To Pauline Wong

A deer
you taught me
how to stretch
my fingers around
crotchets and minims
how to read
clefs and breves

A drop
I pause and begin
at the tap of your foot
the rap on my knuckles
the metronome stands
nothing but a symbol

A name
you gave me
patience in semibreves
happiness in quavers
fleeting semiquavers
and I showed off
with the demisemis

A long long way
we exist in two timezones
You said one day
we’ll watch an orchestra
together at the Esplanade
I still wait for that day

A needle
I, the thread
that you tried so hard
my fingers to unknot
“Octopus hand”
you say when my wrist
raises itself as I attempt
to reach beyond an octave

A note
you play
for me to sing
the examiner must
be impressed
I must not tarnish
your repute
But Aural always
took me over

A drink
one day we’ll share
when I find you again
It’s been seven years
and counting
but you’ll always be
the one that taught me
how to practice
how to feel
how to be
my art

And you will bring me back to

No one knows me like the piano
in my mother’s home
– Sampha




Home is not the concrete construct
where your mother resides
and your father returns to
It is not the land
your passport claims you belong to

Home is a state of mind
the environment you miss the most
when you live in a foreign land

Home may not be where you were born
but it may be the land
where your heart was first torn
where you first set foot in a classroom
and found your first crush

The place where you know the slang
a little too well
for your parents’ liking
Where you can get lost
and still be at ease
You know the streets
like the back of your hand

It is a place you complained of
when you knew no better
but when you left
you wished you left a letter
to show your gratitude
all the things you took for granted
that you couldn’t find
in the place your parents call home
in another place that you now call home

The smells, the tastes
the sounds and the sights
The faces that passed
as the years went by
you wish you could keep
in a little box in your heart
carry it around and open it
when you can take no more
You need to feel at home once more.


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

Meritocracy versus Democracy

Trump’s victory speaks for itself. But that is not what I wish to speak about. I wish to speak about a system of government that is so underrated and unknown but that deserves immediate attention if we don’t want more people like Trump winning elections in other democracies (because yes, America, other countries exist in the world, almost 200 other countries actually). It’s called Meritocracy.

Something that has baffled me for quite a while is the fact that no democracy on planet earth, at least that I know of, has a system in place that screens presidential/prime ministerial candidates on the basis of their intelligence and capabilities before letting them even stand as candidates. I’d say one of the most efficiently run countries on this planet is the tiny little island nation of Singapore. It’s one of the most densely populated countries but living there, you’d never feel it because the city is so well-planned. Pollution levels are much lower than in many cities like New York and London and the government has protected many hectares of pristine tropical rain forest while making sure that everyone has adequate space to live. True, there are problems there that every city has but the fact that it has becomeĀ one of the most well-organized and developed countries in just almost 50 years of independence speaks a lot about its governing body. But most importantly, it says a lot about the visionary that built up the country from the undeveloped village-like state that it was in a few decades ago. He is Lee Kuan Yew. A simple google search will tell you everything you need to know about him but he almost single-handedly revolutionized the nation.

The principle that saw it through was the principle he believed in the most: Meritocracy. The simple rule that everyone deserves what is worth their merit. Or simply put, always pick the best man for the job. For example, take the fact that if you wish to be the Finance Minister of Singapore, you must have been the CEO for at least 10 years of a multi-billion dollar company. Makes sense, right? If you know how to successfully run a giant corporation for a decade or so, I’m pretty sure you could be trusted with your country’s economy.

Singapore has a population of just around 6 million people. America has around 300 million. India has a population of around 1 billion (that’s 1000 million). Yet, neither of the latter two countries, or any other democracy that’s much larger than Singapore, has a system in place that screens potential candidates based on their skills, qualifications, and intelligence before they’re allowed to stand as a candidate. Do you not think that a nation of 300 million or one with 1 billion would have at least 5 to 10 people who are smart, honest and capable enough to lead the country? If there were exams in place for social etiquette, I’m pretty sure Trump would have failed in the first round because I don’t think “grabbing them by the pussy” is something anyone would pass him for. Why not do background checks before you let people into positions power? If that existed, I’m pretty sure India’s criminal-filled parliament bodies would have been filled with people who haven’t raped or murdered or robbed before. Why not screen them using basic Science exams? If you don’t believe in Science, you don’t deserve to rule in the 21st century. I’m sure Trump wouldn’t have passed that either, seeing as how he thinks global warming is a hoax made by China. Why not screen them based on educational qualifications and leadership capabilities? Place them through a series of tests, interviews, exams, steps to let them prove that they are good-hearted, clear-headed, capable individuals? How have we not come up with a system like this after existing as a species for hundreds of thousands of years?? Is this not just basic logic? Then let the people vote after the candidates have been selected based on all this. If the people were to vote from a group of talented, smart individuals, isn’t it much safer for the country because whoever wins, at least you know that the nation would be in safe hands! Democracy ultimately caters only to the lowest denominator of the populace. The brute-force loving, disgruntled mass. Meritocracy makes sure that the elected person is deserving of the title.

How have we not done this yet, world?