July reading list

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This was the month I got back my chick lit mojo, kickstarted by rereading the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy on my Singapore trip.

Man of her match, Sakshama Puri Dhariwal.

I’m a fan, even though her work veers sometimes into Mills and Boon territory. Read my thoughts on my chick lit blog here.

The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children, Alison Gopnik

The central thesis is that we should be parenting (the metaphor of which is a carpenter shaping  a chair according to a prefixed vision) but being parents (which is like bring a gardener providing space to flourish)

The book provides answers to some questions: Why do children take up so much energy? Why is human childhood so long? Why do we love as we do? Why do kids play?

The basic thesis: Parents, leave those kids alone.

She won by heart by being one of those rare experts not to mouth-froth over screens. On the effect of screen time on kids, she basically says, “we don’t know”. But points out that people had very similar anxieties over books, which can also be addictive (don’t I know it).

Baltimore Blues and Charm City, Laura Lippman

These are is the two novels in Tess Monaghan series, and it looks like I’m going to follow this one.

One problem I have with it is the protagonist’s seemingly adversarial relationship with women. It’s not obvious, but there’s a subtle sneering. If you’ve read the series, did this strike you?

Still, it’s well written and plotted, and I figure I’ll keep reading them.

Manspotting, Ritu Bhatia

This is about the kind of single life that is probably more common but gets less narrative attention – the divorced single woman with kids. Read my thoughts on the chick lit blog here.

The Seven and a Half Lives of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turnton

Almost gave it up but then it started to grip me. The third book I’ve read now which plays with the idea of time. Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life asked “what if you could live your life again and again till you got it right?” This one asks:  “What if you could live it again and again in a different body till you discovered the truth?”

It’s plays with the idea of the classic detective story – a group of people gathers for a party and there’ll be a murder” – by allowing the protagonist to get to know another person from the inside and himslf from the from the outside.

Unmarrigeable, Soniah Kamal

One of the best Pride and Prejudice rewrites I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. My thoughts here.

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Singapore and Sydney with kids

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It is a sign of how far I’ve come that I volunteered for holidays with V’s extended family. Heck, I chose the places. Both are places I’ve wanted to visit, but kind of avoided because I didn’t want to stay with family. Actually, in the case of Sydney, I had been there once and it was more the long flight that deterred me.

But increasingly I began to feel that these were both places that would be fun for the kids to visit and it seemed almost bizarre not to go to Singapore which is just a few hours’ flight away. When we decided on that destination and started looking at tickets, Singapore Airlines offered a very reasonable deal that allowed us to cover Sydney as well.

Both places had the usual annoying visa processes – Singapore required a letter from the employer which always pisses me off though my employers have always been nice about it – but I realised that visas are a lot like child birth: you say you’ll never do it again, but then you forget, and voila, baby no. 2 is on its way (in my case, I never forgot, I just was careless).

In Singapore, we avoided staying with family on the grounds that we wanted to be more centrally located, and stayed in an Airbnb, which was really perfect for our needs. With two kids, we often need to book two hotel rooms, which is both expensive and inconvenient. With an apartment, we get two rooms as well as living space and a kitchen, which is really useful with kids who wake up starving but who the hotel buffet breakfast is lost on.

In both Singapore and Sydney, my focus was on animals. My must-dos in Singapore were the zoo, the bird park and food. Having done the night safari with a child who did not appreciate it, I avoided it. We ended up meeting a friend and her young son at the zoo, so I was not able to micro-manage the itinerary as I would usually do.

My highlight: fornicating lions. Kids highlight: feeding goats. Yeah, we went all the way to Singapore for them to feed goats leaves, when they could have done the same for free at their grandgather’s farm.

I began to have second thoughts about the bird park, but if you buy both the zoo and the bird park tickets together, you get a discount. So bird park it was, seeing as we were going to Jurong anyway to visit family and this was something we had been bugged to do since the last time we went to Singapore.

The bird park has a different vibe from the zoo. It is much quieter. I did a bit of research on this one and it paid of. Go as early as possible and head for the Lory Loft first. These live up to their names as the world’s friendliest birds. V has a way with birds – he’s obsessed with pigeons – so a couple of them would just hop onto his finger. If you buy a cup of nectar for S$3 though, the birds will be all over you. I never thought I’d rock a bird on the shoulder, forearm and head, but you never know, till you try, right?

