Teddy Mobile Clinic Observations

Overview of their Routine

Teddy Mobile Clinic’s team usual meeting point would often be at Jalan Hang Lekiu, in front of Segi College, KL.

By 9:30 p.m. they will be setting up their shop – consisting of makeshift tables and chairs, all methodically placed.

This also includes makeshift tables for the Clinic’s new clients who register under the Kechara Soup Kitchen Society – a charitable non-profit organization inspired by H.E. Tsem Rinpoche to help marginalised communities.

There are also makeshift tables for returning patients all arranged on the sidewalk of the street.

After a patient registers, they move on to another table where their blood pressure and sugar level are checked, and then they go to designated tables for their doctor’s consultation, all free of charge.

After seeing the doctors, they move on to the pharmacist’s table to collect their medicines.

Bentong Prison Observation and Thoughts

“On the day that the prisoners will be released, the Director/Warden will be there, and a list of his bio, weight before and after prison, crimes and time served will be called out. We then give a test to see if they have changed and improved themselves. Each inmate will go to a religious class and be assigned their guru. If you’re Muslim you go to the Islamic classes and if you’re Buddhist or Hindu you go to those religious classes. We tell them ‘when you walked in here, you were empty, you did not know many good things. You now leave with goodness in you‘.

The majority of prisoners here are Malays, about 60% of them, with 40% Chinese and Indians. There are 3000 inmates in this prison, and 200 of them are women. The women are imprisoned mostly because of drugs, and the men’s crimes vary from drugs to rape and assault. However, most of the prisoners are there because of drug-related crimes.

For inmates, their uniforms vary in color. We measure them by months. If you’re here for more than 12 months, you will be wearing dark blue uniforms. Those who had attempted to escape out of prison will be wearing those black and white striped uniforms.

They spend their time doing work – we pay them and they gain valuable skills that they can use after they have served their sentence.

Death row prisoners (those who have been served death sentences and are awaiting their time) are not allowed to go out and work. They are secured in the maximum-security cells, with only 1 hour a day given to go out on a break.

Their food and meals are special too – the chicken that we serve does not contain any bones. This is because they can potentially use this to end their own life.

Going up the rolling hills of Genting, we end up at Bentong prison. They briefed us, we had our bags and had our bodies thoroughly checked for items that are not supposed to be in there. No phones, knives, allowed to be brought in, and no bags either.

I only walked in with my watch, pen (no notepad), Nikon D610 camera with the 70-20mm lens and the Canon G7X Mark II.

The event was organized with Resort Genting and the DYTM Tengku Puan Pahang Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah, where along with famed Chef Vitalise have taught the women on how to create fine Malay cuisine. These foods ranging from sweet to savory, and they had all been compiled in her cooking books.

While a Princess could have better things to do, it was great and heartening to see that she had spent all this time with the female inmates, in that hot sweaty condition teaching them life lessons. The fact that a member of the royalty mixed around with those who had committed crimes and might be possibly dangerous is ennobling.

And to see hardcore uber-masculine men who have shifty, hardened eyes, working on the intricacies of textile and sowing, weaving songket items of clothing seemed odd in some sense – a usually female activity, in a female industry (fashion – although thinking about it all great fashion houses are built by men like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, and Louis Vuitton.

I hope that these men aren’t just playing nice when armed officers and wardens are there, and when they are out there in the world they will go back to their bad ways. That is in itself sad and heartbreaking to see.

But looking at it from my gut feeling – I didn’t see bad evil human beings. I saw men who were born into poverty, those without education and had nothing else better to do, had to do other things to survive in this world and did not have the same opportunities – education mostly – as us lucky few to climb out of the circle of poverty.

Because it is just sad to see them released to the world, hoping and wanting to start a new better life but because of stigma and lack of resources/education to move up higher in the world, that they would revert back to their previous behaviors.”

 

Written by Mushamir Mustafa

“I chose to use my voice to fight for the freedom and liberation of my people.”

