Blind Bigotry (it’s not people with visual impairments who can’t see, it’s the sighted who are blind)

Imagine being told politely that you are not offered a job because the work location was secluded, dark and hence dangerous for you. That was what Cassandra Chiu was told in one of her job interviews. Darkness was however an irrelevant consideration for her. She is blind and makes her way around with a seeing guide dog. And dogs have better vision in darkness than human beings, so taken as a package of dog plus human, Cassandra would have more than qualified – seclusion, darkness and safety all considered.

This was one of the many experiences that Cassandra recounted to a group of senior executives in Microsoft Asia on a Friday afternoon, in a session I helped put together to advance our journey to empower every person on the planet to achieve more. We were humbled and honoured to have had the privilege to spend an hour with this gentle and resolute advocate of equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

It was a deeply uncomfortable but needed discussion that turned the spotlight on the privilege of the sighted (and more broadly, those without impairments). In a number of the encounters that was shared, one had to wonder who were the ones who are truly blind – people with visual impairments or people without (visual) impairments.

I will be using the term impairment rather than disability in my writing below. It’s not because I am diminishing the need for us to look at disability, but for this piece today, I would like us to consider the broader frame around accessibility, which would include those with impairments that are temporary (e.g. due to an accident) or age-related (e.g. age-degenerative conditions like cataracts and elderly mobility) that would be excluded when we think about disability.

As mobile phones become a more and more indispensable part of our lives, it is both a bane and a boon for People with Impairments. In some cases, apps such as Seeing AI or voice translation tools have given independence back to People with Impairments. On the flip side, so many people are today walking around with their eyes and ears plugged into their devices. The focus (or distraction) on mobile devices making us increasingly oblivious to our surroundings and those who might need a little support. Coupled with an increasingly faster pace of life where everyone is in a constant hurry, People with Impairments have become increasingly invisible navigating a challenging minefield of phone zombies.

I remember a slower and kinder time as a young student in junior college without a handphone, how I noticed a person with a white cane walking in the same direction as me as I was heading home from school. We were on an overhead bridge crossing the road. At the end of the bridge, we would have parted ways as I turn left to head home and he turn right to go to the bus stop. I paused then and did a u-turn and walked by his side and asked if he needed any help. He welcomed it and ask for my help to look out for a particular bus number and flag it down for him. Over time, we settled into a familiar and comfortable routine – whenever our paths crossed in the afternoons, I would be there, waiting by his side till the bus came.

I wonder to myself, how many have I missed now, when I am rushing about my busy life, eyes glues to the phone.

Cassandra also spoke about how the Covid-19 social distancing measures in Singapore have further unleveled the playing field for People with Impairments. With the need for temperature screening and people tracking, entries and exits to many public buildings have been streamlined and reduced to enable centralized screening facilities and personnel. People with impairments who used to be able to independently navigate these buildings suddenly had their independence frustrated. If it was already frustrating for those of us without impairments to figure out the new routes (and there were many complaints), imagine what it must be like for those with an added consideration of visual or mobility impairment.

I felt guilty, remembering the number of times I gritted my teeth looking for the new entrances/exits and entirely forgetting to consider if someone else would be able to get to these entrances and exits and how I should be intervening to provide feedback.

I used the word bigotry in the title of this blog piece. It is a very strong word. Bigotry means “an obstinate or unreasonable attachment to a belief, opinion, or faction; in particular, prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group”. Some might ask if I should have been more forgiving of the privileged majority (which includes myself) by casting our behaviours of exclusion as Unconscious Bias. Perhaps. But it’s 2020. The human race has made so many advancements in many fields. Technology holds so much promise of empowerment and enablement. Yet, People with Impairments are more invisible than ever. I refuse to believe that this is because people are unconscious, when you consider that 10% to 15% of all people have a disability (and likely more would have an impairment as that is broader). To not see this 10% to 15% of people amongst us belies an almost cavalier attitude, a denial of an uncomfortable truth and/or a laziness to engage across our privileges and differences.