We also got in two shows – the Kings of the Skies show, where the presenter was super enthusiastic about talking to us about vultures after the show, and the High Fliers show which is more of a crowd pleaser. We also saw Jary, the hornbill with the 3D printed bill.

We also spent a morning at the Art Science Museum at the Marina Bay Sands. We did Future World, which is pretty good for a hot summer morning, and Alice in Wonderland which I would have enjoyed more without the kids.

Hot tip: If you visit the museum, you only need to show your tickets to get free entry to this giant space for kids to play at the food court, the highlight of which is some images projected on the floor. Not worth it to buy entry to that alone, but fun if you’re there anyway and can get free entry.

The Marina Bay Sands food court is expensive, but I did enjoy the beef rendang plate I had. Otherwise, we ate a lot in hawker centres, where the food is really cheap and yummy. Also, the kids can get Chinese food – Hainanese chicken rice for the win – and we can eat Malay.

This was a rather social holiday compared to previous ones we’ve taken. I realised belatedly that apart from family, I know several people in Singapore, all of whom would expect me to meet them. I met an old friend from college with her kids at Marina Bay Sands with her two kids on Day 1.

The kids were awkward at first and thick friends by the end. I have only been in touch with this girl on Facebook since our undergraduate days so I see her as an online friend so this would be the first online friendship that translated quite well to real life.

That evening V’s cousin came over and then we all went for dinner to the home of a close of friend of his. He has a son around the same age as Nene and Mimi, and again they had a good time.

On Day 2, I met a dear friend with her little son at the zoo. We also spent our last day between check-out from our apartment and check-in that night to our flight with this friends. I enjoyed catching up with friends and it was interesting to see how Nene and Mimi would react to spending extended time with a toddler – as expected, Nene made an effort, while Mimi struggled. Not a maternal bone in that one’s body, though they did play together for some time at home.

I have been to Singapore before but that trip was dominated by the F1 and disorganised family. This time I could get a proper sense of the city, and why it is different from Hong Kong: the wider, tree-lined streets, the year-round heat and sudden rain storms, the freshly painting government estates, the widespread use of English, the bigger apartments.

There are still things to do in Singapore – the River Safari next to the zoo, the science centre in Jurong, Sentosa and the Gardens by the Bay that we only got a glimpse of at night.

Hopefully, we will be back.

***

If Singapore was social, Sydney was more so from the start as we were staying with family. In fact, on day one, I began to have the sinking feeling that our agenda would be controlled somewhat by well-intentioned advice.

It was fine in the end, because my sense of what is important has changed since having kids. Had I been on a solo trip, I would have been much more adamant about spending more time in the city – we were staying in a suburb – but my kids don’t appreciate a very aggressive agenda itinerary anyway.

We did a nice day in the city, taking in Circular Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art (the cafe on the top floor affords great views of both the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Using the art chatterbox – the typical square folded thing that we all probably played with as kids in some forms – to explore the collection proved to be a winner), the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens (the kids are obsessed with venus flytraps, so they loved the Plants with Bites exhibition. Download the exhibition app for added fun) capped by a ferry ride home.

I had another lovely day out in the city solo when I met dear friend and her husband, broke my coffee fast with a flat white, had a long wine-soaked lunch in the Rocks, drove to Bondi and strolled along the beach and finally met her fur babies.

For the kids, the highlight was Featherdale Wildlife Park, where they fed kangaroos. The koalas were dismissed as too sleepy, but the Tasmanian Devil was a surprise hit.

We also had a nice evening in Parramatta Park, which has a great children’s play area, complete with a zip line. Our final day was spent shopping in a typical suburban strip mall, with huge sales going on. A lot denim was acquired.

We flew Singapore airlines, which was as ever great. Special mention goes to the food, which the kids scarfed down.

 

 

 

Reading list – June

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Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld

Is there any Curtis Sittenfeld book I don’t like? The best boarding school novel I’ve read since Malory Towers

Shrill, Lindy West

This is a series of essays type memoir by the outspoken feminist writer who I first encountered on Jezebel . I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I thought I’d read it in fits and starts, but I read it through.

