Shoving in, a good way.

Forget about leaning in, yesterday I shoved in (almost), and it felt good. Initiated a conversation with a key person at work about job aspirations and options and expectations, and the discussion went well. At times, it is necessary to express your concerns and aspirations openly. Do it in a consultative and tactful manner, and be really open about doing it. If you second guess yourself out of it, you will never know nor will the people around you, and then the mystery of not knowing will forever tug at your inner self. Know your rights, give yourself a fair chance at your aspirations, share, listen, review and act.

One Task

Someone said, “There is something I’ve forgotten.”

There is one thing in the world you must never forget. You may forget everything else except that one thing, without any cause for worry. However if you remember and take care of everything else but forget that one thing, you will have accomplished nothing. It is as though a king were to send you to a village on a specific mission. You go and perform a hundred tasks, but if you neglect to take care of the task for which you were sent, it is as though you did absolutely nothing.

The human being has come into this world for a particular purpose. If he does not accomplish that purpose, he will have done nothing at all.

We offered the trust to the heavens, and the earth, and the mountains: and they refused to undertake it, and were afraid of it; but the human being undertook it=but surely, he has been unjust to himself, and foolish. [Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:72]

Rumi (adapted from ‘The Rumi Daybook”, selected and translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski)DSC00708

Know Thyself and know your World.

Photo Credit: https://1000awesomethings.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/long_car_ride.jpg

Some realizations of late:

Knowledge has sometimes come at the expense of increased cynicism and skepticism.

Analogy: The person with faint eyesight will not see the details (like that fine layer of dust on that chair), and would probably have settled down without much thought. The one with perfect vision has everything amplified – lengthening decision making, increasing doubt, probably preferring to stand in the end. Some results that could have brought greater utility were foregone due to this amplification of clarity. Just like how there are some people whom we dismiss as ‘naive’. Or she’s too green, a newbie really. Well, that newbie might see the world quite differently, perhaps that very naivety some scoff at, is ironically the necessity that empowered her to become a trailblazer. She didn’t see the past issues you saw, she wasn’t too bothered by the dust because she couldn’t see it.

Lesson: Details are only important insomuch as they do not distract you from the big picture.

Confidence and influence

There’s a tale “as old as time, song as old as rhyme” that has been circulating around where a Professor from one of the local universities once shared: that he found that¬†his Asian students (generally) pale in comparison to their Western peers, not so much because they lack the intelligence, but because they screen themselves too much, and end up not contributing to the discussion as actively as they could have in a classroom setting.

Well, I do believe things are changing – (have you seen those SMU Singaporean students for instance(?!) – PS: NUS ones don’t fare too badly too :P),¬† though perhaps cultural norms can at times be more limiting than empowering especially in the context of a learning environment.

But it’s an important point on confidence. I mean nodding furiously and over-thinking it in your head alone will not increase your intellectual integrity (you’d just be one of those fortune cats that keeps waving – fascinating for awhile, and then dwindle into a¬†wallpaper. We’ll need to speak up more, lean in more (thank you, Sheryl Sandberg) and contribute to the discussion because that’s the only way it can open up opportunities for you to showcase what you have, and thereby opening that platform to influence matters at hand – be it in the work context, play, social matters, etc. Point is, to trust in yourself enough, to say “I would like to share what I think about this because I want to add value to the conversation AND be added value to, if I’m wrong. In a nutshell, to not take yourself too seriously – sometimes we shoot ourselves before entering the circus thinking it were battlefield. Why so serious? Smile, breathe, have fun, enjoy the ride.

Lesson: You’re not Hello Kitty, you have a mouth, so share sincerely- speak and value add.

Importance of Execution as much as Vision

Since young, I remember having multiple conversations proposing endless list of solutions to this¬†‘world problem’ or another. “we ought to re-distribute food resources to xyz…”, “there should be no such thing as copyright laws, knowledge should be free for all”.. Meanwhile,¬†people are still dying from starvation, others are still falling behind in¬†the knowledge gap. Basically, I was not contributing towards alleviating such problems at all, if anything adding to useless banter.

Until one day – my cousin, (this was at least 5 years ago I believe) asked a poignant question, “It’s great to have so many ideas, but what are you going to do about it?” I don’t know if she knows this, but shout out to my cousin – Spish – if you’re reading this, please know that was one of the life-changing moments for me.

