with suspicion by Christian divines, as something hostile to spirituality, lawful only as part of man’s procreative function in God’s scheme, the vow of celibacy had an obvious point. Unmarried and chaste, the priest was materially free to serve his flock, and spiritually free from the distractions of fleshy indulgence. But when the new theology of marriage began to emerge, in which sexual love was redeemed from the repression and reticence of the past, and celebrated as (in the words of the Catholic Theological Society of America) “ self-liberating, other-enriching, honest, faithful, socially responsible, life-giving and joyous,” the value of celibacy no longer seemed self-evident, and a progressive priest might find himself in the paradoxical position of defending the right of the laity to enjoy pleasures he himself had renounced long ago, on grounds he no longer believed in. A similar collapse of confidence in the value of vowed virginity affected nuns.
Of course, it could still be argued that, without families of their own to care for, priests and nuns were free to dedicate themselves to the service of others; but this argument, too, only holds good as long as reliable contraception is forbidden. Otherwise, why should priests and nuns marry each other, and take vows of sterility instead rather than chastity, forgoing the satisfaction of having offspring in order to serve the community at large, but still enjoying the consolations of that interpersonal genital communion which, the orthodox wisdom of the modern age insists, is essential to mental and physical health? For that matter, why, given new control over their biology, should not women themselves be priests? For the prejudice against the ordination of women is demonstrably rooted in traditional sexual attitudes rather than theology or logic.
The crisis in the Church over birth control was not, therefore, the absurd diversion from more important matters that it first appeared to many observers, for it compelled thoughtful Catholics to re-examine and redefine their views on fundamental issues: the relationship between authority and conscience, between the religious and lay vocations, between flesh and spirit. The process of questioning and revision it triggered off continues, although Humanae Vitae itself is a dead letter to most of the laity and merely an embarrassing nuisance to most of the clergy. It is clear that the liberal, hedonistic spirit has achieved irresistible momentum within the Church as without, that young Catholics now reaching adulthood have much the same views about the importance of sexual fulfillment and the control of fertility as their non-Catholic peers, and that it is only a matter of time before priests are allowed to marry and women are ordained. There is, however, no cause for progressives to gloat or for conservatives to sulk. Let copulation thrive, by all means; but man cannot live by orgasms alone, and he certainly cannot die by them, except, very occasionally, in the clinical sense. The good news about sexual satisfaction has little to offer those who are crippled, chronically sick, mad, ugly, impotent—or old, which all of us will be in due course, unless we are dead already. Death, after all, is the overwhelming question to which sex provides no answer, only an occasional brief respite from thinking about it. But enough of this philosophizing.