Wednesday, December 21, 2011

from my p.o.v. : memoirs of a geisha

I can't believe after reading more than half of the book, i've only just realised that it's a fiction! :O Know how i came to finally realise? I googled for the painting that was mentioned in the story, well, in the hope of seeing some depictions of the setting to enhance my imagination, only to find out in google answer; 'the story is a fiction, so all the characters are not real''. Oh the disappointment. D:
This all owes to the translator's note, signed Jakoob Haarhuis, Professor of Japanese History, while the author's name has been clearly printed on the front page, Arthur Golden! Oh i can't seem to get over my foolishness. I was completely deceived! Yet somehow, i can't help to think, that is exactly why it is put there. To make it more realistic, and give the impression to people, the one it gave me. Clever indeed.

Throughout the story, you must expect to encounter a lot of japanese words like okiya, obi, different geisha hairstyles, the different tools etc. At first i was ready with my laptop in front to google those words but in time, i just went with the flow. At some point or another, i was able to guess what the words meant anyway.

All in all, I think the author really did a thorough research. The story was delivered from a first person point of view. Any of you who have ever recreate a story by using first person point of view should know that it is super hard, because well, you must BE the person. Understand the emotions,be familiar with the culture and be vivid as well as intimate with the personal experiences. And from what i've read, the culture was so rich, so, so rich that i can imagine Sayuri herself was speaking. I mean, geisha culture is a mystery, is of secrets. Valued and protected. To be able to describe it clearly, one must have been living in one themselves. I'm really amazed at how delicate and precise the story was told.

Opss, let's take a moment back. I should describe briefly what this story is about. This book is centered around a girl named Chiyo, which was later known by her geisha name, Sayuri. She used to live as a little girl in a little fishing village with a sick mother and a really old father. Mr. Tanaka, the owner of a fish restaurant there, somewhat the rich man of the village, thought it was his duty to save these poor children, Chiyo and her older sister, Satsu. Poor Chiyo thought Mr. Tanaka was going to adopt them, but instead they were sold to a geisha village. Somehow, he hoped that these will help the children open a path for a better future. Chiyo was taken by the Nitta house in Gion while Satsu who hasn't been blessed with much beauty was sent to a prostitution village. The only geisha of the house was Hatsumomo, who was the most beautiful geisha at the time, yet the most notorious and venomous woman in town. Hatsumomo can't stand other people being better than she was and she became jealous the moment she set her eyes on Chiyo. This is because Chiyo had a pair of extraordinary blue-grey eyes. Mr. Tanaka once sent a letter along with tablets of memorial of Chiyo's parent said roughly, along with the news of her parents' death, ''It's rare for a swan to be born amongst birds'' so he wished that she'd make full use of her opportunity there to learn and become a geisha.

Hatsumomo is a very clever woman. She went out of her way to destroy Chiyo's future till Mother of the house decided that she could not become a geisha. She stayed at the house as a maid to pay back her debt, which was her food there, the money paid to acquire her, lessons, medical cost etc. She had such miserable life until one day she met a certain Chairman who gave her a piece of kindness that affected her so much that the thought of Chairman alone kept her going on. The hope that one day she'll meet him again. Anyway, Mameha, the other popular geisha, and Hatsumomo's arch enemy, decided to take Chiyo as her little sister, as in geisha little sister. Which means she'll guide her through becoming a geisha and throughout her geisha career as a way to get back at Hatsumomo. Though in the end it turned out that the Chairman's the one who asked Mameha a favour of helping Chiyo. She succeeded in persuading Mother to at last allow Chiyo to learn to become a geisha again. Finally Chiyo became a geisha, and a successful one at that too, owing a lot to Mameha's tactics and guidance. Yes, tactics. Because you can't really just count on beauty or entertaining skills to be 'popular'. Somewhat like marketing in business.

And..skipping a lot of conflicts and stories, Sayuri ended up having the Chairman as her danna; the person who support her financially and everything in exchange for 'special privileges'. Somewhat like patron-mistress relationship. Only very rich people can afford to become a danna. She ended up living in New York opening her very own teahouse.

Living a geisha life is not at all glamorous. Well yeah, you get to enjoy all the finest thing in life; expensive sake, lavishing kimono, extravagant rooms, decorations and ornaments. But there's more to that than meets the eye. Well, basically, geisha is an entertainer. Whatever you feel whatever you think doesn't matter. Geisha are trained to put on this mask of a face to be forever pleasant, to be able to tease and strike conversations in every party, in whatever companion. Your emotions don't matter, as Mameha said, ''We don't become geisha to be happy, we become geisha because we had no choice.''Beneath all those expensive stuff and elegant mask, they are living the life of slaves, bound to their houses, until they pay back all their debt. Even if they gain independence, there's no security to the future if no one wants to have you in their parties. What else is to become a geisha after spending all their lives into becoming one? Amidst spending most of the time with the richest and most influential men, enjoying the finest thing in life, they really are living in a small world of themselves.

