Of Love and Respect for an Honourable Leader

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Photo credit: The Washington Post

 

A nation almost fell into a crisis on 21 August 2016.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) was giving the National Day Rally on the podium when he suddenly fell to his right; his face was visibly paler with beads of sweat on his left forehead before he had taken ill. My first thought was, “Was it a stroke?”

The camera quickly cut to the audience; however, the director probably did not anticipate the reaction of the audience to be very telling that something bad was happening to my Prime Minister. A young, Indian girl in her school uniform sat up, covered her mouth with her hand to express shock and fear.

Then the National Day Rally was suspended; for 80 long minutes. That must have been the longest dinner buffet ever served at a public service event. 

When the PM recovered, his wit and humour were still very much intact and the incident proved useful for him to illustrate the importance of succession planning.

As PM LHL continued on delivering the important speech to set the nation’s forecast and vision for the following year, my tired and jaded heart plumped up with pride.

PM Lee has proven that he is indeed, the right man for this job then, and now. I am grateful for a Prime Minister who puts the nation above self. Yes, there are issues and policies that I do not agree with; but that’s a different story.

Have you seen how other leaders are hurting their own people and land?

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I must have been 19 or 20. I was a member of the Young People Action Party (YPAP). I dragged my bestest friend, J to ZOUK, a club that was popular in the early 2000s because PM Lee  and his cabinet will be engaging with the YPAP at the club.

I had brought along a TIME magazine where PM Lee was on the cover. I was such a groupie; choosing to sit at the outer bar area so that I could get a chance to have PM Lee autograph on the magazine cover. He did with a tinge of hesitation and awkwardness; but not without his handsome bodyguards giving me the dirty look before they surrounded him to create a barrier between PM Lee and me…as if my black pen (from a random hotel) would become a weapon.

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I have loved my PM since then. The kind of love that is part-gratitude, part-respect.

I also recognise that he probably has other talents and interests which he had to give up to be in this position of immense stress and responsibilities. Forgive me as I continue to share my alternative perspective and unhappiness on what could have been.

My courage and expectations come from Mr LKY, Mr Goh Chok Tong and you, PM Lee, because you have made it possible for me to be confident and knowledgable.

Thank you, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long for taking care of Singapore and our needs, protecting and guiding Singapore into a better spot.

Please rest up well, Mr Lee. I hope you get some well-deserved break soon.

Of Suffering and Pain

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Shadow, North Bawlyn, Victoris

“I think I’ll start a new life, I will start over where no one knows my name.” (Boston by Augustana) 

Have you ever fought against a crushing pain and problem all your life; only to have no solution against this pain? All the good fights you have won have amounted to nothing and the defeating moments are only made much worst when the perpetrator gets away scot-free while you continue to support and provide the people who truly matters.

In C. S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, Lewis spoke of “mental pain being less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden.”

This pain – it doesn’t go away.

This pain – it drills into me, sucks out the life and energy out of me.

This pain eats away at the core of my resilient core; leaving me empty and numb.

But I have to go on because this pain makes me even more determined to thrive better. To change what must be changed. It keeps reminding me that no matter how meaningless a pain (some people are great pains too) can be, it is pertinent to protect the family unit.

Because there is no way out but to continue charging forward, I will absorb this pain and burden; I will continue to work on protecting what matters most to me, over the material.

There is really nothing that matters more than what holds up this heart…the ties that bind.

And protect the house, I must.

 

Of Escapism and Growing pains

I could remember 11 August 2011 very well.

I climbed up six flights of stairs; with the smell of cigarettes and alcohol hanging in the air. I knocked on the blue wooden door, waiting in anticipation to start my new job after completing my studies in Melbourne, Australia.

The door did not open. I waited.

I was full of hope; believing that the Universe had heard my wishes.  I spent the last few days of the 2o11 Australian winter thinking about what and where I want to work; and as luck would have it; i did end up having what i wanted.

The door finally opened. A grouchy lady opened the door and asked if I was making a courier service. I said that I was reporting for my first day of work. She then turned around and shouted to the back of the office, “DID ANYONE HIRE A NEW PERSON?”

