dear diary...

Just A Little More…

Why is it that all things have to be rushed?

The voices around us relentlessly indoctrinate and perpetuate:

Time is of the essence.

Time is our only non-renewable resource.

Time is a scarcity, unfortunately, that will only run out.

But some things, only time can tell;

some things require precisely the growth and maturation

that can only take place through time,

like wine,

and feelings fermenting.


Why is it that everything that has happened between us

is all but a means to an end?

Why is it that even if the shot has missed the bullseye

by just an inch,

the bow has to be broken, shattered, abandoned

and never to be picked up ever again?


Why is it that we could have climbed a million steps

to get to where we are today,

but a slip,

an innocent stumble

has the magnitude of an earthquake

revealing the vast chasm between us

crumbling the very delicate road we once tread?


Perhaps all is needed is

a little more time,

a little more patience,

a little more understanding,

a little more forgiveness.

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dear diary...

“So…what do you see us becoming?”

As I let the words frolic around in my head and its awfully familiar timber ring in my ear, an unsettling chill shot through me. In the piercing momentary silence punctuated by nervous heartbeats, I slipped into my subconscious, and entertained an internal dialogue between a me who is still paralysed by the heartbreaking vestige of the past and a me who, despite bearing a hurtful history, choose to sally forth in bold steps into the wild unknown.

This is all too familiar. The tone, brimming with anticipation, pregnant with hope, an overture to innumerable other promises, exclusive companionship, unbuckling support, to a future together. I fixed my gaze upon him, thinking about how incredulous it is of him to be asking me this question without a sign of uncertainty. It’s too soon for him to be asking me this, I thought. It has only been our second time seeing each other face to face, even though we have kept in touch very regularly via Telegram. I am faced with a sea of questions. Am I sure I know him well enough? Are we even compatible? What exactly does he mean by this? Short-term? Long-term? Friends with benefits? How the heck does he feel comfortable and confident enough to broach this question on our second date as we casually lied on our backs counting the leaves on the frangipanni tree, waiting for the sun to set? Lastly and the most daunting question of all, “Will I get hurt? What if he is not really ready?”

A couple of months back, I had to deal with the aftermath of a disaster, an unnecessary meltdown, a failure that could have never happened in the first place had he thought things through thoroughly and made the decisions that truly resonated with his own emotional state and readiness. I have long been toying with the idea of it alone in the confines and privacy of my own room on 3am nights. I was so, so ready to commit, the moment he popped the question, I immediately agreed. And so I plunged, headfirst, into the lacuna that turned out to be a lightless void, a dead end that did not take many steps to reach.

The answer I gave him was one that I felt was the most honest and true to how I was feeling but it was clear he wasn’t entirely happy with it. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s my fragile little mind already in the works of erecting a defensive structure around its soft and vulnerable core, maybe it’s me and my aversion towards risk-taking. Maybe it’s me and my stupid little romantic fantasies of meeting “the one” and knowing that he is “the one” for me and that I can rest assured that he would never ever leave my side for reasons trivial or otherwise.

I have never felt two contrasting emotions so intensely at the same time. In the moment, my heart was stretched to its absolute maximum, till the rubbery sinews became a ghastly white string, as fear and excitement tugged mercilessly in opposite ends, threatening to rip it apart. The ache, deep and tremendous, woke something in me. It’s not just me who is risk-averse. No one like to gamble, no one likes risky situations, especially if it involves putting out your heart, your deepest, darkest emotions and vulnerabilities on the table, exhibiting them to someone you think you truly know but can’t say for sure. I can’t be the only one so helplessly indoctrinated by the idea of romantic love, of meeting “the one” and seeing forever flash in front of my eyes in that instant. Won’t everything be smooth-sailing and easy and effortless and perfect if even the love of my life is served to me on a silver plate?

But, what, then, is life without taking risks, without failures, without the struggle, the fight we put up for the things we value, want and cherish? What is life if we aren’t willing to put ourselves out there, to revel in the nakedness, the rawness of our emotions, to hurt just that little more, to look back after a victorious pursuit or fight and finally realising the worth of our struggles even in hindsight? As much as we want to feel guarded, protected and go through life unscathed, we should know better that the scars we got from the things we fear — rejection, disappointment, unfulfilled promises or even the “forever” that got a full-stop appended to it at the most unexpected time — aren’t just injuries that should be plastered over nor avoided, they are battle wounds of a glorious, noble warrior, each with its own unique story to tell, each a symbol of the growth of an individual at a particular stage in his or her life.

“…stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.” — Brave New World | Aldous Huxley

So, fear nothing and take the plunge. It will all be worth it.

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dear diary...

