Making Light of Things

October 2008 Archives

Little Tomato

Anne had her second school concert this morning, where she played the part of a tomato in a presentation of a vegetable soup song.

It has been a year since Anne’s first public performance. Back then, she stopped performing when she saw us in the crowd in order to point out to her friends who her parents were. This morning, she told us that she’d be pointing at us again. I wasn’t quite sure if part of her dance required her to point, or she was determined to do a repeat. I told her to concentrate on the choreography she was required to perform.

In order not to distract her, I shot the video of her performance from the side of the stage. She was the one of the few kids who actually focused on doing the required actions. She did catch a glimpse of me midway, and yes you can see her pointing at me on the video, but she goes back to doing her actions pretty seamlessly.

She carried out her task well, but I can’t help but feel that she lacked a joy that came with the spontaneity of throwing all plans away and enjoying the moment. I know that it is part of education to develop our children to perform pre-defined tasks, but I also believe strongly that workers ought to enjoy their work - like it were play.

It’s been a year, and she’s grown up so much. I hope we’ll be able to protect the spark of individuality and spontaneity in her.

She’s not a clockwork orange. She’s a tomato. Organic.

Farther, not Further

And so it was without fanfare I enter my 32nd year of being. Well, no fanfare except for the dozens and dozens of birthday wishes on Facebook, my colleagues singing happy birthday during a division meeting and my family showing up at my office cubicle while I was at said meeting. Ok, so maybe there was a little fanfare. Faith always drums it up, making every birthday amazing.

I sit at a peculiar crossroads. Many of my peers have left Singapore, some for work and many more to study. Graduate school is the mid-life crisis antidote of choice these days, and I wonder if heading back to an academic environment will do me some good.

Out of the Box

Anne, like most children her age, throws tantrums when things do not go her way. One thing she does is threaten to “throw away” the obstacles that stand in her way.

For example, if she wasn’t allowed to go swimming because of the rain, she’d say “I’ll throw away the rain! Then it won’t rain anymore!”, complete with imaginary hand gestures.

Just the other night she had wanted to watch Oswald, but I explained to her that it was too late to be watching telly. She threw a small tantrum, and then uttered her signature phrase, “I’ll throw away…I’ll throw away…”

“You’ll throw away…what?”, I taunted. The concept of time was intangible. You can’t throw away lateness.

“I’ll throw away the moon, and put up the sun!”

I was shocked. Just when I thought I had her checkmated, her little brain found a physical representation of late night and used the metaphor correctly. I was outwitted by a 3-year old, and felt oddly proud of being her dad.

And no, she still didn’t get to watch Oswald.


It seems the fashionable answer, when someone asks you when you’ll start having children, to casually comment on the sorry state of the world and how you can’t imagine bringing a child into this mess. But a world without children is far worse off. A world without the sound of children’s laughter or innocent questions only leads to a downward spiral.

Anne has been trying hard to clarify the definition of the word “neighbour”. She often asks, “is he my neighbour?” or “are we neighbours?” without realising that her very question is the linchpin of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). It is such an apt question as we step into what looks to be a serious recession ahead. It is also apt as the uncle who stays alone next door to us seems to have taken a turn for the worse healthwise.

I ought, like Anne, to constantly ask who my neighbour is, and how I can help him or her.

PSFK Asia 2008

I spent last Friday at one of the most awesome conferences ever. Read about what I learned over at

The Miserables

The passing of the opposition political figure J.B. Jeyaratnam last week has stirred a lot of emotion in the Singapore blogosphere. Hundreds of Singaporeans turned up at his funeral. Alex Au even thinks Jeya could end up being Singapore’s own Che.

I must admit I do not know much of the man. Like most, I have seen him peddling his booklets outside shopping malls, where curious tourists would stop to browse and paranoid Singaporeans would avoid him. I know he paid an immense price for his efforts to champion individual freedom and human rights in Singapore; and that the powers that be have been extremely heavy-handed in meting out disproportionate (from my opinion at least) sentences.

I suspect most Singaporeans, like me, do not know what Jeya stood for. What exactly did he oppose?

Crowd reactions aren’t always about the issues. Like fans of the musical Les Misérables, the reason for the fight is lost in the emotion of the revolution. Support always sways to the underdog.

It doesn’t help that even in the time of mourning, little was done to reconcile the man to his homeland. Goliath chose to pen a letter of condolence which for all purposes and intents manifested itself as the utterance of a true Philistine. The Straits Times chose to label him as being oblivious to his irrelevance to Singaporeans. The bashing of a man now deceased leaves an extremely bad taste in our mouths.

It is obvious that Jeya’s work is far from irrelevant. Jeya’s fight for individual freedom was perhaps ahead of his time, but what he stood for then is now increasingly relevant to the Singapore people.

Perhaps it was necessary to concentrate our efforts on maintaining harmony and economic progress during the formative years of our nation, but it is high time we took a good look at why the “building of a democratic society based on justice and equality” should no longer be neglected in order to “achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation”. (Quotes from the Singapore Pledge).


Bridal March

After a long day fulfilling our duties for John and Michelle’s wedding, I lay beside Anne who was about to sleep. I kissed her head and told her,

“You’re a wonderful girl.”

She whispered a reply,

“You’re a wonderful daddy.”

The puddle you see on the floor is where I left my heart.

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