So it has been five, long years. 11 August 2016 was like any other day except that this phrase from Night Flight kept appearing in my mind, floating in and out as I make my way around the world:

“We do not pray for immortality, but only not to see our acts and all things stripped suddenly of all their meaning; for then the utter emptiness of everything reveals itself.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

That utter emptiness floods me; carrying me into a mode of flight and escapism.
But even that unfortunate emptiness is part of me, my belonging and my burden.

***

“When we find a purpose that is bigger than ourselves, we become more powerful in our ability to create.” – Jack Delosa

Five years is a long time. I should snap out of those growing pains. (I have, really.)

It’s time for me to find that purpose.

Happiness is truly in the Now

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The Giving Tree

Have you read The Giving Tree?

My favourite teacher in primary school first read it to the class and I was the special one who got to turn the pages of the big book version. I remember looking at Shel Silverstein’s face from the back of the book and feeling sad after the story. I told myself, “I won’t want to be that tree! How silly to give everything to an ungrateful kid!”

I read The Giving Tree to my elder niece when she was barely 2. She loves the story. At 4 yrs old and turning 5 at the end of 2014, I suppose being with her tells me how annoying I can be to the people around me. The niece corrects her grandparents’ grammar, reminds them on the redundancy in their speech and asks for organic snacks and sweets. But I finally realise why the tree could keep on giving despite the unreciprocative Boy. Because the love for the Boy preceeds every and anything.

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The younger niece turns 2 this April. We don’t really get along because my death stare freaks her out. She is pretty strongheaded and very short-fused.  Yesterday, I brought her to the playground. She climbed up a faux rock stairs all by herself; i never knew she had such awesome motor skills. I was focused on her bad behaviour and inability to articulate herself.  My heart swelled with pride yesterday.

We were playing hide-and-go-seek for a while. Instead of seeking out for me,  whenever I was out of her line-of-sight, she screamed for me, with a tinge of fear in her voice. I realise she will only need me for a very short period; I need to be there for her no matter how bad I think her behaviour is. And because I also love her very much. That was why,  I learnt, that the tree would still continuously give to the Boy no matter how little she had left.

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Junior — he has an abundance of energy. Stick thin but is always looking to eat something. I don’t get to spend as much time with him as I would love to but whenever I am with him, I feel that we are so tightly bonded. He climbs onto me and sticks his hand under my blouse. Boys! His sweaty head always smells good. So much love for this little fella. His antics are neverending and the joy he brings me is boundless.

So, I have become that tree even without knowing it. But I am willing to be that tree to these three little ones.

They have taught me so much about life and myself.

They have guided me to be more forgiving and humane. More importantly,  they have defined what happiness is for me.

Happiness, to me, is time spent with them. No matter what we do, as long as we are together, we will always be happy doing even the most mundane things.
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My little ones, may you always be healthy and well. 

May good friends and mentors surround you as you learn to navigate the world. I know the importance and difference good friends and sound mentors can make to your life choices. The world may not always be kind but you can choose to be kind to those who don’t have the privilege you have had in your lifetime.

May you always make the right decision even if it is the tougher choice.

May you always choose to love yourself above anyone; because when you love yourself first, you will never feel the need to be someone’s fiddle. Independence will be your pillar.

May you always know that I carry you in my heart and mind, always.

The Strange Dynamics Among Girls

I have very few friends. But the few friends I have are very precious and dear to me.

Each girlfriend complements a part of me. Some bring out the argumentative streak in me while some bring out the big sister (or big mama) instincts. However,  I love all of them dearly in my own different ways.

I used to have a criteria for people I want to befriend… and keep as friends.

As I grew older, I learnt about energy, law of attraction, fate and many unexplained theories of this amazing world. It seems that sometimes, perfect strangers become friends because in their past lives,  the bonds formed have yet to dissipate. Remember the movie, 21 grams?

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Sometimes, the best friendship is the one where you can be comfortably silent and still feel like ypu've spent quality time together.

The most beautiful part of my relationships with these girls is that I am never jealous or envious of them. They are beautiful,  have successful careers and cute babies. Somehow, they have become an extension of me. When they are happy,  I feel happier.