Dearest Papa,

Dearest Papa,

Happy 52nd Birthday! Today, I had my virgin experience of social art jamming, with the intention of painting something that could be gifted to you as your birthday present. Well, art alone without meaning is but a symphony of colours harmonised and mingled together with brushstrokes bold and fine. So here is a list of things that went through my head as I embarked on a 3-hour long artistic voyage on a Tuesday afternoon without even pausing to drink or eat:

  1. Just like how I am your very first child, your maiden voyage into this big, uncertain, sometimes scary world of fatherhood, this piece of art is my first jab at creating something somewhat aesthetically pleasing.
  2. First attempts are never perfect. The artwork is definitely not perfect. And neither am I. If you asked me, I could go on and on about all the regrets I have about this painting and the mistakes that I had foolishly made precisely because of my inexperience. I screwed up, made mistakes, cursed myself, panicked, found solutions, asked for help, prayed for things to get better and go my way. I sketched and erased, tested the waters, debated between purple and grey. But still, the background is too patchy, and the branches look too flat. The petals of some of the flowers are warped and slightly deformed. Yet, despite all these blemishes and imperfections, they are unmistakably mine and I own them like how you have owned me in the twenty years that you’ve raised me — proud and with the most unshakable conviction of a creator, a father. And I salute you for that.
  3. Being a father, whether it’s your first time or 5th time, is always stressful. I can’t claim to have carried the kind of weight you’ve been carrying, but painting under a time limit is pressurising period. Not to mention painting outside the comfort and private confines or your own home. Every stroke, every move is made under public scrutiny. Constantly, your ears are helplessly deluged with cacophony of opinions, peoples’ ruthless judgments, comments and criticisms. You try not to buckle, take a deep breath, calm your nerves and continue your hustle. Thank you for raising me in your own way, even when the voices that tempt and mislead echo ever so loudly and persistently.
  4. Cherry Blossoms. Why Cherry Blossoms, you may ask. You have always wanted to go to some place like Japan in the summer during the Cherry Blossom season, but have been unable to because of your busy schedule and us. This painting is for you and all the opportunities that you have missed because of me, Bin and Kai, while we await that one summer when we can finally catch the flowers together as a family. Aside, the Cherry Blossom is perhaps the most fitting embodiment of life and all it’s beauty, ephemerality and fragility. This is a reminder to cherish every second spent with loved ones and every moment, no matter how upset or angry or disappointed you may be, because it is precisely these emotions that lift the highs of life even higher.

 

Infinitely, with love

Your daughter, Ning ❤

 

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dear diary...

Don’t Lose Yourself

You spend hours in front of a computer

till your eyes begin to water.

Cherry-picking words

that you think best flatter.


Nouns

/naʊns/

Do they make me sound hip enough?

Exotic places

Underground bands

Book titles so unheard of,

you’ve got them penned down on the back of your hand.


Adjectives

/ˈadʒɪktɪvs/

The bigger the word, the bigger the impression, right?

An eclectic taste in music

A Flexitarian foodie

A sapiosexual nerd who embraces all things geeky.


You take the bits and pieces of your life

and your self

Curate them

Examine them

Process them

Until they don’t look like you no more.


Arrange them in order,

like pieces of artefacts in a museum.

And you,

play the docent who walks them through.

Exhibition after exhibition,

room after room,

spinning stories that you know aren’t always true.

A haphazard patchwork of tales.

And like a chameleon,

your opinions turn from red to purple to blue


Sand down the rougher edges,

the distressed voices,

the disagreements.

Polish the panes till they glisten

with a glare

a little too bright

for those who stare.


When you get back home near midnight,

graceless,

and hollow;

after being touched all over,

scrutinised and

consumed,

and the ice of the marble flooring slowly bites away

at the antecedent warmth of

loveless cuddles,

you peer at the three strangers in the mirrors,

and wonder,

“Who the hell is this?”


 

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dear diary..., wanderlust

Adieu, Bangkok

I can’t believe that my four days in the Land of Smiles is finally coming to an end. This thought sunk in me as I lie on the bed in my hotel room, staring into the whiteness of the ceiling. As I do so, memories of these few days seem to stain my vision like how watercolour does on loose paper. They were somewhat vague and fleeting like the diluted blotches but sometimes were filled with the kind of vivacity and clarity of a single focused moment. As I lied down there and let my mind float upon the rapids of an intense flashback, I can’t help but feel a sincere and profound resonance with the statement: “Time flies when you’re having fun”. These four days have been nothing but exciting, eventful and enriching.

Day 1:

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Even before we touched down in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok had already greeted us with flashing lights, roads packed to the brim and a symphony of vehicle honks that’s a little too loud for comfort. As dusk swept across the entire city, the hustle and bustle only grew more prominent as lights from various sources flood the streets — street lamps, car floodlights, storefronts and neon lights. It was as though the city flipped to its other side, exposing an alternative version of itself and its own true beauty.

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Without any hesitation, we hopped onto a tuktuk to take us to our dinner location. The tuktuk is a common mode of transport in Bangkok that consists of a motorcycle front and a metallic hind that carries about 3-4 passengers. It is the modern cousin of the cycle rickshaw.

