Friday, June 3, 2016

The Dream Job

I took the plunge and decided to become a full-time wedding photographer. Of all the things I have done so far, this one turns out to be the most fulfilling. 
Not that I don't love writing anymore, but being a photographer has opened doors for me that I never thought possible before. My clients have become my friends, weekends are when I am super busy and I get to actually start building my business the way I want it to be - different, creative and start doing all the things I've learned from the business books I poured over before. 

For me, this is my dream job. 
This is the one. I cannot think of any other thing I wanted to do with my life (apart from writing, of course) than simply being a wedding photographer. 
And another fun part about this; the job allows me to write any book that I want without feeling any pressure of writing about that is "marketable". 
So, for the first half of 2016, here's my report: 
I'm a wedding photographer, video producer (more on this later) and a writer. 
There. Thank you 2016. You've been great so far. 
Read On

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Short Note on Finding Your Happiness that Last Longer

It was not too long ago, when all I wanted from this life was to buy nice things to wear and eat at high-end restaurants. I was almost always naively fallen to Capitalism's power of persuasion. 
But that seemed a million years away now. When it was all about show of wealth and glamour, I concluded, it would always be a never-ending battle. Some say it's the trend of the time we live in, and some others spat out that it's progress-the more successful you are, the better you are able to afford the nice things in life. 
Why though? 

Why do we seem to long for other people's approval so much so that in the end, the pursuit usually leaves us in a position of losing sight of ourselves that we so desperately craved for in the beginning of our journey?
This year, I started more seriously on something that I find very beautiful: taking photos of weddings; where two people come together, tying the knot and become husband and wife. It's always a joyous occasion, and personally, I don't mind the hurdle of running around during a wedding just so I could capture those special moments.
But after a chaotic day running around, I would usually find the time to sit down with the bride and groom after the whole thing is over, and have a chat. And one common point where we would find ourselves land upon eventually is the amount of money that was spent on their wedding day. All for a single day. 
This piece is written today because I felt that to spend so much on a single day, just so we could impress other people is not really the wisest of choice. I would normally say this thing out loud, out of concern for the way all of us have been heavily manipulated by the things we see on magazines and celebrities' weddings.
There are many ways you can celebrate a day to mark it as special, and many of these 'ways' are quite cheap. Look at it this way: while you are spending so heavily on a single day, what about the days that follow after the wedding?
Too often, the pursuit of happiness leaves us empty, in spite of our best intentions. 
To be truly happy, does it require a huge investment? 
To feel special, do we really need to feel as though we are adored by the people? 
It is something that I have embarked upon a couple of years ago, when I began to spend more time on the pursuit of happiness. And one of the answers that I found is this: back to the basics. I am usually happy when I learn something new and do the things that I love.
One of the best decisions I have made recently:
# You don't need other people's approval nor acknowledgement to feel you are special. 
# Your happiness does not require you to spend a huge amount of money.  
And let me share you one more. Once you start to appreciate what you already have instead of chasing after things that you don't have, then you will see a huge difference in your happiness. It will last longer. 
If you need to wear expensive clothes and eat at expensive restaurants to feel special, prepare yourself for a vicious cycle of making money and spending it as soon as your pocket is filled. 

Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it. William Feather

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Beauty of Not Giving Up

The best decision I've made over the years, since I've dedicated my life to pursue my life's dream to become a writer, is not giving in when the going gets tough. 
I may not be a best-seller (just yet). And I may not write as beautifully as most of the writers out there. However, the dedication and commitment to see this through, has helped me to develop the character that I never thought existed inside of me before. 

