I was expecting Paris to have a celebratory feel after the country’s victory – but the whole city is hungover. The guy who greeted me at immigration looked like he was having the worst day of his life and couldn’t wait to get home. He stamped my passport and sent me on my way – no questions asked. I guess the World Cup victory really took the Monday Blues to a whole new level.
He was the patriarch. A gentle soul who was strict when he needed to be. I was loved. I was scolded. I was indulged. I was disciplined. Despite the distance, I received a card on every birthday – and a present every Christmas. No soul ever forgets what it feels like to love and be loved by another human being.
In some ways it is the same UK that I remember growing up. My cousins are all still here. I’m still close to the ones that I was close to as a child. They remember me and I remember them. They remember that I used to run around London by myself at the age of 16. It was my first taste of independence, freedom and… responsibility. I still know the streets, remember the food and know how to make my way around.
I spent so much time in UK as a kid that everyone (except me) seems to remember all my childhood antics and habits. Yes – I really did eat food from the altar whilst grandma was praying. And yes – I really did spit out my pacifier whenever it was dinnertime. I see the look of confusion on my relatives’ faces as they walk through the door – a look that morphs into familiar recognition once I utter my name and remind them whose kid I am. After a good 13 years, I am back in England. Although it’s been that long – it feels like I never left.
A wanderer’s life is a one of perpetual transition. I find myself constantly shifting between lives – letting go, letting in, holding on. Some people I want to hold onto, but life’s forcing me to let go. Some stories lay open and unfinished – leaving me wondering if I’ll get to write another page someday. Other tales survive life’s hard tests of time and distance – the chapters still unfolding; a story without an end.
No one does chicken rice like Boon Tong Kee. Like all famous Singaporean things, it has a couple of branches. I’ve been going to the one on River Valley Road for close to 16 years. I order the exact same dishes whenever I’m home. I don’t even need to look at the menu. Half a chicken – steamed, not roasted. Mui chai slow-cooked pork. Poached spinach with three kinds of eggs.
I’m old enough to say that I’ve been watching The Kumar Show for 16 years. Yep. That’s how long I’ve been a fan. He’s the most hilarious Singaporean I know. I first started watching Kumar when he used to perform at the Hard Rock Cafe on Monday nights. The show consisted of some singing and dancing, his standup comedy routine – and of course, that segment where he calls on the audience and makes fun of them. That segment we both dread and love.