Things one gathers by just being away from home for a very Long time

July 31, 2017

Some time back ago. I met a group of Singaporeans. We started chatting and soon they started complaining about this and that…that and this….etc etc. The conversation was typically predictable and if I had to summarize it. It could perhaps fit quite well into one statement…..things back home are downright awlful and terrible.

After their lengthy recount of the many things that is wrong or requiring fixing in Singapore…everything from the train blues to the high cost of living etc etc etc etc.

One of them turned to me and asked – what do you think will make Singapore a better place.

I told them all. Since they were all young, healthy and still have body parts in completes sets of two (two eyes, two ears, two hands, two legs, two gulis)…they should all consider going to Africa to work for at least five years.

That was when one of them turned to me and asked, how would going to Africa make Singapore a better place?

I merely quipped, trust me when you’re in Africa, especially in places where people regularly point guns at you or when you walk into a restaurant there is a big neon sign that says, no guns or knives beyond this point…Singapore will automatically be a much better of them stopped me and asked…automatic. To which I replied, yes you heard me right…automatic. That simply means. You don’t even have to do anything to make Singapore a better place… will all happen by magic.


‘It is conceivable I will never be able to fit in socially in Singapore any longer. It’s even conceivable I may have pushed myself to the outer limits of known consciousness that can only make me so different that it’s futile to even try to fit in any longer….it can happen. It can even happen to you! All one has to do is live and work outside Singapore for so long that everything back home just fades away like an old photograph. The images that were once sharp now suddenly look ghostly. They seem almost to merge imperceptibly together into some vaporous cloud where it’s even hard to recall how it all once looked like. That’s really how it is when things which were once familiar start to decay. It’s a idea that I find myself pushing to one corner of my mind whenever the subject crops up…most of the time when I find myself straining to remember my past life in Singapore – I am like a man whose trying to fill the blanks of a washed out photo. I say to myself, this or that was once there…that wasn’t like that, it was really like this.

I can never win….it’s really a war of attrition when memories begin to give in to a new reality that has nothing whatsoever to do with the past. As for the past it is hard to really know whether it is still there…there are times when I find myself reflecting during my midnight walks whether it may all be like those twinkling stars where the light the streams out may have been some remnant of a star that has long cooled, hollowed out and died.

During such moments I am confronted by yet another reality – I am no longer the same person I used to be….too many missing images from the past have been filled in by this reincarnate man. Images that have nothing whatsoever to do with the remnants of the past like a new house that is built on the rubble of a torn down house.

At times I do wonder to myself – how would this other man be able to fit in back home in Singapore…where all the pavements are so flat and level that he might even have to steady himself like an astronaut walking for the very first time on the moon…how would I even be able to walk without the familiar tug of my heavy parang on my belt. I am armed all the time in the field that whenever I visit the city and have to disarm…I find myself having to stuff so many coins and on one occasion even a rock to feel that weighty sense of comfort.

It seems I might have painted myself into one miserable corner like one of those people who only seem to commit crimes deliberately to get back into prison.

I say this only because I am acutely conscious of how living outside home has changed many of my attitudes and even some of my assumptions concerning the state of affairs back home.

Truth is life back home in Singapore may not always be perfect….but it is nonetheless a comparatively decent life….it’s life that regrettably one seems to be only able to truly appreciate when one is far removed from the idea of home itself…and that has to be very sad…to me at least.

Or maybe it’s just the way of the mind works. I am reminded of how the mind so often glosses over details with the chastening passage of time. All to often only the good and happy memories hold on….maybe it’s like that with me.’

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