West talks about fat shaming, rape jokes in comedy, online trolls, romance. I loved this line: “feminism is just the long, slow realisation that the stuff you love hates you” and this: “privilege means that those of us who need it the least often get the most help.”

There were parts that were downright funny, like the note from her landlord about complaints “about creaking and vocalisations late at night (3am) and there were parts that were powerful, like her letter to Dan Savage on his war on fat.

Bel Canto, Anne Patchett

This book is like a jewel. You do not need to love opera to read it. There are terrorists but it is not sad except a little.

Ms Pym Disposes, Josephine Tey

I liked the first novel by this writer, so I tried another. The thing that irked me about the first novel also irked me in this one – the prejudices of the English. There is a Brazilian girl “affectionately” called “Nut Tart” (because of her skin colour and her attitude to men), Scot and Irish people are marked as different and a South African girl had “a flat primitive face”.

However, this book had something that drew me, it’s set among a community of women, a boarding school, but not just any – a vocational school that trains women to be physical education teachers. The youth of the girls and their worship of their teachers is emphasised.

The lead character, Ms Pym, is single by choice and has little interest in mending that state. The principal of the school, Henrietta, is unlike Ms Pym one of those unattractive women destined to be single as a result, but who found her niche and flourished.

What struck me was how prejudice and liking the popular ones plays a role in British justice. Still, the end could have gone either way and the way it did was interesting.

Persuasion, Jane Austen

Objectively, her best novel, though Pride and Prejudice remains my favourite. With Sense and Sensibility and Emma, there were points at which I felt the novel was going on too long. The final couplings were also clear from the beginning. This was not not the case with this novel. I also liked how it was about an older woman and how Austen  tried something different in making Anne the loner and runt of her family.

The Uncoupling, Meg Wolitizer

Wolitzer does feminist novels par excellence, and each one is different. This one is almost a parable, taking its premise from the Greek play Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens go on a sex strike to stop the men from engaging in war. In a suburban town in New Jersey where the local high school is staging the play, the women suddenly go “off sex”. This is a novel about relationships, sexual and otherwise, between adult and teen romantic partners and between parents and children. Apart from this, I liked the way the relationship with tech – again both adult and teen – is woven into the story.

Wallflower at the Orgy, Nora Ephron

The title of the book refers to a line in the introduction – “Because working as a journalist is exactly like being a wallfloewr at the orgy. I always seem to find myself at a perfectly wonderful event where everybody else is having a marvelous time, laughing merrily, eating, drinking, having sex in the back room, and I am standing on the side taking notes on it all” – which I realised could be the credo of my life, though Ephron did not remain a wallflower. I read this book of essays at a time when I had been trying not to be  wallflower and got crushed. It reminded me of my place.

Hot tip: all the essays are enjoyable, but skip the Mike Nichols one.

Life after life, Kate Atkinson

The novel is premised on a twist of Nietzsche’s amor fati dictum: what if you had to live your life again innumerable times in exactly the same way? Would you embrace it? Instead, the epigraph proposes through a character in the novel: “what if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right?”

The central character Ursula has this chance. The novel tweaks crucial moments – the moment of death – in her life to explore other possible endings.

Apart from the experimental plot trajectory, there is a sheer delight of upper-class English country life, with characters that one wants to see more of.

The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford

I fell into this craving more of the English aristocratic country life that Atkinson detailed, not expecting much more except that Nancy Mitford had been an author I had wanted to read for a while. I experienced that very specific pleasure of thinking you’ll like an author and it turning out so.

It’s hard to say what happens exactly in terms of plot, but the whole thing hinges on the tone that you either love or hate.

How Hong Kong proved me wrong

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For several weeks, things in Hong Kong have been coming to a head and then they exploded. On June 9, over a million people marched against the government’s proposal to amend the territory’s extradition laws to allow the transfer of fugitives to mainland China (and Taiwan and Macau but those two aren’t the problem). Hong Kong is part of China but has its own, much more robust legal system. There is widespread fear that people could be extradited to China for political reasons couched as crimes under the revised laws.

