Tuesday, January 16, 2018

In The Wake of Gossip

Since listening to the conks, clicks and clangs of a faith none of us really believed in wasn't exactly wildly absorbing, my irreligious cousins and I had plenty of time to catch up in between the public pretense of abject spiritual contemplation.

And the seriously soporific repetitive chants.

With all the monks and priestesses from different Buddhist sects roaming about the kopitiam at all hours, it was hard not to poke fun at our very own spiritual shaman, the inimitable Richie Runt who last I heard had apparently taken up ghostbusting the Asian way as a side job. Though I have my curious beliefs in the netherworld, I do also have serious doubts about the abilities of our alleged amateur exorcist, even the esteemed ascetic he calls a master.

Though I wouldn't doubt the lucrativeness of said career path, especially since even the lowliest abbots invited for the funeral came ornamented with shiny Rolexes and gleaming iPad Pros. All of us stared in disbelief and I can easily imagine the choice words my late grandmother would have for the extremely well-appointed clergy.

But since Richie Runt always has his greedy lil eye on the quick buck, I can't imagine a more suitable appointment for him! Fleecing the faithful flock has to be a time-honoured profession, no?

Paul : Even I'm already thinking of taking up this career. 
Lori : It's definitely better than what he's already doing. 
Paul : Oh Richie finally has a steady job?
Lori : Well not exactly. He runs around collecting illegal lottery tickets. 
Paul : Damn this gets better and better. 

When you figure he's gonna zig, he can really zag.

For those who are wondering, we do have legal channels for lottery tickets in the country. Several in fact where you can dream up numbers and place a bet on them. However there are certain ... darker means to achieve similar, if not more profitable, returns with the illegal lottery operations hence their growing popularity.

And of course the neverending crackdowns by the boys in blue.

Umm... waitaminute, you mean it's not legal?
A distinct future scenario we definitely warned Richie Runt about though I'm sure he wilfully turned a deaf ear to our well-meaning brotherly advice. Well, I figured with such a huge family, there's bound to be one irresponsible black sheep at the very least! Never knew he'd turn out to be a conman too!

Something I'm sure my extremely law-abiding grandpa would be turning in his grave.




Thursday, January 11, 2018

Death In The Family

I half suspect my grandmother only wanted to live long enough to see her hundredth year since she breathed her last just shy of the last hour of the new year's.

Since I'd just barely touched down back home after seeing her prior to the new year's, I half considered not returning for the final engagement. Much to my mother's consternation since such a shocking social solecism would be an anathema to her. Though my parents claimed I didn't have to,  I basically turned back to the airport to take the return flight, bowing to social convention - and yes, also to the unspoken censure in my mother's remarks.

Me not stupid.

I'm glad I did though.

Very little weep, whimper or wail when she finally passed beyond since we all had our chances to say goodbye the past few months before. When the news of her impending passing became known to us, we had all taken turns to pay her a final visit so everything that we wanted said had already been said.

So we threw a celebratory send-off for her, just as she would have wanted it. Not only had she despised overblown grieving during funerals, my extremely irreligionist grandmother also heartily disliked complicated religious ceremonies. Easy enough to see where she's coming from since she grew up in China during those turbulent times when such archaic pseudo-spiritual practices were being phased out.

Thank goodness she never left any wildly asinine superstitions for us.

Unfortunately no, the monks weren't all that hot. Didn't even imagine defrocking any of them. 

Apparently a memo not everyone received - since this time we were all greeted by a heartily pious Buddhist monk leading the ceremonies at the wake. She didn't like monks either. Unlike the far more entertaining Taoist monks from my grandfather's funeral with their engaging pantomimes, this turned out to be a far more sedate affair with a lot of repetitive chants and croons to the accompanying soporific rhythm of a wooden fish.

Not to mention a convenient prayer book with subtitles for those barbaric illiterates entirely unversed in obscure Buddhist sutras.

Figuring that only one particular religious discipline wasn't enough to wrest nirvana for my late grandmother, subsequently the family elders also invited an entirely different sect of Tibetan Buddhism who came over with their very own monks, decorations and accoutrements.

Om Mani Padme Hum indeed!



Monday, January 08, 2018

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Now wouldn't that have made it way more interesting.

Unfortunately that dreaded reindeer turned out to be nothing less than a suspicious lil malignant spot that has been bothering my grandmother for several years - and had finally managed to figuratively run her over, just a day after the new year which would make her more than a hundred.

Starting to think she mustered the last bits of strength just to doggedly drag herself across the finishing line to be a centenarian.


Two decades back, my grandmother had already warned me about the downsides of longevity and though I barely listened with half a ear, I perfectly understood what she meant about having everyone you loved pass before you. Back then with her perfect bill of health, I did tell her it would take a really long, long while for death to finally come for her. Guess that was a sort of premonition since it did take several long, long months for her to finally succumb to her cancer.

Long, long months it was since most of the final medical decisions about her ensuing treatment fell to her children and grandchildren, quite a number of whom have already graduated to become practicing physicians. So when there's basically a congregation of doctors from different fields discussing a specific case, especially one close to their hearts, I think you can well imagine the ensuing commotion.