So much painful truth in that question. You can talk till the cows come home (actually why did the cows leave home again?)Anyway, ever since then, I’ve been doing more – volunteered for grassroots projects, led the Aerobics student club, signed up for things that scared me (a prestigious mentorship programme, networking sessions), did freelance emceeing, ran events – started a ‘Brown Bag series’ at work (a lunchtime conversations in the workplace – to promote openness in exchange of ideas and¬†boosted creativity), a halal food facebook page,¬†a drama, choreograph and won 2nd prize with a team at D&D, conceptualized, brought a team together to create a Project Happy Singapore video (that got featured on Singapore Tourism board’s website!), kick-started Project Khadijah with a couple of people – to help single mothers’ achieve financial independence through the matching of right opportunities (job or resource matching). More projects coming along, God-be Willing. The firsthand lessons gleaned from¬†experiences of translating a Vision into Reality (that creative process) are meaningful and empowering. And these efforts are far from perfect, there’s still so much room to add value via these platforms and more, but the point is at least I’m doing something about it.

Lesson: Done is better than perfect (yes), and infinitely better than ideas that live only in your head (double yes).

Structuring that Idea into Fruition

It’s easy to accept why a realized Vision is better than an imaginary one. But the devil lies in the journey. Transforming ideas into reality requires¬†effective action plans that drive you forward. Map that grand vision into¬†periodic milestones, and then give that plan its due¬†respect¬†by¬†executing with CD (courage and discipline). Time is of essence, our youth is depleting with every sec.¬†Without a plan- you’ll increase your susceptibility to lack of focus and effectiveness. Flexibility is key too – to adapt when circumstances deem your action plan unfavourable, but start with a plan first.

Lesson: If eating cookies from that top shelf is the vision, know that without that ladder (the stucture, plans and systems), the cookie will remain an illusion. (Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?)

Goals – keep asking, reviewing.

Plan – but keep the plan succinct. Move, move move. We will get there. So if you know me, you’d know that I’m a personality profile/ quiz buff- love reading about all of them –¬†the Colour brain theory’s one of them, the MBTI type, DISC profiling, etc. Most of us are keen to try one or another personality type profling (probably for the same reasons one might read horoscope?) Self awareness – what is more familiar, is less likely to evoke fear and anxiety. As we grow older, the need to know and be in control grows. But we evolve too, so keep engaging yourself (“Am I¬†happy with who /where¬†I’m at right now? Why/why not – what can I do about it?),¬†seek¬†opportunities to shake your boar once in awhile with something new that scares the heaven* out of you.

We’re constantly evolving – biologically, mentally (upwards I hope), emotionally¬†and physically too.¬†Give yourself room to evolve – head in the direction of what drives you, but also shake yourself up once in a while to¬†parasail out of your comfort zone.

Lesson: You’re not who you were a second ago. Let it go. ūüėõ

Last one: Let’s¬†try this – every morning¬†upon waking up,¬†take a moment to appreciate that we have been given¬†yet another chance to live and to do something about¬†our life. Keep moving, we have not arrived (not just yet)¬†and pray and seek¬†for wisdom to translate all¬†that we¬†have to effectively bring about good. Have a blast – enjoy the ride!

Freedom with unclasped wings

I finally made that decision. Friends closest to me, will know exactly what I’m talking about, if they don’t know yet (they will soon). I have been talking about this for years! Haha, it feels like a huge relief, because this decision has unclasped my wings that were stifled and tied down for the longest time. They’re still hurting, but the release has been so sweet, I’m reveling in this new taste of freedom. Can’t quite take flight yet, but I’m preparing. Nursing the wings, letting them heal, beating them slowly, peering around, surveying the horizons, taking the new view in, and taking my time. Now that my wings are free, I’m in no hurry to take flight just yet. Planning the route, and the next stopover, and what I need on this next bout of the journey, before I take off, Insha Allah.

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This is such an amazing analogy to me – because it has been something I’ve been waiting for, for the longest time, and finally found the courage to do. May Allah SWT guide me and grant me enough strength, courage, wisdom to do what is right, and may He grant me ease, Insha Allah. Sending you much love too – may your wings always be free, and may the winds steer you in the right direction, always. ūüôā

Don’t be afraid.

