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.
I was sitting on one of the benches facing the Boudha Stupa when 3 old persons with rickety gait came by.
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.
Perhaps at the heart of all communicative intent, it is not eloquence, but kindness that causes the mind to open.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙏
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My cat, Emmanuel stretches as he soaks up the sun streaming into our living room.
Many years ago he was found without his mother. He was about to leap off the balcony to escape a bunch of well intentioned, but poorly informed school girls trying to get close to him. Luckily a teacher walked by and intervened in the ill conceived rescue mission. A tragedy of a kitten falling from height and a bunch of wailing school girls was thus averted.
Emmanuel means “God with us,” in the Hebrew language. It is also the name of Jesus, who was born of a woman to manifest the Divine.
So as we observe the birth of Divinity and the return of Light during this holy season, may we be reborn from ignorance to wisdom, confusion to clarity and fear to compassion. 🙏
Yesterday we went to bid farewell to a 52-year-old park that holds a special place in our heart.
The Jurong Bird Park which opened on 3 January 1971 will close on 3 January 2023. Its feathered residents will be relocated to Bird Paradise in Mandai.
In the sweltering Sg heat, the cooling breeze on the tram ride was a life saver. For families with very young children and for the mobility challenged like me, it enabled us to take in 20 hectares worth of sights & sounds of the old Park without feeling drained or left out.
My difficulty in getting on the ride was noted by our tram captain who promptly produced a supportive accessory to facilitate my ascent.
He then communicated with his colleague from the next station who was on standby to assist me by the time we arrived.
He did this for me on top of having to navigate the vehicle, watch out for passenger safety and wipe down a seat that someone had spilled a drink on when it was explicitly stated “No Food & Drinks on Tram.”
I used to think able-bodied people had it easier. I’m sometimes quick to join in berating them for lacking empathy towards the disabled or for not being inclusive enough.
But yesterday after witnessing what a man had to do cheerfully in order to earn his keep, I feel that my comparison was groundless.
That encounter also helps me see that some physical problems are not readily visible to the ones who don’t have them. If we’re looking for help, it is also our responsibility to explain our needs, so that people can choose their responses.
My friends and I cannot recall what we were looking at or smiling about in this shot taken at the Jurong Bird Park yesterday, but we sure can’t fake joy like this.
As we bade goodbye to the Bird Park on the last day of November and welcome the start of December, may I take this chance to wish readers of this post the peace that comes from accepting what cannot be changed, and the joy for the support that eases our ride on our journey ahead. 🙏😊
Twenty years ago during World Cup 2002, I had a picture taken with the match schedule at HardRock Cafe Beijing not because I understood soccer, but because Tiger Beer, a Singapore brand was featured.
I felt honoured that our beer from our tiny island was the chosen beverage for watching & celebrating an international sporting event in a gigantic country.
I’ve never known a sport that can unite and divide with such vehemence like soccer. I’m always cautious when asked which team is my favourite. My inquirer’s face morphing from friendly interest to utter disdain in a matter of seconds tells me not to drop team names casually.
One year on a crowded street in Piccadily Circus in London, a total stranger high fived & hugged my travel mate as if they were long lost relatives because the latter was spotting a certain soccer jersey.
This tribal loyalty is too much for me so I stay clear of soccer politics. But soccer uniform designs, soccer boots & related training gears continue to fascinate me deeply because they celebrate the power & grace of the human form.
I love watching the moves but I don’t like the anger and violence of the crowd when players don’t perform as expected.
So as World Cup 2022 starts in Qatar today, may our human nature evolve to meet the standards of this beautiful game called soccer, and may all sentient beings be blessed.
Years later I would learn to my great sorrow, that some hosting countries cull street animals as part of their attempts to clean & beautify locations chosen for such high stakes sporting events.
So as the World Cup opening ceremony begins in Qatar today, may our human nature also evolve to match the qualities promoted by this beautiful game called soccer. May all sentient beings be blessed.
At different times of my growing up years my dad was welder, printing worker, fishmonger, market stall assistant and even seller of coconut juice.
At the printing factory, he rescued rejected calendars, faulty books & wrongly paginated planners from the trash & brought them home for us.
Things that didn’t clear QC scrutiny were perfect for me. I was just a kid then so wrong dates or wrong colour tones didn’t bother me.
The condemned calendars featuring geishas in opulent kimonos while holding painted paper umbrellas under blooming sakuras opened my eyes to Japanese fabric & flower aesthetics.
The abandoned books meant for the incinerator would fuel my life long delight in looking at fonts, feeling the textures of paper and hearing the rustle of flipping pages.
Years later when I travel, I save hotel paper stationery & maps even in languages I cannot read, perhaps as gratitude to my dad for showing me respect for words, pictures & paper.
With the faulty planner, I had hours of fun pretending I was an adult. One day I was a visiting village nurse noting down a baby’s weight, and asking the imaginary mother if he had a cough. Another day I was a doctor prescribing medicines.
All that make believe exchanges were documented in the doodles of a girl who would one day work with young people and be involved in bringing medicines to animals in need.
Yesterday was Halloween. Contrary to popular beliefs, Halloween is not so much about dressing up & partying, but more about recognising there are other worlds beyond our material one.
Today being All Souls’ Day, and also Medicine Buddha Day, may I wish everyone a peaceful time honouring the people in our lives who have given what they could salvage to develop us.
And if we have past grudges or present traumas because we were given harmful things, may the medicine of compassion & wisdom heal us.
Eversince they did a comprehension cloze on the significance of Kit Kat chocolate wafer in Japan, my 11-year-old tutees have been periodically asking for Kit Kats.
One week after another passed by while their requests marinated in my mind. Going to the supermarket or mall these days feels like a huge undertaking.
But yesterday after an artglass exhibition at Marina Bay Sands, I decided to drop by Don Don Donki supermarket at my default shopping mall, JEM, to fulfill the children’s wish.
As I got onto the cab, the thought of navigating the cavernous JEM to reach my prize suddenly felt very exhausting. And then it struck me that JCube, a much smaller mall in the same area, also has a Don Don Donki!
The driver fulfilled my wish for a destination change & spared me from incurring extra charges by not requiring me to reroute my booking.
While on my Kit Kat quest, I stopped by briefly at a spectacle shop. After answering my queries, the sales staff who served me asked where I got my cane accessories from. Her dad uses a cane too. Her parents live in the eastern part of Singapore, while she now lives in the west, having gotten married recently.
I could tell from the few words she used to describe her dad that she worried about him. When I listed the places where she could help her dad explore mobility aid options, she noted the details like a student. Not having to wear a mask also meant I could articulate the sources of relief clearly.
Recalling my reflection in the broken heart held in Mother Teresa’s hands, it feels like my compulsion to get Kit Kat for the kids, the driver’s grace to me and my mitigating a daughter’s concerns have been written all along & sustained by LOVE. 🙏❤️