We start today to address that bigotry by refusing to be lazy, by becoming willfully aware. How? I would suggest we start by considering if our social circle includes this group of people. Perhaps they are already there, impairment silent and unknown, close to us but never truly known. And it’s not something we ask directly for there would be a reason why they have never said anything. We start by putting our phones down, slowing down and looking at people, not with eyes that are blinded but with our hearts open to empathy.

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Empathy for “stubborn” seniors

It is time to get serious with social distancing in Singapore. In the space of one month, our number of daily new infections recorded has gone from laudable single or low double digits to past a hundred, then two hundred, then three hundred and today, past four hundred.

Social media has been flooded with images, videos and news of “stubborn” aunties and uncles (how we refer to seniors affectionately or irritation depending on how genial or cantankerous they are) refusing to stay at home, refusing to follow social distancing rules, refusing to put on masks, giving police officers a hard time when they are advised to follow the rules … the list goes on.

The responses to these posts saddens me with netizens chiding the old person and calling them selfish and stubborn and asking the children of these seniors to manage their parents better.

I am not saying that the actions of these seniors is right. The seniors do need to do differently and play their part to help flatten the curve. But please can we consider their perspectives and perhaps in seeking first to understand we can help them to cooperate, even if grudgingly.

Let’s just take masks as an example. It’s hot and humid in Singapore, making it a discomfort to keep a mask on when one goes out on essential errands. Now imagine you are older and your lungs are weaker. How much harder is it for someone who is in their 70s or 80s to breathe? And if they have a chronic condition such as asthma? I am not saying that old age is an excuse to not put on a mask. However, when we approach someone older to try to influence them to do so, perhaps starting with a dash of empathy might solicit cooperation more amicably than coming down with rules and fines as threats.

Staying at home for some could also be challenging, especially for those who live alone. There are older folks who for a myriad of reasons are not wired to the myriad of entertainment options that younger folks have on their phones, computers, game consoles and TV screens. For these individuals, their daily routine pre-Covid-19 of sitting at the void deck or coffeeshops was all they had as a way to mark the passage of time. Taking this away and asking them to stay at home, in lonely self-isolation is hugely destabilizing. Again, I am not saying their insistence is right. If we can but seek to understand, would we be able to see with new eyes and empathy and thus, recognize that their agitation might be due to the loss of their identity, an uprooting of a connection to a place and a grieving for life as they had known it?

Sometimes, our harsh reactions in real life or on social media betray our own fears and we see their actions as a sort of stupidity or bravado or stubbornness of old folks who would tell us that they have “eaten more salt than we have rice”. Let’s pause and reconsider the entire situation from their eyes, with their fears, insecurities and physical challenges and let’s respond with a kinder tone. Sometimes, that is all that is needed.

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Easter (and Good Friday) in the midst of Covid-19

My four girls and I have always enjoyed volunteering at Willing Hearts, especially during the Lenten season. When my youngest turned 8, she decided to celebrate by waking up early on a Saturday morning (at 5 am) on her birthday to pack and deliver food.

2020 was going to be a little different. Chinese New Year was celebrated under the shadow of a looming cloud of anxiety. The church eventually suspended masses and catechism classes. Daily news of increasing cases of infection and things stocking out and queues at the supermarket distracted and worried me. The circuit breaker (a soft lock down for those unfamiliar with Singapore’s Covid-19 situation) kicked in.

I was focused on finding my own balance – a new normal at work, getting Google classroom up for catechism, staying stocked to feed my children, getting ready to work and study from home for us, making sure family and friends and colleagues were all well and okay. In the midst of my busyness, the thought of the vulnerable – the poor and the elderly and homeless – popped up once in a while, but I was too busy trying to take care of my family and work first.

