Tulisan Beraneka (Assorted Writings)

Balestier House
(01/07/2016)

This morning I had a dream where I saw a beautiful house. It was an apartment unit located on the ground floor and it was in Balestier. I viewed the unit together with my younger sister from Australia.

It had a fairly old and retro interior and the place was really clean with skinny furnitures. It even had an upstairs and as I was walking around I remembered that I never liked ground floor units. But in the dream, I suddenly realised that this was not too bad after all, for it was big enough to be treated like a landed property.

I pulled the curtains open, saw the narrow land surrounding the perimeter of the house and realised its potential for gardening. I looked at the front door and saw the car parks, fit for two and the guard house that guarded the apartment entrance. I felt like this could be a house, simply with other residents living above you.

I inspected the house further and saw that it was much bigger than I thought. There were many sitting halls, and the interior got more and more modern as I walked on. I even spotted a bar area, and I remember thinking that this was big enough for me to host cell groups in my place.

I went out and met the owner. He was a big, bald and bearded man like my homestay owner from Melaka. He was slicing tomatoes into half and putting it into light dark soup. Behind him a flea market had started with people selling vintage wear and items.

I asked him if there was a kitchen in his house, and he said no, he hardly cooks. I remember thinking about getting an oven if I was really going to move in. That was the end of the dream.

Bedsheet Design
(23/05/2016)

I’ll cover up the designs if you want, I said to my friend M, who was lying on my sister’s bed in the top bunk of our old room. I was kneeling next to him, while he was under the covers but sat up in bed. I faced a wall to my front and he was on my left.

He said he didn’t like the batik motifs, so I said I would cover it up. M is a childhood friend but in this dream, we were conscious as adults but trapped in children’s bodies. I woke up and thought about how that room no longer exists.

Library Corner
04/05/2016

My favourite corner of my pre-renovated house was the study room upstairs, fondly known as the Library. At the corner of the room facing the balcony was a long lounge chair made up of three big cushions. Underneath these three cushions were three drawers, big and deep and it kept American home magazines and music magazines like Galaxie and etc. By its side is a floor cabinet, which I filled with A3 folios of my artwork and collages. It was also where I put the large National Geographic encyclopedia book with maps of the world.

The three cushions can be lifted up and put underneath our large writing table. I remember playing masak-masak underneath the table with my sister. I also pretended to have newspaper articles and spread open the Encyclopedia book, pointing to Scotland. Why Scotland? Because it was remote. It was the end of the world, and in my mind, you couldn’t go any further than Scotland. I remember our childhood friend, S, who was boy, also coming over to play masak-masak with us underneath the table. This was probably when I was 10 or 11 years old.

I miss our old library. I had many fond memories of it as a child. Before my Dad turned it into a library-cum-study, it was my Ah Pek’s (my father’s older brother) room. I remember sleeping in it once, with my Dad next to me. I was 9 or 10 years old, and I had the chicken pox. It is now my parents’ room.

Taiwanese Mountains
(03/04/2016)

My first sight of Taiwan is its mountains. It is a Pacific island, restless and vulnerable with mountaintops rising above the clouds. Its pinnacles stood on the same plane as our aircraft, like neighbourhoods on the street, only at 30,000 feet high. We are skimming the top of clouds.

The populations are sparse, urban dwellings grouped in small clusters with plenty of green and brown in between. The rest is blue, white caps washing into the shores; every surfer’s dream. Taiwan is a country of coasts; coastal highways, coastal beaches and on the inland, industrial areas like a run-down Japan or an ageing China, turning muddy and brown.

At six in the evening, the landscape is a haze of industrial blue, green and brown farms. The country is made up of Formosas, grey highways and grey concrete buildings. We drive by quiet empty towns by winding coastal roads and I get that this is the Initial D feel.

Dating Dream
(10/03/2016)

Last night I dreamt that I had gone out on a date with a guy. He looked something like E, but I’m pretty sure he was Chinese. It went really well and we were on the top deck of a bus. I was smiling and saying goodbye and in my heart thinking when we were going to meet again. The bus driver was my colleague W. As I hopped off the bus, two friends of the guy I had just gone out with gave me the thumbs up from the upper deck. I smiled and waved back to them. The second I was about to wake up I had this sinking fear that this was really about to happen.

Shakespeare win

In April this year, I had the great honour of winning second prize at a Shakespeare-themed writing competition. It was organised by the British Council in conjunction with a monthly writing group that I am part of, called Writing the City.

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Thanks to my friends who came to support me at the prize-giving ceremony, which was oh so posh! What with the British High Commissioner, British Council Director and Minister of Culture in attendance. The prize was Costa Coffee vouchers, cookies, a notebook and a tumbler (not so posh, but I love all kinds of coffee).

