About Me

Singapore
I am an indie writer. Read my works and you'll probably think that they are either just plain junk or maybe arts of a decidedly Bohemian attitude.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2 hours in the life of a Singaporean car salesman

Michael's story

I guess it must be a perfect day to finally close a deal. The white board that records the daily sales which I call the humiliation board of shame has shown my name in the bottom 3 for the past 2 months and it is truly, one of the most embarrassing thing that can ever be created, but I must say it does work. I am determined for today, to finally be taken out from the bottom and move my way up the to the middle, at least for today.

The showroom with its 6 perfectly polished cars shone not only from the its 6 stars but right to the floor of white polished tiles. My shoes clicked that perfect tone of confidence as I made my way to the office to clock in my attendance and I chirped a good morning in the most positive tone I can manage. The rest of the team looks up and some gave me a lovely smiles while the rest just ignored me. Over in one corner, I can see the colleague with his name at the last of the humiliation board for the last 3 months silently saying a prayer.

The clock strikes 11am and we quickly walk out to position ourselves in strategic positions in the showroom. I pick the MPV, knowing that it is the weekend and most fathers would be coming by the car showrooms with their families to shop for the perfect family car. In about half an hour, just after the end of a mass from the church nearby, a family of 4 walk in. I straighten my tie, put in my perfect smile and lead the father to the MPV. When he takes my lead but not my smile to the MPV, I note that this is one of those 'unsmiling' one which  means, he usually is a serious pondering buyer moving from showroom to showroom. He is a hot lead but whether I close the deal or not would have to depend on my further observations.

While introducing the specs of the car, I take a quick eye-sweep from his head to toe- trekker slippers, baggy berms, white Giordano polo tee and a Seiko watch that probably costs less than $1k. My eyes scan his wife and what she is wearing, the same type of clothing from the neighbourhood shops. Perfect! I thought, not too rich! 

I proceed to textbook-talk all the technicalities of the car as he tests its credibility by consistently opening and closing the driver's door. I know that at this moment, he is listening to me, but only about 30% of what I am saying registers in his head; he is not a car-savvy person and perhaps the reason why he is changing a new car is because his wife wants him to.

Dressed in a skirt that reaches to her calves and a handbag that probably costs as much as a one time dinner at a posh restaurant, she watches her younger child climb into the back seat and dirtying it with wherever those pair of tiny yellow crocs have stepped on. The elder kid clamber in from the front seat and amuses himself with every button on the dashboard; he activated the signals, opened the boot, flipped the wiper and turned the volume of the radio up to the maximum. Mum, then turns nonchalantly and scolds him when Michael Jackson's Billie Jean came on a little too deafening. All the time, the younger one continues to spin around the back seat like a breakdancer.

I turn to the wife and speak more casually asking if she drives or if she shares the car with the husband, only to be returned with silence. The occasional toss of her hair which actually shows she is more interested in having a shampoo at the salon later (her hair smells) that using the wife technique would not work on this one.

My mouth is beginning to ache from the fake smile and that little kid with the yellow crocs is also starting to get on my nerves, but the nudging feeling of getting out of the bottom 3 kept me going. When the father walks to the back of the car and inspects the dimension of the boot, I dive in for the first attempt at closure- by offering him a test-drive. He ignores me at first, as though inspecting the boot is of a more vital task than test-driving, but when he closes the boot and turns fish out his driving license to me, the ache from my fake smile seems to disappear.

When the paper work has been filled and father here has signed on the dotted line, I bring the family out to a test drive car feeling the good vibes already. Mum decides to stay behind in the showroom to watch a little tv in the waiting area with yellow crocs. So father brings the elder one along on the drive. I guess the age of the kid to be about 8 so he doesn't need a child seat for the ride, he knows to buckle up and that got me a little relieved.

Throughout the drive, as I gave directions and make some small talk, father remains as quiet as a mouse. I am finding myself a little irritated that it is a one-way conversation and as I wreck my brains on what else to say in the quiet journey around the vicinity, the elder kid has unbuckled the seat belt. He rolls to the other side of the car and presses his nose and mouth to the glass and the licks it. I turn my head back to the father in horror but he doesn't see it or is perhaps, unperturbed.

Plucking my courage, I tell the little boy in a joking manner that I don't know when was the last time this car window is as cleaned, he turns around and sticks his tongue out at me. Okay fine! I hope you get a stomachache from all the germs from people who touched this piece of glass!

Father continues the drive in silence.

When we finally make turn back to the showroom. Father stops the car over to my technician and hops out of the car. I quickly make my way to the counter to retrieve his driving license but not before watching him opening and close the same car model's driver door. Click, bang, click, bang, click, bang, click, bang. 

Then Mum reappears with yellow crocs and they proceed to start the same routine with another car. Almost exhausted from speaking to a silent buyer and badly needing a drink to wet my dry mouth, I take a deep breath follow them to the saloon car of a smaller cc. Click, bang, click, bang, click, bang, click, bang. 

