Truth in a Time of Coronavirus I

This article is part of a series of shorter works entitled “Jerit.” It chronicles the moments when words, images and life overtake us, when all we can do is bring emotion into existence and keep the world at bay. We hope to commemorate chokes, sing to reveries and dwell in self-possession.

Gif by Yap Lay Sheng

It is Day 6 of the Movement Control Order in Malaysia. We are collectively exiled into our homes, and I have often felt that the only way to find connection is on the floating world of the internet. I was seeking an anchor in the reality of an outside world, but my efforts had instead carried me with the waves of each news cycle. Without social schedules of work and home, I had begun to feel the surface of time slip like wet ice under my feet.

Kar Jin texted me this passage late at the threshold of night and day. In a time where there is no time, where language can only exist in faultiness and fragments, maybe the only truth we can find is in the clarity of presence. When I woke up and read this, I put on my big girl earrings and, for the first time in six days, felt the morning.

Apa itu kebenaran dalam era koronavirus ini?
What is truth in a time of coronavirus?

Truth is a double blue-ticked Whatsapp message.
Truth is a neighbour who you have never met 800 metres away standing on their balcony sending you HOLD ON in morse code thru their phone flashlight.
Truth is 10 plants nurtured by your mother, one drying mop still wet with soap, a set of wooden chairs from IKEA, and a fan on 40 square feet of limbo you call a balcony in this covid-19 prison.


Kebenaran itu ialah bunyi kicau burung pada pukul 5 pagi dan surat khabar yang isunya bermula dengan tajuk utama dan bertamat dengan muka surat 112.
Kebenaran itu ialah Maggi Mee Kari tambah telur dan sawi dengan beberapa hiris cili merah.
Kebenaran itu seorang yang menghulurkan tangannya yang bersarung kepada seorang nenek yang terjatuh di eskalator dan mengutip bawang merah yang berguling berkeliaran di lantai.

In a time when truth is small and fear is large, truth is jealously, possessively guarded, washed over multiple times with soap and sanitizer and scrubbed clean of its edges.
Pada era di mana kebenaran itu tidak terhingga, kebenaran itu…

Ong Kar Jin, “Truth in a Time of Coronavirus,” March 2020