This is a reminder first and foremost to myself, for I seem to need this of late. Circumstances haven’t always been rosy, and I’m usually a rather private person when that happens – if you’re a loved one, and I reach out to you on a problem, know that it usually means it has gotten out of hand for me, and a tad too overwhelming. One can interpret that as strength, or just being a rather closed up person. I’ve been used to it, and I do believe it has been the foundation to my sense of independence as well. Nevertheless, those times, when it really overwhelms me, and I feel insecure, those are the times – I would like to remind myself, that¬† hey, you’ve gotten this far, trust yourself, believe in yourself, know that there is nothing you can’t achieve with effort, faith and prayers – often in the reverse direction. You will be okay, just as God has seen you through the many trials of various sizes, you will be ok, He’s watching over you now¬†too. Sending some love and prayers in your direction too whoever you may be, may He be our constant choice of unwavering guidance and compass. And when He feels distant, ask yourself who moved?

Apathy

Apathy-¬†the curse of a detached people that turns a blind eye to the¬†hypocrisy and evils of yesteryear, that judges prematurely – no, I don’t care enough this time, every time. The silent cancer that numbs the heart and cripples the soul and the very¬†root to mankind’s fall from undeserving Divine¬†grace.

Godspeed

“Godspeed”: Good wishes to someone who’s embarking on a journey.

Tsumago, Japan - trekked there in 2012.
We are Voyagers in this journey called life. (Tsumago, Japan – trekked there in 2012.)

That’s what every new year brings – the promise of another journey, for we are all¬†voyagers, with a heart that still believes in the promise of a better tomorrow¬†even if the burden may get heavier with every passing year filled with its share of¬†trials and jubilations.

The clearer the destination, the more straightforward the journey, the¬†lighter the burden, the speedier you go, the more positive the company,¬†the more¬†uplifting¬†this journey it will be.¬†¬†It’s straightforward and difficult at the same time.

Where do you want to go?
Where do you want to go? I prepared this for a sharing session in 2013.

1) Where are you heading?

2) What are the important stopovers to get there, and by when?

3) What do you need to gain or lose to ease the journey?

4) Who are the ones you’d like to have as support for your journey and to support in their respective¬†journeys?

Start with the destination,  work out the stops, prepare, go with a ready heart, reflect and recalibrate as you head along and take time to savor the journey even if  you may stumble once in a while.

I wish you Godspeed in this leg of the journey we call Life. ūüôā

Bangkok – Escaping to the Metropolis of Tomyum – Sawadeekha!

And the soul would forever be ill at ease, until it understands and accepts its true purpose in the lens of its Creator. Just like a hammer would make a lousy screwdriver and vice versa, the soul will keep searching until it fills the gaping hole within with the Eternal and aligns its very essence in that direction. If you are uneasy with your life, escapism in the form of holidays will remain at best, a brief respite in an endlessly unfulfilling illusion.

WARNING: ULTRA LONG POST AHEAD – READ BOLDED POINTS FOR OVERVIEW.

Favourite Shot in Bangkok

So I had 5 days in Bangkok – alone for the most part as I also had the chance to meet up with friends there, which is great because¬†being alone all the time can be a tad boring especially when you wish to share on your experiences with someone. Anyhow, I always wanted to try doing solo trips, so I’m really glad I could do this before I bid 2014 goodbye. This was a spontaneous trip away, booked my flight about 2 weeks before departure at about $400 on Jetstar and used the 5 days to explore within and without.¬†What I enjoyed about this solo trip was that¬†it forced my¬†senses out of slumber – violently letting the sunlight in, for clearly I only had my self to rely on, and to share experiences with. Any potential danger also needed quick witted assessment and action, but thankfully my trip was uneventful in that aspect though not without certain doubts.¬†Above all, it provided me with the¬†much needed space and time to reflect on the past year and think about the future.¬† I wanted to chronicle some of this trip’s highlights here for keepsake and recollection when my memory fails me, and for you if you’re interested. ūüôā

