This morning, on a whim, I decided to say Good Morning to various friends via a Whatsapp message. While I did, I channeled the image of seeing each of them in person, and felt the warmth of such a simple morning greeting. The simple response was a return greeting. A doctor friend asked if I was well. I said I just felt like saying Good Morning. He knew I was going through a trying time on a few film projects and wished I was doing better. A chiropractor friend greeted me then added, anything? Another friend with whom we are collaborating on a project, greeted me followed by an apology that he hadn’t gotten back on an outstanding matter. I said my greeting wasn’t work related, just saying Good Morning. A friend residing in Hong Kong sent me a video of him and his son just finishing a water sport by the beach. A slice of his blessed life. Some just woke up, some said hi and needed to go back to whatever they were doing. And there were those when this simple Good Morning paved the way for an ensuing conversation, picking up where we last dropped off. Then one friend told me he had a mild stroke sometime back. I also discovered a friend’s parent passed on. On this Saturday, I see how the simplicity and sincerity of a Good Morning is a window to the diverse lives of people in our circle…
I finally watched ‘A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood’. I don’t know anything about this film, except having an impression that it might be a cross between Pee-wee Herman and Sesame Street, perhaps with the quirkiness of a Tim Burton movie. The look of the film is deliberately colour-saturated and dated. I don’t know what to expect, and before pressing the play button on Netflix, there was a sense of hesitation combined with a come-what-may resignation. Even though I know this movie has won over some cynical critics and Tom Hanks was nominated for an academy award for his performance, I half expect to stop watching after a few minutes. But I continued watching. So Tom Hanks plays Mister Rogers, Fred Rogers, the iconic children’s TV host who is kindness, decency and patience personified. There is something potentially too on the nose about casting Hanks who is Hollywood’s nicest man as Mister Rogers. It is. Until it isn’t.
Do you believe our lives hang on a promise? Even for those who don’t believe in promises. When we go back in time, there would be a point when we believe we would wake up the next day and life would go on. That we would grow up, that we would experience life, that there was a name for each feeling we feel and we would feel every feeling, including those unnamed. The thing is, we need to believe, in order to function. I recently met someone who told me, “Before I met my life partner, I knew I would. When I met him, I felt I knew him. He was like a promise in life.” Some of us believe in promises until we don’t. Until we are let down, disappointed, hurt. And we feel this way because we believe in promises in the first place. Otherwise we would be indifferent.
Today is my birthday. As I grow older, there is the inevitable accumulation of loss. Of time, health, friends, loved ones. Yet in some ways, things get easier. The insecurities that stabbed at me through the years have lost their edge. Not because of sudden wisdom. Just the gradual process of believing. The belief that some promises do hold true. This year, the pandemic has stirred both a sense of crisis and an urge to reinvent. A friend who worked abroad, on finishing his fourteen days quarantine on his return, felt a little “strange to return to a different Singapore.” I told him, being in Singapore through these unusual months, Singapore is different, and Singapore is the same.
Hindsight is 20/20. With the GE2020 results, it is easy for anyone to say how and what the PAP has done wrong. There are countless opinion pieces and commentaries. I have not read many, but the ones that I did read, the ones that touched and moved me, are excellent, making good sense, honest, written by people who sincerely care for Singapore. And if I may add, by people who care for the PAP and wish for a fresh lease of political life in Singapore, an improved governance led by the PAP. Making this less-than-stellar win by the PAP a most meaningful one.
A friend asked me yesterday, “Do you still believe in the PAP?” I was surprised, taken aback by such a question. I shouldn’t be, given that even our PM had acknowledged ‘the share of popular vote was not as high as he would have liked’, and with such headlines: ’Singapore’s Lee Retains Power But Party Has Weakest Showing Ever’ by Bloomberg, ’Singapore Ruling Party Wins Easily But Its Vote Falls Sharply’ by The Economist, and ’Singapore Ruling Party, Stung By Poll Setback, Faces Succession Question’ by Reuters.
A good movie has a defining moment that will stay with you, sometimes for a long time. The GE2020 campaigning started on a high note with a televised English Language debate. Vivan Balakrishnan showed his mettle as a debater and politician who thinks on his feet. Then a young man, who went toe to toe with the Foreign Minister, stole the show. Jamus Lim immediately became the star performer, garnering a following not unlike the young Nicole Seah in 2011. Was this the moment? Jamus’ sheer eloquence however belied a need for grandstanding that took away the essence of what he was saying, and somehow underscored his lack of actual ground experience. Just when the hustings appeared to be running their course, the defining moment happened. It was when Raeesah Khan was attacked. Pritam Singh had faced up to WP’s no-show in the first televised Chinese Language debate, but how he showed up at the press conference with Raeesah not only contrasted favourably to the unceremonious disappearance of Ivan Lim, he fielded questions directly, taking a stand that was reassuringly and disarmingly gracious and honest. We all know a good political candidate when we see one. Pritam is good and then some. I had thought he looked distractingly concerned most times. Yet with time, this look grew on me. During the campaigning, I saw an earnest look of humility, a steady look under pressure, and a look that restored my faith in the opposition.