I am able to absorb difficult moments in my life because of the hardship I have had to go through in the past; those times when I did not have any money to pay for food and rent, banks kept calling me to pay up my monthly car installment and the pressure of seeing my friends around me doing so well in their respective careers while I was trying to write my books and doing odd jobs to make ends meet. 
My friends, it was tough. There were moments when I cried a lot on my own until I became so tired and sick of those tears, and the only thing that kept me going forward was the faith I had on my ability to see this through. 
I began listening to motivational talks on YouTube (free and a lot of excellent contents) and my favorite will have to be Les Brown. I continued writing, coming up with my books and articles. I also subscribed a lot of newsletters from blogging websites so I could learn from other authors'; their writing styles and the way they express themselves. 
And although some things did not happen as I thought they would, but I chose to see the whole thing differently. At one point, I thought, well, if no one is interested to publish my books, then I'll publish them on my own. And I thought too, if it's quite difficult to penetrate the book market here in my home country (Malaysia), then I should make full use of Amazon or Google Play to sell my self-published books. And when it was still difficult to make a living from my writing, I opted to pursue the wedding photography business while still maintaining my writing works at night. 
The whole point here: I did not give up. I chose to keep on fighting for what I believe in. I chose to keep on working on my books that require thousands of hours of self-learning as well as being flexible and creative enough to pursue other things to keep me alive. 
I am glad that, despite the hardship and some moments of insecurities and doubts, I did not give up. It is by far the best decision I've made in my life. 
You shouldn't either. 
You shouldn't point your fingers at other people and blaming them for your failures or your missed-opportunities. You're only making things difficult for you. 
Instead, use what ever energy you have within you to improve what you know now, and focus all of that on making things better in your life, as you pursue the things that make you feel alive. 
I wish you all the best and during those hard times, think of your reasons. Why are you doing this in the first place? 
Read On

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

One Thing at a Time

I used to be overwhelmed before, by the amount of works I had to do because I thought by being busy, it meant progress. But after more than a few weeks, I would usually feel burnt out and did not make much progress after that. The works I intended to complete before, were usually put aside or continued after a few months of sitting idle on the side. 
Eventually, I needed to figure out a way to get things done. It's really easy to start a new project, when we are suddenly inspired by the things we come across or see from our surrounding, as we meet people or visit interesting places. But it takes patience, dedication and commitment to complete something; follow-through. 

And I realized this: that the best way to handle this dilemma; every time before I embark on something new, I need to approach the whole works one thing at a time. Focus on one thing before I move on to the next thing on my checklist. I found out that I was able to get more things done than if I were to pursue every idea in my head all at once, and achieved nothing in the end.
Recently, I had received lots of booking for my photography service. I was excited at first before I realized, whilst the photo-shoots were fun, I was slowly feeling overwhelmed by the workload; editing, follow-up, printing, more editing and on it goes. 
At the same time, I wanted to pursue my writing as well. I wanted to come up with my new book (part of the Gordana series) before the end of this year. However, during the early phase of my photography business, I could hardly find any time to write my book. 
So, I started to think of a way around this problem. What should I do? 
The answer is pretty simple. Discipline and focus. 
I still write a lot, even when orders for the photography service are pouring in. I make a commitment (to myself) that I write 2000-3000 words a day, either for the book or other online magazines in which I am a contributor. And I write at night, from 10 to 1. 
While most of the photos editing and administrating the photography business are done during the day. 
By being strict with myself:
1. No photography-related tasks when I'm writing, 
2. No book-related tasks when I'm running the photography business during the day, 
I am able to achieve more. 
Therefore, this is the best way for you too: focus on one thing at a time and you will see the wonders to your works and lifestyle as a whole. Besides, you'll feel great when you are able to accomplish something; when you have completed something that you planned earlier. 
All the best.  
Read On

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Blog: A Wedding Photographer


This photo by Susan is absolutely amazing. Seriously, I cannot stop looking at it. 

I have recently made a decision to become a wedding photographer, something I would never have thought of years ago. I love beautiful shots, and constantly at awe when I look at amazing wedding photos captured by the pros in the field, and I took the plunge based only on this inspiration; unplanned, sudden and a desire to start something meaningful. I had no proper equipment, which seems to be one of the main focus for somebody who want to do this seriously. 

The moment you are charging somebody else for your skill, it means you are serious enough about your works. Even more so for a very important day in somebody else's life. 

