Farewell, Mr Lee Kuan Yew

When I was six, my father died.

I remember every single detail of his funeral.

Most adults would be surprised that my memories of his wake are so vivid and real. I remember not wanting to see my papa’s body because I was scared. Scared of what, I cannot tell you now, for it was something I could not articulate then as well. I remember fooling around with my cousins, jumping around like there was an invisible hop scotch engraved on the ground. I remember bursting into tears and bawling non-stop, and being passed around by the adults as there was no one who could console me. I remember the white tee shirt and little piece of straw token pinned to my sleeve.

And the most lasting memory of his funeral, that stayed with me all these years, was the tune that the awful marching band played during the procession: Auld Lang Syne.

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This morning, as I woke up to the news that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had passed away, it was Auld Lang Syne that surfaced in my mind immediately.

Funny how some things never leave your subconscious.

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When I was a kid, watching the NDP on TV at home was a must. My mother and I would seat ourselves in front of the telly after dinner and watch the entire programme in its entirety, year after year. The only times I missed doing this was when the man and I were camping out at some field somewhere, hoping to shoot the fireworks.

“Every year also the same thing,” my mother would tsk as the contingents marched across the screen. But it never stopped her from watching anyway.

But the moment that we were both waiting for was not the fireworks, but when Mr Lee appeared. We would clap and cheer loudly, as if he could hear us.

“My hero!” my mother would exclaim.

And year after year, it started to become apparent that he was getting on in years, especially after the death of his beloved wife. He looked frail and papery thin, almost as if even cracking a smile was costing him some effort.

The man and I would murmur something along the lines of “look at him, he’s getting so fragile now” and we knew he would die one day.

But we never thought that the day would come. Ever.

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You know how we think that some people will never die and they will always be around by the sheer power of their strength and determination?

That’s how I thought of him.

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I must confess that as I became a young adult, I stopped idolising Mr Lee and took a harder, more critical view of my government’s policies. The truth is, I do not agree to many of them. But this does not mean that I lost my respect of the man.

His methods may not work for this generation, this era, but the turbulent times probably needed someone as decisive, unapologetic, combative and single-minded as him. I will never understand fully what it was like to live in those uncertain times but seeing how I am a product of his legacy, his methods must have worked.

I am an educated woman with a family of my own. We have a roof over our heads and decent jobs. My children receive subsidised childcare, which allow me to go to work. Our transportation system – say what you will – is stable, reliable, clean and efficient. I never had to worry about the colour of my skin or my gender hindering my progress in school and at work. I have access to delicious, cheap and hygienic food. When I take my boys out for walks, we can duck under the trees for shade. My estate is clean and safe for my kids. I speak two languages fluently. My passport allows me to travel freely and it is highly sought after.

Coming from a single-parent family of a low-income earner, I reckon I have done pretty good, thanks to Mr Lee and his master plan.

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This morning, as we watched PM Lee deliver his speech in three languages, I choked back tears. Here is a man who had to put aside his grief as a son to address the nation as an office holder.

“So, so sad,” I muttered to myself repeatedly.

Aidan, the sensitive child that he is, caught on that mama was feeling low. “What’s wrong, mummy?” he asked. How do you explain a death to a three-year-old?

So I said, “Mr Lee Kuan Yew is the founding father of Singapore, he created Singapore. He has died. He was somebody’s papa and somebody’s gong gong, just like how you have your yeye and nai nai and por por. His grandchildren have lost a gong gong and his children have lost a papa. And it’s very sad. He is gone and no longer with us anymore.”

Bless my child, he probably did not understand most of what I had said, but he repeated solemnly after me, “Oh, he is not here anymore.”

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Today, I realised that my boys will never know a Singapore that is so infused with the life of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. To them, he will be but a character in the history books, someone they read about during history or social studies lessons. They will never have the privilege of seeing him walk up the stairs of the National Stadium, clad in his party white and waving to the crowd.

And so I write this, in the hopes that they will one day read my words and see that he was not just a man in the story books, but someone who had meant a lot to their mama.

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Dear sir, I am sure you did not go gently into the good night, and you probably fought a good fight. Your work here is done and your beloved wife is waiting for you on the other side. Farewell, be at peace, and know that your presence will be sorely missed. Thank you for all that you have done.

sm lee press conference

Photo shamelessly taken from iheartapple.

The unbearable anxiety of living

Today, my very sweet husband drove me from my office in the east to a tiny showroom all the way in Alexandra, just so I can check out a sample sale. As I browsed through the racks, he stood outside and waited patiently as I stood in line to try out the clothes and then to pay. And then after that, we went for lunch together.

Just us, hand in hand, in conversation and with much mirth.

Now, this is not a post bragging about my amazing and wonderful partner. Oh, he is amazing but seriously, he has his flaws (as do I) and sometimes he is quite the arsehole. But oh well, for better and for worse and all that jazz, right.

What I am trying to say is that I had a lovely time and I loved connecting with him. And it was a good break.

Truth is, we are in the midst of a transition around here. It’s not something that I want to talk about publicly but let’s just say that it kind of rocks the stability that I am used to. And I am someone who needs stability in my life.