1. The premium Shangri La experience ~

This¬†“premium” word has become an inside joke amongst my colleagues and I cos we over-use this to describe almost every aspect of marketing – so much so we expect outsiders to understand what that should translate to. ūüėõ¬†So, it’s ok if you don’t quite get it. Even so, it¬†made me¬†craved for a similar “p” lodging experience when in Bangkok. Lo and behold, decided to book myself¬†a room in the exquisite Kreungthep wing of Shangri La Bangkok, which gives each of its 19 rooms a balcony view of the Chao Phraya river. ūüôā It was an overall *cough*premium*cough* experience, but to be very honest, there were details that were overlooked that made the experience pleasant at best, but not wow-worthy. For instance, I asked for bath bubbles for this room in my online booking under the ‘special requests’ portion of my online booking, but none were prepared or addressed. Boy do I sound like a pampered brat, but I suppose if you’re yearning for a truly stellar experience (and that can only be accomplished by attention to the details), then to me, Shangrila Bangkok¬†didn’t meet the mark. That’s just me though – I did meet a Spanish lady who swears by them, and who also happens to be a loyal member, and patron within Shangri La’s Golden circle (their loyalty club for regulars). What I did enjoy though was:

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1) The stellar view of the Chao Phraya river – the room looked every bit like what was advertised on Shangri La’s website.

Kudos on delivering on this advertising promise, Shangri La. Also, this is slightly strange but sitting in the balcony¬†made me want to smoke even though I’m not a smoker – just felt like it might complete the whole somber “I’m looking out to the river and being emo mood. Didn’t succumb to that one though. Brain won over impractical impulse (#cannothelpitI’mSingaporean).

View of Chao Phraya River from my Room DSC_1427

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2) The gargantuan luxurious room and king sized bed!

Needless to say, I utilized this to the fullest – in my definition, that means dancing till the wee hours of the morning (in my room). Imagine Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, and a mix of alternative rock, and my favourite Tuesday playlist from Spotify on replay. I should really stop spilling all my secrets so openly. ūüėõ

Room, Kreungthep Wing, Shangri La

3) The view from the outdoor foyer – just sprawled under the sun.

It was the perfect medley of birds chirping, water fountains gushing somewhere in the background and the occasional loud motor boat from the boat terminal – and the faint salty smell of the Chao Phraya river.

Outdoor garden DSC_1425

4) The buffet breakfast, afternoon tea time, evening cocktail drinks – all inclusive in the package for Kreungthep Wing’s¬†guests.

Made it hard to want to leave the hotel to be honest, and way way bad for that diet plan. But who goes on a diet on a holiday anyway! Point is moot.

Afternoon Tea for 1!

5) The free shuttle boat rides for Shangri La guests to Asiatique – a famous must visit tourist attraction off the Chao Phraya river.

To be honest though, this isn’t a big deal, since there are free boat rides for everyone from the Saphan Thaksin boat terminal (which is a stone’s throw from the Saphan Thaksin train station and a few minutes away from the hotel. But you have a quicker chance of getting on the boat from Shangri la¬†than if you were queuing with the rest of the world in the public queues.

Free Shangri La shuttle Boat to Asiatique

Other experiences I enjoyed:

Asiatique

Asiatique’s a 15 mins boat ride from Saphan Thaksin boat terminal. It gives you food,¬†shopping, and even a muay thai show, (The Legends of muay Thai). This show is¬†the kind you’d wanna catch at least once – good effects and moves, and every single muay thai personality there had bodies sculpted to perfection. :O Tickets cost 1000baht if you purchase them earlier from this small booth near the boat terminal but 1200baht or 1500baht (for the premium seats) closer to the stage. You can bargain for the premium seats at 1200baht (that’s around SGD50).

Highly touristified to be honest, and I got a tad tired of it after a while, but good to visit at least once. ūüôā

Photos on the way to and at Asiatique DSC05546 DSC05547 DSC05549 DSC05550 DSC05552 DSC05553 DSC05540 DSC05543 DSC05544

Asiatique (and Muay Thai show) DSC_1467 DSC_1468 DSC_1469

Massage!

