I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

Month: December, 2014

a short reflection

Here’s something about me: I can’t read myself. I cannot tell what my own actions say about me, what kind of person the things I do mean I am. So, I find it really interesting when people tell me things about myself (however ignorant this may sound). But lately I feel like whenever someone tells me something about myself, there is an involuntary, unconscious urge to be the kind of person their words state I am. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m acting a certain way just to prove a point, maybe put myself under a label just to say yes, this must be me because my actions (the evidence) say so. But amid unawareness, evidence could also have been created.

Maybe I should free my mind, take what people say about me as just trivia, fun facts to understand myself better, instead of trying to live up to some sort of false expectations that nobody was meaning to impose. I hope to be me for me.


humansofsg (3)

She is a vibrant, multicolored personality, dressed in a rainbow checkered skirt and floral top (she tells us she likes flowers). When we offer her props, she picks the most outrageous ones, round butterfly sunglasses and a Hawaiian-print plastic hat. 79 years old and clambering up the stairs faster than us, so willing to give us parts of herself that you thought age might have guarded. She is a cancer survivor.

She defies the accepted belief that age is associated with weakness and monotony, because it need not be.


ageing like origami

limbs folding into themselves,

twisting, deforming,

retreating into disuse

smooth unwrinkled paper, we begin

but age comes and doesn’t go

guards rise, secrets hide beneath

every fold and fracture,

physical manifestation of hurt

creases etch themselves into every crevice of


in the end,

we are multi-faceted masterpieces

planes of concealment

that reveal nothing of


old age home

why is an old age home called a home

when the elderly are apart from their family,

a collection of

physically broken souls?

the Christmas season has come and stays

manifested in gigantic Christmas trees

artificially evergreen but sparkling with beautiful baubles

and snowmen arts-and-craft that their wrinkled hands have

adorned with glittering sequins

someone has even engraved a neat ‘B’, perhaps an initial

but paper is the closest to snow they will ever have

Christmas carols float through the air

a merry choir sings to them,

bobbing heads crowned with santa hats

an old man folds his fingers into fists

pounds them together, animalistic applause

an old woman absentmindedly traces patterns on the tabletop

the volunteers clap heartily,

the bulk of sound, soul that fills a benumbed body

off-centre gazes and scattered minds

purple gift bags stuffed with blankets and soap

we distribute to the residents

an old lady cradles it like an infant

perhaps because for so long,

there had been nothing beside her but her own bones

when he broke her,

everything they thought they had

fell through the cracks as well

some nature shots (also featuring humans and animals) from Thailand





one day I will stop chasing second lives and finally be contented with mine.

Christmas Eve dinner

so this is what it spirals down to

Christmas Eve dinner in a Chinese restaurant

unabashed to be playing Chinese New Year music

45 minutes of a car ride late

a messy fight breaks

grandma has it the worst,

straddled between two sons and

their families

she has done up her hair today

gleaming string of pearls around her neck

it is terribly awkward and unprecedented

looks like this was not the extravaganza she

dolled up for

i come back from the restroom

to 8 stoic silent countenances post-quarrel

i rehearse my poker face,

having missed the entire show

i wonder what the other diners thought about us

i wonder what the waiters and waitresses thought about us

we are seated at a long table

but it cuts perfectly down the middle

we order dishes separately

pay bills separately

talk in imaginary divides

grandma wishes us ‘Merry Christmas’

and hands us red packets the same shade as her blouse

we whisper thanks

it is terribly awkward but eventually inevitable

every auspicious element has been pulverised

we are in a Chinese restaurant

where one of the most promoted values is family

it is terribly ironic and bitter

closing night

two days of interacting with the elderly

and i realise they are not fearless

but defenseless

we are here to make them happy

but inevitably the bolts of our purpose have been wrenched out by life

“When you’re old, you are useless. You can’t work- nobody wants to hire you.”

“Uncle, don’t say that, that’s not true!”

but he must know the truth better than me, he knows it

a man of 83

eyes watery tinted pale blue with age

his smile is toothless, his smile is momentary

“Do you know what they told me?” he asks

i shake my head no

“What are you doing looking for a job? You should just wait to die.”

my heart turns cold

he looks at me and cranks his index finger


“Just like sleeping”, he says

he shows me, closes his eyes for a heartbreaking moment

leaving me to stare at his veiny lids

“No worries and memories.”

he rehearses his part for closing night

funeral portrait

she embraces death and

jokes about it

as if it is a friend she is about to be

reunited with

we take photographs of her

white background solemn smile

she tells us to make it look good

it is to be the face of the lorry sending

her coffin away

we deny the undeniable

she laughs and tells us she’s already old

we hand her props

move on to take shots where she

lives in the moment