But fortunately enough, my enthusiasm was not short-lived. I wanted to prove that if other people could do it, I can too. Before I started to looking for people that I could charge for my service, I diligently volunteered to take photos for free during some of my friends' weddings and family gatherings. That was a good place to start because I received instant feedback, and as the positive feedback poured in, I was able to gather some courage to be more serious about the whole thing. 

One of the things that I noticed was how a lot of the photographers are trying to offer ridiculously cheap prices for their services, while the mid-to-higher end complain about them ruining the 'market'. 

Secondly, I think there are a lot of photographers that tend to lean towards the white, pure tone for their wedding photos. 

For example, 

Being a newcomer, I thought I should approach the whole thing daringly. 
I started out offering prices from low to high-ends. Why bother competing with these 'seasoned' photographers? There are weddings almost every weekend of the year. I figured, I should put more effort into 'selling' what I have to offer with my photos. When a lot of them are offering the 'white, pure tone' for their photos, I decided to go for the darker, brownish tone. 

Here, let me show some of the images I found on the net that I absolutely love. 

So, there you go, a new leaf for 2016. Hopefully, by the end of this year, I'll be able to tell something very memorable about '16. 

Read On

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blog: a wedding post

A wedding vlog 

Last weekend, I had some time do what I love: taking some photos of people and making a video. I just wish I have better equipment, I hate seeing shakiness in my videos.

Anyway, I tried my best with what I have. I'm thinking of making more so I can learn how to improve what I produce. Take a look, and if you don't mind, tell me what you think. 

#A Malay Wedding

And here are some pictures I took that day. 

Read On

Monday, December 7, 2015

The 10 Fascinating People behind the Rise and Fall of Majapahit Empire

The 10 Fascinating People Behind the Rise and Fall of Majapahit Empire

image source

We are familiar with the history of Julius Caesar, the Battle of Waterloo, how King Cyrus the Great came into power and unified the entire Persian Kingdom and Genghis Khan’s rise to power. 

But not much is known of the Majapahit Empire that was once a very powerful empire in Southeast Asia. At the height of its power, Majapahit controlled lands that consist of present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Southern Philippines and East Timor.

There were 10 people who were influential in the Empire’s growth and decline 
behind the rise and fall of the empire

10. Jayakatwang

The Kediri Kingdom was a Hindu Kingdom based in East Java that fell to the Singhasari Kingdom in 1221 by Ken Arok. Around 70 years later, by now already a vassal state of Singhasari, its governor, Jayakatwang plotted to overthrow the King of Singhasari, King Kertanegara and restore Kediri Kingdom once more.

That opportunity came when King Kertanegara was busy preparing his army for an imminent invasion by the Mongol army and thus, spreading his army thin. Jayakatwang launched the coup against Singhasari by attacking from the north and south of the defenseless Kutaraja, the capital city of Singhasari. The surprise attack was successful and Jayakatwang killed Kertanegara in his palace, and declared himself ruler of Java.

The son-in-law of King Kertanegara, Raden Wijaya with the help of his ally Arya Wiraraja, was able to save himself from being killed by Jayakatwang. He (Raden Wijaya) then settled in Tarik forest, and built a village that was named after the bitter-tasting fruit, Majapahit that would grow into a powerful empire.

In 1293, a year after the coup, Raden Wijaya was able to convince the Mongol army who had just arrived in Java to take revenge on King Kertanegara that he would pay tribute to the Great Khan in return for their help, and together, they marched to Kediri and defeated Jayakatwang. 

The fall of Jayakatwang also meant the rise of Raden Wijaya; as he went on to build Majapahit as one of the most powerful empires in Southeast Asian.

9. Kertanagara

Kertanagara was the last King of the Kingdom of Singhasari and also the father-in-law to Raden Wijaya, who would go on and start the Kingdom of Majapahit. Under King Kertanegara’s rule, he wanted to establish Singhasari’s authority over much of the Southeast Asia region. By 1286, Singhasari extended the Kingdom’s influence that included Bali in the east of the state, and westward to the Straits of Melaka.

