Archive for the ‘days to remember’ Category

I’m back in school for my full-time graduate studies after a long, long time.

Here’s my ode to the essential furniture in any student’s life.


Ode to the Study Table

The tabletop is but a stage
For the rotund pen holder
Who wisely takes the form
Of an erudite owl
Brimming over with ideas
To be put to paper
And awaiting the day
When it finally brings change to the world
A clear, empty glass
– Is it truly empty, I ask
Perhaps it is already full
A liquid that looks solid to the fool
Alas, the eye is too weary to see
Beyond a skin so crystalline
To realise some things reveal their true forms
Only in the deep recesses of the mind
A MacBook clammed shut
From the ennui
Of surveying the digital ocean
At the command of your fingertips
Combing through terabytes
Of gobbledygook
To fetch you the pearl that
You cannot hold
Bent double but no trouble
The light will shine forth
From the humble table lamp
When the night falls
And illuminate the scribbles
On the yellow sticky note pad
That records memories you cannot keep
In your overburdened head
The mouse sits still and ponders why
The MacBook ignores it, no matter how it pries
The owl’s eyes are open but its mouth stays shut
Even the lamp decides to let darkness preside
It is now time
To turn in for the night
Let the gentle curtains turn away
The visiting moonlight


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It’s been a while. So much has happened yet so much left unwritten. But in a way, I feel that I am more alive these days than I had been before.

As I strive to live in each and every moment, I am thankful too, for every person and blessing along the way that has brought me to the beginning of another new journey.

This is a story about a new beginning many years ago.


Some partings are poetic. My favourite sensei gifted me one literally.

Years ago, she ignited my love for the Japanese language when she came to Singapore to teach at the foreign language centre run by our education ministry. I looked forward to every lesson she taught and enjoyed every minute of the time she spent with our class. Sadly, her contract ended two years later, and she had to return to Tokyo with her family.

Before she left, she gave me a book of poems by a Japanese writer Yuri Mitsuhara (光原百合). The title was Michi「道」, which means “The Path”. It was a pocket-sized picture book, or e-hon as the Japanese would call it. Each poem was accompanied by a delicately beautiful hand-drawn illustration of forests, fields, hills or lakes by the award-winning Niigata-born illustrator, Ken Kuroi (黒井健).

Mitsuhara herself was born in Hiroshima and studied English literature and linguistics in Osaka University. She is well known in Japan for her large volume of works, ranging from Japanese mystery novels and translations of English novels to poetry and e-hon. Michi was published in 1989 and was one of her earliest works.

The book featured 14 short poems and my favourite was the opening piece Tabi no Hajime ni 「旅の初めに」, which means “The Beginning of a Journey”. It aptly summed up the anticipation and trepidation that I, and probably my sensei too, had felt at that time – she had found a new job in Tokyo and I was awaiting the start of my junior college years.

As our paths diverged and took us further and further away on our respective journeys, we lost contact with each other.

Three weeks ago, when I retrieved the book from my bookshelf, it suddenly dawned upon me that perhaps there could be clues to where my sensei was right now. I decided to turn to Google.

Thanks to the proliferation of social media, her profile popped up in one of the search results, much to my delight. With the click of a button, and an email that she wasn’t expecting, we were reunited online.

Amazingly, both of us were about to begin our new adventures once again. I am going back to school for my full-time studies, while my sensei is taking up a new teaching position in Paris. It felt as if everything had gone a full circle.

And here’s the poem. I couldn’t find any English translation, so this is my feeble attempt at translating it.

The Beginning of a Journey

The mountain paths are difficult

So set your sights on the tree in the distance

And take your steps towards it

Look up if you think you have lost your way

Keep your eyes on the tree

And you will arrive there someday

You can reach for a milestone far away

Or aim for a goal, oh so high

When you traverse a path that is long and far











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Last Sunday was, well, very sunny indeed.

Peh saw me trying to shield my eyes from the sun’s glare with my hand as we stood side by side at the road junction, waiting for the lights to turn green.

Before I knew it, he was standing right in front of me, looking into my eyes and smiling. And I had all the shade I needed.

Oh, the sweet little things that he does.