At the end of March, cloistered safely in my home, now stocked and ready to hunker down for an extended period of isolation for myself and my kids, I came across a video a friend sent to me on WhatsApp. It showed hungry and homeless people in India, huddled together, a large crowd of a few hundred people, waiting for the one meal they would receive from a soup kitchen delivery that day. They were labourers who had lost their jobs during the lockdown ordered, stranded and unable to return to their villages because rail transportation was also suspended. It was a very heart wrenching video to watch.

And I became so aware (and a little ashamed) of my privilege and entitlement. And I was restless. I shared the video with my kids and we made plans to help at Willing Hearts on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Whilst I did have some concerns, I felt with safety precautions that Willing Hearts has taken to ensure social distancing and if we are ourselves also careful and mindful, we should be fine.

Maundy Thursday night. 287 infected. That was an all time high thus far for Singapore and a very big jump in the number infected within 24 hours. Whilst sadly, many were migrant workers, there were also a large number of infections from community spread. I froze and I struggled – to go or not to go? I asked my girls. They were all determined: “We’ll go”. But I worried. Am I doing the right thing as a parent, can I live with myself if anyone (or all) of them got sick with Covid-19? I could not sleep. And when I did, it was restless.

And then I surrendered to God. Whatever happens, it is in His Hands and part of His plans. And so at 6:30 am, we were there at the kitchen at Willing Hearts, masked up, hands sanitized. We sat down and proceeded to cut baskets of vegetables for the next 4 hours. These would later be washed, cooked, packed and delivered to many for whom this might be their only cooked meals. Everyday come what may, because of the people who show up and volunteer. I don’t think anyone who was there was fearless and I am sure the worry of community spread was there on their mind. But I saw everyone giving of themselves humbly and joyfully. There was a certain buzz and peace in the air, even as we were enclosed by a pandemic. To me, this was the Easter spirit of how we come to life in Christ dying to ourselves.

Wishing everyone a Blessed Good Friday and a Blessed Easter!

My kids cutting vegetables at Willing Hearts

My kids cutting vegetables at Willing Hearts

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Girls (and Boys, well all People): Be Fearless and Live Dangerously!

Depending on your propensity to live fearlessly, this is probably either a great title or not to open an article with, considering the circumstances of the moment with Covid-19 (aka the novel-Coronavirus).

Whatever your take, it is a refresh and update to an older article I wrote some years back with a clarion call to girls to be fearless and live dangerously. And as the theme of my article before this one strove to be gender neutral and gender inclusive, I decided to continue with the same tone here.

A colleague today posed a question on chat around leadership, asking, “How do we develop genuine leadership vaues with our daughter(s) during their precious childhood?”

As a mother of 4 daughters, I felt I was humbly qualified to share a perspective and what immediately came to mind for me were the articles I wrote some time ago encouraging girls to take risks and parents to not get in the way (Girls: be fearless and live dangerously! and An open letter to well-intentioned BUT misguided parents of young girls).

The me that is 3 years wiser (and still learning!) realized the advice then had been well-intentioned and should really be addressed to all.

Yes, research has shown that people are generally more predisposed to taking more care of girls and protecting them more, and the lessons of life for little girls growing up tended to lead to young women who are more perfectionistic and less comfortable with taking risks and making mistakes and picking themselves up with from failures. Yet I have also seen some of that protectiveness showered on and standards expected of boys too, especially so amongst Asian families, which leads some young men to have the same inclinations with similar limitations in their life and career.

As a whole, we who have the responsibility of caring for young people (children are people too!) would do well to consider how we equip our young charges for the VUCA world by giving them a safe platform to try, to fall and to pick themselves up and try again. And that means we need to step aside sometimes, however hard it may be, to let them experiment and pursue what they love doing, explore and figure out who they are and have their back no matter what other people might say, so long as their journey is anchored with great values. Then, no matter how they turn out, I am sure they will make wonderful leaders (and people; leaders are people too!) with genuine values. Whether they are daughters or sons, this would be the best gift of parenting we could gift to them.