However, the Kingdom’s expansion to the west brought Singhasari into confrontation with China, which was under the rule of Kublai Khan at the time as the Great Khan wanted to extend the empire’s reach to Southeast Asia. In 1289, as Singhasari’s expansion in the Straits of Melaka could potentially threaten China’s influence in the region, Kublai Khan sent his envoys to Java to demand tribute from Kertanegara but the King of Singhasari refused to comply (Link 5). As though to make the message as clear as possible to the Great Khan, Kertanegara had the Khan’s ambassadors’ noses and ears cut off, and sent them back to China.  

When Jayakatwang attacked Kutaraja, Singhasari’s capital city, the city was quite defenseless as Kertanagara had sent the majority of his troops to Sumatra, in order to solidify his power as he expected retaliation from the Mongols.  

As Kertanagara had all daughters and no male heir, the continuity of the Singhasari Kingdom was in a way, continued by Majapahit. During the latter years, in order to strengthen his hold on the throne as King of Majapahit, Raden Wijaya wedded all of Kertanagara’s daughters to avoid any future claim during his rule.

8. Raden Wijaya

Raden Wijaya was the founder of the Majapahit Empire. After the death of his father-in-law, King Kertanagara, he fled to Sumenap, and established a new kingdom, called Majapahit, named after the bitter-tasting fruit, Maja with the help of his ally, Aria Wiraraja.

At the same time, the Mongol force landed in Tuban, East Java, with the aim of revenge for mistreating Kublai Khan’s emissary in 1289, although it was not known yet that the King was already dead. But Raden Wijaya sensed an opportunity with the Mongol’s arrival, and he sought for an alliance with them to overthrow Jayakatwang and in return for the Mongols’ help, he promised to pay tribute to China, to which they agreed. And Jayakatwang was defeated by Raden Wijaya’s men and his new ally, the Mongols after a five-day battle.

It was only then, after the victory against Jayakatwang that Raden Wijaya showed his true nature. He told them that he was going to return to Majapahit to prepare the tribute to be given to the Great Khan. But this was part of his plan to mobilize his army and ambush the Mongols. Raden Wijaya and his army charged the Mongol camp, defeated them in battle, and forced the Mongols to flee back to their boats and escape. While the Mongol expedition commander returned to China and received 70 lashes with a whip and was stripped of all his worldly possessions, Raden Wijaya was crowned King of the new Majapahit Kingdom.

To strengthen his claim on the throne, he married the sisters of his wife, who was the daughter of the King of Singhasari. In total, throughout his kingship, he had a total of five wives and elected all the people who had been faithful in the struggle to build Majapahit were appointed as high-rank officials in the new government.

 7. Jayanagara

Jayanagara was the King after Raden Wijaya. However, his reign was marked by rebellions, such as the Kuti and Semi rebellions in 1319 that almost crushed the empire. A few reasons for the rebellions were because of Jayanagara’s incompetency as King and his controversial lineage.

During Jayanagara’s reign, Gajah Mada was the Commander of the Bhayangkara, the elite royal guards. He played an important part bringing an end to those rebellions. One of those was the Kuti Rebellion and Jayanagara was forced to escape to a place known as Bedander. Gajah Mada came to the rescue and he led the Majapahit army and brought the rebellions to their end. 

Based on the Negarakretagama, and supported by inscriptions from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century, entitled Weak Villain, Jayanagara was pictured as immoral who took his own half-sisters (daughters of Raden Wijaya’s youngest wife) as his wives.

However, that proved a fatal move by Jayanagara when the two princesses complained about the arrangement, and Gajah Mada intervened. It was said that Jayanagara had a tumor at the time, and Gajah Mada, with the help from Gayatri Rajapatni, arranged for the royal surgeon to murder the King while performing the operation to cure the King. 

6. Tribhuwana

Tribhuwana was the ruler of Majapahit after the death of Jayanagara, who was killed by his own surgeon, arranged in secret by Tribhuwana’s mother and Gajah Mada. With the help of her mother’s influence, Tribhuwana rose to the throne and rule as Queen of Majapahit in 1329.

