I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

8 oct 2015

if there’s anything i want to remember from jc it’s the days like these, working together in occasional chatter and stretches of silence, working but not working so hard our brains hurt and we just want to cry. lingering in homerooms until night has fallen and we only realise when we see the deep blue sky outside the window. the light-soaked corridors in the day become new strangers. days that remind me i’m not all alone on this treacherous journey, when the simple presence of the people around me is enough to lubricate the difficulties of studying and ease me into a carefree laughter. trivial conversations and frequent queries and food breaks and raucous noise and discussing music styles. support has become so, so important.

the sparrows are floundering in the haze because their solid resting ground has become obscure

in these moments i almost feel like i am not existing; a drifting presence, a person among people undetected. and we are all doing our things, the cars moving and the toddlers running and the friends talking and i am suspended before a glass wall looking out into the world, contemplating the remnant scenes of a movie i’ve just watched but haven’t understood. my mind is running and i am speaking to myself without moving my lips and i cannot even begin to tell what i am feeling or doing but all alone this feels strangely right.


somehow it felt like I would stay seventeen forever; for years and years and indefinite lengths of time. it felt like i would always fill in personal information with ’17’, summarise social media biographies with ’17’, be barred from watching M18 movies always. but i guess it’s the same inertia we feel every time a new year begins; writing 2014 behind the date and admonishing ourselves for absent-mindedness. pretty soon 18 will be normal- everything peters out into normalcy with time.

it just feels a little strange now, this small sense of being quite a lot older, being accorded more legal power, yet still living the exact same life. perhaps i will realise how different things are/ can be after all this is over, and the weight of a moment is really just what it is, not saddled with guilt and regret and extra grams of knowledge of opportunity costs that accompany every move. perhaps when i’m truly free 18 will welcome me with open arms.

today at 3.30am

the fear of being forgotten by those who matter to you is so real every time. tiny glitches in time thrown off course and veering undecidedly into space, floating and wandering through dark masses. yet time always wins, crackling back into life, propelling forward assuredly, confidently. hours pass and you enter the moment and it is so much more than what you’ve believed it to be. the forays into my negative imagination are always reduced and negated by the love that people can have, and that is what surprises me every time- that people bother to remember; bother to take out their phones and write 12am texts; bother to write a card; post a dedication.

the gifts are lovely, but at the end of the day it is the affirmation of friendship and love that i most appreciate; that feeling that washes over me anew when i re-read cards years down the road.

we all just have that one day which is absolutely special to us, and to others that’s just a passing day. but they’ve made it so special for me, and for that i am immensely and overwhelmingly grateful. i really shouldn’t fear if i can help it; not at all.

primary school quirks

filled water bottles the breeding ground for tornadoes; artful twists of the wrists that allowed a rising column to spin and spin and disintegrate into bubbles- we used to challenge each other to see whose tornado could last the longest. clicking pens and releasing them on table tops to see how high they could jump, walking along drains to see if anyone had dropped change in the deep recesses. nike water bottles and the signature spray. the same piece running through different fingers on the cranky old piano with stuck keys in the canteen; i don’t think i will ever forget the song that every piano kid seemed to practice to mastery, still tingling on my earlobes. spinning coins with a single hand, velcro wallets inevitably attached to a rainbow spring; we used to play it like a yo-yo until the springs got twisted and could never untwist again. little inflated plastic packets that exploded on touch. fascinated with secret stairways in a school so tiny that nothing could really be considered secret; all alone in trios in shaded corridors and obscure places feeling brave and grown-up.

what graduation might feel like

it feels a little like graduation today, the mass gathering of souls (this came to me so easily- i wonder if i’ve read it before) for the final time before the banks can no longer hold back the river. there we will be, lingering in the last time for what feels like forever, for a moment that we never thought would arrive so quickly. praying to stay a little longer in the glare of phone camera flashes; enclosed in myriads of embraces; shallow brushing ones and heart-filled impressions from those who matter.

