I’ve read quite a number of books in my lifetime thus far but for some reason J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings (LoTR) wasn’t one of them, unfortunately. I had been aware of this title since long ago but somehow I’ve never had the chance to read it.
I was also aware of the LoTR films, beginning with The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 which was a box-office hit since there were frequent references to it in the newspapers. But I didn’t have the opportunity to watch it or the sequels of The Two Towers and The Return of The King – when the LoTR films were all the rage, my life had totally crumbled due to the addiction.
There was the curiosity to know what it was all about but I simply didn’t have the means or resources to watch these films. That was a time when I had practically nothing except for an obsolete 1998 desktop computer with a 200 MHz speed and 32 MB of RAM which I was still using in 2005. It was adequate enough though – after all, you don’t need the latest computer to have access to the internet… to emails and newsgroups especially, which were my sole contact to the outside world. It was very slow – a top speed of merely 33 kilobits (not bytes)/second. But it was okay for me – speed and features are secondary to me. It’s the content and ability to contact others (and be contacted) that mattered the most. Unfortunately, from 2002 onwards, my phone line was disconnected due to non-payment of the bills… and with it, my connection to the outside world. Handphones were already common enough even at that time but I didn’t have one – I simply could not afford to buy or maintain one. Without a phone, access to the internet and with no one who cared, I was cut off from the rest of the world.
The only thing that kept me sane during those dreary years were books. To be precise, “reading”. Some people might call me a snob but this is just me, for better or for worse: I’m only interested in reading material that’s in the English language. And nothing else. That created a problem for me – Pasir Mas, Kelantan isn’t exactly the centre of English literacy so where was I to get books in English? The public library? Believe it or not, I had read practically all of the English books there! It’s not really because I was a voracious reader – it’s simply because there were only a very limited number of books there. I was desperate for something to read – something to take my mind away from the dreariness and misery that was life, from the torment of having failed my children, from living a life that was without hope. Without books, my life would have been totally empty… without books, I doubt I could have managed to force myself to just live yet another day.
But through the Grace of God, the internet came to my rescue, as it had time and time again. Out of desperation, I figured out that having access to material in digital format would be as good as the printed form. As long as my computer kept working, I would manage somehow. During those days when I managed to scrape enough money for the bus fare to Pasir Mas (RM1.60 return) and an hour at the internet cafe (RM2.00), I would download various titles from that excellent site of Project Gutenberg and save these files to a diskette. Various titles by Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henry David Thoreau, Fydor Dostoevsky and various 19th. Century Russian writers and whatever else titles that I came across were saved. And I would then spend almost all of my waking hours reading these titles from the computer’s monitor. I’d much prefer to read from books, of course, but in that situation anything was better than not being able to read. That was my temporary escape from the emptiness of life…
I attempted to try and make some sort of a living from my dire situation where I was essentially alone and not receiving any help or encouragement from anyone. With my minimal resources and the very limited opportunities, I tried to be a freelance writer the best that I could. Occasionally, my articles would be published by the technology pullout of The Star. It was very tough though. That’s because you need to do some researching and interviewing to come up with the material to write – you simply can’t pull things out of thin air, unless if you’re writing fiction (and even then you’d still need to do some research). Not having access to the internet was a major handicap. But I tried – I’d think of what to write and then search for material when I’m at the internet cafe. This would then be saved to the diskette to be re-read from the computer at home later. When I had enough material, I could then write something. It was tedious, troublesome and it pains me that no one cared to help me try to start anew and maybe salvage something from the ruins that was my life.
But regardless of the obstacles, I did manage to write quite a number of articles. I even attempted to write something in which I had absolutely no previous knowledge of – intellectual property. I knew the payment wouldn’t commensurate with the time and energy spent; of days reading legal writings and articles just to get a grip on the matter. But I went ahead… because I wanted to.
When writing this particular article, Tolkien’s epic came to mind and I rephrased it to be “Lords of the intellectual property ring“. Both my chosen title and the whole content were published by In.Tech, The Star in May 2005 (Ah, now all the readers here will know my real name!) I had only discover today, after doing a Google search, that it was also mentioned in an Arizona State University article! I wonder what they would have thought had they known that the person who had written it was a total nobody who never had a single day of grounding in legal matters… someone who was all alone and was to be arrested and incarcerated just three months after the article’s publication.