The rules were that we had to adapt any Shakespeare play into contemporary Singapore, all under 650 words. Naturally, my inspiration came from Macbeth, the only Shakespeare play that I know well. Below is my story – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Curry of the Day

Mazrin washed her hands in the kitchen sink and rubbed at the edges of her wedding band. It was the one place where spots liked to get stuck in, so she made sure to clean it thoroughly. Remembering the eight steps to Keeping Your Hands Clean in their restaurant, she went to work on the forward motion, backward motion, between the fingers, the back of palms, around the wrist and not forgetting the thumb.

The circle around her eyes seemed darker, as dark as her wavy black hair, and underneath the strobe of white light she looked pale and undernourished. Her ghastly look was caused by none other than Imran, who had kept her up for weeks as she went through the plan with him over and over. But in the end, it was she who put the cleaver to Daim’s neck, and much to her annoyance she found that human meat was much more difficult to cut than lamb or beef.

Nasi sudah menjadi bubur, she whispered. What’s done cannot be undone. When Atuk handed over his murtabah special recipe since 1907 to his grandchildren, she had not expected Imran’s cousin, Daim, to be a part of the picture.

The other thing she did not expect was for Daim to have so much blood. If only this was Hari Raya Korban, she could at least pretend it was a sembelih ritual. And in their case, it was one that would bring them great fortune, the removal of the majority shareholder.

Will these hands never be clean?

She turned off the cold tap and left the hot water to run. Mazrin rubbed at the skin between her fingers until it was sore.

What have you done?

It was Imran. She had never seen Imran weep in all their 15 years of marriage. Not like that, huddled in the corner of the kitchen floor, wet with water, soap and blood.

Help me, Imran.

The freezer stood at the back of the kitchen, and it was large enough for extra bags of meat. Over the course of the week, Daim would be disposed of, part by part. Some would be taken out together with the early morning truck, others brought across the Causeway from their restaurant in Woodlands.

But for tomorrow, insyallah, Mazrin would cook the daging special, the curry of the day.

6/6

Time has flown by so quickly, and without realising it I have neglected this blog almost unwittingly. It is now the middle of June and I have just enough time to sit down and think about where my last six months has gone – and how I am determined to spend my next six.

I ushered in the January new year with a karaoke session and a Bamboo buffet birthday dinner at home. There was also a trip to Batu Gantong to ascertain my mum’s side of the family. I came back to Singapore and celebrated my birthday at Morton’s with a friend, then jetted off to Myanmar for a mid-month holiday to celebrate a childhood friend’s birthday. The first movie of the year that I watched was Joy, which was ironically, not so joyful a watch.

In February I went home to Penang to celebrate Chinese New Year for six days. I had Hameediyah twice, checked out the brunch at Ferringhi Gardens (not good), visited a boy called Bo Wern, had Reunion dinner and celebrated three birthdays at home. I also baked three cakes – a triple layer orange cake, an Oreo cheesecake and a matcha cheesecake. When I came back to Singapore, there was a windsurfing session and a Woolf Works writing session at Joo Chiat.

Mingalabar Myanmar from a random Yangon train station

Mingalabar Myanmar from a random Yangon train station!

March was spent entirely in Singapore and it was extremely eventful. I ate at Muthu’s Curry twice and read four books (Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Relationships from Attraction to the Altar by Acts Church, Spirit Wars by Kris Vallotton and The Weight of Glory by CS Lewis). There was a final Woolf Works session, a house visit to Punggol, pancakes at Clinton Street Bakery, pizza and wine at a friend’s in East Coast, a BBQ at Windy Heights and discovering Zootopia!

March was also the Easter month, where I celebrated Good Friday at church and attended a baptism at Bukit Merah. In the writing world, I did a podcast recording with the Hong Kong Writers’ Circle (HKWC) to promote our anthology and also attended a talk by one of my favourite authors, Tash Aw! I managed to take a photo with him and had two of his books autographed. Fangirldome unlocked.

On the first day of April my parents arrived in Singapore, and there was plenty of sightseeing around Chinatown, Marina Bay and Pulau Ubin. My mum and I left for Taipei for a week, and came back to a weekend in IKEA Tampines. I watched Hamlet Live at the Esplanade, an Italian film called Il Nome del Figlio (così così) and wrote two short stories; “Sampat” for Esquire x Montblanc’s Fiction Project and “Cousins” for Writing the City’s Savour This competition.

