Sunday, May 30, 2010


Back in the days before MacDonalds became a Corporate Giant.

When "Fusion" was associated with nuclear science instead of food.

Back to the time when Coca Cola was not readily affordable to the masses on this Sunny little Island called Singapore.....

There was Huang Li Suai (AKA "Pineapple Water").

The preparation of this beverage is simple. Cut a full pineapple, add lots of water, add some sugar for taste, then leave to simmer on a stove; after boiling, leave to cool. Serve with crushed ice, spoon and straw in cup. Perfect for hot days, this simple beverage quenched the thirst of the locals during those pioneering years of Modernization in Singapore.

The drink sold well. Back in my mother's days, it costs but a few cents; in my childhood (1980s) years I remember paying 40 to 50 cents for a cup. Hell!! Was it delicious!! The cut pineapples were thickly sliced. Juicy. Bursting with sweetness flavoured by the sugar water it was boiled in. I recall the fun "fishing" the chunks of pineapple resting below the floating crushed ice-cubes.

This morning as I had Brunch, I chanced across a stall still selling this little item.

The stall was laid out like a page from my memory - somehow they almost always seem the same.

There were a few big transparent containers holding different home made drinks. A crushing machine was in the background whirling to crush Sugar Canes. And holding an extended scoop at the end of its handle was an elderly lady scooping the beverage into a cup.

I had Pineapple Water with Brunch.

In fact - I ordered another 5 more packets for my family of 7 (4 adults, 3 kids) and paid for before I sat down to eat.

Polishing off my food, I sat there and lit up my cigarette. Fishing up the pineapple chunks with my oily spoon (they don't provide spoons these days due to cost), puffing away under the umbrella shielding the sun above me. For a while, the world stood still as I took in the moment - contemplating the days long past. Reminiscing how different it felt 20years ago.

Tossing my cigarette butt and getting up, I moved over to collect the remaining 5 packets from the elderly matron.

There she was, busily scooping and serving other customers while I waited. I didn't have the heart to impose as she was (what should we call it) "Under-staffed". After a good 5 mins, she noticed that I was waiting, she spoke to me and pointed over to the table.

Picking up the pack, I smiled and thanked her politely before moving on.

It was not until I was moving down the steps of the staircase that I really registered what she said. She had given me an extra packet of drink free-of-charge.

Flash back to when I was ordering the drinks, the elderly lady and I started a conversation. It happened when I made my order and was proceeding to pay her in advance; she told me it was $3.60.

At $3.60 for 6 drinks, each would cost a minuscule $0.60 - compare that to my childhood days of $0.50. Her profit margin is seriously questionable.

I casually conversed on how cost of things had gone up, and marvelled at how she had maintained such a low prices. I noticed that she was nearly out of Pineapple water and told her if she didn't have enough, she could substitute my order with something else. She responded with a smile and told me that profits are low and she needed the big volume of customers to keep up her business.

"Come earlier to book next time, if not I might be sold out!" she mentioned with a laugh.

Looking down to the pack of drinks while I continued walking, my face kept its expressionless gaze despite the bombardment of feelings assaulting my conscious mind. Out of the many thoughts pulsing through my head, one thought would be relevant to this audience:

"My nieces will have Pineapple Water, bought by their uncle, tonight.....
But can they buy Pineapple Water for their uncle (even if they want to) 20 years later?"

In a world where things grow obsolete faster than the people can adapt - how gracefully will you go, when you your turn is up?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Life is but a dream

Last night I had a dream.

Those who know me well will understand that I seldom dream - sleep to me is the same as closing and opening my eyes again. Hence when I do dream, I tend to recall specifically what it was that I saw.

I cannot be sure how it started (the dream), but the furthest back that I can recall was of me pushing through a forest. It was night time (in the dream) and the pitch blackness marred my vision. The vegetation was thick and air was dense - I specifically "tasted" the dirt as a stray leafy branch smacked my mouth as I plowed my way through.

It was endless.

Strangely, aside from the rustling of the vegetation caused by me, there were no cricket or insect noises (now that I think about it). I remember stumbling, snapping twigs and leaves as I plowed for what seemed like hours. I had forgotten why and where I was heading - all I knew was that I wanted to get out of there, out of that jungle......out of the blackness.

A sense of dread filled me as I thought I'd never break out of the darkness....when I caught a glimpse of an amber hue in the sky ahead. It seemed to illuminate the jungle ahead of me - I saw hope, I saw that the vegetation was ending - I heard the light beating of the waves and saw in the dimness a coastal shore.

Making my way ahead, I sat down on the beach to watch the sunrise. I starred straight at the sun as it was starting its ascent into the sky, thinking how lovely it would be if I had company at that point to share the scene with......

When an unsettling chill ran down my spine.

I turned my view back to the jungle to realize that it was gone. Whatever island I was on had suddenly shrunk in size - and was shrinking further as I got up to look around.

The next thing I felt was the taste of salt water - as the ground beneath my feet collapsed into the greenish-blue ocean. Frantically I threaded water and desperately scanned the horizons for land.

Fear set in.

I tried swimming against the bob of the ocean waves, intently looking for anything ahead of me or any signs of movement on the horizon.

Eventually I got tired.