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There is no such thing as “feminine”​ or “masculine”​ values or traits. They are all just great human values or traits.

It’s coming to International Women’s Day again and ahead of March 8, we are assuaged with the usual plethora of webinars, conferences, events, articles and LinkedIn posts reflecting on how much progress we’ve made or not made on either diversity (representation) and inclusion (culture and behaviours).

This morning, I logged onto one such virtual conference which had the usual panel of a few good women and men who weighed in on the topic of leadership and leadership styles. An article from Harvard Business Review was shared about how “Feminine” Values Can Give Tomorrow’s Leaders an Edge. The article and research were published a few years ago, but the perspectives still hold in conversations today. (it was a great virtual conference by the way with great speakers and an excellent discussion over chat. My commentary below does not take away from the quality of the session)

Ironically, if we keep referring to values or traits as “feminine” or “masculine”, or if we keep saying “The world would be a better place if men thought more like women” (which was indeed a question/view posed in the HBR article), we are not going to make more traction in improving gender dversity nor gender inclusion in our communities and work places, much less making this world a better place.

Here’s why: By referring to certain values or traits as “masculine” or “feminine” or by coaching men to think more like women, we continue to uphold gender stereotypes which do no favours for women who have natural strengths in “masculine” traits, for men who have natural strengths in “feminine” traits (yes, there are men who are empathetic and nurturing), nor for the women who excel in “feminine” traits or men who excel in “masculine” traits – which is basically everyone. These traits are all basically great human values and traits. We should resist our unconscious inclination to categorize them and measure individuals against them with a gender lens. By remaining gender neutral on values and characteristics, we empower everyone (women and men) to be their best authentic selves and the sum of all our diverse values and traits in balanced action will make the world better.

So, let’s strive for a more gender neutral and gender inclusive reflection and dialogue this International Women’s Day, because we are all our best selves when we are able to bring that to the table without fretting if it is too “feminine” or “masculine”.20190127_110643

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Parenting should never be transactional

I have been going to almost all of my youngest child’s softball games the past few weeks in July. She has been sitting on the benches and her school team is not anywhere close to being on a winning streak.

My work schedule has been really busy, which means I make up for the time away and catch up on my deliverables by clocking in time outside of work hours and sometimes, taking calls as I am driving the kids home after the game (thank goodness Microsoft has a truly flexible work-anywhere culture).

At times, I have been tempted to not go. The work is piling up, my kid isn’t likely playing anyway, and her team isn’t likely to win, so I wouldn’t miss anything, or so the thought would go… And today, as I was clearing some of my work so that I can be present at her game tomorrow morning, I wondered to myself why am I going?

On deeper introspection, I guess it is because in doing so, I am teaching her by example something about love and relationships, about being there for a person not only when they are winning and performing, but also being there for them when the chips are down.

The hugs at the end of the game even when she hasn’t played affirm her for the sportswoman she is because she showed up and she cheered her team on even when she knows she isn’t likely to play. And it also tells her in action that her impact in one aspect (in this case softball) of her person does not solely define the quality of our relationship nor her worth.

Mind you, I am not a parent who endorses giving a child a medal for coming in last. Having been in competitive sports in my schoolyears, I do belive in rewarding and celebrating sporting excellence and that needs to be set differently from recognising participation. But I do believe in recognising sportspersonship – which is resilience, determination and professionalism in participation, whatever the end outcome at the finish line. I did have a coaching conversation with her on why she has often been benched and what she would need to do to get the opportunity to play more often in the next competition season (and I do know she wants to do so).

Parents sometimes unconsciously (or sadly consciously) are transactional, especially when they are constrained by limited time to balance work and children and chores, and so reward the kid who does well in sports, academics or some other area of talent and is muted on a child who does not show similar achievements. Unfortunately, children (both rewarded or neglected) in these situations pick up unspoken rules of transactional engagement around one’s worth and around relating with others that play out in their own adult lives (often for the worse) years later.