The saga of Lord of The Rings would continue for me at Pusat Serenti Gambang. Two months into my stay, free television (can’t remember whether it was TV2 or TV3) helped to make it even more memorable for me by showing The Fellowship of The Ring at the end of December 2005. This was followed by The Two Towers a few weeks later. At last!… I finally know what the story was all about!
My tenure at Pusat Serenti Gambang was the single most important and most poignant period in my life up to that point. And seemingly `ordinary’ events like seeing LoTR turn into special moments that live on in memory, which come back again and again whenever they reappear. When any of the Lord of The Rings films were shown on one of Astro’s channels (which is fairly frequent), I find it hard to resist – I simply must watch again and again, if only to relive those happy days at Gambang when life finally made sense.
There are also many memorable scenes and characters from the three films. I’m sure that those who like the LoTR films have their favourites. When it comes to “most favourite characters”, mine is probably different from most people – no, it’s not Frodo Baggins or any of the Hobbits. Nor everyone’s favourite of Aragorn or Gandalf the Wizard. Or Gimli the Dwarf or Legolas the Elf. It’s… the Nazgul/Ringwraith/Black Rider/Dark Rider (Below). Seriously.
“Now why would anyone like the Nazgul?!”, you might ask. I don’t know – I just like seeing them, just as I like watching “T-Bag” in Prison Break. Maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by them – my first ever reference was through a song I first heard when I was 15, and have liked ever since – Led Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore (“The Ringwraiths ride in black…” and “Shoot straighter than before…” which reflects the desperation of the castle’s defenders in facing the massive force against them). But whatever, the Nazguls are memorable – their heartlessness, single-mindedness and dedication, the fear they evoked. I can watch again and again the scenes they were involved in… the Nazgul jumping off his horse near where the Hobbits were hiding among the tree roots… chasing after the Hobbits at the river crossing… barging through the gates at the town and running over the poor gatekeeper… riding a dragon over the marshes. Plain nasty!
But there are also a few other scenes which left a lasting impression in me involving Arwen, the daughter of Elrond, the Elves King. I would look back to when I first saw them when at Gambang in 2005/06 and then later – from 2010 onwards – with completely different perceptions and understandings. She loved Argorn of Gondor, who is a human… a mortal with a very short lifespan as compared to the elves, who lived to be thousands of years. Her father had reminded her of this – that she would live the rest of her life all alone when Argorn dies. (The link to the video clip is here)
The dialogue is like poetry:
“If Aragorn survives this war, you will still be parted. If Sauron is defeated and Aragorn made king and all that you hope for comes true, you will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality. Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die… And there will be no comfort for you – no comfort to ease the pain of his passing.”
“He will come to death an image of the splendor of the kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell bound to your grief under the fading trees until all the world is changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.”
But Arwen chooses love, to be with the mortal even when she knows that life with him will be short and that she will have to spend the rest of her long years alone (See the scene here – different from the previous one above). During my first viewing of it at Gambang, my thought was “Wow!… but this is only a story. No woman can be like that. And even if there are such women, they have nothing to do with me. It’s not likely that any woman could have much love for someone with nothing, is nothing…”
Can’t blame me for having such thinking. At that time, my marriage then was all but destroyed; of two people living a life of hurt, bitterness and distrust. And even during the best of times, I simply couldn’t imagine “Arwen’s love and choice” or that something close could ever exist. “It’s just a story… exaggerated… nonsense.” Even if it does exist, “it can’t possibly ever involve me. Not at my age. Not with my situation…”
I was wrong… fortunately. And I thank Allah for my being wrong. By coincidence, my wife had also written a post about this at her blog earlier. I knew she was going to write something because she had asked my permission to use a BlackBerry message which I had sent to her a few days ago… when I was watching The Fellowship of The Ring yet again and telling her what it meant to me. So, I’ll just end my post here and let her post of A Bedtime Story be the sequel… just like The Lord of The Rings.