My heart grows smaller and smaller as I see my commission shrinking with the buyer's footsteps from the MPV to the various smaller cc cars. I could almost see my colleagues laughing at me, seeing the colour drain from my face. Finally, when father stops by the smallest car in the showroom, a 1000cc 5 door and proceeds with his ritual click, bang, click, bang, click, bang, click, bang, he turns to me and says, "Thanks, I'm just window shopping." and together with wife of smelly hair, sticky-tongue-son and yellow crocs in tow, he walks out of the showroom.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

You call yourself a teacher? Shame on you! (a Singapore story of how 3 teachers nearly ruined a girl's life)

Joan's story

Teachers,

Your job is not only to educate the next generation of future leaders, your job is to ensure that their voyage to their purpose in society is as smooth-sailing as possible.

But teachers,

my ride to the Uni is far from what you are advocated to do for us students. Some people say the college is the hardest part of a Singapore educational journey. It is THE passport to the Uni and it determines if you get to travel there or not. Instead, you have marred and tarnished it to become the worst part of my schooling life.

The year was 1999, a year to my A'levels at one of the lowest ranking college in the country. I was disappointed in my O'level results, but clearly had a vision for my studies and that is to obtain that passport to do to a local Uni.

After a trying 3 months at another college taking the Commerce stream, I was certain that I do not want anything to do with a mathematical subject for the rest of my life. After speaking to Dad, we decided that my strengths are in the arts and there was where I went. Built among a field of terrace houses, stood this school that I have decided to go in for my shot at attaining this passport in the Arts Stream.

In the first few months of studying there, I got to know this girl who hit it off with me pretty well. Her name was Maggie. Gradually, we became so close, we did almost everything together in school. We sat together and had our lunches together. Sometimes we even double date so often that I know her boyfriend, ZW as well as her.

Now, Maggie has a (in my opinion), a sad life. She is short, plump and does not have a pleasant disposition. She did however, had a very devoted boyfriend in ZW. If Maggie sticks to me like glue in school, she sticks to ZW like adhesive outside of school. She was always very proud to have someone like him. When I complained once that my then boyfriend does not buy me things very often, she would offer ZW to me as a temporary boyfriend for a day, but not without further implying that I have to return him to her when the day ended. I just laughed my head off at her.

She also has zero friends of her own. And by zero, I meant she only has 1 female cousin of hers to go out with and I was her only friend. Without a doubt, she later honoured me with the title of her best friend for life.

Perhaps this friendship has gotten into a bout of jealousy because when we got into year 2, our tiny clique was joined by this girl called Zen. If Maggie and I hit it off pretty good, then Zen and I were simple made from the same moulds. Soon, we have gotten so close that I, honestly, did not know that Maggie felt left out.

One fine day, the most popular girl in school complained that her entire stack of notes have disappeared from under her desk. She then confronted me and said that Maggie told her that she saw me throwing away a stack of papers and that I could be the one who did it.

I laughed. Seriously absurd! First of all, I have nothing against this girl so why the hell would I have done something like that? So without any proof, this girl together with her entourage of followers left me alone, amused and dumbfounded.

But that didn't last long because I then confronted Maggie during lunch time, in front of the entire school at the canteen and how and why she did that to me. She feigned ignorance but not before yelling back at me to say that she did see me do that. I told her off for being a nonsensical person and that she ought to be put into an asylum and walked off.

Shortly, she disappeared from school for a good many days, until I was called into the office with 2 policemen in there as well. It seemed that that Maggie has gotten a threatening voicemail from a man who told her that she was too cocky in school and that she had better watched out or he will be waiting to disfigure her. Apparently, she was so tramutised by it that she attempted suicide. Everyone was pointing fingers at me because of what had happened in the canteen couple of days ago. And when I fought back to say that the voice in the voicemail was clearly a man's and I got slapped by a ludicrous comment from a teacher that I could have gotten a male friend to do that so that I could get off scott free.

I became fuming mad! First I was maligned for dumping notes and now I am accused of threatening? Of cause there was not enough evidence and the police left but not without Maggie screaming like some kind of a mad woman when she saw me in the office. It was so dramatic! It was as though I have raped her ass and caused her so much hurt that she was indeed probably going to the asylum. Her entire left hand from her wrist to her elbows were bandaged and it seemed that she really did try to commit suicide. I was shocked to see her reacting so in front of me. But little did I expect that this was all just a facade.

And this entire act of drama was the start of a string of extreme unruly, uncalled for and unscrupulous treatment from my teachers.

There are 3 teachers whom I will always remember forever. Ms Esther See, Ms Siti Aisha and Mrs Mayor. Thank you all so much, for ruining what respect and high opinion of professionalism of a teacher that I have ever had from then, because this act of jealousy by a crazy girl has made you decide to make life hell for me in this school without any base of moral worthy of an educator.

