Making Light of Things

June 2001 Archives

Scents Of The Future

Yesterday was flat-nose uncle’s funeral service. It didn’t take a lot of effort for one to feel the dense cloud of emotion under that single void deck, as people wept for this man who in his own clumsy and indeliberate way touched so many lives. Yet, his life wove a web so intricate and beautiful that many of us stood there admiring the way the sunlight glittered through the many tears of mourning that hung on its threads.

So many questions flew through my mind as I stood there: How much did he love his children? Did he have the warm soothing look of love in his eyes as he looked upon his wife of so many years? The images of these “memories” conjured within the eye of my mind come in a yellowish hue, speckled with black dots, as if it were a reel of film running on a dirty projector. The past was built with the sweat of his brow as he laboured for his family and the education of his three children. It is funny how hardship adds a bittersweetness to memories, a taste almost like that of mocha.

I look upon flat-nose uncle’s grandchildren and see the childhood they now live. It is no longer laced with the smell of sweat and the grunts of physical toil. In its place is an inner screaming - one of stress and the labour of the mind. It is by this act of labour these children obtain the fruits of their childhood - their gameboys, pagers and even handphones.

A certain sadness comes over me as I feel the emptiness of their sanitised childhood. The sick smell of plastic fills the air, and I am afraid of the memories my children will conjure within their minds when I am gone. I am afraid that in the place of the smell of human sweat is a sanitised void. I am afraid they will not understand how much I love them.

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I apologise for the inactivity in Utopia for the past few days. Sharing a single computer with two rather “connected” sisters is no mean feat. And that’s the easy part. We have a single phone line in the house used for 1) personal phone calls 2) business calls 3) faxes and 4) the Internet. Did I also mention that the modem we use runs at approximately the speed of Hook the pirate in a handstand race. But overcome these obstacles we must, in order to carry out the duties absolutely essential to human existence - blog.

My grand-uncle passed away a few days ago - a rather peaceful event. I’m not sure how other families attempt to remember the names of extended family, but my family uses facial-features as a means of identification. “White-haired auntie”, “bald-head uncle”. In this case it was “flat-nosed uncle” who passed on.

It was interesting to hear what his daughter had to say at the wake. They had gone through some of the stuff flat-nosed uncle had kept over the years, and it opened a portal into his life and his mind. He was never known as a person of great intelligence or intellect, and I remember his loud (though sincere) manners. Yet we found out how he meticulously kept records of his earnings as a taxi-driver, his CPF statements and all other paperwork. He kept receipts of the first Singer sewing machine he purchased for his wife (white-haired auntie) so many years ago. He also kept receipts of his beloved motocycles, every single last one. Amongst his belongings were also a book of the constitution of the clan in which he was a member. He knew no english, yet kept the book in its pristine condition. It was through all these things we saw what he cherished and loved in his life. For a moment, I felt ashamed that I knew none of these.

We often trivialise people’s lives until they are taken away from the earth. We stereotype and maybe even analyse their characteristics and mannerisms, many a time even criticising their personality flaws without touching our own. If only we could keep before our eyes the full magnitude of every human life - their loves, their joys, their sorrows and their pains. Only then will we realise the fullness of life, and it’s sacredness. Maybe it’s then we will be better people.

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Come Ye Beloved

For a dear friend who found Jesus.

Come ye beloved of the Lord and consider all the love that the Father has poured out on you. With joyful hearts in one accord come and look upon the love of the One who gave His all for you.

My friend consider then the price that so willingly He paid to redeem and win you back to Him. Consider how then you will live and just how to spend your days and the freedom He has won for you.

The treasures of the Father’s throne of the earth and of the sky and of the universe beyond Our Father chose instead His Son counting His worth far beyond all the treasures of His kingdom home.

Our God withheld not His own Son the treasure of His heart poured out for you. If He withheld not His own Son what now would He withhold from you, His own?

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Deja Vu

I spent the last few days in Malacca with my family and Faith (also considered family by family) and had no opportunity to blog. It was a great time spent with my sisters, my parents, grandmother and my beloved. Walking by the beach brought back many memories, especially one that happened so many years ago.

It was the first church camp I attended and was held in Desaru. We spent whatever free time we had together, swimming, playing tennis. But I remember the walks by the beach most vividly. We’d stop to pick the pretty stones and shells along the shore, our feet tickled by the flow and ebb of the waves. It was then I knew I had fallen in love with this beautiful companion by my side. We’d sit down and look at the loot we brought in from the shore, and I’d hold up a shell, but my gaze fixed on her sitting in front of me.

Yet to this day she remembers the time vaguely, if at all. I often retell the memories, whatever I can remember, in the hope of reliving it with her. I did exactly that the past few days. Walking on the beach, now holding her hand, we relived the times thirteen years past. I’ll cherish these times no less than the first.

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Battles Within And Without

Made a trip round my normal haunts today and I was awfully tempted to buy a few pirated CD-Roms, namely utilities like Macromedia Flash and Dreamweaver. My mind was fast to rationalise it as a quest for self-improvement, and that it was probably the only way I could get my hands on the software, being a financially challenged student. While those arguments are not false, I walked away from the shop empty-handed. Just needed to get away to clear my head.