Before I continue to bombard you with the shopping posts, I shall show your aching feet and body some mercy by recommending a superb massage place – one that a couple of friends recommended to me. Asia Herb Association– the massage recommended to me was the 90 mins Asian Herb Ball one – which is basically a full body massage followed by approximately 30 mins of massage using this herbal ball (which is a circular bag of hearbs -that’s been heated up – was scary at first, felt like an ultra hot pau out of the oven, but yor body would soon warm up to it. What played well to me – was the attention to details – remember the PREMIUM experience? Yup this one scored points – good customer service, they made me fill out a form indicating my problem areas I’d like the masseuse to pay more attention to (like shoulders, back, etc), then gave us tea while we wait and handed us a fan with common phrases and their Thai translation that you can use to communicate with your Thai masseuse (like Aircon is too warm, etc,etc. Wasn’t too cheap – paid a total of 1400thai baht for this – which is around SGD58, but hey, like I said – premiummm. I need to stop using the P word.

Asian Herb Association Thonglor branch DSC05605 DSC_1463

Chatuchak Weekend Market

For Singaporeans, imagine Bugis Village except twice in size at least. They sell everything, from lights, piggy banks (had almost 2 large shops dedicated to piggy banks of all kinds), shades, bags, clothes, clothes and more clothes, food and more. A must visit – especially for it’s hidden treasures of art pieces – if I have my own place, I’d probably get a couple of art pieces from here to hang up.

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Jim Thompson’s House

This American guy, Jim Thompson¬†was/ is (he mysteriously disappeared in 1961 in Cameron Highlands)- was¬†a loaded fella who popularized Thai Silk in the west – he brought Thai Silk samples to Britain, US fashion houses, and it took off especially after the King and I movie (which used Thai silk). He has a lovely house on huge sprawling lands near the National Stadium station (about a 10 mins walk away). Pay 100baht adults) or 50 baht (if you’re a student) for a house tour. I enjoyed the tour its experiential value which provided¬†and a good break from shopping.

Platinum Mall

This is supposedly Wholesalers’ paradise, and I can understand why – almost every shop offers wholesale price listings (if you get 2 or 3 pieces of any clothes/ bag etc from these stores. Many tourists came over with their luggage – presumably empty so they could be filled. I got very tired of it eithin an hour though – but I did get 2 leather sandals and 1 top, hard to resist it completely.

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Siam Paragon and the malls within Siam and Chit Lom

Siam and Chit Lom are like Orchard and Somerset – a shopper’s haven. They take their¬†Christmas d√©cor very seriously so¬†even if you’re not a shopper, it’d be a good experience to check this out.

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Siam Paragon is like Takashimaya in Singapore – and its cinema is a must watch. Pay 100 baht (around 4SGD) for a movie experience you’d love – the whole deal: ¬†ultra plush velvet chairs with pretty ample leg space and slightly reclinable chairs.¬†Urm, PREMIUM. Our cinemas in Sg don’t match up, seriously. Watched Hobbit and Exodus here, and it was so worth it (especially since The Hobbit only screened in Sg on 23rd onwards – I watched it on the 20th). ūüėõ

DSC_1393 Check out these luxury car displays within Siam Paragon - they must have used a crane to bring them up onto the 2nd floor.

DSC05564 DSC05565 Their Movie Sets and Photo-taking spots - the Thais LOVE taking photos (wefies. selfies, whichever).

If you’re a book lover, you have to check out the Kinokuniya in Siam Paragon – most of their bookstores only house Thai books, so Kinokuniya is your answer to a wide selection of books. The only mistake I made was not to bring books to Thailand which is a problem for solo travelers like me, but Kino solved that for me, I left with 3 awesome books (including a gem of a find that I’d highly recommend – The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman” by Denis Th√©riault, one of my favourite books now. Kino has NEVER failed me yet, really even in SG. ‚̧

Ok,¬†apart from all these superficial activities¬†that allowed me to¬†do my part to contribute to Thailand’s economy – what I enjoyed most was the quiet time and the interactions with people I’m glad I can call friends like April¬†who also kindly hosted me in her cool apartment once the¬†“premium” Shangri La experience expired. April took me to a really good Thai restaurant – highly recommended and this chill dessert caf√© with a beautiful and cosy seating area outside with bean bags and cushions that allows you to just gaze up at the stars. Will surely be back here sometime in the future, Insha Allah.

