Dragonflies

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.

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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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