Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Of migration, Marriage and Movies

“Have you ever thought of migrating to another country?” asked Marc.

I looked at him silently for a moment and said, “I used to, but not anymore. Why this sudden question?”

“Because I have been thinking of migrating. What do you think of the PM’s National Day speech – he said Singaporeans who leave are quitters…” he countered.

I guess most people want a good life – for themselves, for their kids, for their family. So if things are bad here, and if you don’t possess the kind of LKY-passion to erm… “build a nation” and join politics…. Then yes, if you have the means, pack up and go and make your fortune somewhere else, and at the same time your children can escape the drudgery of second language exams too!

Then I thought of something else. I told Marc, “Don’t think of it as just making money. If New York, London or another city gives you the opportunity to develop your talent and creativity – the kind of training or opportunity that Singapore is not ready to give you - then go – why stifle it? Siow Lee Chin, Choo Huey, Benny Ong, would not have become successful musicians or designer today if they were “loyal” and stayed put in Singapore….The important thing is, they went away, are still proud to be known as Singaporeans and came back to “contribute”. Eh, why do you want to migrate and where to?”

He wants “quality of life”. He is thinking of Vancouver, where he has just returned from vacations. “Not now, but maybe when I am ready for semi retirement….when I can play golf as often as I like…”

As his mind and eyes drifted away dreamily, our conversation also drifted somewhat. I said excitedly, “I have not been there but to Toronto instead! And yes, Toronto is an exciting city – so culturally vibrant and colourful in everything too.” And went on and on telling Marc the following:

I remember when I was there, my friend Pat and I had a hard time deciding which play and movie to see from that thick catalogue of choices; even dinner places posed a dilema – should we try Ethopian, fusion….

Not forgetting the mindset and priority of the people overseas….they seem a lot less pre-occupied with superficial appearances and material things and are a lot less shallow, being exposed to more things in life.

Like Pat – she is a Singaporean married to a Canadian so she can “see the difference” even better! She had told me how disappointed and surprised she was when she rang a mutual friend of ours in Singapore asking how she was getting along in her marriage preparations. And all the Singaporean friend could go on and on was how glad she was to have finally managed to find the right fabric and the right tailor for her evening gown and how pretty another of her gown will look like……”I didn’t call long distance, after not chatting with her for years, to hear about her gowns and matching hair….I was expecting to hear how she felt amidst the process of all this preparation for ‘wedded life’, her sentiments towards giving up singlehood and marrying a man she loves…” lamented Pat.

I understand – ha! In Toronto I had seen her wedding photos – simple lunch celebration with family and friends and her short dress was bought from OG – her mother bought it for her in Singapore and brought it along to Canada!

I suppose in tiny Singapore, everything is a “BIG” deal – including and especially a wedding for a girl. Much energy is spent on appearance and not “experience” - hair/ make-up trials, dress fittings and more fittings, MTV style photo shoots etc. Compare that with the recent wedding I attended in England. The size-14 bride did not rush out to go on a crash diet, or try new facials in frenzied craze. She calmly bought a white gown off the shelf from a shop in town, make up from Body Shop and did everything herself, including ordering and collecting flowers for her bouquet and her hair. On the morning of the wedding, Dianne walked across to the salon with me to have it tied up and after that even walked around shooing guests into buses and taxis to go to church for the ceremony.

But she was not any less happy or radiant compared to any Singapore bride. Dianne enjoyed herself, her guests and friends even more – with all that dancing, music, games and informal interaction during the celebrations – from noon to night – the whole time in the same off the shelf white gown, with no change of fancy gowns, no new twists to the hair…

I digressed further, “now that your brother is back he must be having a hard time adjusting to the pathetic arts scene here … despite the promise of The Esplanade!” [he had just moved back from California after studying films there and working part time as movie critique]

“Here, ‘movies’ equals Hollywood and not much else until the ‘film festival’ is in town. Elsewhere, you have Australian, European and many other genres of movies, really expanding your mind and widening your horizon, “ I lamented.

Marc interrupted, “I think you are the one that should migrate – Canada would suit an arty farty like you!”

Let me wait till semi retirement too. For now, I will just be a typical Singaporean – work hard for my Prada, pashmina, and maybe if my tummy permits, the best prata in town….

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