Oh my goodness bak kut teh off Jalan Melaka Raya 4

Oh my goodness bak kut teh off Jalan Melaka Raya 4

May began with the Labour Day long weekend and was a month of many firsts. It was my first time dining at Artisteaque Cafe, cooking a delicious chicken breast with asparagus for dinner, visiting the Singapore Philatelic Museum, eating at Nangfa in Bedok North, exploring Timbre+ and dining at a hidden gem called Baker&Cook in Siglap. It was also the first time I did a photoshoot in the back alleys of Geylang, which ended up being an adventure any of us could ask for.

I also had a wonderful evening watching Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare in the Park, spending time with my sister from Melbourne, attending a wedding dinner at Goodwood Park then jetting back home to Penang for a jam-packed char koay teow trip. May ended with an impromptu trip to Melaka (mainly because I was craving for nyonya kuih, which I did not get to eat in Penang). The weekend was filled with good food, a charming homestay and mission accomplished in buying a full kebaya costume.

My June has so far been peppered with work, though last week I managed to write a 3,500-word short story entirely in Bahasa Melayu. I also had a really delicious crab dinner at Mellben in Ang Mo Kio with a few Manchester peeps, so things aren’t looking so bad at all.

Let’s see what the rest of 2016 has in store!

The 2015 List: Books & Movies

books 2015

Movies:
1) American Sniper – GV Cathay, Singapore (Jan)
2) Inherent Vice – Filmgarde Bugis+, Singapore (Feb)
3) Focus – Cineleisure, Singapore (Feb)
4) Fast and Furious 7 – Shaw Lido, Singapore (Apr)
5) Fast and Furious 7 – Cineleisure, Singapore (Apr)
6) Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – Shaw Lido, Singapore (Apr)
7) Mad Max: Fury Road – Cineleisure, Singapore (May)
8) Tomorrowland – Cathay City Square, Johor Bahru (June)
9) Terminator 3: Genisys – TGV 1-Utama, KL (July)
10) Barbicania – Shaw Lido, Singapore (Sept)
11) 808 – Shaw Lido, Singapore (Sept)
12) Iris – Shaw Lido, Singapore (Sept)
13) Ip Man 3 – GSC Queensbay Mall, Penang (Dec)

Books:
1) The Fear Index by Robert Harris (Mar)
2) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Mar)
3) Your Best Life by Joel Osteen (Mar)
4) Ngeri by Gina Yap Lai Yoong (Mar)
5) Mangsa by Gina Yap Lai Yoong (Apr)
6) Plotting & Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith (Apr)
7) Eleven by Patricia Highsmith (Apr)
8) Kingdom Come by JG Ballard (Apr)
9) Fiere by Jackie Kay (May)
10) Family Values by Hadi M. Nor (May)
11) Knowledge of the Holy by A.W.Tozer (May)
12) British and American Short Stories, Penguin Readers (May)
13) Human Chain by Seamus Heaney (May)
14) The Chameleon House by Melissa de Villiers (June)
15) Obsesi by Gina Yap Lai Yoong (July)
16) The Art of War by Sun Tzu (July)
17) The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith (Aug)
18) The Drop by Dennis Lehane (Sept)
19) Serangkai Hidup by Gina Yap Lai Yoong (Sept)
20) The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Oct)
21) Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (Oct)
22) Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith (Oct)
23) The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis (Nov)
24) Labor Day by Joyce Maynard (Nov)
25) God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew (Dec)
26) ROJAK: Stories from the Singapore Writers’ Group (Dec)
27) The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura (Dec)

Swans in Batu Uban (A Christmas Eve dream)

I left the office early on Christmas Eve and went home to take a nap. I dreamt that I was queuing up for food in my school canteen in Penang, but it was located by the side of a shopping mall. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I let the girl behind me choose first. I didn’t know that they were selling burgers only – I had expected buns, sausages and roti canai – so I ordered a daging (beef) burger.

I waited in line and saw how dirty it was. The man made it with his bare hands and he scraped off some charred meat and loose onions with his fingers. After I got my burger, I hurriedly packed my schoolbag because it was getting dark and I was afraid of missing my school bus. The girl in front of me told me how delicious it was, like Melbourne standard burgers.

Another girl and another man sitting nearby were also friends of my younger sister in Melbourne. I strapped both my Swatches onto my wrist and told them I had to rush. At the bus stop, I met two of my friends, and asked them if my bus had gone by. They asked what number it was and I said I couldn’t remember. One of the girls took out her phone and tried to get me a friend/chauffeur. I said, hey I know that voice over the line.

In the car, a guy drove the three of us, but he was sat on the left hand side of the vehicle. I said, hey you didn’t start the meter! Should I turn it on for you on my GPS? I wondered how he was going to charge me. He said, don’t worry I’m on my way to Batu Uban to see swans. I said, swans in Batu Uban? Yes, he said. But it was already dark at night and we were heading to an industrial area.

I woke up and it was already dinner time.