However, two years after her ascension to the throne, there was a rumored rebellion going to take happen at a place called Sadeng. Unfortunately, the prime minister at the time (before Gajah Mada), Arya Tadah was seriously ill and had difficulty walking. As Arya Tadah realized he was not the right person to handle the situation, he called in Gajah Mada to take the post of Prime Minister instead and put an end to the rebellion.

But there was another problem—there was another man, Ra Kembar who was eager to impress the Queen. Without obtaining any permission from Arya Tadah, Ra Kembar led his to Sadang. It did not go down well though. Instead, he made it worse. Arya Tadah was livid when he found out as he intended to approach the delicate matter through diplomacy, without any bloodshed.

Queen Tribhuwana had to intervene in order to resolve the rivalry between Gajah Mada and Ra Kembar. She then collaborated with Gajah Mada and her cousin, Adityawarman and they successfully ended the rebellion. Gajah Mada was appointed as the Prime Minister after that by the Queen, to replace Arya Tadah.

With the help from Gajah Mada as the newly-appointed Prime Minister, they expanded Majapahit’s empire to include the Island of Bali, Kingdom of Pejeng and Dalem Bedahulu. She then sent her cousin, Adityawarman to the east, and expanded the empire’s reach to the rest of the Kingdom of Srivijaya and the Melayu Kingdom.

Queen Tribhuwana ended her reign as Queen in 1350, on the same year of her mother’s death. She was succeeded by her son, Hayam Wuruk as the King.

5. Hayam Wuruk

Hayam Wuruk was regarded as the greatest King of Majapahit. It was under his rule as he brought the empire to its peak. Hayam Wuruk was the son of Queen Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi and ruled Majapahit from 1350-1389. Coincidentally, he was born on the same year that Mount Kelud erupted (its most recent eruption was on February 13, 2014).

With the help of Gajah Mada, Majapahit’s legendary Prime Minister, together they transformed the Empire into one of the biggest empires in Southeast Asia. Based on Negarakrtagama, an epic poem composed by the court poet Prapanca in 1365, the Empire’s authority extended into Bali, Sumatera, Kalimantan (Borneo), Southern Philippines, New Guinea and the western tip of Sumatera, and this would mark the greatest extent of Majapahit Empire.

However, in 1357, Hayam Wuruk had to end Gajah Mada’s career as the Prime Minister. That year, Hayam Wuruk was expected to marry the Princess of the Sunda Kingdom, Princess Dyah Pitaloka Citraresmi, to foster an alliance with the Sundanese Kingdom. But Gajah Mada thought differently. He saw the wedding as an opportunity to force the Sundanese to accept Majapahit’s overlordship instead. When the Sundanese King refused and decided to return home with the rest of the royal party, Gajah Mada led the Majapahit army and killed all of them. It was said that the Princess had killed herself to protect her pride and family honor. That was when Hayam Wuruk decided to strip Gajah Mada of all his positions and titles.     

4. Gajah Mada

Gajah Mada was probably one of the two most important figures in the history of the Majapahit Empire, the other being Hayam Wuruk. He was the mahapatih (Prime Minister) and the General of the Majapahit army, known for bringing the Majapahit empire to its peak of glory. 

Before he became the Prime Minister, Gajah Mada was the commander of the Bhayangkara, an elite royal guard. It was during the rule of King Jayanagara, the son of Raden Wijaya, founder of the empire, when he was provided with a path to be part of the ruling elite when he played an important part in quashing a rebellion against his King (King Jayanagara).

It was under the rule of Queen Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi when Gajah Mada became the Prime Minister. As Prime Minister and General of the Majapahit army, Gajah Mada undertook a campaign to bring the entire Southeast Asian archipelago under Majapahit’s control. 

According to the lengthy epic eulogy to King Hayam Wuruk which dates to the late 1300s, Negarakretagama, Gajah Mada delivered an oath called Sumpah Palapa, in which he vowed not to eat any food containing spices until he had conquered the entire Southeast Asian archipelago of Nusantara for Majapahit.

However, in 1357, Gajah Mada was stripped of his titles, authority and honors when he killed Hayam Wuruk’s bride’s royal party during the King’s wedding. He would eventually spend the rest of his days in relative solitude at his remaining estate in East Jaya, where he died in 1363.