[In Character] My name is Shivani Chandra, a first-generation Indian migrant. I come from a family of power and privilege, hence I chose to use my voice to fight for the freedom and liberation of my people. At first, I thought everything in life was positive and optimistic, but instead, it broke me into pieces, knowing that Mr Veerasamy thought of me as a nobody, but here I am today, as my own woman and star campaigner for MIC. Furthermore, it’s utterly disappointing that the majority thinks that the way to education is of the Western world. How can you learn to appreciate any other culture when you are not given the opportunity to appreciate your very own culture?

The year 1955, I came into Malaya in hopes of a brighter future, instead came to the realization that Malaya was under the British administration. To my fellow Indian immigrants who are coming here, we came here in search of hopes and dreams, but we have not won our independence like how Gandhi did for India. But now that you are here, this is your land and this is your nation, fight for it and never ever lose hope. 

MALAYA RELIVED

The second installment of Liver & Lung of immersive musical series, which seeks to unveil the cultural challenges our ancestors had to overcome in their fight for Malayan independence. 

 

“I blushed thinking that it was love at first sight because I’m far too cynical for things like that.”

[In character] I’m Sylvia Graham, I write for the Times Newspaper in London which is why I came over to Malaya. Well it must have been a few days ago now. You see I have this marvelous idea for an article, and I beg the newspaper to let me travel over here and write it. I was hoping it would be the article of my career to tell you the truth. But then I went to this rally, I was convinced that I missed the elections, but I hadn’t. Something marvelous happened in fact. I met a man. A man called Raj Veerasamy. 

  I blushed thinking that it was love at first sight because I’m far too cynical for things like that. But I don’t know, it took me by surprise. It was one of those things that you never really expected. I traveled six thousand miles for my career essentially. And then I realized, there was no point in that anymore. My life has found a new meaning. And I was supposed to, I guess to go over whoever that bought me here, to build him up, to make sure that he could lead the party, the MIC in the best way possible. And I would support that through writing speeches. Which is what happened. 

  The relationship was good for a while, I think there were some tiny issues, but then culture comes into it. We both make sacrifices, one after the other. From the types of food, we like the type of friends we make. Things are rather different. You see love is a complicated thing, sometimes your emotions rule your head and then other times, your brain takes over. And I realized I wasn’t really using mine. And I was so full of ambition that I put everything on hold, for a man, and when he couldn’t give me what I wanted I thought, “I sacrificed everything and I want more.” Unnecessarily he wanted more too. And it’s a quite sad ending though. We didn’t work out. As a result, I fled, move back to London to write for the paper. To reclaim what was once mine. 

  I tried my best to fit in. Honestly, I did. I sampled the food, I even wore the clothes as they were. But it wasn’t enough somehow. I was always an outsider you see. I did try my best but people sometimes when they look, they look pass. I guess what’s staring them at the face. And I think I was very much the same, some parts. And probably held a lot of prejudice too. 

  My advice to all the girls out there is, don’t be scared. If you want to do something and your heart says to do it, then just go for it with no regrets. 

MALAYA RELIVED

The second installment of Liver & Lung of immersive musical series, which seeks to unveil the cultural challenges our ancestors had to overcome in their fight for Malayan independence. 

“Everyone looked at me as if I was in denial, and I lost my friends and family because of that.”

[In character] I’m Raj Veerasamy, the Deputy state leader of the Selangor Malayan Indian Congress (MIC). It was a long and hard struggle to get to that point. My position is given by the community who truly place their trust in their leaders. It was a hard struggle accompanied by a swell of ground support, which put me just below the state leader of the MIC. 

  I believed during that time I was fighting for a new Malaya, a new federation without any interference of foreign governance. And I believed that every race that had been in Malaya were to be given equal opportunities, standings and rights, because they were all there at the same point of time. They were all brought up in Malaya in different ways as a result of the racial and cultural split made by the foreign governments so I think it is in the best interest of the people of Malaya that this new federation looks at everyone from similar standing, at the very start.

