Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Annual Bar Dinner : Debacle, Disaster and Oh So Doomed

Oh what a debacle the Annual Bar Dinner 2006 was - well for me anyway! I should be more generous and include my colleagues under this umbrella of "Recently Humiliated Persons". Its a bad habit I picked up at kindergarten - stealing the thunder away from my friends.

I think its safe for us to come out of hiding by now - especially since The Firm has come up with a brilliant damage control strategy by staging a publicity blitz on winning some naff Award recently. Will elaborate later if I care to remember.

It all started with The Firm's usual reluctance in getting us a table for the Annual Bar Dinner. Their excuse every year is that none of their 80 lawyers want to go. The modus operandi in coming to this conclusion is as follows:-
Bar Council makes repeated calls to The Firm. As a matter of saving face, The Firm sends out an email to all lawyers 3 days before the event (in the afternoon) and asks all lawyers to revert by noon the next day if they are interested in attending this event. They are assuming ofcourse that:-
a) All the lawyers are in the office that afternoon;
b) These lawyers are checking their emails that afternoon;
c) These lawyers have made no plans for Saturday night.

As it turns out, my friends and I were planning a night out at the local kebab restaurant on Saturday night, so we decided to readjust our plans and go for the Bar Dinner. Ofcourse, I am making all this up so that we don't look so pathetic to be the only ones in The Firm with no plans for Saturday night. Six out of 80 of us reverted the next day. Instead of paying for a whole table for 10 people, The Firm pays for exactly 6 persons....well, it makes sense doesn't it...Need I say more?

Anyway, it was to our advantage...3 very delightful characters were placed at our table. Yes, Bar Council was generous enough to place The Firm's name on our table even though we didn't pay for the whole table. As we all got our invitation cards late Friday afternoon (note, the day before the event), none of us gave more than a cursory glance at it, some (like yours truly) never even took it out of the envelope. We all relied on the emails sent to us by the Bar Council which gave details on Time, Date, Venue and more importantly, the Dress Code/Theme for the evening.

The Dress Code/Theme was "Malam Lagenda 60-an" or "Malaysian 60s". I thought the party would be filled with P.Ramlees and Salomas so I just went along with what I considered is a 60s outfit (think Austin Powers). I didn't have to buy anything new, all these clothes were already in my extensive wardrobe.

As I strutted obliviously down the carpeted corridor of the Legend Hotel, I stopped abruptly in mid stride when I saw The Other Guests. They were all togged up to the nines in CURRENT Century Formal Attire. I made a quick about turn and dashed (as discreetly as possible) to the nearest big pillar to hide behind it. I frantically made calls to The Other Five to check the following:-

a) Is this The Right Hotel;

b) Where are They;

c) What are They Wearing?

Ofcourse I omitted to mention that no one else is wearing a 60s outfit - in case they fail to show up, leaving me in a lurch behind this pillar. One of them finally turns up, in what Her Mother said she wore in the 60s - a batik sarong & kebaya top. That doesn't do anything to alleviate my predicament. As she walked past my pillar, she heard a loud "Psst!" and her name. "What are you doing behind this pillar?" she asks, very surprised that I, of all persons, should be intimidated by the crowd. I clung on to her and braved the throng of formally dressed people, judges et al. As we approached, I felt the conversation slowly hush as people turned around to look at us. I think I should be more accurate in my reporting - ok, ok, as the crowd turned around to gawp at me. Now I know why racehorses wear blinkers. I wished at that moment I was wearing a pair.

Pedasak! (A swear word in Farsi). Who do I see from the corner of my eye, with his jaw dropped open in stunned silence as recognition slowly dawns on his face....M! So Not the Opera! Although my friend strutting hurriedly in front of me, informs me later that M! thinks he is the entire Overture. I managed with a lot of bravado to say a cheerful, nonchalant "Hello" whilst surprised that he recognised me under 2 inches of make up. M! manages a hello though still retaining the same expression on his face. Before I could say anything else, my friend drags me away. She didn't want us to contribute to his natural feelings of greatness about himself. Anyway, I thought it was best to allow M! some private moment to rearrange his facial expression. Hmm, I wonder why she dislikes him so much. "Don't talk to him, he's very 'perasan' case" she hissed as she dragged me away. Surely not, he seems like such a gentle, unassuming lad. But then again, I'm not such a good judge of character when it comes to men. I am easily misled by my own romantic notions of what men should be...I am reminded of My Great Mistake with Olaf, President of the Students Union in my university...another time for that story.

I have only encountered M! twice in my life. Before that I have never seen him or heard of him. But everyone else in the legal fraternity seems to have, I discover. I wonder why I've never heard of him? Perhaps I don't do litigation that's why...Some people seem to dislike him intensely and some are ardent fans. First time I encountered him was at an Amnesty International event. Then subsequently at a Forum on the Federal Constitution. Now he sees me in this 60's outfit, beehive hairdo complete with polka dot ribbon on my hair and...he can't seem to connect the dots. I'm still sitting on the fence, wavering on what I should feel about M! - first I need to get over my own natural feelings of self importance in order to appreciate someone else's.