It’s impossible to love all children truly equally but it is possible to love them fairly for who they are and will become, if we strive to be consciously non-transactional in our parenting approach.

grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs

Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt on



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Are we buying mooncakes or mooncake gift boxes?

Today, 24 September 2018 (or the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar), many ethnic Chinese and friends around the world celebrate the mid-autumn festival, with children walking about with beautiful lanterns under the silvery full moon at its brightest amidst a feast of mooncakes washed down with cups of tea (or nowadays, glasses of wine).

Mooncakes have evolved over time to keep up with the increasingly sophisticated palates of young Chinese people. What used to be a handful of traditional flavours made by different dialect groups has exploded into amazing and exotic flavours.

Every year, bakeries, restaurants and hotel chains pit their culinary genius and creativity against one another in a one-upmanship introducing new flavours even as they defend their signature mainstay flavours. A stroll down Chinatown or some of the malls during the 1 to 2 month(s) leading up to the mid-autumn festival is quite an overwhelming affair – after all how many mooncakes can you really consume? That was definitely my experience this year as I took my mom shopping for mooncakes at the mid-autumn fair a few weeks ago at Ngee Ann City.

I love my mooncakes (trust me! I have a mean sweet tooth that once saw me putting on 4 kg in a month because of mooncakes). That has not changed (the love for mooncakes that is, and not the weight!). Perhaps my shopping moratorium over the past few months has quenched the thirst of consumption within me and I did not really feel the need to indulge, so I bought no mooncakes for myself at the fair and treated my mom to the boxes she wanted to give away as gifts to relatives and for her own consumption. 

Eventually, I did buy a box of mooncakes for my kids and myself to enjoy (my sweet tooth was tingling). After all, I still wanted to observe a festival and tradition near and dear to my heart, shopping moratorium 20180925_002603-e1537810598737.jpgnotwithstanding. And so I bought a simple box of mooncakes from an old traditional bakery. And it tasted great, after all, it has been around since I was a little kid and is holding its own against all the new-fangled flavours from the competition which must say something about how good it tasted. And the best part? The feeling that I was not overindulging at the expense of the earth was better than the mooncake itself.

For in recent times, the gluttony and overconsumption during the festival has extended beyond the mooncakes to the gift boxes that they come packaged in. What used to be just a simple paper box (like the one that my mooncakes came in) has become quite something to behold: beautifully designed paper boxes wrapped in brocade-like cloth (and even PVC leather!) or heavily lacquered come with tassels or metal brooches, some with drawers that have tiny ornate handles. Or beautifully embellished or printed tin boxes. Millions of these boxes are printed and produced with the sole purpose of making the gift of mooncakes to friends and family and business contacts more presentable. And I reckon, these boxes cost more than the mooncakes themselves.

Image result for st regis mooncakeSee the source imageImage result for mooncake boxes

For sure, many of these boxes are really pretty and hardy, so you could reuse them. I have certainly repurposed a few of these to hold my jewelry and hair accessories in the past. But then again, how many jewelry boxes would one need? In the end, after the mooncakes are consumed, many of these boxes are thrown away and because they cannot be easily recycled, would either be occupying landfills or be burnt in the trash incinerator.

So, as much as I love the newer-fangled flavours like champagne truffle and rum and raisin mooncakes, I will no longer buy them in future mid-autumns unless the packaging returns to something much more sustainable. Sadly, I doubt that will ever happen as the market will continue to dance to the whims and demands of the customers.While they may think they are making a decision to buy mooncakes, they are really buying the boxes. How else could one justify that a fancy box of mooncakes could cost twice as much as a traditional box of mooncakes when both contain the same kind of mooncakes.