I changed from a freestyle to a "frog-style" to keep my head above the water to look around. It was at this time, that I realized the waves were not gently bobbing - the waves were getting bigger with each ripple. At this point, vulgarities were popping out of my mouth like loose stools out of an upset stomach. Thinking back, I don't know why it did not register that this was a dream. I was lost within and instincts had taken over, I kept thinking that this was the end of it - that I would be swallowed whole by the ocean. The sea had now grown turbulent, I remember being assaulted repeatedly with each ripple of the waves. Blow after blow, they came down hard. I was knocked below the surface more and more each time. I recall the pain in my eyes as it was continually stung by the salty water.

And then it happened.

A force pulled me up and I was on ground again. Coughing out the water and catching my breath, I felt solid ground. Looking around, I realized that next to me was a woman, dressed in a purple robe. Her long hair was grayish, a mixture of black, gray and white. I remember starring into her weathered face. Despite the tell-tale signs of age, her features were delicate and beautiful. Despite the obvious beauty of the woman, I was captivated by her eyes.

Her small slitted eyes combined with the faint wrinkles along the edges of her eyes created an impression that she were tired.....but the piercing black eyes of hers commanded my utmost attention. Those eyes held my gaze.

It was as though she saw straight through my soul.

I felt naked.

Maintaining eye-contact with me, she bent down to the my right ear.....and spoke.

That's when I woke up.


What the woman in my dreams said is for me to know only, for the dream is the subject of sharing - not the words.

Life is very much like this dream. I am no expert on dreams and their meanings, but the one interpretation I'd have of this dream would be symbolic to living life. After conquering the "jungle", Life will present you a new challenge (in my dream, it was an ocean), it does not end. Life does not wait. She does not see if you are ready, she does not care if you can handle it. When you're down, do not bother looking around for someone to pick you up - because no one can live your life for you.

That is the golden rule of the game - that you alone must walk your path.

But not all is so bleak - Life does give you small reprieve (like the sun rise on the beach in my dream). Cherish them regardless of how small and insignificant they may seem. Life does not owe you anything - so treasure the small morsels she throws your way.

Life gave us each a role to play in her grand stage. Acknowledge it, and play it to our best ability.

With patience, resolve and fervor.

Regardless of pain, suffering or reputation.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A bit of advice

"The world is never constant - it is always in flux."

A common phase, but its true meaning is only comprehensive to those who have walked life's entwining road.

Today marks the close of a turbulent, distraught month of anguish - heavily aggravated by financial issues. The peak of which came earlier within the week - when an external factor (outside my own immediate family) tipped the scales between a $30,000 debt or the possibility of eviction.

To sum a long story short - more than a year ago, my sister and I came to one of life's "T-junctions". On the left side was a drastic and complete severance of my divorced brother-in-law to everything legal belonging to my family. On the right was to leave things the way they are.

We debated and reasoned among ourselves; speculated and even argued. Finally we came to a compromise, removing his name from whatever was "economically viable".

At the time, it seemed like a wise choice as we did not have the resources (time, effort and legal leverage) to completely annihilate his "legal footprints", and there were issues on moral grounds (my sister birthed 3 kids with him), other reasons exist, but are withheld to prevent divergence from the main topic.

"If you're not sure of where you want to go; any road will take you there."

We (My family & I) learned this the hard way - for in our refusal to choose between the 2 paths, we had ultimately wandered down the right fork in the road. We were heading for disaster the day we procrastinated and believed that compromise lead to a different road.

A bit of advice to all those out there who are faced with "T-junctions" in their lives - to the troubled ones who need to choose 1 out of 2 equally bad choices: I offer my personal, unadulterated and sincere advice in 4 steps.

(i) Decide upon what you wish to accomplish, flip a coin if you can't decide - it makes no difference either way (any road will take you there).

(ii) Choose the actions that will help achieve your goals, priority given to effectiveness first, and secondary preference to efficiency. Leave out your personal values and beliefs.

(iii) Once your purposes and actions have been decided upon; anticipate and prepare for the backlash and repercussions that may entail.

(iv) Proceed with fervor, purposefully and with extreme prejudice - taking special care to eradicate roots and accomplish your aims.

Ethics and morality are luxuries I will leave out from future crucial decisions. The 'end' is the ultimate justification to the 'means'.

There is no need to be perfect - the world is in flux.

Let nothing deter you.

Let nothing stop you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

This being my first article written (since god knows how long), I dedicate this to a personal someone whom - I just moments ago - trespassed against.

Sometimes, words once spoken cannot be retrieved; a mirror once cracked, will never reflect images beautifully regardless of however hard you try to mend it.

In my moment of being myself, ridiculing everything/anything I could flush out of my mouth and desecrating everything sacred; I had unwittingly unleashed pieces of information that were not mine to release - and (more importantly) under strict instructions (from the owner) not to disclose.

The result of the action caused major discomfort to the owner, and I comprehend that I have seriously erred against him.

Forgiveness is a separate matter from assistance. A person may forgive another without requesting assistance to resolve the injustice inflicted on him; and a person can also be assisted in resolving the injustice committed without forgiving the offender.

Regardless to the out come, I wish to make amends through my assistance, if the victim deems me to be undeserving of forgiveness - I can understand.

We poets have a quintessential need for pain; the modern man does not.

I only ask to let me lessen the pain inflicted.

I am sorry.

The Modern Day Poet