Entrez my other friend, all a fluster - an ardent fan of M!, contributing to his natural feelings of greatness about himself. The night deteriorates further. Five out of six of us, representing The Firm, are in 60s outfit. Coincidentally, the 3 most outrageously dressed are from the same department. Mira in a yellow wig, Michele in a mini skirt. Shree was in some kind of combo - current day + 60s + Grace Kelly fashion ie saree, sunglasses and a scarf around her head. People were asking her all night why she was wearing a tudung. Only Rajesh maintained the dignity of The Firm, dressed in current day Malaysian attire - a saree, attempting a serious conversation with a senior member of the Opposition Party (who had the misfortune of being placed at our table) whilst the rest of us were hooting rowdily at the Malaysian Tom Jones. Mira & I had to haul our not so petite derrieres up the stage to prance around like wollies as part of the 5 shortlisted for the Best Dressed competition. By then I had to pop 2 elephant tranquilisers to remain calm whilst struggling to portray some semblance of joie de vivre.

I think The House of Zang Toi will throw a fit when they discover how I have humiliated their outfit. The jacket and mini kilt were their creation. I couldn't wear the matching polka dot 4 inch heels as I am still (todate) recovering from my fractured foot. My friends are eyeing my Diors and Zanottis with their eagle eyes. Obviously not wishing me a speedy recovery. Christina is not even subtle "Saz, do you still want your pink thigh high 4 inch heeled Gucci boots? Its such a waste that you don't wear them..." is a daily lunchtime query since I fractured my foot last Christmas. WHERE can one wear such boots in this country without being arrested? The first and last time I wore these boots, traffic screeched to a halt as I crossed the road to attend the official launch of Zouk. The only other item that I possess in my wardrobe that could stop traffic is my Dolce & Gabbana dress. My friends and I spent 10 minutes trying to cross the road to get to Hard Rock Cafe when I decided that in times of emergency, I am forced to do the unthinkable...I took off my jacket to reveal...The Dress. As expected, the formidable Friday lunchtime traffic screeched to a halt. As I crossed the road (with my ever so grateful friends) I saw one of the drivers of the cars - a woman, gaping unashamedly with longing at The Dress. Its really a great compliment when other women compliment you on your clothes. When a man pays you a compliment on what you are wearing, you know you are not wearing enough clothes. He's probably staring down your decolletage when he's flattering you on your choice of outfit. If you don't believe me girls, just ask him what colour is your dress. He may be able to tell you what colour your undergarments are (if you are wearing any) but it would take a few minutes of embarrassed sputtering before he can tear his eyes away to check on the colour of your dress. The genius behind a Dolce & Gabbana dress is that it gives one's lunchtime companion the illusion that one's ample assets would escape the delicate constraints of The Dress somewhere in between the Aperitif and the Entree. Don't even worry if you don't have ample assets, a Dolce & Gabbana dress will definitely give the illusion that any woman who wears it has more than ample assets.

Oh I digress as I usually do when my attention is diverted to my favourite topic - my clothes...back to The Dreaded Night. A friend from the Bar Council approaches our table and gushed "Oh you are all sooo...sporting! Did you realise there was a mistake in the Dress Code? The organising committee did not tell us that the theme is the 60s and so we failed to inform the printers on time - the Dress Code printed on the invitation card says "Formal Attire". " Ahhh....the pin drops. Understanding and realisation dawns...

a) We were the only ones who didn't read the invitation card properly or at all;

b) None of the other guests read and/or receive emails from the Bar Council; or

c) There is a plot afoot by members of the Bar Council to ridicule The Firm (to which we unwittingly obliged and inadvertantly participated in for them..).

We opt for version (c) since we didn't win the Best Dressed Contest. As the night unfolds, I am plunged into deeper despair, headlong into an abysmal abyss (hmm can one say abysmal abyss?? ok, abysmal misery then...excuse the melodrama, its warranted!). My effervescent friend Shree somehow found herself standing next to M! and declares loudly "Those are my friends over there!" Only a dear friend like Shree would be such a darling to declare to all and sundry that the circus freaks huddling together at the corner were her friends. M! (she tells me later) politely enquires "Isn't that S..." and before he could even finish his sentence, to my horror, she peremptorily propels him towards us. "Hello," he says in his usual polite worldly manner. "We met at the Amnesty International event.." he feels the need to justify to those around us how he happens to know this frivolous creature who looks like she has an engagement at a Kabuki Theatre later that night. My ever helpful friend Shree pipes in "We are going to the Sisters in Islam forum tomorrow night.." Can she just proceed to the nearest bathroom and dye her hair blonde? Sisters in Islam?? She tells him that??? Yes I did go to the the Sisters in Islam forum the next evening but she has to tell him that when I am in my mini Zang Toi kilt and oh! I forgot to mention that I had a Villiam Ooi Doll pinned onto the front of my kilt - I feel the effects of my elephant tranquilisers wearing off.

