Read While Waiting Project in the News

A kind friend told me this morning that he saw me in the Star newspaper last weekend (It’s ironic since I don’t buy the Star and read it when my wife brings it home from the office).  So, I went to check it out and lo and behold I’m glad I look not that fat in the photo 🙂 (Not that I really care about that since I’m still walloping potato chips!

To set the record straight, and it’s not a major thing, while Han didn’t announce his participation, I did in this blog and in the facebook invite. And I didn’t use the word "contrived", I used the phrase, "may feel a little forced for some." But I did say for sure … "this project makes a good statement and it’s nice to be doing it with other people".  I stand by this FULLY, well done Zain and all those who made this project possible.

It’s funny now, I’m not just a pastor, or just a blogger … I’m also a mobster! 🙂

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Sunday August 31, 2008

Mob of readers

Armed with books, a flash mob descended on KL Sentral to make people aware about cultivating the reading habit.

By ROUWEN LIN

THEY came, they whipped out books all together and sat or stood quietly, reading. Then they dispersed, just a quietly. And so ended the KL Sentral flash mob event last Saturday.

But what happens at a flash mob event? Basically, it’s a bunch of strangers gathering in a public place, behaving in a pre-determined – often attention-grabbing – manner for a short period of time, and then dispersing.

The mobs are usually organised online or via text messaging, and a successful flash mob depends very much on the element of surprise.

Can you spot the ‘mobsters’?

Originating in New York in 2003, flash mob events are usually quixotically purposeless, but the one at Sentral had a point to make, according to its organiser, the writer and freelance MC who goes only by Zain H.D.

Zain had organised flash mobs before for various reasons; Saturday’s mob was a part of his ongoing Read While Waiting Project (RWP).The idea is to make people aware that everyone should read while waiting. Whether it is for the bus that takes forever to arrive, the once-again delayed train, or the inching cinema queue, you can whip out that book from your bag and bury your nose in it.

Which is what about 100 people did at 3pm last Saturday, congregating in front of entrances to the KFC outlet and the KTM platform.

While some “mobsters”, as they’re known, read standing up, many chose to sit cross-legged on the floor. Obviously intrigued by the sight of so many people engrossed in reading, photographers circled and clicked, and passers-by stopped to throw puzzled glances at the mob.

Some members of the public examined an unrelated art competition banner nearby, while another piped up, “Is this a reading competition?” And then there was the guy, typical of bargain-hunting Malaysians, who sidled up to me and asked, “Excuse me, are you selling something?”

The reading went on a good 10 minutes past the allocated quarter hour, and dispersion was sluggish, for many mobsters lingered long after the books had been tucked away.

The spirit of comradeship was strong, for although the congregation had come together mostly as strangers, the sense of purpose bound them together.

“I think it’s a very interesting concept, so I decided to come along to support my friends,” said Clement Yeah, 21, a Mass Communications student at Tunku Abdul Rahman College who joined the flash mob with five friends.

“I know many are here just for the fun of it, but they will be aware of the cause once they come,” said Zain, undaunted by the 100-odd turnout despite having over 900 confirmed guests at on the RWP Facebook page. He was more concerned with spreading the word about the project and its cause of improving Malaysia’s dismal reading habits than with having a huge throng descend upon the unsuspecting.

Mobsters See Tshiung Han (left) and Sivin Kit with the books they brought along to read.

Mobsters like See Tshiung Han, 27, and Sivin Kit, 36, had not bothered to announce their planned participation online.

“I usually read while waiting anyway,” said See who works as an editor at Bluetoffee Books. “I just came along to see what’s going to happen though I don’t really see a reason for doing this.” Kit, a pastor , agreed, “Yes, this (the flash mob) feels contrived for people like us who read everywhere, but I think this project makes a good statement and it’s nice to be doing it with other people”.

Zain pointed out that what prevents some people from taking part is the fear that a flash mob is illegal. This is paranoia that stems from ignorance of the law, he said, for there is nothing about a flash mob that fits into the definition of unlawful assembly.

He thinks that the idea of a flash mob appeals because of the underground feel to it and the active participatory effect – as opposed to, say, a concert where the audience are a separate entity from the performers.

“I’m using flash mobs as a medium to do something good by tying it to a worthy cause. The RWP is one of these things. I know there are people who make fun of this but I always think – baby steps. I’m trying to make a difference in the world one step at a time,” said Zain, who professes to be a “self-employed unpaid pseudo activist doing what I feel like doing and persuading as many people as I can reach”.

If the sight of mobsters reading has managed to prompt the public to make an effort to have something to read the next time they find themselves waiting somewhere, then that’s one of those baby steps achieved, we reckon.

  • Go to Zain H.D.’s website, RandomAlphabets.com, for more details about the ongoing Read While Waiting Project.

About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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