Hongkongers weren’t having it. In response to the million who marched in opposition – the culmination of weeks of opposition from various sectors, including the pro-government friendly business sector – the Hong Kong government announced that it would go ahead with the second reading of the bill. On June 13, protesters clashed with police – when the protesters tried to storm the legislative council building, the police unleashed tear gas, rubber bullets and their batons. Videos of bleeding and battered young people began to go viral. The chief executive – Hong Kong’s head of government – released a rather patronising video explaining why she can’t give in.

Since then, there has been widespread anger and calls for her to withdraw the bill and resign. I truly and cynically believed that neither would happen.

Since Hongkongers occupied the streets for 79 days in the 2014 Umbrella Movement – so-called because of the umbrellas protesters used to defy police with – both Hong Kong and China have become more hardline. My impression was that China had no patience with restive young Hongkongers and that the Hong Kong government’s strategy would be to crack down fast and hard. That happened on Wednesday.

But to my shock and frankly elation, the government blinked. On June 15, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the bill would be suspended. The sad thing was that it took a violent confrontation to achieve this, a peaceful march was not enough.

Hongkongers were still not having it. On June 14, a young man unfurled a banner on a local shopping mall and fell to his death. On June 16, nearly 2 million took to the streets in a sea of black calling on Lam to resign, withdraw the bill completely and withdraw the classification of the events of the week as a riot, which would carry a long prison sentence for those arrested.

After that, protesters have been using guerrilla tactics, targeting government buildings. One day they surrounded the police headquarters, another day the tax department. Then they handed out leaflets apologising to the public for the inconvenience.

While bill that sparked the original protest has been suspended, they want the complete withdrawal of the bill, an amnesty for those arrested, the police not to categorise the events of June 12 as a riot and an inquiry into police brutality on that day. The government has not really responded.

On June 26, there was another a huge rally to coincide with the G20 summit. The demands now seem to have shifted to democracy.

Regardless of what happens, I realised that even when dealing with China, and it helps that China is fighting trade war fires and cannot deal with HK shiz right now, there is hope. That there is hope for Hong Kong, even if the stakes are higher every time.

And for that, I am glad.

Reading list – May

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The Wife, Meg Wolitzer

OMG this. This is how you write a feminist novel. The feminist thesis here is that women’s work is often unrecognised, and sometimes basically stolen. The idea of the wife as slave. But with enough personality there to become enthralled in the story.

Nick of Time – Elizabeth Grosz on  Nietzsche 

This is the second part of the Grosz’s book on space and time. I realised that I’m not that interested in space and time. Heh. At one time I wanted to make these two concepts the frame of my PhD thesis and maybe it would have been cool if I had except that I resisted because I felt that it would be pandering to the desire to use concepts that male philosophers take seriously. Instead I landed up with tired old tradition/modernity but at least that was a natural fit.

Anyway, some interesting points in this book:

a. Nietszche’s view of history and it’s usefulness of feminist protect – that the past is important but must not overwhelm, that one must take from the past what is useful and move on – to “remember what one needs in order to move on”.

b. The “will to power” is not just one, but many competing wills, it is the synergy of different wills that makes something happen

c. The eternal return: Given the infinity of time and the finite nature of matter and possible combinations, there will be repetitions.  “In the long run, probability become necessity” Grosz says.

Normal People, Sally Rooney

I had the same problem with this book as I did with Conversation with Friends, only with the latter I got over it and the book won me over overall, and that didn’t happen in this case.

With Conversations with Friends, I started out skeptical but by the end of it, there was enough complexity there.

What irritated me was the rather juvenile game-playing and lack of communication between the central couple, and this became acute in Normal People. Here, I loved the initial section of the book, but after the second section gets under the constant misunderstandings and breaking up and (not quite) making up just felt silly to me.

Maybe they would resonate with a twenty-something but I guess I am too much of an old lady to have much patience with it. Not that I am over game-playing but please, people with this much intelligence should also be clear-eyed about what they are doing.

I was also uncomfortable with the presentation of masochism. Not that I’m an expert on S&M, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be a person who has low self-esteem in her life asks to be manhandled in the bedroom. Rather, the opposite, I would think. Instead, a woman who seemed to be fairly rebellious in the beginning is basically turned into a craven mess by the end. And we are supposed to be charmed.