I should be dying my hair blonde, I think to myself. My friend Christina says I look "kampung" with this hair colour (I darkened my hair a few months ago - must be the after effects of being knocked down by a car. I must have fractured more than my foot). Remind me again someone please, why bottle bleached strawberry blonde Christina is one of my favourite friends?? Aah, the night is not going well... I am beginning to hyperventilate...I am losing my senses...calm down.."How many Roberto Cavalli jeans do I own?" I ask myself. "Seven" I answer. "One can never have too many Cavalli jeans" is my mantra. Aaah, the fog is clearing, my life is brought back into perspective...It always works in panic situations to ask myself these important questions. If I can answer them correctly, I know I am still well grounded. I usually ask myself "How many Dolce & Gabbana outfits do I own" but having recently discovered that my favourite Dolce & Gabbana tartan kilt has been cruelly murdered - chewed to death by vermins, this is no longer a safe question to ask in panic situations. Christina shares my grief over the tragic untimely demise of my favourite kilt. (Ah, now I remember why she is one of my favourite friends). I must give it a decent burial or cremation soon and move on with my life...First I will compose a fitting Eulogy...

Er, where was I? Oh yes, M! Who must by then think that he has stepped into Twilight Zone. I can hear Shree saying proudly "You know, we googled to get the right 60s outfit.." to which he commented " And you came up with a saree?" I shall send her a bottle of peroxide tomorrow, I thought.. its her choice whether she wants to put it on her hair or drink it.

In hindsight, I suppose I should apologise to M! for impersonating a Madame Tussaud waxwork when he launched into his animated monologue on Amnesty International. I was fiercely concentrating on trying not to blink for fear that my eyelids would be glued shut for the remainder of the evening due to the over zealous application of liquid mascara by Cindy, my regular make up artist & stylist. Yes I confess, I am unable to put my face together for dinner parties and functions and need to rely on Zang Toi's stylist to assist me on these occassions. As her forte is fashion shows, I usually turn up at dinner parties with the same startled "deer in the headlights" look that models seem to wear on the catwalk. Poor M! I vaguely remember him asking what my thoughts were on the closure of (or did he say "conditions of..."?) Guantanamo Bay. A word of advice to the men out there, its best not to discuss anything more serious than the weather when conversing with a woman with more than one layer of mascara on. Especially when she is also wearing a polka dot outfit complete with striped knee length stockings. Chances are, you lost her at "hello".

I cannot remember what else happened that night. All I remember is that I had to spend 2 hours removing my make up and another hour taking all the pins out of my hair. Despite all that, I was still too mortified to sleep so I decided to write an email to a certain Dev A. in response to this letter he wrote to the NST. The poor chap doesn't realise that I was suffering from great trauma and still under the influence of the elephant tranquilisers when I composed my email to the wee hours of Sunday morning...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sunday Night Out at LaB
2nd April, 2006

Racked with guilt for harbouring uncharitable thoughts on the nominees for Best Performer (Dance Category) in the upcoming Arts Awards (just because my favourite Miss Diva was not nominated), I dragged myself to WJ's (one of the nominees) debut singing performance at LaB on Sunday night.

As I stepped into the packed smoky atmosphere of LaB, I thought I had been tossed into a time warp, shuttled back to my university days, more specifically SOAS's basement bar filled with its unwashed anthropology students consuming their lunchtime staple diet of samosas and beer.

Yes, not many people know that there is a law faculty in SOAS. There were 30 of us in the first year but only 14 graduated by the end of the third year. They sieve out half of us at the end of the first year. I suspect they don't want us to form an alumni, that's why there are so few of us in this world.

Two hours earlier, I had visions of myself enjoying a pleasant evening, dining with my friend, whilst enraptured by WJ's solo recital of some enchanting classical songs. Reality refused to mirror my illusions....Two hours later, as I was listening to dear WJ belting out his freshly composed pop songs interspersed with his contemporary dance - yes, pop songs - I sensed these 2 women checking me out. It dawned on me that perhaps Sunday night is LaB's gay night and by being there, I am somehow misleading them into thinking that I too bat for the same team. Especially since I had turned up with a robust looking female friend. There was really no point in clinging on to WJ (who was by then sweating profusely) at the end of his performance to dispel this misconception by pretending to be his girlfriend for I fear he too is of the Frangipani crowd. It would only serve to validate my new found position as a member of the same cricket team.