Midway to work this morning, fresh from a happy night of making music under the stars, I passed by Hafiz, my group mate from the Allianz workshop, who is blind, waiting for a taxi with whom I assume is his son. In a typically volatile fashion, guilt and restlessness soon began to poke through my veil of positivity.

I still remember very strong feelings post-Salvation Army singing workshop, from music time with Matthew and the other children from Tiverton School, from Allianz, from Mr. Wong’s comments about Incantations…why yes everyone, please do behold my List of Self-Validating Life Events.

But Self-Examination behoves me to ask what the point of the feels that does not translate to action is? As much as I think intentions define your moral character…strong intentions and inaction combined are basically a recipe for vanity and complacency. Ooh I think (of doing amazing inspiring good things), and therefore I am (an amazing inspiring good person).

Self-Actualisa…yuck cough I mean, becoming the person you want to be takes hard work – doing, doing, doing, dancing on “parched cinder” and “fiery cobbles” beneath your feet. The pursuit of your passions will never bear fruit without persistence. So here’s to perseverance, to constancy, in the manner of the devotion of Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot (hello Austen allusion).

After an intense two-day crash course on the art of speech-making, I have discovered some things. One is that the spoken word lends a certain amount of security compared to the written. It’s so easy to make overblown generalisations and toss statistics about when you know people aren’t likely to Google it and point out your mistakes. Second is that people reveal a lot about themselves to other people and themselves when put in a spot. Because, as a senior facilitator said, it’s our stream of consciousness (!! :D) talking. Third, this opening-3 points-conclusion structure is kind of addictive…resists…fourth…point….

Fourth, much as learning to speak off the cuff without feeling like your heart is about to barrel right through your ribcage is  useful, I still prefer the privilege of verbosity and the privacy of writing.

In any case, here’s a very rough transcript of one of my speeches – whatever I can remember. It sounds a bit awkward ugh but still I am particularly pleased with the concept and effort so I’m putting it here (after the jump) for keeps.

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The road to my grandmother’s house is lined with farming and fishing villages. House after house, prayer hall after prayer hall rush past, a never-ending train of mute, box-shaped olive green and purple coaches. There are quick glimpses of a child or two engaged in play. Then the ground gradually begins to sink. After a time only the roofs are visible – close little clusters of earthy eaves peeking over the road side, hiding the homes of invisible people. And then quite without warning, with quite a grand flourish, swaths of green-gold paddy fields explode into sight, opening up beyond the rooftops, rolling out into the vast horizon, further and further from the speeding car, the road,…then screeching to a halt at the feet of a quiet row of coconut trees bent gracefully over Lilliputian houses.

I remember being a little girl and looking out for a glimpse of sea between the dark green clumps of trees. I believe I’ve seen it. But as I grow older, as visits become less frequent, sometimes I think I imagined them – a childish confusion of real life with years of disappearing into the pages of Enid Blyton and Narnia.

Each time I get in the car to my grandmother’s, each time the sun-drenched landscape streams past like painted canvas beating about in the wind, I try to remember to seek them out, these elusive little glittering patches framed by rooftops and tree trunk and childish dreams. But I don’t know for sure – maybe they were never there. Or maybe being an adult means forgetting to pay attention.

“I am growing up,” she thought, taking her taper at last. “I am losing some illusions,” she said, shutting Queen Mary’s book, “perhaps to acquire others,” and she descended among the tombs where the bones of her ancestors lay.”
– Orlando, Virginia Woolf

“But, unfortunately, I cannot see sheep through boxes. Perhaps I am a little like grown-ups. I am getting old.” – The Little Prince

To break the humdrum at the office, my friends colleagues and I strive daily to find ways to annoy the heck out of one another. We decided to make a list for posterity’s sake. Do not try this at home…try this at the office (duh).

Here goes evil:

How to be Obnoxious in the Workplace

1) When conversing, point finger very closely at colleague’s face at every opportunity.

2) Say “Woah woah woah!!” with palms raised and turned outward at every remotely self-complimentary statement someone makes.

3) Constantly remind colleague of that one embarrassingly enthusiastic remark made when he was a newbie. E.g. “Oh yeah, ’cause you’re competitive.”

4) Use bosses’ first names and vague elaborations when describing a work activity that, by chance, only you and said boss are attending to give impression of exclusivity. E.g. “So [Boss name] and I have this thing this weekend…”

5) Mimic colleagues’ oft-expressed catchphrases and apply out of context.

6) Recycle out-of-context management aphorisms enthusiastically at every possible unsuitable occasion. Where possible, get it wrong. E.g. “You know what they say about “ASSUME”?… There’s no I in team!!”

7) Replace clear articulation of anything at all with the word “thingy”. Especially suitable for giving driving directions.

8) Make dirty jokes in presence of nice-guy colleague, then point and remark loudly when said colleague exhibits embarrassed reaction.

9) Go AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW really emphatically and over-affectionately whenever said nice-guy colleague makes a genuinely kind remark.

10) Hover silently behind any colleague deep in concentration on the computer screen. Lean in abruptly, point at screen, say “What’s that?” then casually walk away.


The author would like to thank Mardhiah and Hui Lin for contributing to this report…and Shazwan for contributing to real-life events.

How serene the world looks from behind the windowpane! A big tangle of orange and black disrupted only by stalwart buildings determinedly rising from the mess…tiny cars that weave in and out of sight, sleepily tracing bejeweled, haphazard paths of streetlights strung together like lanterns at a garden party.

But it is a battle of the senses, of seeing against believing, because my mind knows – Fast cars look sedate, dark enclaves look small, sounds drown in silence, only from such distance.

Should I lean out and sweep through the cool silken air with outstretched arms, I would feel the hushed intensity, like a boiling kettle on the verge of commencing its plaintive wail. And then a honk here, a thud there, a revving far away, a light goes out, and the kettle huffs and sighs into silence as the flame is quenched just when the kettle squeaks and the window is pulled firmly shut.


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