Let's start with Mrs Mayor. Oh dear, dear Mrs Mayor, a most well-liked senior literature teacher that I have heard so many nice stories from the seniors but oh, they would be so surprised at how debase you actually are.

When the episode with Maggie took place, she first started by announcing to the entire school during morning assembly that, "this school will not tolerate any threatening deeds... is that clear Joan?" I looked up at her from where I was sitting puzzled and then shocked at her directing this to me especially when the police have walked away without any charges to me, but not without first, noticing how every single head in that hall was looking at me. Then the shock quickly escalated to anger and I glared with her and gave her the finger, which made matters worst because it only got me into more trouble.

So Mrs Mayor got the ball rolling and gave the green light to allow all other bullying on me. I was moved to another class with minimal contact with Maggie and not to mention, Zen was also moved away so I was always alone. When I was sighted with a 'durain' hairstyle which was the trend of the time and there were about a dozen girls in school having that exact same hairstyle, I was called to Mrs Mayor to tell me that, I was not allowed that hairstyle. And when I protested that there are other girls having this same style, she told me, "every other girl can, only you cannot."

How about Ms Esther See? I have to say that she is a very special teacher. She likes to take me out of class to "council" me but most of the time, it is just to reprimand me on the same episode! She also decided that I need more detention than anyone else in school. When everyone goes home at 1pm, I was to stay back to go from classroom to classroom to empty every single waste-paper basket until my legs ache so much from all the climbing up and down. I was also told to remove and stack up all 200 desks and chairs in the hall after the exams. Everything got out of hand that once, I yelled back, 'enough of you guys treating me like dirt! Do you want me to hang myself in the tree? I could you know? I would do just that so that the whole bunch of you shitty teachers would just leave me alone!"

The youngest of the lot has to be Ms Siti Aisha who just finished her training in the teachers' college and got into this school as her first teaching post. And she has to join in the 'fun' of cause because for someone who just joined the working society, she has to go big in her head and exercise her first found authority. She more or less did the same shit to me as Ms Esther See, only more by making me run more kilometres than anyone else. I was also needed to do more sit-ups and push-ups, mind you, those are killers because she probably wanted to employed some military training techniques and I was the lab rat.

Now you might be thinking, why didn't I tell my family about it. I did, but I left out the threatening part because I was not proud of yelling at Maggie in the canteen. I asked if I could drop out of school to do my A'levels as a private student but my Dad insisted I gret my teeth and continue my studies in the school; my ultimate aim was still being able to obtain the passport to go to the Uni.

So I skipped classes. I feigned sickness and tried to get as many MCs as I could to show that I was unfit for school. From clinic to clinic, until some doctors suspected I was lying and then it's off to another clinic to lie again. I dreaded going to school, dreaded meeting those terrible glares and stares from fellow school mates. I dreaded being called over the PA system when the entire school can hear that 'Joan from class A has to report to the office' for this and that; because there was once when the team of soccer boys broke one of the windows in the toilet and I was called to the office by the PA system but only because Mrs Mayor wants to as me if I knew who in particular in the soccer team broke the window.

By then, I was already a very violent individual. On days when I could not squeeze an MC out of a doctor, I went to school and was alone most of the time (Zen has dropped out of school because her family could not afford her studies anymore). Then as sudden as the bully started, Mrs Mayor and the rest of the teachers started to show me a positive treatment. Once, I bumped into Ms Esther See in the corridor and she greeted me with a sympathetic but warm smile. Taken aback at her sudden warmth and politeness, a smile was about to twitch on my lips but I caught it mid way and turned my head the other way and walked off.

Her efforts it seemed continued as she offered to drive me home couple of times out of blue and even wanted to take me to dinner outside the school. I was puzzled and skeptical about this but I did not succumb to their sudden change in attitude towards me. I remained aloof and nonchalant, even got to the point of being rude to her. Similarly, Mrs Mayor also offered to give me extra tuition and asked if I needed any help in my subjects all of which are at the border failing line. I was suspicious of her, yes especially Mrs Mayor, the leader of the pack and what other motives she had up her sleeve. I turned her down rudely and walked away from her but not without sarcastically informing her that I'd thought that I would only be called to her if someone else did something wrong in the school compound and that she needed help from me to find out who it was.

But Ms Siti Aisha, she took the top notch. She caught up with me in the canteen once when I was having lunch alone. She asked if she could sit down and when I ignored her, she took it as a yes and then proceeded to break down and apologise for being so nasty for me for the past years. I gave her a flabbergasted look and then as though she was one hell of a dirty beggar, walked away from her and my plate of uneaten lunch.

I did not have time to brood over their astonishing behaviour, I had my A'levels in a few weeks to study for. And boy, did I study hard. I faked a letter from my parents that their daughter would prefer to study at home since the A'levels were just around the corner, thankfully this had been a practice with most parents and the school usually allowed that. After my last paper, I chucked a good riddance tilt of my head towards the school and never looked back.

