in singapore the weather is so indeterminable. sunny or sunless; the rain sweeping our borders unnoticing its human lives; and time, calendar time, means nothing. i have known the seasons not through prediction or a clock but a dawning awareness that the flowers are in bloom again, for the second time this year. i can never remember which month it is that the flame of the forest crimson the trees, or the yellow flame races across the landscape in lemoned fire, or the mempat starts to blur everything in a shock of pink, like skirts in a puddle after a curtsy. there is a time of year where it is wet, then sunnier and sunnier, and the flowers come to life. hibiscus, ixora, periwinkle, bougainvillea, heliconia, allamanda. as if bird-watching i count off these names as i walk through the neighbourhood. everything frenetic, so lush, desperate with life. second spring, the newspapers call it. i remember now what is possible. an unpredictable season, then sunlight turned petal after rain.
I’ve shared this widely and had it widely shared by my very supportive and beloved academic and friend community (thank you, thank you, thank you), many of whom read it carefully and wrote to me with their own reflections, but I want to archive it here, too.
Here’s an essay about everyday life during lockdown in Singapore, what walking Chai has taught me about my neighbourhood, and how people challenge surveillance by building new community spaces, published on anthrocovid.com.
I miss smiling at people unmasked; I miss the civil inattention we practise in trains and lifts and bus stops; I miss being alone in a sea of strangers while feeling cosseted and amused and calmed by the very many quirks of a crowd. I miss being an observer of the populated city.
If unchallenged, I tend to fall into routine. I like to do things over and over again, laying down time and experience like a mille crepe cake. I am very good at the deep-dive, the excavation and the marvel of the everyday, the plumbing of the depths.
The lockdown is throwing this into relief, like the sun setting at an off-angle, the shadows cast differently. I walk the dog and buy vegetables, same as always. But there is something discordant in the air.Continue reading
We saw her at the same time as we got off the bus: an older auntie with her legs bent inwards, about to heft a trolley bag up the overhead bridge. The woman in front of me, short-cropped hair, maybe in her late 40’s, beat me to it.
“Auntie, where you going?” she said efficiently, and without waiting to hear the answer, continued. “I carry for you. Come. Never mind.” She swung the trolley up and strode up the stairs like a conqueror, leaving the auntie in the dust. I admired the muscles in her calves.
The bag-carrier ripped her way to the end of the overhead bridge like a CrossFit trainer and set it down to wait patiently. The bow-legged auntie was in her late 70s and moved with placid slowness. I hovered between them both as she limped across the bridge.Continue reading
My mother muttered, “okay, now you have to ask the god to let your grandmother come down and eat.”Continue reading
My sister, leaning in to fix my grandmother’s makeup, as we waited to seal her in her coffin.Continue reading
I’ve come to realise that my resolutions every year are the same.Continue reading
For me, to know things is to love them–with a little dog by my side.Continue reading