  As for my love life, it has been two years since my wife’s passing, which ultimately led me to dive deeper into my work. That is all I can think about. I have been working closely with this Times journalist who came from London. I thought she was a male at first because of her initials, ‘S.I.D Abraham’. But all of that changed as soon as I met her, with this whole swell of emotions coming out of me. I wondered to myself, “Who is this? I’ve never seen this beauty before.” And we did share a moment for a while there. She is very different from everyone else I’ve met. And she slowly, yet persistently gained my trust and confidence until I finally let go, opening my heart, which I have been locking up for so long. All because I thought I finally found someone who knows and understands my struggle and she is putting her career at stake just for me. This made me fall in love with her. And for that, I tried to give her everything. 

  But being an Indian in Malaya and having a relationship with a foreigner creates this stigma of, “Why, is there no one else here that good enough for you?” 

Someone even said to me that I was a freedom fighter who was supposed to fight for independence and yet I gave all of that away by having a relationship with a white woman – a person whose country I was expected to fight against. Everyone looked at me as if I was in denial, and I lost my friends and family because of that. But I didn’t care because at the end of the day what I wanted was her and I love her. I made a lot of sacrifices just to be with her. Although in the end, she penned a goodbye letter to me, in the middle of my speech at Padang Merdeka. I then decided that I did not want this anymore, because of everything that has already happened. Whether or not I’m here, it’s not going to make a big difference. So, I let all of this go and went after my dream, which was to be with Sylvia. But sadly, it was too late. When I said goodbye to Kuala Lumpur, she too waved her goodbye at me and left for London.

MALAYA RELIVED

The second installment of Liver & Lung of immersive musical series, which seeks to unveil the cultural challenges our ancestors had to overcome in their fight for Malayan independence. 

Edited by Sydrah M.

“We have to stay strong, because these people just lost everything in a blink of an eye.”

What was your most challenging experience so far as a firefighter?

(On the right)

“It was during Ramadan so we were fasting, and didn’t have the usual stamina to fight the fire but had to summon all our energy as people were crying and telling of how their books are gone, their homes, how the victims are wondering what’ll they do for upcoming Raya.

“We have to stay strong, because these people just lost everything in a blink of an eye. Yes we are firefighters, but we are also women.

“It was also a squatter settlement and those structures can be fire hazards and the cramped illegally constructed buildings allow the fire to spread quickly”.

“Also, we undergo the same specialized training as men. We even wear the same uniform, so its a bit of a problem. The equipment come from the United States, so its all big. The coat, the boots…and I remember falling down once!”

(On the left)

“It was a 6-hour fight with a fire in a clubhouse, where everything was closed, no doors, so the condition is right for the fire to spread easily because there’s no air going inside.

“So we were trying to figure out how can we find a way to bring in some air to help kill the fire.

“In the end, we had to force open the roof using the TTL (the big fire truck with the crane-like ladder extension) and used the chainsaw to open up the roof. We didn’t eat, drink, and was just at it for 6 hours starting from 6am till 1pm.

“It started from the kitchen when they were cooking water and then it exploded. Someone probably forgot they left it there, and it was just small fire. but because there was no big gusts of wind or air, it became bigger and bigger. Thank god there wasn’t many people in it.

“Being a firefighter is very adventurous, and there many challenges. We were afraid at first but after training it becomes automatic and we aren’t afraid anymore.”

“We call it the ‘Rashomon’ effect”

“I started playing instruments in Form 4 when I was 16. It actually started with me writing poetry in Form 1 which eventually became lyrics and eventually I was playing melodies in my head. Singing in my head wasn’t enough so I picked up the guitar.

I mainly play the guitar and a bit of keyboard, piano, drums and whatever people need me to play I’ll learn just for that purpose. I also like to write ballads, ambient music, and I am part of a post-rock band. I prefer very emotional stuff as the emotional ones are more touching.

Other than my day job, I’m a full-time staff here doing music for the production. Previously, I’ve worked with the sound designer who is also the music director. He decided to hire me for the Rashomon play as I have experience working with him and the director.

For the Rashomon play, all the music that the audience hears was all played live except for the Japanese flute – that was sourced online.