When I was accepted in the Uni, I was overjoyed to see some familiar faces (even though these school mates were not close to me before), and they warmed up to me pretty quick. Some of them even tried to ask me what the heck actually happened with Maggie and I ventured into a soliloquy about it. They took to me and even told me that I was so brave to continue to study and even did well enough to be accepted into the Uni. I didn't know how much of that they believed until one of them told me that Ms Siti Aisha who was also the coach for the netball team that she told the girls what happened and why these teachers treated me better towards the end of the term.

Did anyone forget about Maggie? Ever since she was transferred to another class, I hardly see her but when I did, I still gave her the death stare but she was quick to steer away from my path and my sight. Moreover, I was more caught up with the daily bully from the teachers to be bothered with her. It seemed that she was overcome with guilt and finally, after many months of special supervision from teachers (in case I tramutise her again), broke down burst into tears one day and confessed that everything about the threat was staged. She caught ZW two-timing her with another girl from another school. She was heart broken, begged him to come back to her and when he refused, she offered to even share him with the new girl just so she could still have him. After seeing her being hospitalized with thousands of slashes on her arm, he relented being with her and the new girl at the same time, until Maggie got better. Eventually, it was his turn to beg her to let him go because he really couldn't stand her anymore and he wanted to be with his new girlfriend instead.

So this piece of news circulated amongst the teachers especially to the 3 Musketeers in Bullying, hence the change in attitude towards me. It was then, in my first year of Uni, after a brutal 2 years of bullying, I finally succumbed all these grievances and cried. It was like being able to be released from prison after being locked up wrongfully for so many years.

I do not hold any hatred towards anyone now, (I was only 18 years old back then), but if you asked me, Mrs Mayor, Ms Esther See and Ms Siti Aisha are still the most despicable, degrading, absolutely the lowest scums of teachers that Singapore could have ever produced. Nothing would kill them to bring about how I was wronged into the light. The least they could do, was to tell me the truth behind Maggie's attempted suicide, but then again, it could only cause me more violent tendencies and I could probably pick up a knife and murder Maggie then and there. However, to have them try to make futile amends to care about my studies was also only a poor attempt to take away their guilt.

Like I've said, we all have these benchmarks of how an educator should behave and react, their code of conduct as well as their said professionalism. Instead of offering a hand to a dire teenager, showing her real care and concern, giving her love teaching her peace and to one that was wrongfully accused of a deed she did not commit, they decided to put her down further until she is down in dirt. Everything is too late when you then decided to mask all that you have done by putting forward a remorseful hand.

Teachers,

you might not think the critical position of your role in a child or a teenage's life would be that big, but you actually are. I envy those people who have unforgettably kind teachers to look up to and be grateful to. I, unfortunately, only have Mrs Mayor, Ms Esther See and Ms Siti Aisha to remember how terrible my passport days had been. So please, let no more of such bullying take place in school, you are afterall, grooming the future of your next generation.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Another old poem which was written when I was younger

The Queen and her 3 Men

In the castle I sit by my mirror
Asking now “who’s the fairest?”
But the answers to my questions
The whereabouts of my lovers

My black knight has abandoned his Queen
Engaged and enslaved to another
How he was blinded by her looks and wealth
Bewildered, I protested and seek and answer
Then I felt ashamed at what she had offered
For none of those, my knight, I can honour

And the tall masculine gladiator
Who has declined the offer to be loved and freed?
Who has won many battles and were watched
By the Queen with admiration and discreet?
He was last seen in full battle gear
With a warrior’s shield and a mighty spear

And my Early of Bover
Our usual rides and hunts so fresh in my memory
Hand in hand, far from the guards
We would gallop into the night till we reach the sea…
Alas, he is now an image
Which I am forbidden to touch and can only see

What has become of my shattered heart
With the departure of my three men?
I yearned for their return
And their love to make me happy once again



9th august 2000

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Office politics - Singapore style

Suzie's story

*Mimicking a posh English woman's accent*

Now darling, I would have thought that after 9 years of working life, I would have seen the worst of human kind when it comes office politics, but oh noooooooooo. How wrong I was, because no amount of experience can ever-  mind you, ever, prepare me for what I have had for the past few months in my current employment.

*Resumes normal voice*

Ahem, everyone in the office knows that I am now officially hailed as the most disliked employee in my director's hate list. He could also have a picture of me on his dart board and I could also think of him making a voodoo doll with my name on it which he can vigorously jab some kind of a sharp object into it.

You might be wondering what the heck have I done to be black listed; did I commit some kind of fraud or siphon the company? Did I cost the company a one million dollar deal or did I leak out some kind of corporate secret to our competitor? Or I probably murdered his dog or drugged his cat?

All I did, was to speak up.

You see, I have always seen myself as a very able general. I could lead an army to victory and even to my death just for my king, if only the king knows how to make use of my talents that is- I pledged my loyalty to my lord forever. Sounds very war-like? That is exactly what the corporate world is. Except in conquering lands, I swear I can make my company very successful.

