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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The modern people

Bertha's story

We all know someone or a common story of someone who strived to work hard in attaining material gains or financial freedom until he lost his health and realised that nothing in this world beats one's well-being.

That usual story about motivation and striking a balance between work and life, is so common that we often brush it away every time someone wants to remind us of it. Even though it does move us for a moment or two, it does not stay with us and we continue our pursuit of wealth, fame and status we desire.

Today, I met a friend whom I have not seen for a long time. The routine of catching up over coffee, talking about current affairs and updating each other about our spouses and lives, you know, the common topics that fit a conventional inter-catching up between friends. We ordered our coffee and plunged into catching up when it struck me that my friend has lost a considerable amount of weight. I did not ask but eventually, he brought up the fact that he had been ill and was hospitalised for a week.

I was bracing myself for him to announce an incurable disease like cancer but he told me it was pneumonia, while it was not serious enough to kill him, it made him realised that he could have been rendered incapable to work anymore if he continued not to care about his health in his quest for financial freedom.

Silently, I heaved a sigh of relief that he didn't come down with anything cancerous and was about to tell him so but caught myself mid sentence when he told me how afraid he was of leaving his newly wedded young wife widowed and so many of his dreams unfulfilled. I listened on and tried to empathise with this dear friend of mine; on one hand, I was relieved that he was not at the brink of death but on another hand, I failed to recognise how something not amounting to death can make this friend make a mountain out of an anthill. Yah, so you were hospitalised. But you are all well now, so what is this epiphany on life and death huh?

Later when I drove home from our meeting, I thought for awhile on how when something doesn't happen to you, it is really very difficult to understand what that particular someone is going through. I was complaining like mad to this friend about work and all he did was to criticise the way I view things, how I could have made things better, so on and so forth. And it too stuck me that no matter how bad and pathetic a picture I paint of my working relationship with my boss or in my working environment, there is no way he can fully comprehend my feelings, just like how I am unable to put myself in his shoes and picture how he would have truly felt, lying on the hospital bed for 7 days.

Gone are the days of a knight's chivalry, or a gentlemen's honour. Also gone are the days when you see a beggar at every corner of a street. It seems that we are all one of our own being, we do not belong and neither do we separate.

There is a lot of suffering in this world- with war, famine, ebola to unemployment, dealing with cancer or something as minute as leaving your pen at the library. One cannot determine other people's level of hardship and adversity for that person. As the saying goes, the lost of a doll for a little girl is as great as a king losing his crown. We cannot force ourselves to empathise (while it is a good effort and a virtue to do so), we are also not wrong to be unable to do that. No one's suffering belongs to you nor does your suffering belong to anyone else. It is this realistic.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

An extraordinary Singaporean woman

Ling's story

One may say that our country is still very much embodied with traditional values and ideals. Despite being one of the top countries with almost every citizen owning a smart phone, we still look women who bind their breasts with a look of disdain or at men inter-locking lips in public like they are aliens.

But there are people who can just cleanly ignore those stares, finger-pointing and name-callings or even the whispering and bad-mouthing in front of you and just carry on with their lives. 

This is one story of a Singaporean woman who doesn't care. 

Her name is Ling and she is a social butterfly and a sophisticated, successful property agent. Neighbours see her walking in and out of her house with 2 boys, one in studious black-framed spectacles who is 9 years old and a younger one freshly out of kindergarten always armed with a toy car. They are her sons, but both of them are not of the same surname. 

9 year old Adam was born out of wedlock because his father is already married to someone else. Even though, Ling knew the consequences of bearing a child without is father's knowledge, she grit her teeth and went through the pregnancy alone - the father of the child, a man over 50 is not ready for a fling to turn into something serious. 

Adam was brought home from the hospital one day, with Ling's mother in tow who helped with her confinement until she is well to get back to work. The neighbours observed her growing tummy and no man to follow her in and out of the house, nor was there a wedding band on her finger, and so they talk. 

Relatives and friends who weren't supportive for a 24 year old budding new talent in the property arena to keep the baby, pushed for her to think twice, but best friends who knew that she has gone through 2 abortions knew that the perhaps, it is better or the Chinese would put it, fated to keep this one. And so she did. 