Posted in Do No Harm, Environmentalism, No Shopping Year | Leave a comment

1440 minutes of potential every day

Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time’ is to say ‘I don’t want to’ ~ Lao Tzu

Going through my old Facebook posts yesterday, I came across this quote that I had posted 10 years ago. At the time, the younger version of me probably found the quote to be meaningful and hence shared it with my friend. My young mind was probably too simple at the time to really grasp the deeper and more profound concept that the seemingly straightforward quote had to offer.

Now 10 years later, the older version of myself who stumbled across my old post paused and contemplated it more deeply.


Time is a concept initially created by man to observe events that happen in nature and the physical world – the changing of the shape of the moon in the sky, the changing seasons, coming of life and death. It became a useful way for us to organize our existence and coordinate activities with each other. Years, then months, then weeks, then days and eventually hours, minutes and seconds (and now nano seconds) were invented to more precisely measure time as we evolved and the pace of life became faster and more compressed.

We often refer to time as a resource -and it is indeed a resource. But it is more than just a resource. Unlike other resources such as money, it is an equalizing resource – everyone has the same amount in a day regardless of who you are, how wealthy you are or how powerful you are: 1,440 minutes every day. This concept we all know very well.

However, viewing time as a resource has also at times shaped our language and thinking in a limited way. I have often heard others lament (and I am at times guilty of the same) that they do not have (enough) time (probably throwing their hands up in resignation at the same time). As if time is something that can be topped up. It is not. And we all have time.

Time is a resource, an equalizing resource. Time is also potential and what becomes of that potential is an expression of personal agency: one’s choice and intentions.

Many people spend much of this finite resource on the hamster wheel – wake up, eat, work, eat some more, screen time zombification (i.e. vegging out in front of the TV or movie or phone or computer screen), sleep, REPEAT. Granted we all need to earn the moolah for our daily sustenance, but sometimes, we ought to step out of that hamster wheel and interrupt that numbing mindless cycle.

When I mention this, those I speak to will point to their annual or bi-annual holidays as their stepping off of that hamster wheel. Fair enough and in my humble opinion, it is not enough. I think we can choose to step off that hamster wheel every day and turn some of that 1440 minutes everyday into priceless moments. If one takes just 1 hour every day to do so, that would be 365 hours or 21,900 minutes. That is more than the 186 to 336 hours one gets taking a week or two of holidays in a year.

And there is so much that can be done in an hour of magic: spending time with your parents (when was the last time you had a mid day lunch with your parents?), spending time with your kids (when was the last time you surprised your kids with a trip to the ice cream parlour after school?), surprising your significant other with a date, spending time with an old friend whom you have only been keeping track of on Facebook.

The day is poignant with potential when we wake. Creating an hour of magic everyday is an easy miracle we can gift ourselves and those around us. All it takes is choice and intention to make it happen.

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The hardest people to forgive are ourselves

This morning I came across a facebook post from one of my young friends – a young man who has seen more of life in his 20+ years than many of us would have at twice his age and who is so much wiser and more inspiring than one’s first impression might portend. I was not able to share a link to his FB post for you to click to, so with his kind permission, I replicate it here:

“As I step into the working world, I’m taking a big leap towards reintegrating into society.

With the making of relationships related and work related errors repeatedly, this transition has been gruelling… Yes, even after more than two years post graduation..

My struggles are not in the case of seeking support, understanding and forgiveness from my co workers; these are freely given in my workplace.

In a working environment where Mercy and Grace is outpoured daily, the challenge for me lies not only in learning from my previous faults, it is in humbly accepting forgiveness and in embracing my need for second chances.

This has become the only way i can progress forward… And I have been grown tremendously.


When God blesses our lives with His Mercy, we may feel undeserving.

However, in God’s wisdom there is no such thing as a Love that is in vain.

The invitation is to simply accept and utilize His blessings to make the best out of whatever circumstances we are put into.🙂”.

In his words, “the challenge for me lies not only in learning from my previous faults, it is in humbly accepting forgiveness (from others) and in embracing my need for second chances.”