Surprisingly though we had all the doctors in the family agreeing to halt the more troublesome invasive procedures in favour of the more palliative due to her advanced age - which her contumacious children automatically objected to, apparently preferring a more drastic course of chemotherapy. It obviously didn't take a day or two to decide - hard to argue overly much when everyone has her best interests at heart - so while the discussion was going on, my grandmother herself had resigned herself to whatever decision was made.

And took up the game of mahjong to while away her time.

This time though they didn't hide the diagnosis from her since it must have been pretty obvious from the way everyone rushed back suddenly from all corners of the globe. It was during the mahjong game that I realized that it really was time for her to go. Though there was no marked alteration in the way she reacted or spoke, there was no denying how very, very tired she looked.

It had been a hundred years and it was evidently time for her to finally rest. Almost everyone in the family had returned to see her. So what better time to say goodbye?



Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The Mighty Pen

Which for me would certainly be mightier than the sword.

And quite a match for the mighty penis as well.

So why the sudden swift descent into scandalous prurience? Well with the tragically declining standards of English in the country, and the ever diminishing capacity to communicate in anything other than laughable emojis and chat abbreviations, I find fewer people willing to believe in the power of the word. Rather than adroitly employing language to seduce the heart and mind in the venerable art of flirtation, the youths of the Grindr era are far more gratified with the near instantaneous ASLs and the HMUs.

Let's not deny the undeniable allure of a casual, anonymous hookup! Quick, fast, instant gratification. But for anything more than that quickly forgotten romp in the sack, I would need more than a picture of your penis, no matter how wonderfully hung you may be.

And that's where the pen can be mightier than even the penis. Since unlike many out there, I would need words. Soul-crushing, heart-rending, life-changing words; not only whispered out on the spur of the moment but also typed out on the screen or even printed on a sheet of paper. Guilty of epeolatry, I find something close to magic in the clever turn of a phrase.

Something some of my less expressive friends would quibble with.

Though I'm sure even the most heartless ones would feel a slight pang when they hear this beautifully written letter from the Man in An Orange Shirt.



Really wherefore art thou, the Dickens and the Shakespeares of before. Or have the poets of yore also gone the way of the almighty 280 character Tweet.










Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Silent Night

Once upon a time in a castle far away in the northern kingdom, after several years of happy anticipation, a little baby girl was born to the reigning Princess Panacea. Though possessed of her father's less than spectacular looks, the little girl fortunately developed some little charm of her own, bolstered by her mother's frequent makeovers and soon became the delight of her doting parents.

Though perhaps they had doted a little too much on their Petulant Pill. 

Barely did the Princess Panacea wander a foot away from the child, there would be whines, whimpers and wails enough to shake the castle to the rafters. Soon Panacea could scarcely move an inch away without the resounding keening lamentation that came to be known as the Pillsong. Though the apple of her parents' eyes, the screeching little girl soon became the dreaded gorgon that reigned in the castle nursery much to the unending horror of the nurse, the nursemaids and the servants. Each night as the Pill finally cried herself to sleep, the rest of the castle lit a candle hoping for a white knight to come rescue them. 

Away from the Petulant Pill. 

Prince : Perhaps the magical unicorns would still her cries.
Panacea : Yeah that's gonna happen. 

Sounds less like a sweet fairytale and more like a recurring nightmare actually. Though some parts have been wildly exaggerated, for the most part the sad story above is firmly rooted in reality. So much so that Pretty Panacea finds it hard to even leave her house, which is how it took more than a year before she managed to return for a visit with the baby. Ever the protective first time parent, Panacea finds herself loath to leave the child by her wee lonesome - not even under the care of her own elderly parents.

Something I realized when the Pill seemed abnormally attached to her everywhere she went.

Paul : You didn't leave the Pill with your parents? 
Panacea : No. Never. 
Paul : You haven't gone out without the Pill? 
Panacea : No. Never!
Paul : Why? Your parents are living next door? So are your husband's parents? Isn't that why you chose to live so close by? 
Panacea : But the Pill can't be left alone with them. She would cry!
Paul : Uh. So?
Panacea : She would cry!
Paul : Trust me on this but no baby ever died from crying. 

Come on, seriously did anyone ever die from crying?

Till I pointed it out plainly, she didn't even realize that her baby hadn't been left in the care of anyone else in the family for even a measly ten minutes. Apparently the ensuing raucous wails would be heard from several blocks away. Like any other over-enthusiastic first-time helicopter parents, Panacea then handed me the lame excuse of her own parents not knowing what to do with a newborn. As I've heard that very same irrational reason several dozen times before, I knew exactly what to say.

Paul : Excuse you. Your parents managed to keep you alive and well till you're grown enough to have a child of your own. You haven't. 

Perhaps I would have been a little more understanding if she were handing her child to an unfamiliar caretaker but really, her own parents. Really. Are you seriously trying to challenge your own parents when it comes to parenting? Like come on.

Let your parents be grandparents, and perhaps then there might actually be a Silent Night.