During the play, we played the Chinese drums which I think is called Tanggu, guitar, there’s an orchestra, bass drums and we also have smaller percussions.

I don’t really like saying that I have a natural musical ability cause compared to others, they are way more fluent than me. For me, my process is a lot of remembering and rehearsing.

Working with everyone in this play was fun. What we’ve experienced in our lives is very relatable to the play. We call it the ‘Rashomon’ effect. For example, there were a lot of forgetful moments like I almost lost my phone and another two people actually lost their phone during production. It was a very weird experience.

I first got to know the two Japanese actors. It was very refreshing to work with non-Malaysians. Their ethics are very different – they’re always way earlier. They come 2-3 hours earlier to warm up.

I definitely draw events from my personal life to help me feel the emotions of the characters. The play’s fakeness and ambiance is definitely reflected everywhere around us, quite aptly with the current political situation. Cause politicians always have that layer, a mask. Similar to the gatekeepers.

The most important ingredient to make a good musical piece for me is for it to be grounded, in the sense that it can’t be big like a musical theatre as that’s more for having fun. But this kind of play has to be grounded. Relatable.

I think for me the most important thing when making music for this kind of play is always to make something that is relatable for the actors and most importantly the audience.”

“More action is better at the Rashomon gates”

(In character) “ I’m one of the spirits that decided to call the Rashomon gates my home.
I am one of their gatekeepers and essentially an observer. I just observe what happens here and my friends and I mess with anyone who passes through our gates.
I’ve never actually interacted with any human beings that trespass the Rashomon gates because humans can’t see us but they can feel our presence. If we get too rowdy, they can feel our chaotic energy somewhere. We’ve never interacted but we poke fun of them through our energy.
My friends and I have known each other for hundreds of years. We call ourselves a family. We each have different characters and nuances that complement each other very well, that’s why we’ve been together here in Rashomon for the longest of time.
Killings here are not as common as you would think but when it does happen, we really enjoy it because we’re together and it gives us a lot of things to think about.
I would like to see more people arguing and fighting, more action is better at the Rashomon gates as otherwise, it gets really quiet here.
I’ll tell people who have never been to Rashomon gates to be careful, because anyone that sees us, hears us or feels our energy, will go through a hard time.”

– Gatekeeper played by Adam Hamizan

“Each one of them is the truth, but can you bear the truth?”

“I’m the person who witnessed the death of the samurai and found his body. I’m questioning all the different stories created by the wife and Tajomaru…it is all lies.

I’ve been here my whole life, this is my home. The problem is, they all lie, and I’ve never heard more mysterious stories than this.

One thing I can tell you is that everyone lies once in their life, it’s how you redeem yourself. How do you bear the consequences of lying? For me, maybe I lie, but I believe my story is true so what I can tell you is that as long as you think you’re right or you’re wrong, as long as you redeem yourself that’s all that matters.

I want my son to be able to tell me everything and I want him to be okay having me as his stepfather. I believe everything will be alright as my son will be a good man.

Don’t enter the Rashomon gates, don’t come to watch Rashomon. But if you do, just bear in mind that whatever we’re trying to tell you is the truth, each one of them is the truth, but can you bear the truth?”


– The WoodCutter Kazuki’s perspective played by Nabil Musawir

“I needed someone who can accept me for myself.”

(In character) “Money was not everything, I also needed acceptance. The relationship with my husband was great, we love each other and we understand each other. Our life was also very rich as he is a samurai so we lived comfortably. However, it didn’t feel enough for me, I needed acceptance. I am very tough and aggressive and in many cases, I have different sides in me. I needed someone who can accept me for myself. For us Japanese women, we have to think about how to live and how to survive, it was very difficult in Japan at the time so a woman must decide on getting a husband first. If I had gotten raped, I cannot burden the shame to live anymore and I also could not be alone because I cannot earn money. So I have to decide, I have no choice. If I had the option to be free, I will most likely be with Tajomaru. I felt very fearful and in denial at first but little by little, I understand Tajomaru and I accepted him.”

– The Wife’s perspective played by Maiya Goshima