Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blinding Deafness

WHAT if you were to go blind one day? It must suck, living in a dark world, where colours and shapes slowly become just memories with each passing day. Not being able to see your loved ones, or not knowing what a new addition to the family or a new friend may look like. Suddenly, every step you take counts as you begin to rely more on your hearing, physical touching, sense of smell and well, gut feeling. Many times, when I lay awake in the dark, I think of the desolation that comes with losing sight. Just what's possible. 

Then, in early August, I woke up in the morning and two hours later, I felt hearing on the left side slowly slide shut like a pull-down window. In the following weeks, I was diagnosed with otosclerosis, a rare condition in which a faulty middle-ear bone leads to hearing loss; in severe cases like mine, where there's both conductive and sensironeural deafness, quite permanently too. 

I've suddenly lost more than 90% of hearing on the left side, but strangely, all I felt was blindness. It was like I see but I don't see till I hear, and this caused me a lot of panic when I was in the outdoors and public places. With one side hearing, I have no sense of sound direction. I can't tell if the phone is ringing in the bedroom or living room when I'm in the kitchen. The sense of fullness I have on the affected side makes my head heavy, and I become tired much faster by just processing all those sounds around me in one, good ear. Sometimes, the sounds get distorted and human voices are submerged by louder/ higher frequencies. It's made worse by those violent headaches, which I fear. By far, I'm lucky that my overall balance is still fine. 

The tinnitus deserves a post of its own. I have ringing in my affected ear 24/7. Pretty loud. Sometimes in high frequencies too. It's a miracle its existence doesn't bother me when I'm sleeping. There were a couple of times when I woke up feeling scared and shaken. I heard loud explosions in my head just when I was relaxed enough to fall asleep. That was some scary shit but another friend with hearing loss, described the same experience to me. It must be a part of it all then. 

It's a been a few months now. The early months were a torture and I spent weeks wondering about living the rest of my life with it. It seemed impossible, to live in a world of distorted sounds with a heavy face and constant headaches. That was then. The above still applies to me but I'm just adjusting to the situation better. I focus more to listen, I'm keeping my balance and I don't let the tinnitus bother me. For the first time in months, I was able to sit with a party of friends, sip a cold beer with shisha in one hand, listen to their laughter and chatter, with light music on the background. I was truly happy for the hope. 

Now, I've forgotten how it feels to hear from both sides. It must be really loud for you people with the full stereo on :) 


A Friendly Update

Here I come again after a full year of abandoning this site. Yes, I'm cringing at that but I can't promise myself that it won't happen again. 

For those who've been wondering about my disappearance, well, life has been good to me on most terms over the year. There were things which came up that needed attention and time off. 

Doha has finally become home. I can't believe I'm saying this but Malaysia has come to feel more like a tourist destination. I go back to Kuala Lumpur twice a year, and every time I'm there, I marvel at the Petronas Twin Towers like I'm seeing it for the first time. I can't comprehend the pictures I take of the tropical fruits I get in my hometown. It's strange when I sit back and look at my collection of photographs taken while I'm visiting Malaysia. Every tree, plate of food, park counts. If I had a chance though, I'd still like to move around and live some place else, experience some other culture and lifestyle. Perhaps, there's danger in getting too comfortable. 

Work wise, I've been working from home in the comfort of my PJs and evening sun at the balcony. The fitness life run as usual with bootcamp sessions, and my relationship with food has never been healthier. 

I'll come back with another update soon. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Thanks, Uncle Chua

SOMETIMES in life you meet people you can't find faults with. They're not perfect but in their own ways, they're just very nice souls who don't bitch or bite, or show any vibe of negativity towards others around them. I was fortunate to have known a person like that in Chua Kok Hwa, a press photographer and friend who passed on Oct 10. 

Photos by Sam Tham 

Chua was 20 years my senior. He was one of two photographers assigned to Metro section of The Star when I first joined the company. I guess that made Chua a lot more special to us in Metro as we got to know him better. A man of few words but those few words were always witty, sound and sincere. He also came with a ready smile. 

As a young reporter, working with Chua was fun, easy and educational as he understood our stories and styles well and translated them into pictures that spoke just more than a thousand words. Those who've worked with him closely would also know that he had no excuses for demands and requests from writers and some almost impossible editors. What I admire most about Chua is that he never let the glamour of the job get to him; he remained humble, a trait that many media members fail to retain over the years. 

I have countless memories of Chua, whom some of us fondly referred to as Uncle Chua over the years. One that stands out is when he took me out for Char Siew on Tengkat Tung Shin when he learned of my crazy love for Chinese BBQ pork. He was very likeable like that. We had a thing for Chinese hawker food so we connected on that platform early on. 

My regret is that I never visited Chua the last time I was in Kuala Lumpur. Time was an issue during that short trip although I had wanted to see him. That doesn't count now, does it. Chua suffered from nose cancer for a few years. He'd been really sick in the recent months and his demise was expected. Too soon to go at 55 but thanks for everything, Uncle Chua.