Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Shadows and Stories

 Ovidia--every other Tuesday

It's been a very 'interesting' week, but I was finding it hard to come up with a big, meaningful topic, and yes, I've been finding it hard to focus too--just sent in a draft and I'm feeling a bit scrambled. 

So this is just going to be about a couple of small things that came up this past week.

This is a shot from outside one of the venues of the just concluded Singapore Writers' Festival:

It's the last line of 'If... else', a poem by Cyril Wong, (the link is to the whole poem) and is what made me decide to just look at some of the shadows.

Shadow 1: the (probably American) lady tourist

I was in an MRT Station when this lady was talking to the security guard kind of loudly, wanting him to show her where to go. Her husband was saying they'd exited at the wrong station and she kept telling him (her husband) to shut up (!)
It seems someone had told the lady to get off after four stops and the guard said 'four stops correct, but wrong direction. So now opposite direction, you go eight stops. Take escalator down--' he pointed.

Her husband wanted to go, but the lady was angry with the security guard for pointing at the escalator rather than taking her down. 
And she was angry with someone at the previous station for giving her the wrong information and wanted him to record her complaint. 
But since she'd pulled down her mask to complain more clearly, the security guard kept saying 'please put on your mask inside the station' every time she stopped for breath, which made her even more angry.

I'd slowed to a stop to watch (not that I walk very fast at the best of times) and two young girls stopped next to me. 
'We are passing Bencoolen,' one said.
'Me also,' I said.
'We can show you the platform,' the other girl said to her.

Now that's when the post earthquake tsunami started. 
Apparently we three (one 60+ female and two teenage girls) were part of the 'gang' that had deliberately sent them the wrong way to rob them!
I don't know if it was because we were wearing masks or because the girls were wearing tudung (head scarves) but the lady started saying she saw through us and she knew we'd been following her since she arrived in Singapore (no we hadn't. At least I hadn't!) and telling her husband not to let us get their names (?) or we would follow them to the hotel and rob them of their passports and identities (?)... and get them arrested.

The good thing was, she finally let her husband bring her down the escalator.

Anyway, I asked the Security Guard, 'are you okay?' and he said, 'No problem lah, it's my job. I pity her husband,'

The girls and I went down the escalator too, at a safe distance. 
I saw the lady and her husband on the platform and went several carriages down from them so she didn't think she was being followed again, so I didn't see if they got off at the right stop (kind of hoping she didn't!)

What surprised me was how shaken up and angry I felt after, even though it had nothing whatsoever to do with me. I'd been feeling quite mellow before the encounter, but after that I found it hard to read/enjoy my ride.
And it stirred up all kinds of bad feelings in me, like my brain wanted to pick on how she was overweight and underdressed and flabby though all that had nothing to do with their getting lost. Like the anger in her created anger shadows inside me. 

It also made me feel/ fear/ realise that if I found myself lost in a strange country I could so very easily become her, projecting all my fears on everyone and everything around me.

And worst of all, it made me want to shake/ smack/ shout at her for picking on the security guard whose fault it clearly wasn't! In other words, the anger shadow had got inside of me and were ready to grow. And if I'd shouted back at her to contradict the stuff she was saying about Singapore and us I would be getting into that anger shadow zone with her.  

I must say I was very impressed by the Security Guard for remaining so stoic-calm.

Anyway, that was Shadow 1. If we're all shadows here, I don't know we made any kind of dent in the light but I hope they got back to their hotel okay.

Shadow 2: Big birthday that became a wake

This one is just part of life. A big 88th birthday event was planned, but instead we ended up at a wake. No, not for the birthday boy--who seemed positively chuffed to have outlasted another of his generation. It wasn't unexpected, just another reminder that life doesn't go on forever--which I find makes the good moments better and the bad moments seem much less of a big deal.

And that leads to my second quote (from the same poem of Cyril's) of the week: 

I've always had a big fear of the nothing. Our poems, our stories, our plays--these are the things that record momentary blips of existence in the big nothing.

And I realise that turning my Shadow 1 into a story has already made me feel better about what happened there.

Hopefully I can rootle through all the nothings and come up with more stories!
Happy Tuesday everyone! 



  1. Happy Tuesday Ovidia. You've certainly made lemonade out of that lemon of a story. Some people!

    1. Thanks Stan, looking back I'm surprised by myself too--I need to take lessons from the calm security guard!

  2. I can imagine you, or any of us for that matter, getting flummoxed by being lost in a strange place. But I cannot imagine you going that far off the rails, Ovidia. The guard, I feel certain, has seen even worse. Imagine the inner strength of someone who can learn to take a nutjob like that in his stride. He should get a medal.

    1. That is me above. AA

    2. Thank you Annamaria! I know--I get panicked when lost too. And yes, the guard was a real hero!

  3. Thanks for sharing the experience...it's good that you have done
    so...otherwise it will fester within you and
    compromise your immune system...
    Sometimes, when
    encountering similar situations, apart from wanting to "re-arrange their landscapes," I remember what my mum used to tell her grand kids.
    " They don't know any better."
    It helps, prevent
    "landscape re-arrangements."

    Have a BLESSED, BRIGHT day.
    You have ALWAYS been bigger than the small minded people around us.

    1. Thank you for being part of the 'recovery'! Your mum was a wise woman. And I really love your "landscape re-arrangements" term!
      I hope you're having a blessed and beautiful day too!