I thought “sheeple” was a cute but appropriately tough coinage, till I googled the term and found 664,000 entries for it. Now it’s an ominous word, full of ill will and terrible foreboding.
So anyway, I’m back in Singapore! For a week. Flight back was khushi cushy, cos it was on SQ (new felt blankets, huh) and I pre-ordered a delightful Jain meal (cannot endure the sweets, however, and the longan was ruined by the adjacent jackfruit) and caught Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but also had to sit through a loud conversation emanating from behind me concerning things people my age are supposed to be concerned about, and there were some weird smells, and I had to hold back a few tears cos the book I was reading seemed to flow out of a rivulet from the movie I was watching.
Because Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist stars supercool Michael Cera, I was hoping for a present-day When Harry Met Sally sorta thing, but somehow the 90 minutes was spent not so much on deft repartee as teenage awkwardness. My expectations were too high. The movie’s just a tuneful ditty about how the awake-iest playground in the world (New York, New York) gives two pieces of the same soul a myriad reasons to put themselves together. Not so much blethering as the observation of a beautiful connection. And it feels as removed onscreen as it sounds on paper.
The eavesdropping occurred because two acquaintances found out they were on the same flight — again! — and were sitting next to each other — neato! They proceeded to catch up on the effects of the financial crisis on their jobs, then their love lives, recreational activities, what I am or am not looking forward to back in Singapore, etc. etc. etc. Et cetera.
One good thing was that it forced me to face again my own attitude towards country and home. I realised I couldn’t really recall the last time I was back — it was for XX’s wedding — but maybe that’s because of work taking over my brain lately. And I felt compelled to ask who’s the Malaysian PM now. Cos I didn’t know. Get too used to anything, and you run the danger of losing what you’re going to miss more.
Let’s put those weird smells behind me.
The tearing up was because Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist had just ended on a high — it was a good, melodic, stayed-up-all-night-now-it’s-dawn sorta high — and then I continued to entertain myself by reading The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith, another sweet example of his serial burnishing of places he’s lived in, thanks to which exists this passage:
She stood for a good few minutes, staring at the books on her shelf, the serried ranks of titles. Kant. Schopenhauer. Midgley. Kekes. All these people who had spent so much time, given up on so many other diversions (one assumed) in order to devote themselves to the elucidation of what was right. And here she had been faced with a moment of financial temptation — the saving of ten thousand pounds — and she had hesitated in her response. She had almost said yes. She had almost told Simon that they should accept Florence’s offer immediately. She had almost done that. And everything on those shelves, all the elaborate structures of right and wrong, had been for a few moments forgotten. Which is how most people acted when it came to temptation. They gave in. And we should never forget, thought Isabel, that every one of us is capable of doing the same thing if the gain that we see for ourselves is large enough. She had often thought that if she were ever to give in to a yearning for the material it would have to be a very large sum; her price would be a high one — a kingdom. But now she had seen that the opposite was, in fact, true. Her price was as low as anybody else’s. And if she could give in over a mere matter of ten thousand pounds, could she not give in over the mere matter of a young man, a musician, whose company she so appreciated and whose profile, at the right angle, stopped her heart?
I have learned something about myself, thought Isabel.
And so had I, but not necessarily for the reason you imagine. It was then that I knew for myself that settling for anything less than the truth in a relationship would mean a sorry lifetime of shame and regret.
So that was my flight back for Chinese New Year!