There’s a fair bit of uncertainty hovering around us now and I am not used to that. I am not someone who can jump off a cliff without knowing that there is firm ground beneath me – I have not been brought up to take risks. I couldn’t, not when I had to be accountable for my mother.

So this is making me feel unnerved. I’m frankly a little worried and anxious but it’s also something that is beyond my control. I can only go with the flow and try not to be in the way.

But yes, I worry. I worry about living life in Singapore, where the sandwiched middle class such as us is constantly struggling and fretting. I worry about my kitchen, which is slowly falling apart after six years (the developer clearly did not use good quality materials). I worry about my kids’ education. I worry about our retirement.

I worry, worry, worry.

Imaginary Friends by Melanie Lee

I first heard about Melanie Lee‘s whimsical and sardonic e-book Imaginary Friends: 26 Fables for the Kid in Us a year ago. But I didn’t grab a copy then because, frankly speaking, I had neither the energy nor the time to read then.

The e-book has since then transformed into print and Melanie kindly offered me a complimentary copy – how could I say no? So during the weekend, when the little man was napping and the chores were done, I sat down for the first time in a long, long while and read the book.

As I plunged into the stories, I started smiling at first, and then laughed out loud. I love that the highly satirical stories were not explicitly funny, at least not in the crass HAHAHA sort of way. Rather, they were out of the world, ridiculously imaginative and exudes a sense of humour that is hilariously dry. I must admit, though, that there were a few tales that were lost on me and which ended oddly to me. But by and large, I enjoyed the stories very much and loved the truth and wit behind them.

I mean, you cannot disagree when the moral of the story is “in the hustle and bustle of life, we all could do with more sleep”, can you?

At the same time, the stories were superbly matched by the illustrations of Arif Rafhan, a Malaysian-based artist. He had taken the characters created by Mel and given them a visual identity that was so distinctive and, well, sort of mad. The characters have bulging eyes, thick lips and slightly bloated, misshapen bodies – not quite cute and yet oddly endearing. My favourite of the lot is Elly the Egotistical Eraser: what a badass she is!

I will definitely grab a few copies of Imaginary Friends as gifts to friends who may be in need of a good tale (or 26).

You can connect with Mel and Imaginary Friends on Facebook or grab your copy at Books Kinokuniya and MPH Bookstores for $10.80. You can also purchase it at BooksActually or from its online store.

Chasing the sun

Over the weekend, we went chasing after the sunset.

It was a very impromptu affair. We were on our way home after celebrating a dear friend’s birthday and the birth of his daughter, when I saw that the sun was hanging gloriously low in the sky. Told Mr Thick to drive to an empty field near our house so that we could enjoy the sight of the setting sun when he one-upped me by taking us to the reservoir instead.

Armed with our packed dinners, two canned drinks and a picnic mat that’s always left in the car, we parked ourselves by the waterfront and enjoyed this spectacular view.

All throughout dinner, I kept repeating to husband, “Wow. Amazing. So beautiful.” And it WAS AMAZING! I don’t know how to explain the feeling or the sight. It felt like a miracle, being able to see the setting sun and catching the changing colours of the sky. When the clouds lit up and turned fiery red, it was almost as if my heart had stopped and I was gasping for breath. I felt like I was so close to the edge of the horizon and yet so far at the same time. The feeling is indescribable and the view was simply incredible. Absolutely incredible.

It reminded me of the Omni-Theatre and the movies that we used to watch there during our primary school days. I loved the Omni-Theatre! Anyone remember watching the volcano movie “Ring of Fire” there?

I have a feeling we will be having more picnics at that park. How lovely, lovely!

The crisp, fresh air

One thing that I missed terribly about Sydney was the proliferation of gardens within the city itself. The pockets of greenery nestled among the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of city life was so welcoming and warm. We walked practically everywhere and took breaks on park benches whenever we were tired.

Back in Singapore, however, Mr Thick has an aversion of getting sweaty and hot. I know, TEH IRONY. We live on a tropical island! But well, that’s him, he hates being stinky and all. The humidity doesn’t help. Plus, Mr A inherited his father’s ability to sweat buckets at the slightest increase of the temperature so the warm and sticky air makes him cranky.

Recently, however, the weather has been so beautifully cool that we decided to make walks and exploration of parks/beaches a routine. After running errands at nearby Vivocity last weekend, we decided that breathing in some fresh air was a necessity.

It was hard work pushing the stroller up slope, I can tell you that. Such a good workout, especially with our monster of a stroller! We opted to skip the baby carrier and let the little man get a plush, comfortable ride. Lucky fellow. He just didn’t realise how lucky he was! Most of the time, he was quietly observing his surroundings. That is, when he wasn’t busy trying to reach for and destroy the foam fan that we had attached at the foot of his stroller.

(He did destroy it. The fan valiantly pushed on with just two of its three foam blades remaining before drawing its last breath. I tossed it out summarily.)

What a wonderful home our island makes! The lush greenery, rustic parks, beautiful view…we have it all. Since A is kept indoors most of the time, I am hoping to expose him to the great outdoors as much as I can. Poor little fellow is still terrified of the crashing waves at the beach and of walking on sand and grass. Hilarious!

Hmm, maybe we’ll check out a goat farm on our next excursion.

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