So where was I in this office Role-Playing-Game? Oh yah, I was illustrating how good a general I am except I am not known as a general in this RPG, I am called a manager. And what does a manager do? She advises the boss on the market trend but not without putting her life on the line by cutting deals, meeting irritable troll-like clients and 'goblinised' customers. She beats her body to death by visiting these people rain or shine, swerving her little orange ninja-chevy in between highways and narrow roads to get to them and after which, come back bloody and bleeding but victorious with a contract for a few thousand dollars. She also wrecks her brains to motivate her army of fellow brave soldiers to continue to strife and not skive. She explores the many possibilities of taking down her enemy without being their enemy and teaches her team to do the same by aiming at their weaknesses. She breaks up internal fights and shares her rewards. She listens as a friend, scolds like a mother and coaches like a teacher. You get the gist.

But this sort of manager is not what my director wants. He runs a company like how he would a household. We are his butlers and maids- we do not question, we just do- like slaves.

An illustration of one such instance was the most recent public display of ostracizing me from a new colleague. I was told not to speak to him in private, I could not be caught having dinner, lunch or coffee with him, I have to keep him from the rest of the team too because the team is too 'damaging' (according to my director) and would greatly affect the morale of this new colleague and hinder his performance, why cause I head the team, that's why. So in order to 'protect' him from all the damage from his other team mates and in particular, me; he has to cage him up by assigning a specific pet of his to bring this fellow out for lunch everyday.

I could not, on this young fellow's first day, do any product training with him. And who would teach him then? Why it has to be the director's new pet, none other than the manager for another department of course who has been strategically put there to spike me. I was also told that whatever I teach him if I should, would be detrimental because I would have taught him the wrong things. *Insert [sarcastic laugh]* So when the young innocent chap came over to my desk to ask me about a few things and I gladly gave, I saw without a whelm of guilt or remorse or kindness appeared on my director's face to ask the young chap, "I see that you have a problem, what is it? You approached Suzie for advice? What did Suzie tell you just now?" When he replied, all he got was, "Tsk! Nevermind, you go ahead and just do this and that. You need to hear the right stuff from the RIGHT people."

Excuse me! Am I not the manager? Am I not giving sound if not, absolute good advice to a young sales person who knows nuts about selling? To put me down like that, in front of someone new and someone to is supposed to be in my team is just too low.

And, how do I know such a conversation took place? Because it took placed just barely 10 steps away from my desk. Guess what else, there is one more new team who came in two days ago and he did the.exact.same.thing!

And these are not all. There are so many other episodes of ludicrous treatments from this bureaucratic director that every single one, stumped me to silence. Once instance was absolutely so preposterous as like monkeys could fly (except if you count the first primates that got scooted to space by mankind eons ago...) I was told that I was caught 'stealing' company info and after I was 'caught', I proceed to sow discord amongst team mates! How beautifully staged was this act is by this group of new pets to decide to gang up and rape the company bare and I was the first on the dart board. But not without approval from the director of course!

I could have been boiling with overflowing anger but I did not. The situation has probably reached a stage where I am already the most wanted criminal by FBI but no one can do anything to me openly because I alone hold the power to the entire team's direction and everyone looks to me for everything. So the only way to 'put me back to where I belong' presuming-ly was to cage me in and remove all power from me.

For instances, meetings are strategically planned and scheduled at 3pm in the afternoons so I am not allowed to leave the office for appointments or visits after lunch. These strategies are also carefully plotted as such that when I was tasked to do something, all the pets are told to do the same things without my knowledge and wham!- they turned up in the meetings presenting the same shit as me. Or worse, these meetings are either called off for no rhyme or reason which will result me in stuck in the office for the whole day waiting in vain.

Also, all those team members who are closer to me are said to be 'aloof' from the rest of the company and needed to be reined back like a poodle. Here is what they needed to do- come early in the office to make sure their work is completed on time, their emails are constantly being logged in by the Welfare department to ensure that only positive and business-related emails are being exchanged and whoever takes leave or MC on mondays or fridays are definitely skiving.

In addition to those, I would also be 'accidentally' not cc'ed in emails and when I mentioned something about "what emails? what memo?" I was given a comical look of disbelief like I am some kind of an idiot from another planet. And all of a sudden, one team member of mine would have to do something else out of the blue because he or she would be needed to assist one of the boss's pets with something that is urgent- and without my knowledge. Well mostly like, the urgent tasks by the boss's pet was more urgent per se, I bet. And when I needed help from another department, it has to be rejected because all of the boss's pets are too tight up with other things to do PER SE.

Did I mention that he also likes to go back on his word as fast as you can say wow? More often than not, whenever I was tasked to do something and I did it mind you, with lots of dignity, blood and sweat only for him to come back with nasty emails that I did my work half-heartedly because I fail to understand the notion or motive behind his instructions. Huh? Well, if that is what he wants, then that is what he gets; because after I asked, he gave me crap to say that he is the director, we don't question his directive.

