the Gods must have been smiling down at me …

3rd October 2010 is a day to remember.
Definitely not because I became older {and a tat less fun; i.e. wiser}.
But 2010 was a tough and ‘tight’ year for me… 
and the Gods must have been smiling down at me.
I’ve always consoled myself that despite the tiring, never ending hours in the Bank, and projects {most of which are self created by a few of us} keeps piling up, never had I had the ability and control of timing my holidays as well as I have now {… somewhat}.
Note, this statement is of course subject to the test of relativity.
When I was consulting, time and ‘time off’ was not mine. I was bound by the commitments and assignments the firm would received, and at a moment’s notice I am back to accumulating frequent flyer points, which is super cool, only in theory as often I would just transfer those points to others dis-grudgingly as I get penalised.
So whilst I don’t get paid for “days of nothingness” {i.e. staring into space and spacing out, aka formally ‘bench time’} for the past 4 years plus in the Bank, I get my fixed blocked out date rather early on the year. This comprise first and foremost crucial time like “performance leveling”, “bonus and increment payout”, “budget and strategy”, and all dreadfully futile Board Meetings.
With these mapped out, usually by November/December of the previous year, I am free to ‘block out’ days and take my ‘block leaves’ that are great for long vacation, NGO projects et cetera.
This again of course is only in theory in terms of cool-ness.
Fact is with 6-8 Board Meetings every year, and the rest of the stuff taking up blocks of 3-6 weeks  for completion … the ‘truly free, do as you wish’ block time is far and between.
Coupled by some restriction by the boss {ahem! yes, demi-God determines} … no leave during school holiday {coz I am bloody single} or during the Ramadhan month or during festivity as well {coz I am bloody single again} … I don’t have that much days off; hence the bad habit  cultivated of ‘burning’ off something between 35-40% of my paid days off {i.e. annual leave}.
Whilst in theory logic does seem to prevail that one is already enjoying 16 days public holidays in Kuala Lumpur, plus 52.177457 weekends in a year, it’s impossible to utilised another 26 days annual paid leave. Surely one cannot be productive otherwise, but nonetheless it is frustrating.
For me, it is frustrating because:
In the last 4 years plus, I was not permitted to take any additional time off during Chinese New Year. I am Chinese for the record. 
{my leave application is still pending … and ahem, yes, affirmative. Demi-God, aka Boss, does read this blog! ha ha ha}
I can never take time off to go for the photo workshops I want to attend.
 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Last year I had been wanting to join The Travel Photographer’s workshop in late-January although this is a near impossibility with performance leveling, bonus and increment and Board Meeting happening during the Jan-Feb time line annually. So I opted for something geographically closer to minimise travel time and a date/period that was generally void of activities; the Bali Workshop.
3 months or so after registering, I found myself in an awkward position.
Disappointed. Angry. Torn. Embarrassed
I finally had to do the inevitable. Emailed and apologised profusely on the need to back down.
I suppose the Executive School and posting had to come first; it wasn’t seriously a matter of choice considering that I was constantly reminded of the fact that I was requested to be at work during a Board Meeting day when I should be by my mother’s side when she received her biopsy report.
So… there goes my long awaited photo workshop. 
Knowledge and past experiences dictates that The Travel Photographer’s workshop would undoubtedly take a very low spot on the ‘ladder of compassion’.

As I reluctantly dragged myself to Bali in October; a trip I had to fulfill as my mother’s personal tour guide. Frankly, after all the work related activities and traveling, I was looking forward to a deep long slumber as the cosmic aligned themselves for another year in my life. But as fate {or rather filial obligations} had it, I was to spend it in Ubud.
… but the Gods must have been smiling down at me.
On 3rd October 2010, I was presented with 3 gifts:
a royal wedding in the morning 
a cremation at noon 
{spa to wash off the grim and exhaustion of the day}
a temple festival in the evening 
… all of which were unplanned, but I stumbled upon one after another without any effort on my part.
So, while I had missed the tutelage of one of the truly few photographers I admire – Tewfic El-Sawy …
… but the Gods must have been smiling down at me and I managed to photograph events that usually happens in July-August; as timed by The Travel Photographer’s workshop. Having not photograph any events such as these before, and one that involves a cadaver {it’s amazing I considered and went through some med-school time}, I had a tough time from the technical standpoint as well as emotional front. 
For days I had a queasy feeling about the cremation and would not even physically touch the Compact Flash cards that stored the digitally captured photos… as if it was akin to touching the cadaver. 
For weeks I could not bring myself to transfer or download the images from the Compact Flash cards … and when I finally mustered enough guts, I did it during my lunch break in the presence of daylight and many people around me.
For months I did not open the file … and just a couple of weeks ago, I peeked into the folder … {gulp} the coward in me is still present. I had only managed to process one photo {published in Penelope Gan | Photoblog HERE} … of which I still have strong photographic memory of. As for the black bull and the flames … gosh … this would take me years I suppose. Yes, ironic for me. Contradictory in fact when you consider the fact that I have  dated a war photojournalist, catalogue the images and get a emotional lift to cloud 9 just looking at some prominent {and not so prominent} war photojournalists work!
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Check out the Odalan (Bali Temple Festival HERE) too.
This year again, I am unable to take time off for the two workshops geared for:
January-February “In Search of Sufis in Gujarat”  
{performance rating leveling, bonus and increments, Board Meeting} 
September-October “Kolkata’s Cult of Durga”
{budget and strategy, Board Meeting}

6 thoughts on “the Gods must have been smiling down at me …

  1. @foto.grapherYES. Totally lucky … it was a good trip. And the spa was amazing and cheap.@photofreakRates are pretty good actually. No hassle of arranging the logistics. Accommondation and travel is 4 stars and you'd actually appreciate and thank god for it after a long tiring day, especially in the less troden places. Contact time with Tewfic is fantastic – a lot of learnings, tips and advice you'd get from Tewfic and participants both on site shoot and after. And oh, many, many hours of shooting.

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