When they feel down or are unwell, it hurts me even more because I feel helpless that I cannot make the bad go away.

We fight sometimes too. But we always make up because true friendships heal themselves and survive even the coldest war.

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As humans, we need people to care about and to be cared for.

I am thankful that the friends I have have become sisters; sisters that I have never had in this lifetime.

Alone but not lonely

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Waking up to a sunrise is one of the most beautiful moments I have had recently. The sun’s rays woke me up before the alarm did. I experienced a sense of quiet joy which overwhelmed me in a positive way.

There was an immense satisfaction knowing that I could be so joyful despite being alone in a beautiful hotel. Being alone felt like a privilege because in most Asian families, the collective We is more important than the self. We are not encouraged to find joy in the self. If you are 30 and still unattached or married, you wil be nagged to death on the importance of finding somebody.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my family (those who are worthy of my love and care, of course) and am always happy for my beloved friends when they have found their plus ones.

But this joy of solitude is so empowering because all your positive and negative emotions are your own. There is no one to impress. There is no one to be accountable to but yourself. You are just you.

Take that trip alone. You will learn much more about yourself and how you really feel about others in your life.

Go watch a movie by yourself. You will learn that focusing on the dialogues and the script can help you be more analytical and observant.

Celebrate this solitude because you owe yourself this peace.

The mortician & I

“No one should ever ask themselves that: why am I unhappy? The question carries within it the virus that will destroy everything. If we ask that question, it means we want to find out what makes us happy. If what makes us happy is different from what we have now, then we must either change once and for all or stay as we are, feeling even more unhappy.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

I have an ex-colleague whom I used to bother a lot whenever I needed to conduct photography sessions for my then-company’s annual report production. Let’s call this ex-colleague, Bala.

I used to work for a government board which regulates medicine, medical devices, the blood bank, forensic science testings and the mortuary. Every now and then, I would need fresh stock images for my annual reports production.

Bala worked as a laboratory technician to the resident forensic pathologists. Bala, in my brief conversation with him, would assist the forensic pathologists in the dissection of cadavers, weigh the organs and after all necessary procedures were completed, cleaned the mortuary. The smell of the disinfectant and its mixture of many other liquids chemical (and of course, the smell of death) would forever remain in my mind.

One thing that Bala shared with me would also remain with me for a very long time. He said, “If I weren’t born in India or to my parents, I would be a (sic) even better doctor than Dr XXX.”

That was in 2004. I was a year into my first job. I was angry with my parents because I could not continue with my higher education (they couldn’t afford it because I wanted to study in Australia then and I have two younger brothers who were still in school.) There I was – all too sure that it was a lost opportunity for me because damn, I was too good to not continue studying. Bala, in his mortician scrub, knocked me into my senses.

I may not be able to continue with my overseas degree but I had a great diploma from a reputable polytechnic which made me highly employable. I was able to support my family when I was in my teens and doing holiday jobs. I really have nothing to whine about. NOTHING.

Simply put, I am stupidly fortunate to be where I am. I may not have the best but I always have enough.

Bala was too, denied of opportunities in his home country of an education and a livelihood to support his family. He did not stay angry – instead, he moved to a new country so that he could sustain his family. He learnt a new skill. He excelled at what he did for a living. He moved on because there was no time nor luxury to be angry. It was just life.

***

There was no one to be angry with...

There was no one to be angry with…

I completed my bachelor’s degree in 2011 as a mature student. It made me realise how much I have enjoyed learning. So, I am pursuing my master of science now.   I shouldn’t need to justify why I am pursuing a postgraduate programme; but I am not doing this for the paper-chase as some have expressed.

It was really to challenge myself and keep the gray matter active. It is also to remind myself that only I have the ability and capability to make things happen for myself. No one owes me a living.

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Bala has taught me so much despite our short-lived interaction in a rather morbid setting. Bala’s shunned by the people around him because of his job. It still hurts me to know how callous humans can be.

Bala is doing his adopted country a great service and was awarded a national award for his work during the period when the deadly SARS virus hit Singapore.  Despite the risk and many unknowns during that period, Bala and his team still continued with their jobs dealing with the many deceased who may or may not have the SARS virus.

Thank you, Bala.