The following entry reflects the mind-boggling dynamism of Hilmi’s writing approach. It was written after two months he had been wandering in Melbourne. He seemed to be having a lot of epiphanies. Nay, he was just too excited and confused.
When I first arrived in Melbourne two months ago, fresh and bewildered, I didn’t know what to do with my blog. Should I keep writing about personal life, or should I pursue into a more professional, research-like writing? I remember posting my first picture in Melbourne in Facebook album, innocently titled “Budu Tales in Melbourne”. I was holding a flag “Many Cultures, One Community”, with a short caption, telling the world that I was thrilled with such a welcoming experience. I received some warm feedbacks and comments from friends in Malaysia. Then, I had the epiphany – can I just write a story through a caption? It seems to be a practical idea. I hardly see people do this in Facebook, but can I do it? Yes, I actually can – there’s no rule prohibiting me from doing so. The Facebook administrator doesn’t even put a word limit for writing a caption. So, I took my own liberty to treat the caption as a space to write my own stories and came out with a mutated form of a writing tool called – as my new friend, Shahir Latif, nicely put it – “a mini blog”.
Hey, I found writing in Facebook really worthwhile. Not that bad actually. I just made this simple rule – one day, one picture, one story, one paragraph (or so). And it still works for me. You see, I’m not really a professional photographer and I’m a novice when it comes to the art of photography (though I love taking pictures and love people taking pictures of me now and then, that doesn’t really count, right?). Most of the pictures were taken from my iPhone, so you can expect gibberish images with some poor quality. But again, it’s not so much about the pictures that I want to highlight here, but it’s the stories behind the pictures. I firmly believe, no matter how imperfect or unprofessional a picture is, there’s always a story behind it. I want my audience to see the macro-aspect of these images, not just the micro-aspects of them, which can easily catch the attention of raw sights. I’m telling them – try to look beyond the pictures. And that’s what I want to reveal and share – a story, a philosophy, a pearl of wisdom – not just mere pictures, meaningless and forgettable, had someone not given one line or two of what’s actually happening around the context. That’s what I want to be – someone who can relate his stories to others – a koya story teller.
Frankly speaking, I find it manageable to write casually without even accumulating some materials into one long narration. If you notice, I don’t write too frequently in my blog. That’s not because I’m having a writer’s block. I do have a lot of things to say and my mind is always in a writing mode, but I’d rather keep it for a while and wait until I find an appropriate ‘theme’. But usually, I always lose the themes along the way and the stories that I’m supposed to write are wasted, gone, forgotten and unretrievable. But with this new strategy in Facebook, I can just write anything that I’ve discovered by the order of the day and hop into my Mac amidst my mind-boggling studies. The theme is simple – Budu Tales – and I can always relate my daily discovery in that sense. Plus, captions make publishing so easy – no titles, no specific font, no rules. So doable and satisfying.
But I suspect, what really matters most is the overwhelming response I receive from the Facebook users, which keeps me going and discovering. I hate to admit it, but I guess I enjoy to be in the spotlight. It’s different from blogging where only certain group of bloggers noticed my writing, but in Facebook, every single thing is highlighted in the news feeds. But of course, writing in a blog is definitely different compared to writing in Facebook. As Azrai said, in a blog, I can write more deeply and honestly, but in Facebook, I tend to be more casual and relaxed. And I think, that’s what I should be – to keep being connected with friends and family in a relaxing atmosphere.
When I started Facebooking, I updated my status almost daily and compulsively. Usually it’s the reflection of my current thoughts. I enjoy and respect my friends’ cheeky statuses with lovey-dovey statements or ambiguous phrases that clutter the comment box with “why, why, why” questions and, sometimes, they are finally shut up by prolonged silence. But as an academician, I think I should share something more explicit and worthwhile with my friends in Facebook, who are mostly my intellectual university-mates and beloved students. I’d prefer announcing the great places or people I found in Melbourne rather than announcing how many times I go to the bathroom during diarrhea period (though it’s so tempting to do so). And after some time, I was thinking, why should I waste my ideas and energy on the Facebook status which are well-commented but also easily forgotten and gone? I should write on something that can be documented. So that’s how I end up writing my thoughts through captions because it’s apparently saved in an album, so that I can always go back to my writings and review the damage that I have incurred (and be amused by the damage caused by my friends too!).