DSC05586 DSC05581 DSC05583 DSC05585 DSC05578 With April, and that awesome Thai restaurant and then another Cafe with an awesome chillout space outside

MBK (National Stadium station)

This is a regular mall (that’s connected to the National Stadium BTS station),¬†with its variety of pharmacies, clothes and bag stores and food! For the Muslims, there’s this famous halal Thai restaurant called Yana restaurant on the 4th level of MBK mall which I didn’t try, unfortunately. But it looks pretty good – as far as display and menus go. ūüėõ

Yana Restaurant, MBK DSC_1478

I tried the food of another halal food stall located in the food court on the 6th level of this mall instead Рcalled: Curried Chicken with Saffron Rice. Bought a plate of chicken rice with a huge bowl of chicken soup Рvery filling, fried chicken was tasty and tender. It came with its own bit of chilli powder like most Thai dishes Рso to me, this fits the bill of Thai food. They have the usual Tom yam, etc too.

Food from the 'Curried Chicken and Saffron Rice' stall DSC_1475

One point to note: Most of these food courts (including the one in Platinum mall)¬†are pretty advanced – the respective food stalls don’t accept cash – you have to purchase top up cards with values you can dictate¬†from the main counters.

You should be able to get a decent meal and drink within 120baht – slightly below SGD5/ USD4. It’s ok to top up a bit more and refund the balance after you’re done.

More café hopping in Asok

Checked out 2 of the recommended cafes by IronLadyChef (check the post out here, if you’re keen)¬†– “Kuppa” and “Coffee Alley in the Garden”. Had a cake and a latte in Kuppa – loved the ambience here and the strange unassumingly delish¬†piece of cake we ordered.

Coffee alley in the Garden is supposed to have a pretty nice garden, which it did – except we took refuge in the mercy of the aircon inside, and were very happy admiring the garden from afar. ūüėõ They’re quite¬†a walk ( at least 10 mins) from the Asok BTS station though, but worth¬†checking¬†out if you’re not in a hurry. Nothing too special though – quite certain you can get coffee/ cakes of similar quality elsewhere in a random eatery/ caf√© within¬†most shopping malls. ¬†

Latte and Concord cake from Kuppa IMG_20141224_163717

Holy guacamole, this has turned out to be a way longer post than intended (2161 words) so the self -reflection bit can wait till another post.

Hope this has been a useful post! Lakon!

Rekha

Rekha, a girl with tousled dark wavy hair – hair her aunt refers to as goat’s poop because of the twirls, something she must have seen from her rare travels overseas to nearby villages. Rarely travelling because she cared deeply for her mother; “I¬†don’t need to travel, Rekha.¬†When I don’t have¬†her around, I have all the time in the world to travel.” she pictured her aunt waving towards¬†Rekha’s grandmother. That very lady who was her soulmate and arch-enemy all rolled into one. “Be careful what you do onto others, you’ll get the balasan by others at your workplace”, her grandmother warned Rekha’s mother as she sat regally against the rattan sofa whilst the plump domestic helper in neon blue shorts kneads every knot away in her feet like one would to¬†chapatti dough. There was endless squabbling once again, something she had gotten used to. Rekha exited the¬† house quietly, walked a few meters away to the “verandah” outside their home, a common fixture in most old¬†HDB flats in her area – something they referred to as the “hall” in their family, one that has seen both happy and painful ceremonies throughout the 27 years of her life – her 4th birthday parties with young cousins, before she knew what pain meant, and sadder ones like the funeral of her grandfather. She winced at the thought of her grandfather – he was a¬†true gentleman, “There is no difference between the lavatory and the cemetery, when you have to go, you have to go!” he half joked, as he chuckled with a twinkle in his eyes.¬†She brushed thoughts of her grandpa aside, she¬†needed the quiet ever more so¬†now, because she had to make a call. Her modem was down. She contemplated taking out her anger at the faceless customer service agent miles away for disconnecting her from the world wide web that ironically provided her the much needed disconnect with the reality that was her noisy home.

And yet, she held back – for what wrong had that faceless customer service agent done other than being a victim of his circumstances too – that was unemployment in a heavily populated nation as rich in culture as it was in its endless poor¬†pool of IT and engineering graduates all¬†clamoring for a job and¬†settling for that of an underpaid¬†call center service agent, only to receive the brunt of first world customers’ anger against a corporation they were loyal to only in name. No, she wouldn’t take this out on them. Everyone had their fair share of pain – God was just in that way too.