True, geisha are all pampered they don't even clean their stuff themselves, don't even dress themselves but there's no doubt they do know and understand sufferings. During the end of the war years, geisha villages are forced to close. The geisha with no other choice are forced to make a living by working at the factories, which is next worst to being dead. No complaints were associated, all understand that they must find a way through it. Sayuri was even super grateful to have a house to live in even though she practically destroyed her years of nurtured silky hands by the works that she must do to stay there.

One time, Nobu(Sayuri's admirer) got really mad of something and asked if Sayuri was a fool enough to sleep with a man like the minister if given the chance. He bled his hand crushing the tea cup and Sayuri was panicked. Nobu said, ''Answer me!'' Then Sayuri thought it was clear what the answer she should give and said no. Then Nobu calmed down. It just gave me a thought,that to deal with a man in anger, is to just give whatever he wants at the moment. Even if you are in doubt or disagree, the important thing is to settle down the person first and bring him to calm. Later on, Sayuri slept with the minister anyway. But that is all something in the future, and the consequences is to be dealt later. A human overwhelmed with anger is as close as a beast because he would have lost the sense of thinking. I just thought...I should take note of that.

In the story i noticed a lot of reference usage. ummmm how should i explain it because i think i'm not using the correct term here. When a character is trying to describe something, they often recite of a relating past experience, to make explaining much easier. For example, when Sayuri was trying to describe her feeling of relief and glad she would recite, ''one time, there was a boy...I now understand how the boy must felt...'' Allusion! yes that's the correct term. okay i'll recite one complete example.

Sayuri has a great desire over Chairman. However, Nobu who has great affection for Sayuri is Chairman's closest friend not to mention he owes Nobu, as he said, his life, for saving Chairman's company. Not until towards the very end of the story though, that it was discovered that Chairman has the same feelings for Sayuri but he feels that he cannot betray his dearest friend. Sayuri, on the other hand, set out a plan to make Nobu despise her and drop his plan of becoming her danna, because if that were to happen, her fate will be sealed with Nobu and her chances to be with Chairman will be forever gone. So that's why she made out with the Minister that i just mentioned that made Nobu super furious.

So, finally after all that, Chairman came to Sayuri and recited a memory about how he was interested in a very skilled worker who works with the supplier company that he is in good terms with. One day the worker quit his job with some reason like he's taking a break or something. So the Chairman came to him and asked if he wanna work with his company. The worker agrred right away and told the Chairman, he was always wondering if the Chairman would ask him to work at his company until one day he realised that the Chairman wouldn't. By doing so, the Chairman will sever the good ties between his company and the supplier company. So he decided to quit the job himself so that Chairman could offer him a job.

This is to say, the Chairman noticed what Sayuri did with the minister and Nobu. That's why he is driven to come to Sayuri, confess his feelings for her and propose himself to become her danna. It's just, to me, it made me think. What are the chances of what's happening today, becoming the prospect of tomorrow? I mean, looking at both ways, how today is indicative of the future, and how in the future, we can use past experience to enhance understanding. I feel that it gave me a sense of how tiny things in life, all the events whether we notice it or not, are significant somehow.

In entirety, I think the choice to write in the form of first person narrative is a most cleverest one. You couldn't have done it otherwise with the mysteries and secrets behind a geisha's life. Narrative makes the whole thing a lot more vivid, and very...present. Like it's happening now, in front of your eyes. Even though the setting is way back during world war, the emotions and all the eternal conflicts are just so familiar, you could relate anyway because humans are humans, regardless of time and place. I enjoyed reading the book. The experience was absolutely a unique one. Most definitely an interesting read.

p/s: no wonder.. Arthur Golden is a graduate of Harvard College with a degree in art history specialising in Japanese. Awesome shiz!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

early adulthood crisis

Sometimes i feel frustrated with my lack of creativity; to produce or think of something out of nothing. While i have been so long content with my significant ability of being innovative, to turn and twist things to make them more interesting or as they say spice things up, to compensate for this lacking, sometimes i guess...i'm just jealous.

It's a bad thing to have really, jealousy. Because it means that you are insecure. that you want the things others have that you don't. Well, pardon me. I, I am insecure. That perhaps is indicative of me being ungrateful and less appreciative of my own value. Which in turn,as you may expect, contributes to the down gradient of my self-esteem...
and you should know damn well that i hate it when i feel that way.

Initiative, to me, is a very close attribute to creativity. See, i do realise, after going through a few rounds of experiments with myself in this so called circus of life, that i do have some awesome thoughts and ideas at the back of my head. Sometimes. People may not know it but i am a big dreamer. I do dream about things, here and there, this and that...and when i do, i dream high and hard. Just the way dreams should be. However, Behaviour and Attitudes have not been blessing me with their kindness. I am lazy, i am a slacker, i am very easy-going. I do aspire all these big stuffs, it's just that at the same time i still have the thought of 'mehh, i can still live without it' or 'i really don't mind'. Saves me from a lot of headaches. Likewise, 'saved' me from a lot of opportunities.

