The Freedom of Being Shameless

LAST year, actress cum activist Mislina Mustaffa embarked on an interesting project called "Homeless By Choice", where she decided to be homeless
for a year.

She gave up the place she called home for the last eight years and disposed off most of her belongings. Carrying only the basic essentials in her
backpack, she stayed in budget hotels, tents and in the houses of kind strangers who were willing to take her in as a guest.

"French author and feminist Simone de Beauvoir once said that 85% of a woman's daily life is spent cleaning the dirt that keeps coming back," says 42-year-old
Mislina.

"When you have no house, you have no dirt to clean. I am curious to see what I'll be doing with 85% of my time."

Mislina's sojourn as a homeless person is finally over. The journal she kept during the time has been turned into a book called "Homeless By Choice" that will be officially launched tomorrow (Sept 19) at 8.30pm at R.A. Fine Arts - The Gallery, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir will officiate at the launch.

Mislina recently spoke to theSun about being 'homeless'

You wanted to be homeless for a year and that year has finally come to an end. Have you got a permanent roof over your head now?

"No. I am still homeless. I have decided to embark on another year of being homeless. This time I will be camping at beaches. For the time being I am camping at the Batu Ferringhi beach in Penang."

How long do you plan to be homeless?

"Till I get bored. After a year of camping at the beach, I might want to live in a cave or on the top of a tree for a year. I have come to a stage in my life where I never plan my future. I just go with the flow."

What can we expect from your book Homeless by Choice?

"My book is about the freedom of being shameless. When people talk about a journey that they have taken, they always talk about strength. But I shamelessly tell my readers about the vulnerabilities I felt throughout my journey.

"I talked about the loneliness I felt. I talked about getting bored with the journey itself. I talked about the vulnerabilities you would not feel if you are in a home surrounded by friends and family.

What do you hope to achieve from this book?

"I asked basic but harsh questions in this book. I asked why do we need to choose to confine ourselves to a structured life? Despite all the education we have, why do we, especially women, have to conform to the idea that our lives will only be perfect if we are married with kids and a home.

"A lot of women I know do not want marriage, kids and a house, but they took this path because they worry what society will think of them. I want women to explore their options. I want them to experiment with their lives. When you explore and experiment with life, you have to cross boundaries.

"I want them to ask questions. I want them to know that you must never be afraid to ask questions. Small questions will lead to big questions. But asking questions is a taboo in our society. I hope the book will inspire people, especially women, to embark on their own journey.

Describe an interesting chapter we can find in this book?

"Almost every morning, the city council guys come to the Batu Ferringhi beach where I was camping to shoot stray dogs. Personally, I do not feel that stray dogs should be killed. Why should we kill stray dogs? What is their crime? Let them live!

"So, every morning when the city council guys arrive, I would tell them that these dogs belong to me. Interestingly these dogs (seven of them) became my protectors. At night, on their own initiative, these dogs would stay outside my tent and guard it. If any strange guy approached, they would bark and scare him away.

What have you learnt about yourself from the journey you have taken?

"Some of our beliefs are constructed out of fear. When I stayed at the beach, there were many nights when I failed to make a fire. The rain would wipe away the fire I had created. I used to be afraid, wondering how I would live in darkness?

"However I slowly got adjusted to the darkness, I learned to do things in the dark. Now I am no longer afraid of the darkness.

Some have labelled you mad for undertaking this homeless project. How do you feel about this label?

"So many great minds like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were considered mad at one time. Yet without them we would not have lights and telephones.

"If I entertain such allegations, then I will stop experimenting with life and I do not want to do that. I want to keep on experimenting with life.

theSun readers are invited to the book launch this Thursday. Mislina will be on hand to autograph copies of "Homeless By Choice" which retails at RM30.