Archive for June, 2013

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Grandmother tending her garden

June 18, 2013

You bend over your lemon shrub, pruning shears in hand, deftly trimming the tops to encourage it to blossom and billow. You stoop to pick a leaf and massage it, lifting your fingers to your nose and delighting in the heady citrus scent – ah, this one will bear much fruit. You remember it from three years ago, a delicate young sapling with promise. Though more slender than others, it had a cheery insouciance that drew you in. You remember telling the nursery owner that it needed but time and care to grow into its promise, and you had plenty of both to give.
Pottering over to kneel by your geraniums, you delight in the mix of ginger and nutmeg aromas that waft up. Using a hand cultivator to plough the soil, you mix in some mulch. Pausing to rest, you trace a finger over the soft, fuzzy foliage, the lacy shape of the leaves reflected in the hand-knitted tangerine shawl delicately draped over your shoulders.
Running along the front of the porch, you approach your pride and joy – rows of intoxicating gardenia blooms, the same snowy white as your hair, flanked by riotous African violets in rainbow shades. It is many summers since your children’s children have flown the coop, pruned and shaped into thriving beings by your patient hands – these are your children now.
Approaching the sunset of your life, you have ruminated over this question many times – what is the purpose of your life, what will you be remembered for? Cast your eyes over this oasis – every nature of shape, color and fragrance grows in rapture here, tended to with love and precision. Your legacy isn’t in wealth or fame or any scientific discoveries – you are a nurturer, and your legacy is life, attaining its highest potential…

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Taxi Driver

June 18, 2013

“Uncle, Clarke Quay ha?” you slur, hanging unsteadily on the door. I nod a silent assent, a rhetorical volley lobbed uselessly over the net and just as redundantly spooned back in a country where taxi drivers have no right of refusal. I sip my 6th coffee of the night from a little disposable plastic pouch, that uniquely Singaporean economical adaptation for a population on the move, and ask “Which way you wanna go?” You mumble “Up to you, lah”, your fingers busy tapping away at your phone.
I glance quickly into the rear-view mirror. You’re high but not dangerously drunk yet – the difference between another ordinary night and one that assails my nostrils with the putrid, pungent punch of dried vomit and 55 proof alcohol.
Driving you silently through the streets, my mind turns to thoughts of us city dwellers, asleep in our own cocoons. We pass each other every day, you and I, parallel lines in Euclidean space fated to intersect only when we choose to bend the lines. Like the time when we watched, horrified, as a blazing yellow Lamborghini jumped the red light and and sliced right through the engine of the taxi in front of us. Witnesses of the State, we bent the lines to corroborate each other’s statements, masking our fear and relief with factual words

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Valentine

June 18, 2013

“Ae ajnabi, tub hi kabhi awaaz de kahin se…” a bass voice juxtaposed against the high-pitched plaintive violin notes formed the backdrop to her jumbled emotions. Scattered across her bed, a collapsed card-house of handwritten sheets rustled dejectedly… yellow foolscap sheets in a neat, precise cursive against white notepapers torn hurriedly from an exercise book, a bold, impassioned hand having made a mad dash against time to capture fleeting thoughts, like children chasing bubbles. Faint traces of ginger and cedarwood, his cologne, catch her unawares and a sob with the bitter aftertaste of licorice catches in her throat.
Like flipping the pages of an oft-thumbed old edition, she slowly pulls out her memories and gazes at them, patting a few with a gentle touch, dusting a few others off to peer more closely… her first valentine, the boy she never met but knew intimately, pen-pals who poured their young hearts into verses of angst and tenderness – handmade papier-mâché treasure chests they offered each other, bits of their fledgling selves poured into the shaping…
Her writing has never been hers ever since, searching for him in every metaphor she met, till her pen slowly turned to rust. Without him, she is, simply, not – no truth without a seeker…

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Sunset

June 18, 2013

Sunset, the opening act for the grand performance that is the star-studded summer night… teens in mixed groups, laughing, flirting, coyly taking the first steps in a life-long game of sexual catch… teens with curfews blithely ignored, bougainvillea blossom bouquets and hurried love-notes scratched on muddy tennis courts… teens at the dawn of their lives, fervently waiting for the curtained lights of sunset when lines are blurred and the fiery glow bathes adolescent skin in a forgiving blush… teens in crop tops and exaggerated poses of ‘cool’, hiding their anxiety to belong under an affected air of indifference… teens sharing confidences on the walk home, down jacaranda avenues where the summer draft has laid a lilac path of petals for them and the scent of old, old eucalyptus drifts down… beginnings and endings, a serpent eating its tail, an endless embrace…

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Fireplace

June 18, 2013

A cheery fire blazing, folk-dancer flames leaping, receding and pausing mid-stride, synchronous and earthy… tendrils of frost that had crept up my toes and over my body being fought back bravely, hacked away by the swift daggers of heat enveloping me… I turn my back to the fire, slow-roasting in its warmth and catch sight of my grandmother, her face suffused with a golden glow, slowly rocking herself, humming a lilting tune… I watch her fingers, mesmerized – the needles darting quickly in and out, the lovely jewel-toned merino-silk yarn wrapped around her pinky finger being transformed before my very eyes into an exquisite tonal amethyst shawl, her swift industry showing in the rapid flicks of her index finger to bring the yarn through.
Each time I pick up my knitting needles, nostalgia washes over me and I feel again that same warmth and glow, and a powerful visceral connection with that tradition of industry and aesthetic, and knitting turns into my meditation…

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Dog collar

June 18, 2013

Still art – shades of sepia and beige in adagio, twisting and springing to an inexplicable rhythm, here clashing in sharp lines, soldiers at war, and there melding into supple contours. And slowly, an image emerges – a man of countless summers, bent and wrinkled with age, skin a few sizes too large for him now hanging as an undulating terrain of memories, uses one arm to support himself on the too-low cane lounger and with the other, reaches out to empty space beside his feet, his searching fingers splayed futilely. A few inches away lies an old dog collar – a murky coffee shade, must be leather I think and instantly smell the sharp acid tang of musty leather. I hear his toothless chatter, like the rustling of leaves underfoot, and inhale the waves of despair billowing off him – he has just remembered. Memory is a treacherous thing indeed…