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Monday, Mar. 28, 2005 - 1:09 p.m.

A Shout

A single, anonymous shout races away from the interlocking blocks of flats, but you are unable to discern the source. It has reflected off many walls and facades that are waiting to be upgraded, and the sound could have come from any of the homogenous kitchen windows or closed front doors. Its origin is also unclear and you cannot tell the gender, race or story behind that shout - was it the culmination of a quarrel between husband and wife? A husband who just discovered his wife's infidelity, and allowed himself a moment of not caring what the neighbours heard? Perhaps it is something less scandalous - a toe stubbed against a door, the long-awaited triumph of a winning 4D ticket, after many empty Saturdays of scanning the Chinese evening paper. But the shout disappears before all these possibilities in your mind do, and you are left only with a curiosity that will never be answered.

A Sigh

The story of rural flight is the same in many undeveloped countries, where the only ones left in the village are the very young and the very old. Visit any McDonald's in Singapore and you witness the same phenomenon, as you are served by cashiers who are at the extremes of the age spectrum. The young girl in the oversized, black McDonald’s T-shirt asks the customer if he wants his meal upsized for an extra dollar. Immediately she hears an echo of her exact words and looks to her right, where an old woman in the same uniform is taking money from a customer. The young girl turns back to her own customer, takes his money, and tries to shelve the unwanted prophecy to a far corner of her mind.

A Song

A song comes on the radio station and the taxi-driver suddenly sings along to the lyrics, ignoring the presence of his female passenger in the back seat. It is an English Evergreen love song and the culprit is Class 95FM. The female passenger has no choice but to listen, and she listens with bemusement at his English pronunciation and the sincerity of his tenor. When you look at the taxi from the outside, it is a soundless bubble speeding down Bukit Timah road, with a driver immersed in song, a plastic green buddha superglued onto the dashboard, and a hapless female passenger in the back. But what the female passenger does not know is that the song's lyrics contain the first English words that the taxi-driver ever learnt. He had first studied them twenty years ago, memorized the scrawl of the lyrics, and then sung them to his now deceased wife at the Botanical Gardens. If the female passenger had known any of this, she would have thought that 'sung' is such an interesting word, because it is the history of a song, but of course she doesn't know and the huge leafy trees along Bukit Timah road blur into the unredeemed past.


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