Rambles

For the poetry enthusiasts and those who enjoy eccentric thought processes

slaves to money

enslave me to money

dangle the numbers before my eyes

let me go dizzy with streams of crashing coins and fluttering notes

the music to my ears and hands

slick plastic edges the pleasure my sweat-traced fingers cannot deny

i need the gold to anchor my soul and give me false joy

these earthly obsessions that strangle me with reality

we are slaves to these dollar signs because they distract

our necks trapped in the smooth curve of the $

their ghastly repetitions in every cell and fibre

we work all our lives and forget how to live

we forget

deepavali (festival of lights)

Outside a tiny oil-lamp is burning, coloured rice scattered and blooming in solid white outlines against the golden flame. Inside, I am sitting on the couch, speaking to your mother in low tones and assuring her that the design is beautiful as the henna flows out of the tube in confident curves and lines that I cannot muster. A little away the piano is lilting a lovely tune as a couple of you sing terribly on purpose to songs that I have heard a million times and I smile to them like they’re my old friends as you are. I feel so warm inside singing along, like I am enjoying a home that is not my own but feels just as peaceful and welcoming. Thank you for inviting me into your culture.

dusk

Maybe it is in the indeterminate boundary at dusk

between the dying gleams and the newborn darkness

partitioning the sky into two opposing bodies of the same entity

that our skins are cast in light and shadow

In duality when we have everything to gain and nothing to lose that we

morph into the beings we were truly meant to be

We lie between the last crack of light and the first crack of darkness

At deserted bus-stops

dozing off at 1am, waiting in a familiar place that has taken on such a different aura at night. We ambled through the mall, lights on but tables and chairs orderly overturned and compacted into smaller invisible cubes. The kiddy rides sit where they are, larger-then-life smiles frozen in place even when there is no audience to tug on mummy’s and daddy’s hand and feed them a stray coin. They speak in recorded voices, the only sound other than the brushing of the floor that pierces the night in creepy animated tones, too alive in the silent night.

At the bus-stop flares of orange light zoom by, occasionally the conversations of passers-by drift past our lethargy sinking deeper into the ground. But at last the correct car comes by and we tumble in, never more eager for the journey home.

cycles of nothingness

It is interesting how things are a cycle of nothingness. You begin with two wires that have not been fitted together, strangers that have no inkling of the other and somehow quite physically build up the conversations, the laughter, the tears, the days and the nights until both wires are melded together, with varying permanence. It’s not perfect, because the wires fizzle and spark and glower and we fall in and out of this connection that we have promised ourselves but it is something. I feel that somehow ultimately, this ultimately being a representation of a year, two years, ten years, I can’t say, the wires will unravel and fall apart, feeble pieces that are useless lying apart but never to be conjoined again. And the electricity stops there in a broken circuit; it stops there and sustains nothing beyond itself.

dakota crescent

Formed in 1958, Dakota Crescent is one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore. Sadly, it is set for redevelopment and will be vacated by end-2016.

An old man sits on the curb staring at the people who have brought bulky cameras with them (including me), people who have come only after knowing that the place is soon to be gone. It is not fair, because he has lived here all his life, but we only tread into his quiet neighbourhood in its last years and disrupt the familiarity he has always known.

But it was lovely to have been there, to have immersed myself in an environment that is so atypical of the Singapore we encounter everyday. No architecture will quite look like it again.

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important calculations in society

I can see it: before the camera you are tilting your head to a precise angle of 21° to the left. You arrange your hair to fall across your right shoulder to reveal white, milky skin that encompasses your left collarbone (you’ve always found it more angular and prominent than the one on the right). The impossibly black lenses you wear dilate your irises to unnaturally huge sizes because that is what society deems pretty. But then again, society’s notions of beauty have always transcended human grasp and I guess that is what you look like now. You spread your full lips to the point where your cheekbones are lifted to highest elevation and you make sure not to smile too much so you still look doe-eyed and beautiful. Your face looks like a conscientious calculation.

If it had been a Polaroid, in a snap of spontaneity your face would have been preserved in a more natural light that no filter could have cast a shadow over. But in this manufactured moment when the shutter controlled by your own thumb falls, the essence of the photo lies not in your beauty but in your artifice.

humansofsg (2)

She pushes a pram along furniture-laden hallways. (In retrospect the entire place is compartmentalised, so similar to our whole country in general.) In each little corner a space of strikingly different ambience is tucked away, and I get the feeling that we are looking through invisible windows in an inhabited street, each home looking perfect with price tags intact.

Her hair is bundled into a messy bun with streaks of dyed gold and she walks in front of me. When she bends over her back exposes a strip of skin as thick as a blindfold. A scar snakes up from the waistband of her jeans like a vine reaching for sunlight, yet stopping short halfway. It is a deep purplish colour. Twice I see it, but I don’t see her face clearly; I will never find out her story.

late night phone calls

You are snuggled in your bed but nowhere near a state of slumber, eyes searching past the window and roof of obstruction to see a oblong patch of sky. The moon does not draw near. You close your eyes again and toss in your bed; it is comfortable but tonight the softness cannot lull you away.

Suddenly the phone rings and your initial reaction is one of annoyance. You turn the other way as a form of avoidance but it keeps ringing and ringing and silently you will someone else to pick it up. But as it continues to ring suddenly fear creeps into your heart and the beat inside you begins to accelerate against the stillness of night. It is late at night and who calls this late except if…

You claw at the bedsheets. Someone has picked up the phone and now you wish you were the one who answered so you would know first. Silence silence silence.

With hesitant footsteps you trudge over to your parents’ bedroom as you ask them ‘what happened?’ and they say

Wrong number.

faraway

This sounds cruel, but I want to remember your moments of vulnerability because you so seldom let them come. We will talk and reach such towering levels of laughter and animation before we fall silent again, both gazing far off into the distance, perhaps thinking of what to say next or allowing time to naturally pry our conversations open. Sometimes I look at you and the grimy light glows like a faraway lantern in your eyes, rising slowly in the night. My heart clenches a little when I remember- you’ve been to darker places than so many of us have been, emerging braver amid this crowd as you speak about him in wistful retrospect. In the moment I only feel the deepest love of a friend for you as you say his name and smile. I want to tell you that you are more mature than a grown-up; stronger and more powerful than whatever mighty sword we sometimes allow age to wield over us.

Wisdom does not come with age but with experience. This is your wisdom my dearest friend; you’ve been endlessly brave.

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