Ironically, my son learned a hard fact of life in one of the happiest places (for a 12-year-old boy) on the planet – the Universal Studio in Singapore: that life is unfair.

We were there several weeks ago and because we were early, we managed to get into most of the fun rides in the amusement park fairly easy. As the day wore on, more and more visitors poured into the park and consequently, the queue for any fun rides became longer and longer.

There we were, at ‘Far Far Away’ – the corner of the park where characters from famous fairy tales reside, although strangely we only saw Pinocchio and Puss-in-Boots walking around that day; that my son decided he would stand in line for 40 minutes to get into the roller-coaster ride (that paradoxically, lasted not more than 4 minutes). It was while he was waiting for his turn in the long hot and noisy queue that he first noticed some kids holding special passes were allowed to go through a special lane and get ahead.

He wasn’t happy.

After the 40-minute queue and 4 minute ride, he complained to me about “people who got ahead because they paid more”.

“Why can’t we all be in the same queue?”, he asked irritably.

“Well, they did pay more to get that privilege”, I replied.

“In that case, why can’t we all pay more?”, he asked again.

“In that case, they will have to make a special express lane for the express lane, for people who could pay even more”, I quipped.

“But it’s so unfair!!”, he grumbled.

“Yes, it is. Life is not fair. People who have more money will have more privilege that those who do not’, I said.

“Well, why can’t the conductors allow 2/3 of the express lane people to go and 1/3 of the normal lane people to get onto the ride at one time?”, he offered, in my opinion, a thought well ahead of his age.

“I think that is what they are doing, but there will always be more people in the normal lane and there will always be people who have special privilege simply because they are richer”, I responded.

It was getting late and waiting in line for another 40 minutes for another 4 minutes ride was not a pleasant option. We decided to move on to the next attraction, which was Jurassic Park and found, to our utter chagrin, that the waiting time for the rides there was between 1.5 to 2 hours long!

Anyway, we spent the rest of the time loitering in souvenir shops looking at nice things that we could not afford.

I felt a little sad that day as we finally left the park – that one of the happiest moment in my son’s experience was tainted by one of the hardest reality of life – that wealth instead of merit brings privilege. I only hope that he would also realize that he, being able to go to the Universal Studio in Singapore, was a privilege that many kids his age would never have.

Measuring ….um….bananas

There I was walking in my garden in the cool of the evening and minding my own business when my evening contemplations were interrupted by my neighbour (who, evidently was contemplating as well).

“So…can your banana be eaten?”, my contemplative neighbour asked.  

“Wha…..what?!!”, I replied, after snapping out of my contemplative stupor. 

Frankly, I thought he was being rather obscenely rude. 

Until I looked up and realized he was looking at the bunch of bananas growing from my banana plant. 

“Oh! Um…er…I don’t know actually. The last bunch didn’t quite make it to maturity”, I replied, recalling how the bunch was viciously attacked by banana-hungry insects and died prematurely. 

“I don’t think your banana can be eaten. It’s probably ornamental”, the guy responded. Thereafter he shifted his gaze to his banana plant with a nice bunch of bananas growing out of it as well. 

“Oh well, if it doesn’t mature, then I’ll chop it off one of these weekends”, I replied, all the while thinking why the fella cannot pronounce a bunch of bananas as bananaS and not merely banana?!!!!

That was a couple of weeks ago. Today, I was in a contemplative mood again in the garden near the banana plant. I looked up and saw this: 


I guess its true. My banana can’t be eaten. :(

Deafening silence

I fell when I was 5 years old.

I hit my head hard on the floor. There was blood oozing from my right ear.

I don’t remember much about what happened thereafter. I remember the visit to the doctor. I remember coming home and vomiting onto my parents’ freshly made bed. I remember another quick visit to the doctor.

After that…blur….

I do remember a visit to the ‘ear’ doctor’. I had these huge microphones strapped to my ears and I was asked repeatedly if I could hear.

After that, things were never quite the same again.

In the quietest of night, when everyone is sound asleep and everything is supposed to be still; It is then that I am aware of it most profoundly.

That sound. The constant ringing in my ears. It’s been there for as long as I could remember. I would come to know its scientific name: tinnitus.

Sometimes it drives me crazy. It’s like having a perpetual cricket in my head.

But over the years, I’ve learned to live with it – to ignore it; to shift my focus and concentrate intensely on something else. Because to do otherwise would mean sleepless and restless nights.

I’d like to think it helped me improve my auscultatory skill with the stethoscope – to ignore the patient’s breathing and concentrate on the sounds made by the heart valves – lub dub lub dub, and on and on it goes. I learned to pick up murmurs, even the softest of them, framed by the loudest of tinnitus in my head.

Maybe my accident made a better physician.

But still, there are days I wish I could hear it. I want to hear what everyone can hear.

You see, since the age of 5, I’ve never truly heard the sound of silence.

The one where I bought an Islamic book

Once in a blue moon, some one would mistake me for a Malay (don’t ask how or why, I don’t know). And so, the other day I was walking across the road from the hospital back to the campus when I was waylaid by a Malay Muslim man clutching several books in one arm who addressed me with the customary Muslim greeting (I can’t repeat it here because in this land, some greetings are deemed the sole propriety of people of selected ethnicity or religious belief).

I smiled. We shook hands. And he asked if I would like to purchase one of his books. “It’s for charity”, he said in Malay.

Without a thought, I said, “Sure!”, and fished out RM 20 from my wallet and passed it to him in exchange for the book (below).


The book seller’s eyes eventually rested upon my very-Chinese name tag and, probably realizing the faux pas, became momentarily speechless while smiling sheepishly.

“It’s quite alright”, I reassured the man. ”I’d like to read the book and see what it says”.

Much reassured, he shook my hands, thanked me profusely and we parted ways.

I’d like to see this become a norm some day in my country.