Want more? Here's more: I need to be tracked on the whereabouts of my appointments and how real they are, because for all you know, these appointments might be faked and I could have gone shopping instead. So in order for that not to happen, my iPhone (courtesy of the company) has to be installed with a tracking app.

*lights a cigarette*

You might be asking what led a correlation between two working people to result in one dire outcome such as this. I mentioned that speaking up led to my director and me being entwined into this personal/office war. It all started when the team spoke to me about their ever decreasing and diminishing earnings. You see, as a sales person, it should be such that the more you earn for the company, the more you earn.

The commission scheme not only got worse and worse year after year, the sales team could barely survive with such an unreasonable system. For instance, for a product that costs $500, the team only got $0.40 as their commission. Would you not stand up for your team that needs to bring the bacon home?

I proposed a raise in the commission scheme but the director snapped back and yelled a no, giving an absurd reason that the team has already given their increment (first time in 8 years, mind you) so if they would like to earn more, they merely have to clock in more sales. 

We all know what bureaucratic junk this logic is- because the way to motivate sales people to work hard is to give them the sky when it comes to commission. So I try to be nice and talk sense into him, but all I got was more snapping and yelling. 

This sort of outlandish outbursts came about more and more and it gradually dawned on me that I have to find different ways to talk to my director; as my ex-boss once told me when my proposal kept got rejected by my President and I had to re-do it over and over again, that I have to always think like my President does, speak his language and give him what he wants to see. So I edited my proposal into a financial report and it got passed like an A graded paper. 

Employing different techniques to speak to your director is tiring affair, what makes it worse, is that you have to couple it with a knowing effort that whatever you say will eventually be futile because, like I've said, it is a bureaucratic-logic place or more like how you would run a household. Throughout the time, being a hot-blooded-career-driven young lady, I learned to first, just keep my mouth shut and follow the master's commands and orders, only to see the company failing further and further, dwindling lower than ever. So I plucked my courage and spoke up first nicely, then softly, then harshly, then politely, then firmly. But nothing happens.

Perhaps it has gotten too much for this director to take that caused our correlation to be entangled to be spiraling downward further. Once such instance was when I brought up issue of the missing bonus for all of us. The year was 20**, the team brought in the most amount of profit for the company with an 38% increased in sales from the year before. Everyone was happy and was looking forward to a rewarding time from the management, only to be disappointed.

You see, it is okay that we get no bonus, we just wanted justification- why are we still "not making money" despite the consistent good sales record for these years. So the entire company waited, but no memo was issued and nothing was mentioned. The senior management just kept quiet- until we all saw that everyone in the senior management bought new cars (not one, but five of them) and bought new houses and went on long vacations to Timbuktu and the North pole.

*stubs cigarette and leans forward*

Now tell me if such behaviour mirrors not what you see in 12 years a slave? Hence, while Chiwetel Ejiofor's want for justice and freedom is called for, what more of fellow employees who want to continue to stay and strive hard for this company?

So I poured out my feelings and at the same time, assured the director of our allegiance and loyalty and that we merely wanted more to bring back to our families. I would have thought that the pouring-heart-out talk that made me cry (hey, I am an emo person at heart okay!) went pretty well and that everything will only get better. I was motivated and spoke to the team and about how the senior management will definitely make everything better for us as long as we work hard and bring in results.

Little did I think that this would bring me to be pinned on the dart board. Cause now, I am the trouble-maker, I am the shit-stirrer, I am THE "harming and destructive" example to the company and that I have failed miserably as a manager who chose to not stand with the bureaucratic but with the commoner.

*simpers and lights another cigarette*

I bet when it comes to the lowest and most demeaning display of office politics, 'no one' else takes the cake. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Singaporean Dream

Lilian's story

We all know what the American Dream is; a very motivational ideal that drives people to work hard and that with hard work, success will follow suit

I like that.

So when I followed a friend of mine who went to the same Primary school as I did to pick up her 4 year old son at his weekly reading class, I was very surprised when we, being surrounded by other parents outside the reading centre also waiting to pick their kids up heard her say, "Look at these people, working a 9 to 6 job, Mondays to Fridays working themselves crazy to bring home the bacon and then only to cramp their time sending kids to tuition and enrichment classes, bringing and putting up with in-laws during their weekends family day, then go back home to clean the house and start the cycle all over again the following Monday. After a few years, saved enough for a 5-room apartment or deliberate between that and having a third child. Then if choosing the latter, plan to get a foreign domestic helper and forgo the yearly planned trip to bring the family to Hong Kong Disneyland. Is that what we want in life?"

