Sage, Destroyer of Ego


My friend’s orange kitty, Sage, is selective about who gets to hang out with her, for how close and for how long.

My efforts to promote animal welfare do not impress her one bit.

My repertoire of animal knowledge is worth less a kibble to her.

But, if I know my place, Sage doesn’t mind eating a store bought treat from my hand. This means not trying to touch her when she’s trying to eat, or assuming that just because I have the means to buy things, I’m King.

Sage reminds me that I’m only a creature, just like her.

So whenever I need a dose of reality & liberation from egoistic tendencies, I make an appointment with Sage.

Drama at Boudha


It was 2019.

Sunrise at Boudha (Dec 2019)

I was sitting on one of the benches facing the Boudha Stupa when 3 old persons with rickety gait came by.

El and I have sat like these many times whenever we stayed at Boudha. I often rest on one of these benches after one circumambulation around the Boudha Stupa while waiting for Ron & El to make many more rounds. (Dec 2019)

I made room on the bench for them. They bowed lightly, and took their places while adjusting their belongings amongst themselves.

The grandpa spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand. He had a fedora on and was bundled up in winter clothing. The two grandmas smiled. I smiled back at their weather beaten faces and gentle eyes.

Lacking the vocabularly to ask about another’s nationalities, beliefs, marital status or occupations, our exchanges were reduced to gestures of smiling, bowing and nodding. That was truly a John Lennon’s “Imagine” moment for me.

One of the grandmas handed the grandpa a small packet which he raised towards the Stupa and then placed lightly against his own forehead. After that he took out a tiny piece of reddish looking substance from the little bag. It resembled blusher that had been chipped off from a make up receptacle.

He then broke the terra cotta red bit into tinier pieces with his fingers and placed a bit of which on the open palms of each grandmas.

Turning towards me, he offered the same thing. Seeing how reverently they treated the powder, I held out my palms too.

After that, as if they had rehearsed it many times, the three of them looked up at the Stupa, placed what was on their palms into their mouths and brought both palms together in prayer.

As I stared in wonderment at their synchronised actions, the grandpa turned to me. He puffed up his chest to indicate that the powder would make me strong like them.

For added effect, he also slapped his forehead & sniffled dramatically to show that it could keep head & respiratory troubles away.

Now, I have my reservations about taking unknown substances from strangers.

But the simplicity and earnestness of the 3 sages to share health & strength with me neutralised all misgivings.

The encounter was made all the more poignant when I realised how far we had travelled to share this moment of healing under the Stupa. The following year, travel restrictions of all kinds would make it hard for me to visit Nepal.

Boudha Stupa (2018)

Perhaps at the heart of all communicative intent, it is not eloquence, but kindness that causes the mind to open.

March for Peace


Yesterday I marked the last day of February with a hair trim at Clementi and a ride on the MRT. I wanted to see if I could still make the walk and negotiate the station crowd.

As a survivor of childhood polio, I use a cane for support. This cane has taken me everywhere in Singapore and all the way to Nepal where I lit butter lamps at Boudha Stupa for peace upon all sentient beings. (2017)

I realised someone of my walking speed can be seen as a hindrance to those who are in a hurry, peak period or not. It is nothing personal.

As it doesn’t take much to trip & topple me, moving along with people close by will always be a challenge.

So I have to make peace with my slowness and accept that I will always be in someone’s way or several steps behind others.

And what better way to acknowledge my slow march for peace than to begin the month of March by using a present I received 2 Christmases ago!

From its matching wrapper and its embroidered cover to its textured pages, this gift speaks of time & dedication from its designer, manufacturer and giver.

And because I waited for the right moment to start using it, I’m able to begin the first page with deliriously happy memories gathered from the beginning of this year.

So may I wish all friends especially those feeling frazzled, the benefits of slowness as we march freely and consciously towards a peaceful destiny for ourselves and for all sentient beings. 🙏

Happy Marching, my Lovelies! ❤️

New Moon Jasmine Mandala

20-2-23 (Tibetan Losar)

This piece of plastic deer that was part of last year’s christmas dessert decoration is now packed full of the power of peace.

New Moon, New Protection for all sentient beings facing changes not of their own choosing.

May we not fear, but learn to rest in the silence of the Moon, Trees and Animals, and be healed. 🙏

“Nature does not hurry; yet everything is accomplished” – Silently the seeds bring forth roots and shoots. Silently the leaves and flowers arrive. And silently after 2 years, a chillie emerges.

