Planters Club Revisited

June 19, 2012

I’ve decided to cancel my river boat cruise with my tribal friends, Orpuk & Co and opted instead to spend my holidays in the Planters Club. The club is located smack in the middle of the jungle right in the inner sanctum of nowhereville – a sprawling British colonial mansion constructed by one Major Handerson during the 1800’s – since then it has been refurbished and luxuriously appointed by the serious men as a retreat for planters who share a common belief abt the destiny of mankind and what role they should play to shape the affairs of the world – the planters is only accessible this time of the year by helicopter. The dry season has dried up most the river passages – it took me me two fucking hours to persuade Orpuk and his merry men to get into the chopper – now that we are here; I seem to the only one here. Orpuk and his men prefer to camp out in the sprawling grounds – since I am the youngest member and I suspect the poorest of the planters. They have appointed me as the curator of the library. I am just going through many of the old leather bound books in the basement, came across a few sepia photos of turn of the century planters, will share with all of you, once I get it downloaded – life here is bliss, a la planters, that is. Everything here is literally the best, the finest cellared wines along with the best food and luxurious accommodations that even puts Raffles Hotel in the YMCA league. There is an international staff of 9 attending to ONLY moir – 2 chefs from France and the rest comprising mainly of housekeepers and grounds keepers – and I am the only guest in a turn of a century colonial estate. My only gripe is a stupid dress code in the planters – we all have to go around in ridding breeches and jack boots. I mean if there is horse around, then it would make perfect sense. But there only seems to be cows around here. I looked at the mirror this morning – looked quiet ridicolous and exactly like a Japanese officer, this is really dumb. But since I am the poorest of the poorest here; I am not about to rock the boat by complaining or standing out like a sore thumb.

I have never felt more desolate and marooned before in the Planters. There are many chapters of the Planters all across the world, but this seems to be the most opulent. It seems as if, I’ve stepped into some sort of time machine circa 1800’s – this world is seasoned ivory, old velvet, sepia porcelian, connolly leather and hand painted tiles – it harks all the way back to an age of empire. I can make out the faces of these men who once came before me in the many sepia photographs that hang in the billiard room and library – they all seem to be attired just like me, in their mirror finished ridding boots and puffy dresage trousers – there is a quiet confidence about these men that you don’t see in men these days. I can tell, it’s the way they carry themselves – there is almost a nouveaux riches swagger about these early planters. Many seem to be posing with either their brand new Rolls Royces or cake like mansions in the background – there is even one fellow who is posing proudly next to what seems like the first commercial electric lift – he is holding the door open and just beneath it, is the signage – first electrically deluxe operated lift. There is another fellow sorrounded by a row of darkened natives – they seem to be carrying a Steinway Grand Piano, it could be the Congo or Malaya or even Lanka – standing in a foreground is a man roughly my age sporting a topi and a well trimmed handle bar moustache. Underneath there is a caption, “wife will like this when I send for her!”  There is a whiff of mischief about this fellow that one usually associates with the Victorian and Georgian working classes. Many of these prototypal planters started off with virtually nothing – they certainly weren’t from the privileged classes. Neither did they have much in the way of finesse or education either. In the planters drawing room, one can see how many of these early planters who once came from a highly regimented class conscious society, tried to make up for their lack of education and finesse by just splashing money around – the finest silver and bone China are all displayed with themes of rubber trees, tea plantations, nutmeg and peppers with natives happily toiling away – all this have been reclaimed by the present day planters from the many auction houses throughout the world at great expanse.

I once asked one of the serious men why they had spent so much money recreating the past. Only for them to say,

“we are like trees, we have roots do we not? We did not come from nowhere. And we are very proud of our lineage.”

I am slowly realizing planters are not like bankers or even industrialist. They don’t seem very interested to mix with others who are not from their own industry. They all without exception consider politicians vermin – lower life forms that should humored be humored like children. There is also this idea that if something is complicated and cannot be reduced into one understandable sentence, then it’s probably cow dung. Planters are people who abhor abstractions. They are certainly not deep thinkers or people who take readily to new ideas. Most of them are also ultra private and very suspicious of strangers, especially the second and third generation Planters who are still Europeans. It’s almost impossible for a journalist to get an interview with one of these men. As generally Planters harbor a great mistrust and I suspect an inferiority complex for the educated classes.

Space that comes from owning land may be one reason that changes the way, a planter sees the world. In Singapore, it’s inconceivable for us to think big in spatial terms, the idea where a man can spend hours walking his own lands is alien to us, as land has always been a constraint. But once you are a planter, one’s understanding of space and time is redefined –  everything is big in a plantation life – and that sense of scale permeates not only attitudes but even the architecture of this jungle jewel – the ceilings go up at least 3 to 4 storeys, the washrooms are so big, you can even play football and as for the verandah’s, they run for acres. This would make sense if there is enough traffic to justify such excesses. But no one ever comes here unless there is something important to discuss- from time to time as I wander through this private world that remains secluded like a secret garden from the modern world, there are still reminders of modernity in the Planters, the satellite oversized dish, the ultra silent generators at the back of the mansion that powers everything from the airconditioners to the Turkish bath complete with hand painted tiles from Istanbul can still be heard, if one takes the trouble to do so.

Yesterday, I dreamt this will be my life. Somewhere in this dream the man who was sporting the handle bar moustache came to life and said to me, “how do you like my grand piano, old boy?” – I really do not know whether to feel happy or sad.

Darkness 2012

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“I have no illusions about business. Business is war, it is as simple as that, to me that is how I have always seen it – but let us all be practical – we need to network and in certain cases even adopt the attitude of a Mossad trained secret agent – that really is how I approach business. It is not a walk in the park for me – do you all understand what I am saying? So it is not so different from the game we all play in the virtual, only this time it is real. So I know, I don’t hope, you will all give me your vote – if you don’t, let me be very frank – I will take over your lands and that will be the end of it – so I hope all of you sister fuckers will do me the courtesy of not giving me the grief that I once bore in the virtual – as gentlemen this is no longer just a game. Please do not feel insulted, as I do not mean any disrespect, it is never personal, as it is always business with me. I am not asking for your vote. I am demanding for it. I want to be crytal about this. Thank you.”

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