A lot of people tell me nonchalantly seeing the Pyramids of Giza for the first time is an anti-climax experience. They’ve heard so such about it since they were kids, seen postcards, watch images on TV, read books – both non-fiction and fiction – yet the reality doesn’t match up to the hype. It’s not what they expected, they said. They didn’t feel awe.
Yet, for some reason numerous writers, poets, scriptwriters, playwrights, movie directors, archaeologists, historians were imbued by the existence of this ancient wonder.
Many tourists tend to give the same answer – they felt nothing after seeing it. The reason I think is this: They failed to ponder.
The Pyramids of Giza isn’t just a tourist site for your camera’s sake or a funny selfie moment – it is a majestic monument left behind for man to reflect history and their own existence.
These monuments are in fact besotting.The trio may not be coated with color and gold today but if you take a step back and sit down alone at a nearby cafe and order a soda, then observe – just observe. It will kick in.
Let the view of the landscape narrate lessons in history before your very eyes. You will discover a time of grandeur that has dissipated. A time mightier than yours left behind by the unseen power. And then you will realize the value of your own significance on earth.
Take a hint form Ozymandias.
I was at the post office this morning (20, July 20105). There weren’t many people, surprisingly, just a handful of customers. The staff behind the counter were their usual self, grim, except for one girl who greeted me with a wave while I was in the short queue. Naturally, I waved back, and smiled.
None of the customers looked chirpy. Body language: Tense. No smile, nothing. Monday and hence…
Suddenly, for no absolute reason, all eyes darted here and there, leveling their stares at each other. If those stares had emitted lasers, it would have created a complex pythagorean theorem.
And then some of them looked at me, and that was followed by the theme song from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” playing in my head.
All these years while I was writing and rewriting my manuscript, that small coffee cup kept me company. I never noticed it until now. I swear, I had nothing to do with the book’s cover design. It was all the publisher’s idea, and I never saw it until the last minute. Spooky.
Between Stephen King and M. Knight Shyamalan, I can’t help but feel a bit wary each time I visit a small village. You know how it is with the townsfolk. They stare at you and you stare back at them with a smile. You’d be lucky if they greet you back.
So there was this one time I had to visit a small Australian town on a hill as part of a press familiarization trip. I didn’t go alone. There were three journalists with me: One other guy and two girls. And just like in the movies, we were invited to stay at a small manor. I know. The building was more than 150 years old and the interior was covered with large paintings, some of noblemen in century clothing with their eyes following you wherever you go.
Each one of us had a room to ourselves. The wood-paneled interior, with antique bed and cupboards and tall French windows looking out into the darkness, added to the eeriness. Imagine the castle bedroom that Professor Abronsius stayed in The Fearless Vampire Killers. But I didn’t care. I was tired so sleep was more important than whatever.
Around 2 a.m., I was startled by the shrill of the old telephone on the beside table. The panic-stricken voice at the end turned out to be the male journalist. He claimed to have seen a presence near the window. I tried to convince him otherwise. I told him he was seeing wind shadows. But he insisted it was a ghost and begged me to let him come over. After some hesitation, I allowed him to bunk in with me.
At about six in the morning I was awoken by the sound of whispering. The journalist was already awake and he was pointing to the window. I got out of bed and crept towards the window. The whispers grew louder with every step I took.
I opened the window to find two women sitting in the balcony. They were chatting to each other over coffee. Now I understand…
All rooms have a shared balcony, and when the journalist thought he saw something, he may not have been imagining things. He may have seen a guest from the next room. Possibly the person stepped out into the balcony around 2 a.m. through the connecting balcony doors. Sounds logical right? The only problem was the chambermaid said the room next to the journalist’s was unoccupied.
This is the Jatayu bird mask from Indonesia. You’ll find them everywhere being sold as souvenirs, especially in Bali. Once upon a time, Indonesia was part of the larger Hindu empire.
Legend has it that Jatayu, the King of Vultures, was slained by Ravana after he tried to rescue the princess Sita.
Personally, I don’t like seeing these masks hanging on home walls. But I thought it would be perfect for my psycho assassin in Smokescreen to wear it for one intense scene.
Now close your eyes and imagine being chased by a psychopath wearing this mask as you run down an apartment stairwell.
Every time someone finished reading my novel Smokescreen, they’ll tell me it feels like a movie. Some reviewers have also said the same. I have been keeping this quiet for a while because I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not.
But some months ago, a copy of my novel was given to one of Hollywood’s biggest movie directors, Paul Greengrass, who worked on two of the Jason Bourne series: The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy.
The novel was given to him by Beth Swofford, Creative Artist Agency’s motion picture agent. Today, after so many months, I received an email from Beth Swofford saying Greengrass has decided to pass the idea of turning the book into a movie. He read the novel. This is Hollywood. It happens, it doesn’t, maybe it will, maybe not. But more importantly, a big name in Hollywood read my novel. That is good enough for me.
When I was 15 I used to cycle a lot. I even teamed up with a few others to explore the island. I would usually follow the leader as I was unfamiliar with the roads. On one occasion, I accepted a friend’s invitation to visit his home after school in the evening. I was accompanied by another friend, and it turned out to be one of the strangest journeys ever.
This was back in the 1980s when John Travolta’s Night Fever posters were still everywhere. There we were, three guys on a bicycle cruising the back roads of Singapore in the stale night air, wracked by my friend’s hauntingly continuous laughter.
I had no clue where I was going. I remember arriving somewhere dark and quiet, tree lined and featuring row houses. It was pretty far from school.
My friend rapped on the door and someone opened it from inside. A woman. It gets interesting now …
Inside, I found myself in a long, wood-paneled interior, with lighted candles on wall scones. I thought I was in a Benedictine monastery. A wooden staircase gave access to the upper floor. And you won’t believe where dinner was served – on a Monk’s long wooden dining table. The food was laden as if a hundred people lived there. My friend kept laughing as we ate.
I did not hide my curiosity. The strong smell of wood furniture commingled with the salted fish on the plate. That evening was different. Mystical.
I found out much later where my friend lived. Well, I don’t want to mention the name of the road because people in Singapore know exactly what that area is famous for. So I have taken a vow of silence. Let’s just say I don’t think this place will ever be as famous as that book and musical by author Larry L. King.