During one French conversation evening class, we were shown a YouTube video about social credit scoring system in China. In a nutshell, from what I understand, the social credit score system aims at ensuring social security by monitoring citizens’ behaviour and movements through a ranking system. When the people are under surveillance, they are likely to be compliant and law-abiding to avoid missteps, punishment or mistreatment. For those of us who live in less autocratic countries, conform or not to conform to social behaviour is more of a choice to some extent. We think we are allowed some personal liberties, in reality we are in many ways being watched since these days we are required to provide our personal data for various purposes. Nonetheless, we can still enjoy some degree of autonomy with necessary caution.
One Saturday I was already running late for my gym training. As I drove out of my house, I saw a grasshopper sitting on my windscreen at the rear of my car. I was wondering if the grasshopper would be able to get off the car otherwise it would have to go for a ride. I managed to get a park and when I got down from the car, the grasshopper was still sitting there. I opened the car boot to take out my gym stuff and when I closed it, the grasshopper flew up. C’est domage! I would have liked to see the grasshopper again when I got back from my training session.
Was the presence of a grasshopper a sign to tell me to trust myself? And then I Googled. ‘Grasshopper’s ability to connect and understand sound vibrations is why he is also a symbol of your inner voice. He could be telling you to trust yours.’
A couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon JK Rowling’s commencement speech at Harvard given in 2008. Needless to say, JK Rowling is a wordsmith and her speech was excellent. I wish I had known what I had really wanted to do when I entered the varsity and also after I graduated. I followed the natural progression of things. As a teenager, while I lacked perspectives and goals, I daydreamt that I was not going to grow up as a conformist. Somehow along the way, I became what my parents had wanted me to be partly because my father had sponsored my tertiary education and partly because I lacked convictions in exploring options other than practising law.
A month ago I chanced upon the fiction Though I Get Home by YZ Chin from Tash Aw’s twitter. When I read its excerpts, I had to get my hand on it. Though I Get Home is a collection of short stories and they are cleverly woven. Central to the story is Isabella Sin, a small-town girl who became the accidental prisoner of conscience in Malaysia. Amongst the characters in these stories, there is a grandfather who gambles on the monsoon rains, a religious man who struggles to keep his demons at bay and Howie Ho, a computer science major who had a relationship with a cool white girl when he was studying in America. One of the stories entitled The Butler Opens the Door is about her grandfather who learnt English from the British when was employed as a “butler” by the colonizers.
‘ Grandfather was known to have been employed by the colonizers as a butler, the only one anyone had ever heard of in them idling town of Butterworth, Malaya. But he wasn’t a butler. His employer had called him that both because Grandfather’s real name was hard to remember and because the British gentleman was forever exasperated by Grandfather’s inability to perform everything just as he wished.’
“But there is no ice, sir. That is why lemonade is lukewarm.”
“But I was helping in kitchen,sir.I did not hear you call.’
“ But I did not know what corned beef hash is ,sir.I thought maybe there would be actual corn.”
The gentleman, pushed to his limits, stood up sternly and placed his palms flat against the dinner table. “But ! But ! But ! there is always your excuse! Quite a perverse tropical butler you are.”
And that is how Grandfather became known as a butler. His chief job was to soothe the trauma of World War II inflicted upon his employer.’
I read several books at any given time, diarizing them enables me to appreciate the books more. Time travel stories are charming. I’m currently Before the coffee gets cold. My daughter texted to tell me about the book while she was travelling in Myanmar and I replied,“ I have the book.” I will pass her the book when I see her next week. Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi was one of the books being promoted at Kinokuniya Bookstore last month. The story is about a café where you can return to the past if you sit on a certain seat and drink the entire cup of coffee before it gets cold. Interesting concept. As a bibliophile and a coffee lover, I had to get hold of the book. Last month I finally read The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood and I have started reading the much-awaited sequel The Testaments.
I have so many books I just want to hole up somewhere and read and read…..