However, this book was almost universally loved by critics. I don’t get it. Tell me, what am I missing?

The Woman at the Window, A.J. Finn

I’m turning into a grumpy old woman but I really didn’t get into this. I guessed about the protagonist’s  husband and child do it wasn’t really a surprise. I found her  irritating – I know, I know, she had a disorder, but there is only so much of a person saying how much they drank and (inexplicably) how many times her robe fell down. The surprise was a bit of a surprise but I didn’t really care.

Funeral Games, Mary Renault

This is the final part of the Renault’s Alexander trilogy. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to read it, because I didn’t really see what the point was to reading further after the central character died in the previous book.

However, it was strangely engaging. Not just the wrangling over the throne, but also characters like Euridike who married Alexander’s half brother with intellectual disabilities. I liked it so much, I went on to another historical fiction novel.

Helen of Troy, Margaret George

This was a super read in general, though Madeline Miller remains my favourite in this genre. George invents  a character Gelanor, a wizard, who follows Helen to Troy and remains one of her friends from her hometown there. I’m quite sure what the point of him was and it stretched credibility that a queen would be allowed to go off here and there with this man.

There are some episodes that I found less convincing, but I could see why George did them as she did. For example, one ambiguity in the myth of Helen is the love between her and Paris. George attributes Helen’s abrupt attraction to Paris as Aphrodite’s revenge on her for a slight – for not praying to her for her blessing on her marriage to Menelaus.

Also, George shows Helen as seeing Menelaus with a slave girl, thus mitigating her decision to run off with Paris, but really given the age in which those events were taking place, a king’s dalliance with a slave girl, especially given that Helen was supposedly off Menelaus by then, would not really be seen as in any way equivalent to the queen running off with a prince from another state.

The part where the travel to Troy is super boring and generally I wanted to slap them both, but I guess that is often how the moony-in-love come across to others. The relationship I found more interesting was Helen and Menelaus’. She chose him, although she was not 100 per cent sure of her choice, there was attraction there. And then after it all, she lived with him.

I remember a reviewer noting how George emphasises that Agamemnon is simply looking for an excuse to attack Troy in order to use his weapons and also to annex a profitable land , and that this might be a commentary on the present-day US. This strikes me as apt, though I’m not sure her intention was that specific.

In contrast to Miller’s unforgettable portrayal, Achilles here is a sullen, almost deranged man-child.

The book dragged on a bit, but the tragedy of the war is really well drawn. I cried at certain deaths – Troilus’ sticks out.

In the end, George gives Helen back her daughter Hermione, which is not a small consolation

You think it, I’ll say it, Curtis Sittenfeld

A measure of how much I love this writer that I would read a collection of short stories. Ironically, my copy didn’t include The Nominee, the story I downloaded this book for. Nevertheless, I enjoyed all the stories in the book, though I cannot actually recall even one of them now. That’s the thing with short stories, I think. They are so fleeting, like dreams. They will come back to me, again like dreams.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Sherron de Haart

I did not think I was fangirl enough to read a massive tome on the US Supreme Court judge, but I learnt a lot from this book. For example:

1. Her nickname was/is Kiki

2. She studied English literature under Nabokov at Cornell

3. There were quotas for women – only about 5% were allowed in, and all the Jewish girls were assigned one part of the dorm.

4. She married as an undergraduate and her in-laws were very supportive. Harvard retracted her scholarship when she married (the logic being that her father-in-law was wealthy so she wasn’t a needy student anymore) so her father-in-law paid her tuition. Her mother-in-law offered to look after her baby so she could study further.

5. The dean of Harvard  law school asked the nine women in her class why they  were taking a seat away from a man. The periodicals library could only be accessed by men

6. Her husband Marty shared the shopping and cooking and chores while they was at Harvard law school. Then he got cancer and she arranged for his classmates to lend him their notes which she would spend all night typing up.

7. They moved to new York and she transferred to Columbia because he got a job. The reason she couldn’t stay back was because she was scared of losing her husband to illness. But why couldn’t he have stayed back? Yet she did leave him later to write a book on Sweden’s legal system

8. Tied top of her class and edited both the Columbia and Harvard review but didn’t get a job offer when she graduated. A former teacher had to lean heavily on a judge to get her a clerkship and she overcompensated by working harder than anyone else.

