Last Friday was a double celebration of both Valentine’s Day and 元宵節. For the Chinese, the fifteenth day of the lunar New Year is also a day for lovers. So it should have been a joyous day of romance for Singaporeans living in one of the most East-West cities in the world. But was it? Sometimes I wonder if romance really feature in a pragmatic society focused on either achieving or surviving. Yet at the end of the day, we do want to be happy. And having someone to share our lives with is a big part of being happy. I like how this Swedish proverb embodies the essence of sharing. “Shared joy is a double joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrow”. Which brings us back to love and romance. I have my mother’s permission to share her marriage certificate here. When I chanced on it years ago, I decided to get it framed. It is quite a precious piece of cultural heritage that links us back to a time when marriage was sacred.
Back in 1948, on November 18th, my father travelled from Vietnam to Hainan Island to marry my mother. He would then come to Singapore and she would join him with their first child, my eldest sister. They would become the pioneer generation of immigrants in Singapore. They were poor. From the day they were married, they had to find ways to make a living. And to find the means to start a family. In their generation, two people coming together would be a matter of fate. After the wedding, a couple would look forward to having children, and then grandchildren. This is probably what Loretta Young was referring to when she said, “Love isn’t something you find, love is something that finds you”. This marriage certificate, which is almost a piece of art, looks like a warranty for the love of a lifetime. A certification for a lasting marriage. I am reminded of the classic line by Robert Browning, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be”.
As a filmmaker, I have made my fair share of movies about love. ‘Turn Left, Turn Right’ based on the best-selling illustration book by Jimmy Liao, and ‘Leap Of Love’ based on Catherine Lim’s novella, are two movies I produced with one pointed question – do we have a destined soul mate? A life partner, a wife, a husband, a lover, whatever label we want to use. Someone we are fated to share our lives with. Do we? If we believe we do, if we believe there is someone out there meant for us, then there is romance in our world. Once we believe, we will look for this person. Paul Coehlo in ‘By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept’ poetically pronounced, “The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us. And to save us”. However, if we do not believe, if we are fazed by the growing number of singles, divorces and people in unhappy relationships, then ours is a loveless world inhabited by hard and cold cynics.
Romantic comedies are one of the most important genres in the movie industry because they are unfailingly popular. They not only entertain us, they make us feel there is hope in love. I am not someone who is lucky in finding love. But I remain hopeful. Which may be bad news if what this friend of mine said is true. That true love will finally show up only when we have truly given up on it ever showing up. But I still remain hopeful. Because I believe life’s happiness and sorrow, life’s achievements and setbacks, should be shared with a special person to be meaningful. And I believe looking for love is a birth right. When a child feels a strong attraction to someone, until society stains this feeling with its standards and expectations, this attraction is pure, direct and unadulterated love. This love is celebrated freely, not linked to any conditions or any special dates. Here, one week after the East-West Valentine’s Day, I wish you love…
‘A baby is born with a need to be loved, and never outgrows it.’