I guess the most important self-improvement lies not in the skills we have and the things we can do, but in the deeper recesses of ourselves - who we are when no one is looking. Sigh. It is not an easy choice to make but I hope that by God’s grace I be able to overcome.

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Friends and Family

Had a most wonderful evening tonight. I brought Louelle (my youngest sister) out to the night safari with Faith, Ai and Stella, who’s visiting Singapore. It’s nice to be able to have friends laugh at jokes and exchange witty repetoire, something I missed a lot while in Arizona. I didn’t have to be careful about hurting anyone because we all knew it was in good fun.

We ended off the night with two bowls (small ones) of fish bee hood (the coarse kind) at Sin Hoi San. Min joined us for supper. I’m thankful for these people who are my family in one way or another, and I’ll treasure them deep in my heart.

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Unity In Diversity

Two of my Malay friends got married in the last two days. I couldn’t make it for Yusman’s because I had no venue or time, and received no reply on the emails I sent. Went to Farid’s wedding today and I must admit to being ashamed of my ignorance when it comes to their cultures. Even though we claim to live in a multi-racial country, there is so much we have to learn about the other races that we share this small space with.

It was nice seeing Farid again. It has been the longest time since we met. Though I only had his attention for a minute (even then it was divided attention), that glance reassured me that things had not changed. He was still the boy-man I knew in Polytechnic, and I was still his joker friend. Back then it was a group of us who urged him to go talk to Neffy. It wasn’t long until he was sending her home on his beloved motorbike. And today he took her for his bride. How fast life passes us by!

I brought my plate of nasi briani and sat down across the table from this mother who held in her arms a small baby. It was a rather surrealistic feeling seeing that baby and knowing that someday he too would grow up and have his own malay wedding. It was comforting to see how Farid kissed the hands of his parents, and know that these precious acts are still retained in the face of overwhelming westernisation. Though we have much to emulate from the west, we have to be careful not to let all our own values blow away in the wind. I sit there and look the small child in the eye. All I can do is utter a silent prayer that his childhood will be every bit as colourful and vibrant as childhood should be.

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Had a most wonderful talk with a friend on IRC last night. I’ve been blessed to have met some very nice people over the years, and it’s sad that the net is often a rather transient form of communication, and what once was may very well disappear into the still of the night. Much as I hope and pray that I lose not this friend, I often think about the many whom I have lost touch with.

Sarah, the young girl in Washington DC who taught me so much about life and its innocence. I miss you and hope you are well. Know that I still write about you as if you never left, because you never did. You’re still very much in my heart.

Misty, who once shared her fears and cares to an absolute stranger in myself. I don’t know how things eventually worked out for you, but I remember how we held each other up in times of need. It’s been so many years and I still remember your strength in overcoming the problems that lay before you.

To the many more who affected my life in so many ways, I thank God for all of you. And to my new found friend, I only hope I be as much of a blessing to you as you are to me.

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It’s been a long week in Port Dickson, but a fruitful one. It was wonderful spending time with the kids again, and it’s almost scary how fast the toddlers grow up and are replaced by clone siblings. Yes I mistook, Nathaniel’s sister for a boy. It’s always interesting to hear new nicknames being invented and old ones being abolished. Despite my best efforts, David Chng seems to have abandoned his own nickname of “fat pig”, reason being obvious. He didn’t waste any time wolfing down my last packet of Hello Panda though. David Hung’s 3 year old kid El Nathan calls himself elephant. Pretty sure elephant is the easier-to-pronounce alternative of the two. Sophie and Christine are still different as night and day, though I’m pretty sure Christine’s not half as quiet were there less people around her. Grace and Faith are growing up beautifully, while Abigail has opened up a lot over the past year.

As you can tell, I could go on and on about these kids. It’s a pity I’ll only see most of them once a year in church camp as their parents attend the other branch. One can’t help but be amazed at these minature human beings who are in every way like us, save for the pretense of being more knowledgable. In so many ways, I wish so much that I was more like them, and less like us.

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Destination Singapore!!!

Singapore!!! After a good 19 hours in the air, we finally step out of the airplane and unto the land of chilli and black pepper crabs (which we are going to have for dinner in a few minutes). There was a rather surreal moment in the journey as the transit point between Los Angeles and Singapore was Taiwan. I remember the shock of reading about SQ 5, the very same flight I was on, though now renamed SQ 29. It is hard to imagine this site of lush greenery and tidy cultivated fields was not too long ago a place of such sorrow. Min was slightly less introspective, reminding herself that it wasn’t raining heavily today, and that construction material on the runway could be spotted from a distance.

We are glad to be home. I know I am, even though I was sucking air thanks to Singapore’s great humidity.

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Went to class this morning, had my final exam (including material from the class in the morning) this afternoon, and am now waiting to power down my beloved computer and head to the airport. Goodbye hot winds and scorching sun. Hello……

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