Always Loved


Tribute from Auntie Nance.

The Sun is Up!

And Bella has gone home to God.
Even though we’re sad to lose him, we’ll not let fear or hate win.

Given the threats of animal predators and manmade errors that community cats face daily, Bella’s 16 years on earth is a miracle.

When he was a kitten with gender still unknown, the Canadian swim team named him Bella.

Bella as a kitten in 2006/7.

The student athletes whispered their secrets to him.

Bella always listens without judgement. (Photo credit: Koh Aik Beng)

Local & international coaches & staff fed him or asked about him.

Bella is grateful for kibbles & canned food.

Visitors and parents took pictures of him, and sometimes with him (far away in the background).

Overseas athletes saved up their allowance to buy him treats.

Adults helped out with his veterinary needs.

Bella chilling out with his brother, Topaz by the window of the laundry room.

Despite having a low tolerance for touch, and a high need for distance, Bella has succeeded in bringing many people & nationalities together. He has taught us to be generous with our heart, our money, and our time. And love doesn’t mean ownership.

Bella enjoying scritches from Coach Shahrin in a recent picture. The silent company of cats invites us to pause & breathe.

Rest well, Bella Boy. Even though your entry into & exit from this world were not ideal, in between you were loved by many, and now multi-faith prayers from Singapore to Cambodia, and beyond Asia to the West are being dedicated to you. 🙏❤️

Till we meet again, you live in our hearts.

Spring’s here!

22-1-23 (First Day of Lunar New Year)

Temple of My Childhood

Lunar New Year begins not at a countdown concert, but a trip to the temple of my childhood for me.

The pouring rain this year did not dampen our spirit one bit. We just learn to adjust expectations and accommodate one another’s transport challenges.

Starting the Year of the Rabbit with aromatic smoke offerings that carry our aspirations and the fragrance from this beautiful tree.

Year after year I return to this place to start my year. The temple door guardians are ever so welcoming, and figurines of deities feel like old friends. Being aware that one day all these may not be accessible to me for various reasons makes the yearly meet ups all the more precious.

My childhood temple door guardian.

The incense aroma strengthens my spirit even as my body ages. And the sight of fire and lighted lanterns energises my mind even as my hair loses its colour.

My lovely cousin, Michelle, faithfully records our gatherings year after year. She is also an admirer of batik.

Towards evening when the rain clouds lifted, a little green shoot on the trunk of the Chiku Tree greeted me. 😊

Spring indeed is the beginning of all things and the starting from zero. When we don’t hanker after what we don’t have or what used to be ours, Spring happens in us. 🙏

A Dragon & Two Rabbits welcome Spring. (22-1-23)

Sowing Love

18 Jan 2023

Although I grew up watching my Kinmen grandma cross stitch elaborate & perfectly symmetrical patterns on fabrics, I was miserable at sewing lessons in my primary school days.

I was very dependent on the teacher marking out where the cross stitches should be.

Once towards recess time, she coldly warned me that I woudn’t get my break unless I could sew the cross stitches diagonally across a square fabric. I panicked.

To my 7-year-old self then missing recess was unthinkable for two reasons. Firstly, I would miss the delicious food which I was thinking about all morning. Secondly, to be stuck in the classroom to struggle with sewing felt like the ultimate betrayal by an adult for whom I had the highest regard.

So I had a meltdown.

A classmate’s mom came to my aid when I was hyperventilating and trying to thread the needle through tears at the same time. Till this day I can still recall my rescuer’s hairstyle, her facial features and her gentle voice. A couple of her teeth were capped in gold.

In my childhood, lots of women could stitch & sew. Their sewing skills put food on the table and their kids through school. So I have deep respect for women and later on men, who can sew and cook, long before social media & celebrities make these skills trendy.

Years later after that episode I would develop a special fondness for the cross stitches and indigo prints of minority people in China, Northern Thailand and Vietnam.

Showcase of Hilltribe embroidery at the Asian Civilisation Museum.

And each time I wear something handmade by women I’ve never met, I feel the collective power of all our female ancestors and the kindness of my classmate’s mother all over again. ❤️😊

Red Hmong embroidery purchased from Chiangmai, Thailand.