I followed her gaze towards all those waiting parents and subsequently pictured myself in this sort of life. To tell you the truth, I look forward to it. I want to marry Andy and have our own kids and work hard from Monday to Friday and if we are still in the same companies, look forward to meeting him for lunch just few blocks from our office buildings and bitch about work. I also look forward to spending the weekends with his family and mine, maybe bringing the kids to the pool for a dip or to the library to borrow some books followed by MacDonalds and ice-cream. Then maybe we can then bring everyone back and do the laundry while the kids watch TV or play with their grandparents and end the night with wild sex at a nearby budget hotel then come back home to our sleeping angels.

Then I looked at her and find it weird that she would be saying something like that too because she has not been through what these people around us did. For she married an expatriate who earns $11k a month; other than her marriage being screwed up with an over-bearing colonial-mindset Caucasian, and being looking out for a mixed-blood son, she never needed to worry about money (sort of), nor worry about whether she should want another child or buy a condo because she lives in a condo anyways.

So if this is the Singaporean dream, then I want to live it with the man of my dreams, our kids, dogs and cat in toil.

But when curiosity got the better of me and I went to google just what exactly is the Singaporean dream, I was kind of upset at what I found.

http://www.transitioning.org/2012/08/29/what-actually-is-our-singapores-dream

The writer on this website wrote about how vague the notion of the Singaporean dream is. To my surprise, his concept came first as all about the 5 Cs - condo, car, cash, credit card, country club membership and (career). On a side, the 5 Cs have been romantically oust by the 5 Bs which are - BMW, Bank, Boss, Billionaire and Bunglow. But since we all know it is virtually impossible to buy a car in Singapore now, let us all revert back to the 5 Cs.

It has never occurred to me that I would want another car. I mean I do and so does Andy but since my Dad has already given me his to drive, I am perfectly fine with driving an old Chevy till the COE ends and then think if I want to renew it.

I am also not into country club memberships because there is almost NOTHING to do at a country club other than networking which I am able to do at free conferences at Expo or Suntec. The facilities in country clubs these days are just swimming pools which Andy and I can access at the public pool just walking distance from my place. The jackpot rooms are also a waste of time and the machines are old and ancient. Lastly, the ktv rooms are filled with old people that I don't think people our age will feel comfortable in. Most importantly, we have tons of Safras around the country that can fill our thirst for these facilities.

As for condos and credit cards, they do not make any difference to me. If you throw a stone at anyone on the streets, you are bound to hit one with a credit card and the condos in Singapore these days look as plain as an HDB, not to mention way too small to make a house homely.

So there, screw the 5 Cs and let's go back to the article in the website. Since the writer does not really define the Singaporean dream as an ideal ethos, but more like a status chase, then I don't think it is a dream fit for all at all.

Then how about the other version of the Singaporean dream that my friend has painted out? Is it a dream that everyone of us wants?

I guess in the midst of defining that dream, we have to first define what is home- the country that we call home and what we want in that home of ours.

Just like how you want to decorate and renovate your apartment; do you like floral wallpaper? Or do you prefer off-white paint for the living room? Do you like mirrors along the walls of the dining area or would you want to adorn them with framed family pictures? All in all, you would want to be proud of this house, proud of the people who live in there and you are picky who you invite into your house because you wouldn't want to welcome a crook in and offer him tea.

As like how a child decorates her doll house or how a teenager personalises his iPhone's wallpaper, we all want to have a say in how our home looks like. If we would want pink walls, we hire a painter and tells him we want that particular shade. If we want puppies running about our gardens, we plant grass and beautiful plants in it. If we want our children to be happy individuals, we teach them values and joy in simply things and groom as well as guide them in the academics and morals such as introducing bonding time with our parents.

Hence, that should be the Singaporean dream- to be able to have the freedom to choose who and how we live our lives in a country without having anyone else to define it for us.

You hear that, G?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why I write

I offered to visit my paternal grandmother's grave today. It is her death anniversary and I felt it should be right for me to join my dad on this day.

I hadn't been there to visit her tomb for about 3 years and it suddenly dawned on me, has it been 5 years already? The two angels on her tombstone are already green with algae caked at the delicate corners of their faces, necks and underneath their palms, other than that, there isn't any indication that she has been gone from this world that long.

After a quick prayer, we adjourned to my great-grandmother's at another side of the cemetery. It was my first time there and first time seeing her tomb. Unlike my grandmother's which has a short prayer engraved on her tomb, my great-grandmother's has the names of her kids engraved. The sad thing was, I could not make out which was my grandmother's name.

As though he could read my mind, my dad asked me if I knew which name was grandmother's. I lied a yes but my eyes still followed his finger where he pointed at the 2nd one because my grandmother was her 2nd daughter.

Then it dawned on me, if one day, should my dad be gone too, I would not remember nor know nor make out, which one among the sea of tombstones, was my great-grandmother's. Hell, I don't even know my grandmother's name until today and to think I was with her when she took her last breath!

It is very sad and nothing for me to be proud of. But no matter how hard we try to remember, or jot down the address of our deceased relatives, they remain dead to us, only left was their decaying bodies 6 feet under.

