Since August 2015, (When prelims were happening and I was busy not caring) I’ve kept an instagram account similar to a photo-diary of sorts? My friend Nadhrah asked us to follow her older Sister’s photo diary insta account, and that was when I got the idea. To write whatever I want, whatever bit of honesty I have, put it on the internet without having to deal with any consequence whatsoever. I don’t mention names. I don’t post photos of people. I google some photos and occasionally, I take a few snaps of scenery and post a few random photos people whatsapp to me.
I first kept a diary when I was 7. But I stopped writing the truth down when my Dad found out and made me write my journals in Chinese. He would ask me about my day and then, like in Chinese spelling and dictation, he would make me write everything down in Chinese and yell at me for not knowing what the Chinese words for Roti Pratah was. It’s 印度煎饼 by the way, guys. Literal translation: Indian Pancake.
Is a secret a secret only when you’re the only person who knows? Nope. What makes a secret secret is the fact that no one around you knows. So it started off being bits of random thoughts and slowly I began writing poems. And when I look through them now it’s really been such a cathartic experience for me. Everytime I felt like I couldn’t do something anymore, everytime I felt someone around me was loading too much information on, or even everytime I cried for a friend, I wrote something.
During my interview for NTU English, Prof Riordan asked me about what I usually write. I said I wish I could write science fiction, but I just can’t find it within myself to just gloss over all the emotional shit and focus on the main conflict, which is what a good science fiction book usually is. (I probably could write a damn Nicholas Sparks-ish novel if I wanted to. It’s just… why would I want to…) And as the conversation went on I told him I wrote poems, and I explained about my photo diary. He switched on his computer wanting to log onto Instagram and I just went “Nope.”. HAHA. But it did feel good to tell someone.
Later on mid- semester, about 4 months since my interview with Prof Riordan, he mentioned in lecture that we all have a certain amount of narcissism within us. And the best evidence of that would be our social media accounts. The fact that we posted something shows an assumption that someone would be interested in “what we ate that morning, what we have to say about our feelings, our OOTDs…” And that’s very true. Social media plays on our growing narcissism to secure its position as a universal hobby. As much as I don’t want my secrets to be known, I have to admit, I wanted a platform for what I was writing. And typing them out in my S4 phone that could have died anytime (PS: It did.) or writing them by hand in a notebook that could potentially land in the hands of my sister or my parents who just would not understand were both such unappealing options. Better to post them somewhere and soak in the comfort of hope that someone out there could understand.
I’m going to post a few less private poems here from now on. I think it’s helped me push me forward enough and it’s time I started doing some heavy lifting myself. I shouldn’t need anyone to understand. Confidence needs to come from me after all, and even if this is shit work, (Which, I probably will come to know if it’s shit with a few months worth of retrospect) I’ll have to stand by it and keep refining it.
So.. here’s a poem I wrote for National Day this year. The first National Day to be in the indoor stadium. Sze Liang was selected as one of the NS volunteers to help the performers on stage and he’d complained to us about the make-up they had to wear. Apparently it was a serious lot until he asked for “The Lightest make-up you have”. That got me thinking about how artificial the entire process was, and how it’s more a procedure everyone expects to happen every year, rather than a true demonstration of patriotism.
It’s FANFARE and FIREWORKS
and FANCY COSTUMES
all from September to August and especially the 9th.
Red. White. Red. White. Red.
That’s all I see.
This is a man-made country.
We make the things we weren’t blessed with with our own hands.
Protected from every bit of movement,
we are safe,
from Earthquakes and Tsunamis
and left out from excitement
We make our own waves,
Passing them from hand to hand to
“HANDS UP IN THE AIR!”
Our hot weather breeds acne
like Americans Breed Weed
so we don’t have great skin
we make ourselves look good with Maybelline, Loreal,
with Urban Decay
Even our green- clad men,
given the duty of helping
the disabled to their assigned positions
have white on their faces,
red on their lips.
Like it or not, they are part of a bigger show than their Army Lives.
They are part of the Parade
They are national Television
they are a small pawn in a pretty facade
of what is typically defined as patriotism.
We are a man-made country.
And as much as I love this land
our forefathers shaped
and molded like clay in their bare hands
there is a reason why
I am sitting here
writing this poem to my country
instead of out there,
Squeezing through the crowd,
craning my neck to get a better view of a tiny spectacle
As many of my fellow countrymen are.
I was born in a man made country.
We’re not much up for the great outdoors
but we try to smile
and find joy in the discomfort.
This year they found a way to bring
the air-conditioner along.
I only wish such innovation,
was performed as customers, as servers,
employees and employers.
13 hour days.
365 days a year.
That’s how the show keeps going.