9. Was paid less than men in her first teaching job at Rutgers

10. Got back to work a month after giving birth to her second child

11. Surprisingly,  she started her career in acacdemia, teaching and then running the first women and the law course at Columbia.

12. Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex was her aha moment on feminism

13. Her first test first test case was sexual discrimination – against a man. Her second test case – a woman who wanted to give birth but was dismissed by military in case she had an abortion. Both test cases were the opposite of what one would expect a feminist activist to pick  – a man’s right, a woman’s right not to have an abortion. She was being strategic, showing  judges that even men suffered under sex discrimination

14. Her friendship with conservative justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia – when her husband died, she remained stoic but he cried during the Court tribute

15. The case of the strip-searched 13-year-old making her feel the need for another woman on the court

16. A run through of some of the sensitive cases of our time – gay marriage, abortion rights, the Florida election of George Bush, the rights of Muslims detained without trial after 9/12.

Ginsburg joined the court when Clarence Thomas had already been appointed. She now witnessed the appointment of Brett Kavannaugh (not in the book). I wonder how she feels serving with these men. (Edit: just read this) So much changes, so much remains the same.

Flaneurie 10

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Rare to see a fat Chinese woman. I not only saw one today, but one who flaunted her sexuality and clearly saw herself as the attractive person that she was.

She had sharp facial features that were accentuated by make-up.

She was wearing a black light knit dress that was semi-transparent and a black lacy bra underneath and I found myself glancing at her above average size breasts (for a Chinese person) and admiring them, then wondering about how irate women get about men speaking to their boobs and I was convinced that had I been speaking to her I would have been one of those men.

As it was, she was with a man who I presumed was into her , (although she was carefully dressed and he seemed to have not made any effort) because how could he not be.

Hong Kong’s June 4 Tiananmen Square memorial

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I am sad to say that I have lived in Hong Kong for over a decade and never been to the annual June 4 rally to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. I rectified that this year.

The march is the only place in China where this tragedy can be publicly remembered (Taiwan, which China claims as part of it, also commemorates June 4, but well). In this sense, the march is #soHongKong. It is Hong Kong as China but not China, Hong Kong as the rebellious part of China where rebellion is tolerated, the part of China that many people risked their lives swimming to escape an oppressive way of life and who have a deep suspicion of the government in Beijing.

The march is Hong Kong at its finest. It is super crowded – organisers estimate there were 180,000 people in Victoria Park last night, the police say 37,000, there were definitely tens of thousands. The road leading up to the park was flanked by pro-democratic political parties campaigning and fundraising (however, the people seeking funds were not aggressive, just grateful if you gave something). It was packed like a Mumbai local on that road. Yet, I felt in no danger.

It got less packed as one reached the park, but it was still crowded. Nevertheless, the sense of discipline and calm was amazing. Everyone picked a spot and sat quietly. People were supportive and accommodating, none of the usual grumpiness. It had rained the entire day and the ground was wet in patches. That didn’t deter people from coming out.

There were young people, but what surprised me was how old some people were. There were people so old it was incredible they were standing for so long. The man next to me said he had attended every year for the past 29 years, missing only one protest the year his son was born.

There were screens set up here and there, but one couldn’t see much. All the speeches were in Cantonese. My friend translated some, but not all, of it for me – there was a eulogy for the fallen students and a testimony from a Hong Kong woman who had been one of the student protesters. There were different performances of songs that had become anthems to the cause and which sounded vaguely familiar to me. At intervals there were slogans shouted – “never forget”, “down with the one-party dictatorship” “democracy for China” – and the park resounded with the cries. Even though I couldn’t understand most of it, I was moved.

At some point, we all lit our candles, there was a moment of silence for the fallen students and then we bowed several times in tribute.

I had hesitated to join the march in previous years basically because I didn’t know what to do and didn’t have anyone to go with. What I realised is that while it is nice to go with someone, it’s not really necessary. You just follow the crowd, sit there and absorb the atmosphere.

Protests are a numbers game. Sometimes standing up for what you believe is as easy as putting your body in a place where it is visible.

