Wednesday, January 4

Creative Tuesdays: The Story Behind the Woman on the Train

Arms folded, always traveling, she looked out beyond these trees, into another time when life was so glamorous, care-free and full of fun...

Saying goodbye to Petaling Jaya, to her dear Malaya once again, how could she know that decades later, she would never return? A few more "lives" from now, all that would remain would be the bittersweet memories of brighter times casting their increasingly faded hue onto longer shadows of duller, forlorn years — years that would stretch past her current middle age and deep into the fading light of a long, often lonely, bleak winter.

Instead of sparkling oceans and romantic horizons, her life would only diminish. Behind four whitewashed walls of her new-found confines, she would be alone in her experiences that no one could possibly imagine. Her upbringing was a Colonial life, as was her father's and father's father, but those days were long gone. Her only voyages would be in those tenuous dreams of once more embarking on her ship and heading out of port. One day, she'll console herself that this journey will indeed be her last. Setting sail, she won't look back to those dark waters, her heart instead fixed on another horizon, one also lush with promise. Yes, the sun will return, the colors will then become ever brighter.


I dedicate this piece of art and story to my mother, who now faces an unwanted life in an elderly care home, burdened by a heavy heart and ailing body. Even now, she still wishes she could return to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands — exotic locales she enjoyed not just in her childhood (before the Japanese invaded) but again in her 20's for several years and later still, with my father in her 30's (where we spent our baby to pre-school years). As she often reminds us, she may be English but remains a child of the tropics! "Why do I live in such a bloody cold country?!" she often laments. Indeed. Life has taken her to untold heights and incredible lows. Her life's journey has been one of loves discovered and lost, privileges enjoyed and stripped, and of children come and gone afar. Faced now with short term memory loss, those exotic days of old when she worked for Special Branch, entranced with frivolous days of dancing and cocktail parties and visits to Raffles hotel are some of the memories that she can still hold fast to and enjoy their revelry.

Dear Mama, I love and cherish you. One day you can and will once more set sail to those distant shores but this time there will be no sorrows.