So when I visited my great-grandmother's grave today for the first time, and when I think about how through all these years, during the hungry ghost festival, we would be offering prayers and food to my maternal great-grandparents, I felt that distance yet unspeakable closeness to these deceased relatives. I came from their blood and bodies, I am very much their DNA as much as I am an individual myself.

But in a sad way, I do not know them at all.

I am sure, after my parents were to leave this world, my children and my brother's children will be feeling the same way as we did- offering prayers to someone we didn't know yet someone we are so close to.

Just how do I tell my children about how much these people meant to me when they were alive?

P/S: Did I mention that it would be a year this Friday since my nanny left us? Here is what I wrote about her passing on about a year ago.

I will never stop missing her.

In loving memory of my nanny Mdm Quek Ah Moi 1932 - 2013

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Do not slur, just because you do not understand

I am very glad and proud that I have taken up Eng Lit as my major in my Uni. It is a pity that most people do not see this major as a skill in itself which is more superior (in my opinion) than any other courses. For instances, we have to analyse a character's personality, his strengths and weakness in just a mere few conversations he had with other characters. We learn to read between the lines, examine the conditions that made this character say a particular line and review the consequences of his actions and his subsequent reactions to his consequences and that includes politics, history, geography, art, music, religions and philosophy.

In a business course, you learn to maintain and sustain an organization. In an accounting course, you learn to balance the figures. In an engineering course, you study the mechanics of a machine and what makes it work. In a medical course, you learn to treat illnesses. In a media course, you learn communication skills and marketing. But in an English Literature course, you learn to be human.

An ex colleague of mine once told me her teacher in her Buddhist class made a joke of Christianity by saying their concept of heaven, everyone is naked (depicting from pictures of angels who are not clothed). He laughed and said that in Buddhist context, our heaven is when everyone will be clothed. She then laughed and told me how everyone in her classed laughed too.

I was appalled and disgusted.

First of all, Buddha DID NOT say nor explain nor describe anything about how heaven is. To us, there is no heaven- there is only Nirvana or Nibbana. And even Buddha himself didn't know how Nirvana looks like because he did not even see it before passing on. Besides, angels are naked for a reason: they do not need clothes anymore because they are way passed the basic rules of modesty and morality. Seeing someone naked does not and will not arouse their sexuality or sensual pleasures; they are after all, angels, and not humans! By saying such immature things during class by a teacher not only puts Buddhists in bad light, this teacher also showed he is a very shallow man, in my opinion, not fit to deliver a religious class at all.

This sort of analysis is not something mere business students or medical students can understand. It requires a different order of aptitude to comprehend a certain kind of work or communication.

Let me explain more.

I have just ended my last class of part 1 of my Buddhism course. And I am saddened by what was taught during the last lesson. It was not so much of a Buddhist lecture, it was more of pointing out the differences between Buddhism and other religions, and with that, you cannot run away from slamming others while promoting yourself.

First of all, my teacher explained that for certain religions, one is able to go to heaven as long as he believed in his god. There is no indication of how one needs to be good and so on. I know where he took this from. It is from John 3:16. I was a Catholic myself and with my little knowledge of the bible and what I have learned from Eng Lit, I was able to rebut my teacher (but of cause I did not), that that line from John 3:16 was more than what it meant.

It means, in order to do his works, follows Jesus's teachings and so on, you would need to believe in god first. It would be the same as us Buddhist who need to believe in Buddha first before we follow the Dharma. It is something as simple and logical as that. This, I am sure, students of Eng Lit are able to draw the similarity from and place both side by side to say that these 2 logic are the same. They are only written in 2 different ways.

I recalled watching a rerun of Lord of the Rings on HBO with my brother many years ago. I told him about how the troll in part 1 was so hard for the whole lot of Legolas and Gimly etc to defeat was actually the writer's depiction on the first appearance of the tank in WWI and how massive and difficult it really was to bring down and that every stroke of attack on the troll was real portrayal of actual parody of real life experience because J R R Tolkien was really a soldier in WWI. My brother was collectively surprised and impressed when I told him this is how a Eng Lit student decipher a text.

I feel sad for the rest of the students in my last Buddhist class who got the wrong illustration of other religions. I am more sad that it is my own Buddhist teacher who taught them the wrong things. What you do not understand does not mean that it is wrong; just like some Christians laughing and mocking us Buddhists praying to fake idols. Case is we are not praying. We are merely remembering the Buddha's teachings and humbling ourselves to someone who has taught us the right way out of samsara (endless rebirth and suffering), so that we may have enough self control, self discipline and effort to practice the Dharma and follow suit, his way to Nirvana.

So to that ex boyfriend of mine called Alex Lim who mocked and insulted my choice of my major, fuck you... not (Buddhist don't curse and scold other people). I just pity you at how ignorant and immature you are, because you lack the right skills to tell the right from the wrong. And to others who slur and affront other religions because you do not fully understand it, please try to ask other people of these religions who will be best to explain the right analysis to you, otherwise, live and let live.