I have often tried to explain to others the very central Catholic tenet that we are “justified by grace”, meaning that though we are sinners, our way back to God and heaven is secured by God’s unconditional love for us who have been created by Him. There is nothing that we need to do but to accept this grace fully and willingly.

In our limited human capacity, we (myself included) find this profound yet simple idea so hard to accept for others as well as for ourselves.

Putting the spiritual perspectives to one side though and thinking just of the relevant context of our day to day earthly existence and our relationships with our loved ones, it is just as hard to accept. And sadly, I think about how many human relationships have we messed up because we can’t deal with accepting forgiveness from others whom we have hurt and embracing our need for second chances?

If we can but humbly accept our vulnerability and frailty in the hands of those we love and not build up walls of denial that shield our egos, those relationships have so much potential to become amazing vessels of life that will take us forward to becoming our truly better selves.

Walls are unyieldy and imprison us, keeping us in the same place. When we can take them down we let sunlight in and we can stretch our legs and start moving forward.

Thank you Matthew for your sharing. It is a poignant reminder to me to continue to work on taking down my walls and allowing grace into my life.

Such sagely perspective from a young man of 24. I can’t wait to see how much more he will grow and what more I will learn from him.
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Interesting fact: Dragonflies have been known to migrate to follow or find needed resources or in response to changes in their environment, with one species flying up to an insect world record 11,000 miles between India and Africa on the back of tiny wings.

This evening, I was privileged to be able to spend a few hours at the theatre enjoying another one of Pangdemonium’s always excellently curated plays that shines a piercing spotlight on issues that many of us would rather not discuss or think about.

Dragonflies by Stephanie Street is a play that ambitiously tried to tackle multiple issues from climate change to human migration, from racism and xenophobia to openness and generosity, from ambivalence to empathy, from impassioned implementation of laws and policies (when “I’m sorry” really doesn’t mean “I’m sorry”) to the touching gentle connection of human relationships across lines that traditionally do not cross, and somehow successfully manages to stitch it all together into a 2 hour fabric of deep, stirring story telling delivered by the amazingly talented cast at Pangdemonium.


3 hours after the play ended, I am still unpacking it in my head. I don’t think I will be able to sleep well tonight, with so many thoughts running amok in my brain, struggling to make sense, to connect and to land.

Unlike many of the characters in the play, I am the quintessential “boring” 2nd/3rd generation Singaporean who was born here, grew up here, studied here, worked here, married here and now raise my kids here. I have (so far) not needed to continue the nomadic heritage of our ancestral forefathers to journey afar to seek a better life. Yet I was united with them in the same fundamental drive for a better life for myself and my loved ones and in the moments that they struggle and are lost (and especially in the main protagonist Leslie Chan) I found myself.

I have often asked myself if I should move or stay in Singapore, to pursue a career and to seek a better life for my children (i.e. a less demanding academic environment and more time to be kids). Where would home be? Does the saying that home is wherever your heart is hold true or do ties from your childhood continue to bind you regardless of where you go? Would everything change when you move from a country where you are the majority group (an ethnic Chinese in Singapore) to a country where you are considered a foreigner or a minority “chink”? What happens when racism which you have never really known all your life rears its ugly head, would I and my children be able to handle it?

I am grateful that thus far I and my children have not had to deal with many of these challenges and my heart gained a deeper appreciation today for something that I once heard a business leader in Microsoft share with me – that as a child “migrant” of economically opportunistic parents, growing up, he was never truly accepted in the country he eventually called home nor in the country he was born in.

Yet the play was not all doom and gloom. Pulsing beneath the anguish and despair, the personal agency and courage to hope and strive against the environmental and political challenges the story threw up shone like a beacon that gave me heart to continue to dare to be. At the end of the day I suppose, it matters not so much where life takes us and where we eventually call home. What matters more is having the people that matter with us on that journey and that we choose hope and copious amount of laughter, love, generosity, kindness and tenderness to accompany us along the way.

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