When Adam was growing up, Ling did succumb to the society's pressure of letting her son grow up in a proper nuclear family. Edward was mature, he loved her and was willing to accept Adam in his life. They got hitched in a jiffy and in order for Edward to feel better in this new family, Ling quickly conceived another baby boy. They named him Clive. 

Alas, Adam did not get to enjoy the joys of a nuclear family for long. Just a little after a year, Ling realised that it was a mistake to get married for all the wrong reasons. Despite Edward's pleas at trying again, Ling filed for divorced and moved out with her two sons. 

She continued to strive hard in her career and was determined this time, to bring her 2 boys up on her own. If love comes, so be it; but if it doesn't she doesn't give two hoots about it. 

But love did come and it came in the form of a man 10 years her junior, Nigel who ran a drug syndicate. They fell head over heels for each other, he moved in with her and this time, the neighbours managed a positive remark about Ling finally having a man who can take care of her, but little did they know that their love was short lived. After a year and a half into their relationship, Nigel and body of tattoos was thrown into jail and Ling was once again alone and pregnant. 

Did the neighbours and relatives talk again? Oh you bet they did. For the 3rd time, she came home from the hospital with a baby boy in her arms with a different surname. But still, she held her head high, continued to close her deals and put money into her bank account. 

Ling's story is extraordinary not because she decided to have 3 kids from 3 different men, but because she simply did not care for what other people are thinking or are saying behind her back. She is not someone who breaks the rules and traditions just because she wants to nor is she a feminist heroine who wants to prove to the entire world that she can do this alone - fact is, she just doesn't care. 

In this age of technology where people commit suicide or murder by a mere comment on facebook and the entire world criticising this one ingrate if he complains about his mother getting him a silver iphone5s instead of a gold one because we are still tied by our values and traditions, Ling stands out like a rose among thorns. 

Just how many of us women are ready for this life that Ling has paved out for herself?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ugly Singaporeans?

Today, I read articles and watched videos in aghast about a Malaysian turned Singaporean (or so I read) whose name is Han Hui Hui clashing head on with the director of Nparks (National Parks, a body which governs all the parks in Singapore) and the police about their marching and protesting for the Singapore government to return us our CPF (a forced savings sanctioned by the Singapore government to that Singaporeans will not be reduced to nothing when we needed money).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxT_juycbZw

First of all, I have nothing against her, in fact I was in awe for her courage when I knew about her; for someone only 22 years of age, stepping out in all her tiny height and chopped hair to lead a protest against the Singapore government, is simply wow.

After watching one particular video though, I was disgusted. I cringed at the way she spoke, the childish way at forcing the Nparks director to produce his ID for verification and the repeated demands at which law was she defying when she marches and protests at a said place that she has applied a permit for.

There is no denying the juvenile and foolish, market-like, degrading way in speaking to demand this and that, to ask for papers and rules and law and such when all the director of Nparks was asking was for their cooperation. You may be brave to speak up to grown men, but you still need some education and class to ratter your mouth off, little girl.

But yes, we all know she is merely 22. She still hasn't worked for a single day, no wonder someone yelled at her to get a job before even asking for a return of her CPF because she doesn't even have any. We should all forgive and not forget that she is only someone who is barely out of her teens. For her to face a group of intimidating men and still speak normally, not to back down or show any signs of weakness, it really does take a lot of guts.

I also watch in terrible shame at the few men who are said to be policemen (when only 1 showed his ID) having their arms crossed and looking all fierce like hooligans and one of them was even holding up a video camera shooting the poor girl. Shame on them! And shame on those other policemen hiding behind the investigation officer and not even bothering to show their IDs.

And what was the worst crime was the media giving fake reports, putting the protesters in bad light by saying that they were 'heckling' children with special needs when there was an adjacent event at the protesting area at the same time. To make matters more heinous, was ministers putting up ridiculous comments on the protesters. Gee, do you people whom we have voted into parliament have to stoop this low too?

http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/special-needs-children-heckled-cpf-protestors-hong-lim-park

https://www.facebook.com/therealsingapore?fref=nf

We all know what is a snowball and how it always gets bigger and bigger. Perhaps by writing about this, I too contribute to the snowball but nevertheless, it is merely a protest. As for the rest of the gentlemen involved - the 5 or 6 act tough police-hooligan-men, the ministers who only know how to make rude comments on their facebook page and to the media who likes to write nonsense, bugger off and just leave the poor girl and the special needs children alone.

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.