So after a series of 'why couldn't i be/think like that' i began to feel hopeless and pathetic. Like i'm not doing something meaningful with my life. I know... to live life happily, we should focus on what we have instead.
mann.. sometimes i hate myself when putting out thoughts like this because i always find it hard to finish any thoughts at all because in the middle of it, some countering thought would come along and destroy the whole point of the statement i was intially trying to make which then makes it meaningless to say anything at all in the first place. but for this purpose i shall ignore this annoying counter argument and lay down my point completely. D:<

When i see these clubs and organisations that i can be a part of but i'm not, i feel really sad. Not to say i have a natural leadership trait or anything but i have always been like that, always, since school. The sense of being a part of something. Slowly, not at all times, though consistent. Librarian in standard 4, almost made head librarian in standard 5 had i not been appointed prefect. Head Prefect in standard 6, after only being prefect for a year beating my best friend who has always been thought to be the head because she's been in the job for 3 years, not to mention a teachers' favourite. Penolong Ketua Tingkatan which is as good as ketua tingkatan because we girls almost all the time do all the work, form 1 and form 2, form 3 i declined the post. Form 4 voted PKT again, but i was appointed prefect so had to let go of the job. Form 5 i was President of english society and we managed to tackle the cancellation of the so much anticipated english week by substituting with our very own, English Carnival. And that year, i am proud to say, English society had at least made its name after being invisible for so long eventhough we don't win the best society or anything like that. I was also commandant for PBSM marching team, and the vice president.

Then, what happened? here's what. KMB. Kolej MARA Banting and all it's evil associations. I was elected as Wakil Pelajar although people may not really vote because of my manifesto or me personally, i don't care. I was really uncanny and unfamiliar of the MPP system because i came from as good as a daily school. But all these people, majority of which from SBP, MRSM were like, 'brought up' in it. I mean i really want to try out my luck and run for the election, but honestly, i didn't know what i was doing. I was so confused. I only actually filled the form at the thought that i might regret it if i don't try out for this. And i hold on to that, still. I admit, i lack strong will. I don't actually have a reason to do it. I only have a reason to not do it. Which, as you might expect, directly and with haste brought me to my first predicament; manifesto. Well..yeah, i just told you, i don't have one. Wrong move. So i made up something, but not sounding like i'm promising anything which you might expect to be...unconvincing, weak. In conclusion, my manifesto speech was crap.

But somehow i got elected anyway. I ranked number 9. To be frank, i think it's because i looked decent enough, in my picture, cause that's how people vote anyway, based on looks, me included. Physical looks matter man, like it or not. That's how the world rolls. Then i got the role Secretary. To tell you the truth, i really like the position of secretary. I can boss people around, lead people to productive and realistic discussions, and not worry much about work. And I did come out with a brilliant idea from a secretary's point of view, to improve MPP's document keeping. I wasn't so successful at following the plan through, however, with all the assignments and studies that i'm even barely keeping up with. Ugh, i tried so hard to change my life, my everything, how to approach every single problem just to make things work. But IB is just soooooooo volatile. It's like a typhoon, always changing. I was struggling, just to adapt! When can i have the space to work on my studies, assignments, and above all at the same time, keeping my sanity, all my faculties intact?

Also, i was so really frustrated with my team members. Worse than me, some ran the election not out of their own will. Where's the sense in that? The beginning was so very immature it drove me to madness. Seriously! and a whole lot of other thing that, you know, if not everyone is up to it or enthusiastic about the job, then really, it's not gonna get that far. Plus, this is where i learn, the less people you work with, the better. Don't get me wrong, two heads are definitely better than one, but not to the point that there's not really a significant job to the position, just to have that position. Okay i am getting emotional, but you get my point. After KMB i promised myself if i'm gonna take up any other position, i'm gonna be sure about what i'm doing.

But really though, opportunities never wait. So i am having a lot of internal conflicts. To be or not to be... From experience i learnt what i ought to do, but i can't help to feel what i feel when things like this happen. When i have the opportunity to be in control, to be ahead of things, to represent and voice out instead of keeping things in because if it's not to the right people you voice out to, better not say anything at all. To take matters into my own hands. To be around the people who are 'aware', who talks about improvements, who are dedicated on making a better this and that.

To do that, it means i have to present myself, to show to people what i have and mark my words...certain people, people who actually work to make the world a better place, don't just wanna see a good personality. They want great, new and fresh ideas and that, my friend, is the whole purpose of this depressing post. I rarely have one.

When things like this happen i'd always end up comforting myself(as usual). To accept myself for who i am. Be true to my convictions, my beliefs and to not be affected of what i see of other people. Well i guess, Allah knows best. I'll just return to Him for guidance. Everything has been set, my course of life, my qadar. I'll just pray for the best. To live my best with what i have.