Setting Intentions


The 11 and 12-year-olds in my tuition class were given 6mins to write down their names and decorate them using whatever they can find in their pencil cases. While beautifying their names they were to come up with 3 personal traits which they think they have and wish to be known for.

The time for this activity was kept short to prevent overthinking, sharing of ideas and making comparisons.

Being helpful & kind, intelligent,
elegant and a good team player were some of the qualities these youngsters wanted to be known for. And having a sense of humour and respecting others were mentioned as well.

“Why do u need others to know you are intelligent?” I asked the girl whose spectacles seemed to occupy all of her face.

“Because I want people to know I will still do the right thing even when no one’s watching,” the 11-year-old replied softly.

A recurring motif that appeared in their 6mins output came from nature. Floating clouds, mountain peaks, planets and animals appeared abundantly around and on the letters that formed their names.

One boy turned the letters of his name into a blue print for a future park he would like to build, complete with security features and facilities to make the visit a good one. And the traits he would like to be known for are bravery, boldness and kindness.

When I gave this same boy an old calendar card last year because he likes elephants, he pointed out to me that his birthday falls on International Vegetarian Day.

“Mama, why aren’t you glad that my tusks are growing?” – 2014 IFAW calendar to highlight plight of elephants killed for their tusks to meet demand for ivory.

Perhaps the path to peace is to appreciate the perspectives of children. And when they place nature and animals alongside their names, they’re also carrying aspirations of healing & hope for all that’s been broken in this world.

Art By Seb Mckinnon.

Sweet Start


Little Monk & Lord Ganesha ushering in 2023 with coconut candy.

Colorful coconut candy for Ganesha, the Lord of New Beginnings, to usher in a year of Sweetness, Wisdom and Resourcefulness for all sentient beings.

This celadon Ganesha figurine has travelled from Chiangmai to Bangkok before reaching Singapore. It is an unexpected gift from 2 friends. (Received on 29 Dec 2022)
A former student whom I taught 29 years ago and now a father of two bought me these coconut candy on a family trip in Malacca. Just the right timing & quantity for me to offer them to Lord Ganesha to usher in sweetness, wisdom & resourcefulness in 2023. (Received on 30 Dec Dec 2022)

First Outing of 2023


Posing with Year of the Rabbit CNY decor. Both of us were born in the Year of Rabbit and have been friends since for nearly 40 years.

Yesterday we repeated our favourite pre-celebration ritual of vegetarian meal, temple visits and decoration shopping in the Fortune Centre area. The last time we could do so maskless & free, was in 2020.

At the vegetarian cafe where we ordered longevity noodle. My lunar birthday fell on 1 Jan 2023 this year.

In 20 days’ time the Lunar New Year will be upon us.

It was good to see the old folks up and about at the vegetarian cafe. They were happily taking food orders and heartily conveying their choices to the kitchen.

The evening puja at Sri Krishnan Temple had started as we walked by. The aroma of incense offering and intermittent peal of brass temple bell lifted our spirit.

A moment of calm amidst the aromas of incense and peal of the prayer bells.
Lord Hanuman watches over us as we pose for a picture at the beautiful Sri Krishnan Temple.

At the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple (Goddess of Mercy), devotees were quietly praying outside the closed temple gates as dusk fell.

A few steps ahead, we chanced upon a shop called “Good Neighbour,” that appeared to be only selling household goods. As we ventured further in, an array of chinese new year decors in shades of vermillion & carmine greeted our eyes.

Blessings and Prosperity are in our hands.

Even though it was near closing time, the staff and cashier remained hospitable to browsers and handled each customer’s enquiry good-naturedly.

The young man at the cashier counter code switched effortlessly among English, Mandarin, Malay and Hokkien depending on the language being used to address him.

“When beautiful people talk to me nicely, I will speak clearly too,” he shot back cheerfully when we expressed amazement at the accuracy of his Hokkien pronunciation.

After he had helped us take a picture with the Year of the Hare (Rabbit) decor, he respectfully wished the two of us elderly Rabbits good health and many years of new year jaunting to come.

With the multilingual and good natured Malaysian boy. We named him Golden Lion.

When my friend wished him the blessings of good employment & kind employer for all round prosperity, the carefree boy with studded ears and golden streaks in his hair listened intently & bowed lightly.

Our first day outing of 2023 came to a sweet close as we stopped for local ice cream wrapped in bread. Above us the nearly full moon shone.

Freedom is eating local ice cream wrapped in bread under the open evening sky.