and then the moment cannot catch us anymore; the system has no hold over us; we can no longer hide in this refuge. and we stumble through the doors, pushed and shoved by biting whispers echoing ‘go forth and meet reality’.

a small something

the 16th year was a blur. i barely remember who i was; i have to piece together my identity with old photographs and letters. thoughts and feelings have long escaped

and it comes again to this feeling of clouds in my lungs, waking days drifting through repeated realities. i keep experiencing deja vu; is it just that i’ve been living this same life ten hundred times over? every day comes with its small mountains in different forms and courses, but in the larger scheme of things they crumble to vague difficult terrain. yet did i even remember the very terrain upon which i trod? maybe i want to remember this mind-numbing feeling

even if it’s no feeling at all. having too many things crowd my mind at night, the powerlessness of being unable to chase them away for good, finally slipping into slumber i don’t know when. this emptiness overwhelms, and if there is nothing at all

still i hope to write, and remember the nothingness for as much of a something it is: children sleeping in dark classrooms and hoping for more time before the teacher steps in.

home (ii)












home (i)

i’ve been wanting to write a piece about singapore for a long time, but i’ve never quite been able to express myself. i hope too often for my words to be poetic, or striking, or sound beautiful, but that sort of prose has found no way out of me. perhaps it’s a message to keep things simple as they are, and my feelings about singapore have never been too complex.

how do you define a home? we hear many speeches; we’ve read many textbooks about how ‘singapore is our home’ and ‘this is where we belong’. i’ve never disputed that. i know that singapore is my home; i’ve lived here my whole life. but it only struck me recently that home cannot be something simply made by habit, or an idea ingrained in you over years of national education and national day speeches- there must be something more than that. yet when i probed myself to identify exactly what made singapore home to me, all i got was a blur of ideas and emotions.

i woke up yesterday morning and over a lazy breakfast, scrolled through my facebook feed. i chanced upon the same video being shared by various people- one of mrt commuters heartily singing along to one of our most iconic national day songs: ‘home’. singaporeans aren’t known to be particularly spontaneous or enthusiastic and well, something about the video really got to me. maybe the very notion was heartwarming, perhaps it was the fact that people were being so uncharacteristically uninhibited, so willing to unite their voices to express love for our nation in a random, unexpected location. many people actually knew the song lyrics by heart, and those who didn’t whipped out their phones so that they could join in the song. at the end, everyone erupted into cheer. i remember having a dream just the previous night about bursting into a national day song in the middle of a supermarket, so that was pretty coincidental.

i think the video triggered something off for me. home is singapore, but it is not just this land we live and build on. there is nothing about physical land or geographical location that makes singapore home. rather, home is everything i’ve come to take for granted; a multi-racial, multi-religious society which has been the garden for incredibly diverse friendships to take root and flower beautifully. i’ve had the best time visiting some of my friends for hari raya and deepavali, for warm generous smiles and home-cooked food. with globalisation, i guess you can find different cuisines in many places around the world, but i wouldn’t trade the place that i have for its closeness and authenticity, for the genuine want to immerse in a culture other than our own, to experience and understand each others’ lives, for their mother’s smiles when you tell them that the food they took hours to prepare tastes wonderful. it is this sort of close interaction that i appreciate, this openness to people who believe in something different than what you believe in, yet you welcome to your house with open arms. and the languages we speak- all different, yet entwined into this mess of dialects and languages called singlish. but i wouldn’t change it for anything else; for the ease with which we speak it, for this exclusive common understanding whose boundaries only enclose singapore. you can hear a singaporean and recognise a singaporean, and in a foreign land, the sense of familiarity is indescribable. we may not like everything about our country, but for this much i am thankful.

home is what we’ve come to treat as our most basic rights: the right to education, the right to dress freely and have the autonomy to decide, the right to justice. i’m not sure how many people have hung up their flags today, but it doesn’t matter to me. we are home with the gratitude in our hearts.


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