Oh, why on earth is Budu there in the title? Fair question. Okay, since you asked, he we go. It actually came from a title of a blog entry published in January 12, 2005 in my first blog (it’s now on the page of Hell Me in my current blog). First and foremost, Budu Tales in Melbourne is by no means a story about Budu. Not at all. To be honest, I am not a fan of Budu (okay, except when I have my Nasi Kerabu). But, I like the idea of Budu. Have you been warned by your lovers that you are actually NOT in love with him or her, but you simply like the “idea’” of being in love? Well, that’s me. In this case, I might dislike Budu but I like the idea of having one. Does that make sense to you?
Perhaps you have read about my Budu Tales and are aware of what I’m getting to now. Although I seem to be physically and spiritually disconnected from my homeland, I can never disassociate my root. It’s true, I always feel like the outsider inside my community, but outside, I always long to be inside again. So this love-hate relationship is reflected in that lovely-but-not-so-lovely piece called Budu – a typical symbol of sweetness and bitterness. In my writing, you’ll see some of the patterns of longing and hatred – my discovery with places, people, foods, events – all these, and whatever I write, only it always goes back to my root. Thus, Budu Tales in Melbourne reflect my sentiments towards my root in a foreign setting (the fact that I’m now researching on Kelantan dialect further deepens this sentiment).
Now, the idea of putting all the pictures in Facebook into a series came to me almost suddenly. I just thought I should preserve my writing in a proper place (and a blog is definitely a better place to deposit your precious writing, not Facebook which is mainly a networking tool). Plus, I also have this imminent fear that Facebook might crash one day and that I will lose all my Budu Tales. So before that actually happens, I’d better do something. But it’s been really amusing the way I combine blogging and networking. Yes, you can claim that Facebook has taken the better of me, but no matter where I am, Facebook or WordPress, my passion for writing will always live on. I just love words. And I hope I won’t receive stern warnings from a Facebook administrator asking me stop blogging in their caption space!
About the pictures here, they mostly show my early discovery in Melbourne city. It reflects my passion for discovering new places and people. But most importantly, the tales are so written for therapeutic reasons, to keep me going and motivated amidst my PhD work. Shahid asked me once whether I was in Melbourne to get a PhD or to jalan-jalan, since everybody has the impression, from the so-called “gallant” pictures, that I don’t study at all. And one concerned friend even remarked that I should go out more often since I have a lot of free time in my hands, which was a bit offensive to me then (hey I’m now cool, man!). But hell NO you naughty people, I don’t go out every single day. I’m a very busy man, and I don’t facebook all day long. I always make it a strict point that I facebook only between 1 to 2 hours everyday, with 2 hours being the maximum (I’m sure my curious friends can reasonably wait for my replies for the next 24 hours!). Outside Facebook, I do enjoy my study as much as I enjoy my exploration. I hope to gain my PhD as well as some great stories to share with my future kids.
This first collection contains the first 50 tales of my Budu life in Melbourne. I can’t afford to publish more than that since it’s quite tedious to transfer the pictures and stories from Facebook to WordPress. So you can expect to see three more collections in the future (Facebook allows up to 200 pictures in an album). I hope I will live up to my expectation and see to it that I can write that long. But as long as I can sustain my energy and excitement, I’ll keep sharing and disturbing your life with my nonsensical tales. So be patient and expect for more!
I would like to thank those who have given me unending support and encouragement through the comment boxes (it’s still statistically overwhelming). I once convinced myself not to give a shit of what other people think of me, but after some time, I have to say that I do care, and to certain extent, I look forward to what they would say about my musings. Having said this, I truly appreciate all the blunt criticism and subtle sarcasm because they honestly show me where I stand, that I don’t go beyond the boundaries that I’m supposed to be. I suspect I have been transparent enough in my writing so I have to expect similar transparency from them too.
And oh, I’m sorry for those who are not on Facebook, since I’m not able to share most of my thoughts here (so get a Facebook account and join the ‘in’ community, and for God’s sake, stop being sorry for yourselves, you old men!). Those who have suffered too much already, you can just ignore the crazy tales here and enjoy the pictures. And those who can still bear with my writing, keep reading and enjoy (or suffer for that matter). I shall see you again in the Facebook!
Critical Note: Two weeks after the above entry was published, Hilmi decided to republish all the first 50 Budu Tales into separate entries in his blog, giving each of them a unique title and placing them under a proper category. “I think I should write from both sites – Facebook and WordPress hihi…” he said. He is always confused and worried too much. Please bear with him.