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This sketch has a story behind it.

We were walking past the neighborhood playground last Saturday evening, when we heard the voices of two little girls ringing out loud.

The younger one, aged about three, was sitting at the top of the slide. Her father was keeping an eye on her close by. The older one, who’s about five years old, was standing at the bottom. Imagine the following exchange going on at the top of their bell-like voices.

Younger girl: What’s your name?
Older girl: Vanessa.
Younger girl: (Turned to her father excitedly.) She’s Anissa!
Father: Anissa?
Younger girl: (Turned to face the older girl.) What’s your name?!
Older girl: Vanessa!!
Younger girl: Papa, she’s Ganesha!!
Father: (Stunned.) Ganesha??
Younger girl: (Turning to the older girl again.) What’s your name?!!!
Older girl: VANESSA!!!

At which point, little Vanessa decided that she had had enough of the “what’s your name” game that was getting nowhere. So she darted round the slide toward the rocking horse at the other side of the playground.

Then to our amusement, she hopped onto the rocking horse and started rocking to and fro so forcefully that her thick, long hair started flying in all directions and sweeping across her tiny face.

Looked like little Vanessa has the makings of an angsty headbanging rocker chick. At the tender age of five.


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Struck out the last day on my calendar…

Thankful for all the good things that have happened.

Grateful for the rough parts too and lessons learnt.

And for all the good people I know and have come to know.

May 2014 be a blessed year for one and all. Happy New Year!


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And it was done.

After nights of sketching, backed by some last minute research, I have completed the colour pencil portrait of my parents and framed it up in time for their ruby wedding anniversary.

Mum joked that I should have sketched a more current, and wrinkled version of them, in place of the smooth, youthful faces in their original wedding photograph.

Dad, who happens to be a non-practising alumnus of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, was tempted to launch his critique of the sketch the moment I unveiled it in front of them.

He smiled and took a long look at the sketch. Then he said, “You could’ve used a darker hue to shade the face. And my neck is not that long.” Mum pointed out that he was much thinner 40 years ago so his neck did appear longer in the photograph.

“Look, your hair is finally visible too,” Mum added. She noticed that I had replaced the background colour. Dad’s neat crop of Brylcreemed hair, previously swallowed by the darkness in the poorly lit studio, could now be admired in its full glory. At least that was what I was hoping for.

And so, other than the disagreement over the exact length of Dad’s neck, both seemed rather pleased with the final product.

I guess that means I have passed the biggest test of the year.

Let me share the results in the final hours of 2012.

The completed colour pencil sketch, based on my parents’ black and white wedding photograph. My way of adding colours to their 40-year marriage.

A closer look at the final product.

A closer look at the final product.

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Counting down to the delivery date for my sketchy little project.

Amazing how you could start out on something thinking that you’ve got all the time in the world, only to realise in a blink of the eye, that time’s up.

So I decided it was time to hurry down to the public library near my workplace to do some last minute research on orchids. I definitely can’t sketch a decent petal without having a photograph to refer to.

Haven’t visited a library in a long time. Hovered around the children’s section for a few seconds before I realised that books for adults were located on the second floor. Felt like a tourist in Biblioland. Wonder what my band mate, Ivan, would say about that.

I walked up the stairs to the adult section. The first shelves I came across held rows of books on law, crime and military history. Got distracted by a book on maverick military leaders for a couple of minutes before I recalled what I was there for and headed towards the gardening literature.

To my delight, there was a shelf of books on orchid cultivation waiting for me. There was even one on the Asian varieties by a local gynaecologist who had cultivated several award-winning hybrids. Excellent. Now I can cultivate my orchids on my sketch paper.

Frankly, I can’t tell from my parents’ photograph the type of orchid my dad had in the corsage on his suit jacket. Neither can I see what my mum had in her bridal hand bouquet. I’m no orchid expert and can’t tell a specie from its outline. There’s only so much I can gather from a black and white photo that well, definitely predates my existence.

I guess I could try to imagine what colours they would have liked to mark their big day with decades ago. Perhaps a dash of whimsical pink here and some romantic lilac there? Let’s see what clues these books might offer.


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