Cheers to Babylon

We’ll meet again one day

in Babylon, it’s not far away

I’ll lay out my armour

you’ll leave your armchair

We’ll sing tales of old

We’ll find out in time

Mozart’s unfinished requiem

You’ll play Lacrimosa

and I’ll call you Barbarossa

We’ll look for St. Clementine

is he still on his tea and croissants?

We’ll sing of Galileo

and reminisce Ronnie Dio

Do you think he feels hollow

Despite them chanting

Eppur Si Muove

And when you’ve found love

And I’ve found life

we’ll send each other postcards

written in the dark

in the shadows of a theater

while Lubitsch paints a story

and we find we’re turning thirty

We’ll raise our pens in silence

Cheers to Babylon.

 

Barfuß am Klavier

Is it okay to want to play

everything at once

I’ll be barefoot at the piano

and naked at the harp

Can I sing you a lullaby

without losing my rhythm

Can I bid you goodbye

but not for eternity

Will you let me come back

and play you Chopin

Will you let me fly away

and learn the ukulele

Do you think I could save the world

one song at a time

Cool down the earth

with my equations

Could I extricate

all your knowledge

Is it a labyrinth

is it too intricate

Can I mix it all

my art and my science

Can I just be

a busker on the street

Would it hurt you to know

I’ve played it all

but all I want to be is

Barfuß am Klavier

 

Bukahara

‘Can someone take away my name

And let me go back to the start

I would give to you my story

If you let me keep my heart’

Sometimes the incidents that you’d never wish for are the best motivators. Somewhere along the way you realize that not everyone who seems polite and respectful means well. Sometimes the twenty-something year old college dropout-turned-bike-mechanic may be a far better human being than a dignified 54 year old journalist with numerous accolades to his name. As a woman, it’s hard finding safe spaces in unfamiliar countries. Over two decades of living in Asia, almost seven years of living in India, one of the most notorious countries for rape crimes, and I still find it surprising that the most unsafe situation and one of the most awkward scenarios I’ve been in, took place in the first world, in Europe nonetheless.

I plan to travel solo around Europe. This incident was the pushing factor. I feel I have something to prove, to myself. But before I leave I’ll buy myself a knife and some pepper spray.

‘I’ve been walking, walking for hours

so long that I forgot my home

And I’ve been dancing

under the oak trees

and I danced like I’ve never danced before’

 

Schadenfreude

Is it my turn now to play your game
to fill the gaps of incompetency
that you insist on flaunting
like an asset, the fact that you manage
to get your way and never get fired

Is it my turn now to fill the shoes
that would never fit you
but were kept for you
to be the sole that wears out later
while you remain polished leather

Is it my turn now to put up a facade
to claim teamwork where it was anything but,
to sacrifice my sleep for the sake of yours
while I’m crying in a downpour

Is it my turn now to step down
to turn my back on you
to never look back
to seek gratitude while there’s time
while you seek schadenfreude
Is it my turn now or is it yours?

Je Suis Enchante

I see my dreams

they lie in glass bottles

with stoppers made of

my mind’s fuzziness

They toss and turn

like a ship on high seas

a ship in a bottle

once in, never to escape

the entrails of our conversation

lie strewn across the waves

I see a whirlpool

Its froth, my chatter

spiralling inward

Do you see the sails

how they wave for help

to an invisible audience

And the trombone player

breathes faster

Allegro vivace

as it sinks

Your voice

follows me to the end

You guide

the orchestra

of a thousand ships

Je suis enchante

Kopitiam

Old man at the kopitiam
rush hour has passed
the young have flown to cages
your spectacles rest
on your bald head
sipping your kopi c kosong
in your mind a xiqu song
squinting at passers by
searching for a familiar face
but none comes by.

Your grandson would exchange
your glass for a plastic cup
of bubble tea and black pearls
or the bright slush
he calls a softie
the soulless mixture
flowing from a tap
some 7-Eleven crap

Your friend is closing
his dim sum shop
no one to take up the trade
why learn an ancient craft
an obscurity in the face of Forex trade.

It grows hotter every year
but even with the fan
unbearable, buey tahan
too many cars you say
they call you kia si.

Old man at the kopitiam
rush hour has come again
the young, they pass you by
back to high-rise cages
you sip your teh oh
wondering what they do
they’re all so kiasu.

 

*kopitiam = coffee shop
*kopi c kosong = coffee with condensed milk, no sugar
*xiqu = traditional Chinese opera
*buey tahan = hard to handle
*kia si = afraid to die
*teh oh = hot tea
*kiasu = afraid to lose/lose out

Do We Have the Time for Privileged Feminism?

I saw the headline about Emma Watson versus the Beyhives. I read the article until I fell into that deep pit of misery and confusion mixed with a sense of disgust at humanity from which I’d just managed to extricate myself the other day. Why is the topic of feminism always served to us by women in the media and entertainment industry? Have you not felt as I have, that the only dialogues concerning feminism, at least the only ones fiercely propagated by mainstream media, come from people who have never experienced actual, down-to-earth misogyny on a daily basis because of their privileged status, who have meaty histories of playing roles or doing photo-shoots for ‘women’s’ magazines which double up as propaganda machines for making women believe that objectification is what they should aim for, who have spent most of their careers and lives masked under 6 feet of makeup so that they look like the porcelain beauties that MEN desire? Yes, Emma Watson is intelligent and ‘different’ from most bimbo actresses and I love that she thinks. But shouldn’t that be normal, instead of the exception? Isn’t the fact that she is one of the few actresses who have straight As and a college degree not to be applauded but something that should raise serious concern due to the lack of such people, because these are the women who children hear of and idealize before they ever start school and read about one or two women scientists (whose names they eventually forget anyway)? Also, this doesn’t change the fact that there are millions of women who are just as, or even more, intelligent than Emma. No, they’re not all white-skinned, not all tall with symmetric facial features and a great smile and blue eyes and perfect hair and maybe they’re not all size zeros either. But maybe they’ve contributed much more to society in ways that neither she nor Beyonce nor any woman in that industry could have. They are doctors, engineers, scientists, researchers, psychologists, professors, archaeologists, and the list goes on. They do not have a makeup team at their disposal. They do not have the luxury of a publicity team to make them seem amazing all the time. They have families and some live in very patriarchal societies where even though they work twice as hard as their husbands, they’ll never receive the kind of appreciation their husbands do. Some get beaten up all the time and do not have the freedom or means to seek justice. Some receive death threats and rape threats on a constant basis for setting up shelters for rape victims. Some get threats of the same nature for adding knowledge to sites like Wikipedia, some just for being born as women.

These women do not have the privilege to go topless or make music videos twerking about their sex lives and then debate about whether it’s an act of feminism or not. The fact that people spend time on these debates shows how oblivious the world is to actual problems, how we are so ready to turn a blind eye to actual suffering and instead focus on how the rich and famous rattle each other. Time is precious, maybe not to you but it is to little girls who get abused on a daily basis, it is precious to women who live in deeply misogynistic cultures and don’t have a way out, it is precious to single moms ostracized by their communities and to women who face the stifling of their thought everyday by society. Time is precious and we don’t have enough to waste on the privileged.