Unique Artistic Touch

Through a hole which has been punctured through my wall, near my window a sort of plant grows; the plant is, of course not visible in my room, for it grows on the outer surface of the wall. I see the roots hanging down, and spreading as well as lengthening with the passage of days. One may consider it a work of art, perhaps it is; given the kinds of art being produced these days, nothing comes as a surprise.

In the same room which I occupy as my office, and which, with its collection of pictures, cheap art objects, and books, whose numbers increase by the day, books which are arranged in no particular logical or even practical manner, as is perhaps to be expected in the room of a particular kind of academician, there are two other features that draw attention.

My windows are hidden behind Venetian blinds, blinds which are never drawn aside, so that no light comes through. This is done deliberately not out of any particular aversion to natural light which is a tremendous blessing and which has all manner of benefits which I have come to recognise. It is done to conceal some other reality.

More than two years ago, through the edges of the window frames during a particularly powerful thunderstorm, rain water poured into my room through the fatigued edges of the window frames. The rubber lining had given way. Some damage did occur to books and papers placed immediately next to the window. The damage could had been serious had I not been in the room at that particular moment with Patricia, an energetic American student, who was at that time grappling with the concept of “Malaysia Truly Asia”; she was doing her research in Malaysia, and had been a fairly regular visitor to my office to discuss Malaysian performing arts. Patricia came to my rescue, climbed up on the low bookshelves and, with old newspapers and whatever else was available in my office, attempted to cover the slits through which the rainwater was more than seeping in, while I removed my belongings to safer and higher levels, away from the vicinity of the window. There were still a few stray persons in the school office, and from them, I managed to obtain some masking and electrical tapes; these were used to seal the window edges.

There was, of course a great deal of drama as those few stray ones came to my room to observe what was happening: merely observe, I might add; no assistance came from them; it was part of an ever-welcome pesta mood, and the thing had, after all happened after office hours. It appeared to be no concern of theirs. I was merely advised to report the next morning to someone in the office. This I promptly did, with all the attendant excitement and drama on the part of those involved: visits to my office and phone calls were made; letters were apparently drafted and sent off. But in the ensuing hours, days, weeks, months and years, nothing happened except repeated visits by certain people from certain departments of the university who came, upon being reminded of the situation, to investigate and to ask me again, again and again, ad nauseum, if I had “reported” the incident, came never singly but in familiar Malaysian fashion, in groups of twos, threes or more.

To date nothing has happened. Assuming that nothing will, no matter what I did, I have given up. As if to reinforce both my frustrations and convictions, another incident, similar in essence, occurred, perhaps several months after the first. This time, upon entering my office one morning, I found the floor wet, with shallow “pools” of water at two or three points. Drops of water were falling from a ceiling board made heavy by total soaking, one side altogether unhinged from its frame; its weight was threatening to bring the board down. There was some minimal damage to my computer and printer, now mottled with markings from the dropping of water from the ceiling. I obtained assistance from the office to get the floor mopped dry, and eventually to have the damaged ceiling board removed. Today, more than a year and a half later, after all the usual drama and the requirement of “laporkan” the incident, there is still a hole in my ceiling where there should be a gleaming white ceiling board.

All three elements in the decor of my office: the inward growing roots of an external plant, the windows behind my Venetian blinds patched with black and while masking tape, and the gap in my ceiling, have been noticed time and again: by students, visitors, officials; they have been the subject of intense discussion or debate, at times verging on the philosophical; but to date they remain there, perhaps as a permanent feature to add a unique artistic touch to my room in a country and an age pursuing technology with ferocious insanity.

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