 
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Our driver drove with wild agility and impatience. In that moment we were drowned in excitement and fear and the loud puttering of engines, and choking on concentrated car exhaust. The entire ride was a blur. In the chaos and confusion of that moment, there arose in me a strange feeling of sedation, of zen. It was like bubble embracing me in its exclusive space insulated from the hustle and bustle of my surroundings. It had a meditative quality especially when all around me, the roads were a sea of monochromatic red. I stared straight ahead at the tuktuk driver’s head and let a million random thoughts run through my mind like how a kite runner in Kabul runs after his kite with childlike innocence and vigour.

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Nightlife in Bangkok is basically synonymous with a trip to the Night Markets. We made our way to one nearest to our hotel and dinner place — Pratunam Market. Captured here is a moment of intense concentration by a street artist amidst all the distractions, lights, passerby and secondary opinions.

Day 2:

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We heeded the advice of one of the locals and took a boat trip down one of the tributaries of the Chao Phaya river. Thanks to him we managed to escape being scammed on our tuktuk ride to the jetty. Thanks to him we discovered a less touristy and more locally authentic side to Bangkok and those making a living along the river that runs through Bangkok city. Thanks to him, we learnt how important it is to make an effort to assimilate into the culture of the host country and that one of the best ways to do so is to try to speak in their native tongue. If you look like a Thai (asian features) and speak Thai (even if minimal), you pay so much less than the average tourist, at least for tuktuk rides.

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“Why not get a nice cool beer for the uncle?” asked the lady who approached us in her wooden boat chocked full with all kinds of things to sell — from country flags, to tidbits and beverages to oriental fans. Here, we witnessed the sense of community present between the families and people who live along the same river. The informal economy that has boomed because of the river and its surrounding religious monuments has benefitted those living nearby. Many, like the lady in the picture, set up their own floating markets and take advantage of the influx of tourists into their ‘backyard’ to earn a few extra dollars.

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When you are immersed in a society of friendly and compassionate souls, you can’t help but feel the same. Happiness and joy become irresistible and inevitable.

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A little gentrified area near the Grand Palace.

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Taken along Yaowarat Road, Chinatown. The buildings exude an old charm that is reminiscent of those I’ve seen in Hong Kong, an aged but timeless look. A tuktuk in an ostentatious shade of pink whizzes past, its engines roaring as if to flaunt its own presence, consequently disrupting the serenity and solemnity of the scene.

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Where are the bus stops in Bangkok? Wherever the bus stops.

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Enjoyed a cone of matcha-cum-charcoal flavoured ice cream in the blistering heat.

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Reunited with my college suite mate at a relatively new night market — Talad NEON. It is right smack in downtown Bangkok and it is everything you would love to see, eat and do after a long day at work.

IRRESISTIBLE.

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After several hours of walking around, we decided to just chill at one of the many bars at Talad NEON. The bars in Bangkok are commonly double-decked and beautifully decorated with fairy lights and themed graffiti. Needless to say we headed straight for the upper deck, got 2 cocktails for about S$4 each and a Chang beer. We talked the night away and learnt a lot from my suite mate about expat life here in Bangkok and what she does to integrate herself as much as possible in this society. This photo features me and my non-existent glass of margarita because I finished it too quick. It’s delicious.

Day 3:

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Boat Noodles @ Union Mall. Each bowl was barely S$1. Two of us ate 11 bowls in total but we still had space for more.

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In the evening we visited another night market — Ratchada Train Night Market. It was on a slightly bigger scale and had more bars, more shops, more food and certainly more people. Certain parts of it felt European and gave off a Christmas Market vibe, except it’s 33°C and everywhere you go you hear Thai pop blasting.

 

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We drank at a bar that directly faces a barber shop, so that provided some entertainment. 😛

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Frozen Blue Hawaiian and a slightly tipsy me.

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Our last full day in Bangkok and a very empty Rachathewi Station. My heart shed a little tear upon realising that fact.

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Thai spices and condiments.

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Looking around me in Chatuchak Weekend Market, the place was teeming with expats and tourists like me. The place had a really nice vibe and I would have stayed for even longer if not for the killer heat. Yes, we surrendered, we surrendered to the heat but not before we filled our hands with Thai handicrafts, new pairs of shorts and tops.

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Leaving with a reluctant heart. Final glance.

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Post-massage meal. Nero pasta with prawn and tomyum sauce. We went to a very Westernised cafe for dinner and even then I looked for a fusion between Thai and Western cuisine. It was a match made in heaven, I would have ordered another if not for the hole in my wallet.

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This was just next to the cafe’s cashier. What a beautiful thing to stare at while munching on some food. For a moment, the sight of this transported me to one of those humble small shops on a random quaint street in Paris or London.

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