Went to bed last night with the realisation that all the world’s a sham, except maybe the art of bread-making. Supplying fresh wholesome handmade loaves to the local community, donating what’s left at the end of the day to charity. Betty’s Bakery. No! That means brand logo, catchphrase, and marketing—I’ve already joined the ranks of those from whom I wish to escape (a calculator sounds in the distance, an interior designer is hired). What then? Ought I arm myself, self-consciously and pretentiously, with a copy of Walden and off to the woods, a retreat from modernity and its attendant excesses? In the company of humans their expectations and norms I live a life of anxiety, said anxiety owing to the way my brain is wired which, in turn, owes to the life I have lived with the temperament I was born with. In the company of nature and wildlife the expectation is to survive, but not so long ago just last year I think I had to look up the definition of fortitude. The definition, once read, made me laugh at myself for not knowing what it was. I’m good at that. But self-deprecation won’t do when faced with a bear, a deadly bite, the ensuing infection, and, worse than pus, the silent panic through it all. Better people and walls, calculators and clocks, after all.
I loathed to leave the gallery. In the darkening light of dusk its magnificence expanded outwards, casting an enchanted aura over its surroundings. Even the parklands opposite where I walked became magic at its touch. Still I walked, stopping every so often to glance backwards, whereupon I beheld with marvellous longing the architecture to which I could return time and again. The consequence of my backward glances, I am happy to announce, was that I was simply very late for supper. Had I been a hero in a love story and the art gallery my deceased beloved—I am sure you have all heard of the poor chap—it would have been lost to me forever.
Youth is vitality, excess collagen, fluids and oil from our pores. Our restlessness feels edgeless like the galaxy, scary and exciting like exploding stars, new like unopened books.
Youth is arrogance—we act as if we invented sex, and mock the old for their weary bones. But they were once young like us and was it not from them you and I and our parents sprang?
Youth is rage, against our predecessors’ norms, against our parents’ wishes, against the preachers and teachers who know not what it is to be young today no more than theirs did, against our own better judgement.
Youth is power: it is power harnessed from our vitality, arrogance, and rage. We can change the future because it is ours—because, if not us, who?
Listening to Lana Del Rey on summer nights: a wearable mood / like slipping on a cloak of indulgent sadness / a shift of persona, swift as Mystique / a sinking and falling into place, like being swallowed into the depths of a dark rose, petals spiralling into infinity / memories unfolding, genuine or embellished, shrinking and blooming like youth on rewind / FIN.
I should like to die on a splendid day at the height of summer, under a radiant blue sky on a bed of flowers. If it were not for my morbid longing for the picturesque, I should not mind expiring as wildlife do, Continue reading
‘Sorry,’ I said to the cashier at the art store because I took too long to grab my bags, of which I was carrying four. And I was sorry. ‘Sorry,’ I said again on my way out, because the shop was crowded with shelves and people and I was carrying one too many bags. I did not bump into anyone or knock anything off but still I was sorry for the time and space I took when exiting. And I was sorry many times before then because the aisles were narrow and I had to get through or somebody else had to get through, either way I was sorry I troubled the other shoppers. I went to a thrift shop next and I was sorry there too, sorry for the fact that the shirt I tried on did not suit me, sorry that I did not make a purchase and they have to put it back. ‘Sorry, that’s okay, thank you so much,’ I managed, this time at the music store, because the clerk could not locate the vinyl I wanted. I was sorry that he tried for me and wasted his time when he could be doing something else. Then I was sorry I was sorry because I had started to feel real bad for myself, because the only reason I kept apologising was this—this idea that I was unworthy of their services, someone who did not deserve their products or anything for that matter. And Uber—the convenience of it all and the patience of that particular driver—had me sorry too, four times if I remember it correctly: twice for having too many bags and twice more for being confused as to where he was parked; and he did not know this but I was sorry for seating at the back too, I would have ridden shot gun had I fewer bags to carry but he probably thought I was protecting myself from him. I was sorriest when I got home and looked at all that I had bought because I thought I did not deserve them. But later that night when I was well-rested and the boulder of existence lifted from my chest new copies of Hemingway, Pushkin and Yeats were read and felt and understood and I was not sorry anymore, I was soaring.
Sitting at the corner of my mind is a sprawling metropolis of abandoned ideas and incomplete drafts, all of them feverishly conceived. Some are penned in haste and barely legible, others the result of fingers tap dancing on screen. Continue reading
There is a carpark opposite my apartment, and a grassy plot of yet-to-be-developed land beyond it. The houses had been torn down many years ago, and for a while it seemed I was doomed to face an ugly patch of soil and debris whenever I stood on my balcony and gazed down. Ungifted at natural science, I deemed the land infertile. Nothing will ever grow on such a barren piece of land, I thought. Nature, she who wields the wind and rain, thought otherwise. So did the Australian sun. Slowly but surely, patches of grass began to grow. Soon, it had covered the whole fenced-off, apartment-sized square. Then, miraculously, trees started growing. Over a year later, these trees are still small, barely taller than your typical shrub, but they are thriving. And sometimes, flowers bloom on trees, don’t they? Yay or nay, this knowledge is to play a part in the hilarious incident I am about to relate to you; its partner in crime is my terribly shortsighted vision. One day, when brushing my just-washed hair while standing on the balcony sans glasses, I noticed that big, bright orange flowers had appeared on one of the trees, unbeknownst to me until then (or so I thought). I was delighted, but thought little of it once I reentered my living room and became preoccupied with the humdrum chores of daily life. I had forgotten all about those ‘orange flowers’, and would have went on believing that they were indeed what I thought they were — made of petals, pollen and seeds — if I never saw them clearly, with my glasses on. This is precisely what happened yesterday. Exhausted from the glow of my laptop screen and the rigidness of my chair, I decided some fresh air would be good and stepped out to the balcony. I took a deep breath, looked at the clear sky above, the church buildings on the side, and the grassy land in front with the growing trees, one of which is bearing flowe–wait. Hold on a second, it can’t be—is that what I think it is, filling the gaps between the leaves from where I stand? A discarded, corrugated iron-looking piece of orange construction thing lying right behind the tree in question? In a way that makes it look like orange flowers on the tree because parts of it are hidden by the tree’s leaves and others, blossom-sized parts, not? Yes, my corrected eyes and common sense said, yes of course it is, you daft. You mistook an ugly, manmade thing for nature, said the melodramatic overthinker in me. What’s more, it continued, the object is used to construct buildings, which destroy nature. How ironic. How wonderful though, to have mistaken such a thing for nature’s work of beauty, gushed hope. The writer in me began typing.
I remember wintertime in the city of my childhood in soft focus, a blur of red, grey, and white. White was the colour of fresh snow, pure and untrodden, all the way up to my little knees. Grey was the sky, the buildings, the exhaust gas and the thick coats of pedestrians, their heads bowed against the harsh icy wind and dancing snowflakes. And red was the colour of lanterns, of paper cut-outs meant to bring good fortune in the new year to the families behind the doors on which they were glued, of the fabric banners bearing slogans promoting environmental cleanliness and respect for the elderly. Red, grey, and white: a sombre palette for my reveries of simpler days, tinged with the bittersweet pain peculiar to fond memories of long ago. Now, a decade and a half later, everything has changed. But the memories stay. I am writing this now, on the eve of Chinese New Year, in a city far, far away from my childhood abode. Oceans away, I immortalise the winters of yesteryear in the hope that words never fade.