There will be a march on the afternoon of June 9, starting at Victoria Park at 2.30 pm, to protest against the Hong Kong government’s plans to change the extradition laws to allow transfer of fugitives to mainland China (something that has not been allowed so far, because of the lack of trust in the rule of law there). If you’re in Hong Kong, you could consider going.

Here’s a video by the South China Morning Post on the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

 

 

 

 

Sports Day

Sports Day has been a big deal for me since I was in primary school. The adrenalin rush of participating in a race, but also cheering for your house, watching the march past, even doing some random drill but in a nice costume were a welcome break from the tedium of the academic year, despite the heat, dust and grime. As I grew older, I had a more prominent part in the races; though I rarely won, I usually qualified. My sister was always in everything so I always had someone to root for.
Now I get to relive the glory day through the kids. Last year, Nene did very well at Sports Day, so this year, he had something to anticipate. He kept telling me how he’s the fastest in his year, and I did a mental uh huh.
But it turns out, he is. He basically won a medal in everything he competed in, coming home with a huge haul that satisfied his magpie tendencies. It was really inspiring to watch my skinny boy streak ahead in the 400m and keep up that insane pace right till the end.
Meanwhile, Mimi did me proud too. I wasn’t expecting much, since getting Mimi to exercise is a struggle. She does want to do well at Sports Day though, so I tried using that to motivate her to run a few rounds of the playground – hardly a scintillating activity for someone who doesn’t want to exercise, but I tried and failed to motivate her to join Nene’s friends in their admittedly hectic running games.
She only did that now and then though, and it turned out she wasn’t chosen for the finals in most of the races, though she did come third (out of four in the one she ran, but another girl crossed into her lane) and to my surprise, won the javelin throw in her group. I was overjoyed that she had a gold medal to show off too. More than that, I realised that she could actually be a strong runner if she practices.
Mimi, of course, took a dim view of her comparative winnings, and there was a bit of drama on the way home. Oh well.

***

An annoying part of the day was that I volunteered to help out, was assigned to help the teachers at the throw stations, but when I went there, I basically got blank looks. If no help is needed, it’s fine, but then I found myself in this limbo where I would look like the ‘not helping’ parent having signed up.

Now, this is where V would just shrug and move on, but I felt obliged to keep asking around. The thing is, I could see that the teachers could benefit from help – running a station with only two people all day can be super tiring – but just did not want to bother thinking about fitting another person into their (hardly complicated) routine.

This year’s Sports Day was better thought out than the previous year, but it kind of amazes me that given that they do this event every year presumably, it seems fairly badly organised.

When I said this to V, he told me to “stop being negative”.

At the risk of continuing with my negativity – because this blog is my venting space, after all – I was reminded once again of why I stay away from PTA stuff. The weird thing I found with this school’s PTA is that they seem to want to get more parents involved, but when new people show up, they make no effort, except the very perfunctory, to interact with them, except to say “welcome” and then go back to their own cliques.

Increasingly, I’m noticing how bad people are at the basic social skills – i.e. chatting to a stranger. Hong Kong is particularly bad at this because people hide behind language. But I have noticed that even people who speak English will do this, or stick to their narrow racial (yes, racial) group because presumably speaking across accents might be too much trouble.

There was a time when I would go around bridging this divide, but I can’t be bothered anymore. However, even in my can’t be bothered state, I make more conversation with strangers than those who presumably do not see anything strange about their behaviour.

 

 

 

The election

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I thought I was resigned to the inevitable outcome. I thought I was sufficiently detached.

And I was.

In my mind, the worst had happened in 2014. If people could elect this man after he presided over a bloodbath in 2002, it said everything one needed to know.

Still, I expected at least some acknowledgement of the lack of the promised development, of disastrous policies like demonetisation.

Why, I don’t know. I have always maintained that 2014 was an anti-Muslim mandate.

Now it is clear as day. The economy is irrelevant.

I was fine till the end of the day when a colleague from another team came to talk to the Indian colleague on my desk. I could hear murmurs about corruption, about how everybody is celebrating.

I realised that I don’t know a single person who would celebrate this, and for that I am I grateful. But I also realised that these people are just one degree of separation away from me and that to these people, to the majority of the country, the likes of me are not just dispensable to their vision of India Shining, but an impediment to it.