I am at the tiny police base in my parents’ neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur. I’ve come to report the loss of my Identity Card, a document Malaysians must carry at all times. An Identity Card bears your name, photograph, and I.C. number, under which your race and religion are listed in the records of the National Registration Department. When applying for an I.C., you can choose from a menu of options for Race (Malay, Chinese, Indian, Other) and Religion (Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian).
“He who wears this burgundy velvet vest possesses an energy that cannot be adequately described in words. Photography, yes, for sure. And when you study it, this photograph of your holiday soirée months later, you’ll realize it wasn’t the vest that made him. He made the vest.”
And just now, this man in somewhat dirty jeans, unshaven for days, and with a stack of papers that did not look like religious leaflets but like the notebooks I have kept with me for years. Writing notebooks, dog-eared and rough on the edges from constant carry. “Chora” he says. “Chora.”
Enough already! First they start giving trophies to children who lose basketball games so that they don’t feel bad, now this. Creation is not its own reward, unless you’re really and truly creating for your eyes only. And in that case—by all means, paint away, just please don’t show me. Art, real art, is for other people. If it wasn’t, bookstores would be empty, art galleries would not exist, and you would never hear music at coffee shops, malls, bars, concert halls. Saying that you’ve created something for yourself only and yet posting it on Facebook is just a way of avoiding responsibility for its greatness or lack thereof.