 3.  Adityawarman

Adityawarman was born and raised in the Majapahit Palace. He was the grandson of Queen Tribhuwanaraja and the cousin of Jayanagara. He was said to have helped Queen Tribhuwana and Gajah Mada during the Sadeng rebellion in 1331. Adityawarman was appointed as the Senior Minister of Majapahit and with this newfound authority, he launched Majapahit military expansion plans and conquered east coast region in Sumatra.

Adityawarman played an important role in helping to repair the relationship between Majapahit and China for what had been done on Kublai Khan’s envoys by King Kertanegara and Raden Wijaya’s betrayal years earlier, as he was appointed as the ambassador to foster better relations between the two kingdoms. According to the Yuan Dynasty Chronicle, he was sent to China twice, in 1325 and 1332.

After the death of Gayatri Rajapatni in 1350, it was said that Adityawarman might have preferred to retreat into Malayu’s mountainous hinterland, where he would not pose a challenge to Hayam Wuruk as King of Majapahit.

  2. Kertawijaya

Kertawijaya might be the unluckiest of all the people in the list, as during his reign, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions were quite frequent. Kertawijaya was not the last King of Majapahit, but the end of his reign in 1451 meant the end of the Rajasa Dynasty, which was started by Ren Arok, the founder of the Singhasari Kingdom.

Before Kertawijaya became the King of Majapahit, he knew there were many people at the palace that would not approve of his ascension to the throne as he was of Majapahit-Sunda lineage. As part of his effort to gain influence and strengthen his claim to the throne, he appointed people who were not among those in the government as his officials in the Kingdom. He did this, under the assumption that no matter how high these people rose in power, they would not be contesting for the throne. But this particular action only angered those in the palace, who preferred only those of true bloods of Majapahit to rule the empire and hold important posts. 

During his reign also, the rise of Islam in the region was growing fast. Therefore, he sought to build and maintain good relationships with the growing population of Muslims in the empire, and had even married a Muslim woman to show how serious he was in fostering good relationship with the Muslims.

A lot of his decisions were controversial and from these dissatisfactions and contempt toward Kertawijaya’s rule, rumors began to spread about how Kertawijaya could potentially destroy the empire with his actions.

Kertawijaya was finally killed at the palace by Wijayakumara and his own men, after Kertawijaya’s own personal bodyguards abandoned him for believing in the rumors, that he would bring destruction to Majapahit.

1. Gayatri Rajatpatni

The former Canadian ambassador to Indonesia, Earl Drake, said of Gayatri Rajatpatni, ‘She’s the one who holds it all together. She was the daughter of Kertanegara, the King of Singhasari. She was the wife of Raden Wijaya. She was the mother of Tribhuwana who became the queen. She was the grandmother of Hayam Wuruk. And I think she was the tutor of Gajah Mada. She’s the one who pulls it all together.’

After the fall of her father, King Kertanagara, she was able to survive the attack and escape by discarding her royal clothing and pretended to be one of the slaves of the royal family.

Although it was her daughter, Queen Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi who appointed Gajah Mada as Prime Minister, it was actually Gayatri who saw the potential in Gajah Mada. Being a good judge of character, she understood that the intellectual capacity of a person was far more important than the classes to whom a person belonged to. It was said that it was Gayatri who had tutored Gajah Mada and groomed him to become the person that he would eventually become for the empire, by planting him into her daughter’s inner circle.

When she no longer saw Jayanagara (her husband’s son with another woman) fit to be King for the empire, she used her influence at the palace and made plans with Gajah Mada to subtly remove the King from the throne. After the death of Jayanagara, who was murdered by the King’s own surgeon, Gayatri appointed her daughter Tribhuwana as the ruler of Majapahit.

During her final years, Gayatri thought of the steps that needed to be taken to prepare the survivability of the empire, and one of those steps was to have her daughters and sons-in-laws to build a council to help the future king, Hayam Wuruk rule the empire. 

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