Saturday, 17 October 2009

the little (bit of) nyonya in me...

i've been parking myself in front of the tv a lot lately, going thru the latest dvd set i managed to borrow from my godma on my recent trip back home. the drama series "the little nyonya" was produced by singaporean mediacorp, and is said to be the series with the highest production cost in the history of mediacorp.

tho' it's not a perfect production, in the sense that it did not really give an accurate portrayal of the peranakan chinese, what had me hooked was the drama!we all love our little dramas... hehe...

firstly, let me load off some rants abt the series...

1) the peranakans, esp. those of the older generations, do not speak mandarin (singapore mandarin some more!). they speak in baba-malay and/or english with a mix of

2) ok, even if the singaporean actors and actresses don't speak malay, the least the production team can do is make them practice the few malay words (that inevitably cropped up) over and over again to make them sound more convincing, rather than sounding so pelat (malay for "accented"). only
pierre png gave an acceptable portrayal of the baba, where the language goes.

3) the baba and nyonya entertainment was referred to as "sing the pantun". eh hello, it's called
dondang sayang lar!

4) the interior of huang family's ancestral home, set in heeren street, m'ca, seems so big. while the exterior is just of a normal sized, pre-war 2 storey shophouse that line heeren street and the various streets adjacent to it, the interior looks like that of a huge mansion! hello, u think harry potter story meh?? it will take at least 3 lots of shophouses to make up the interior of the huang family house. i know, coz dad grew up in one such houses (on heeren street itself!) and used to bring bro and i to visit our late ah mah when we were young.

5) the character, ah tao or tao jie, is supposed to be an
amah or ma-jie. these domestic helpers belong to a group of "black-and-white sisterhood" that are not your regular maids or servants of the olden days. while maids and servants are the property of the family they are serving and normally do not get paid, an amah is an independent wage earner. sought after for their professional services, the amahs do not take crap from their employers. they can just pack up and leave and the employers will be ones suffering the greater loss. but in this series, this ah tao is punished, tortured and abused freely by the huangs. so not accurate! such a disrespect to the spirit and principle behind the sisterhood!

6) since when is there a railway track or railway station in modern day m'ca town?? the nearest (and the one and only) would be in alor gajah, and that's quite far away from heeren street. but the drama series made it seemed so near that their characters can just traipse over there on foot in mere minutes.

ok, enough ranting! hehehe... now on the drama. like i said, i'm hooked by the drama and plot of this series. sure, like any family drama about the olden days, it's full of the usuals. filial peity, the duty to procreate and carry on the family lineage, the
virtues of women, the chastity of unmarried girls, ancestor worship, opression of the women, arranged marriage, marriage as a kind of business deal, etc etc. but more than that, it's because of the peranakan theme. very few ppl know this abt me, but i'm actually a half nyonya. a quarter nyonya, to be more accurate.

you see,
popo was sort of a mistress to a baba. i said "sort of" because the said baba (technically my maternal grandfather) did not really support the livelihood of popo nor the 2 children they had together. so tho' i've met this 'grandfather' of mine a few times when i was young, he wasn't very 'grandfatherly' nor played an important role in my life, but that's another post for another time :)

i grew up in a hokkien (dad) and hakka (mom/popo) environment. not that we abide strictly to the rules and conventions of the clans... with both my parents being the youngest among their siblings and bro and i one of the youngest among all our cousins, ah mah and popo have mellowed out some by the time we came along and were quite liberal with our upbringing, as opposed to some of my older cousins' times.

so anyway, even though i have a whole army of baba half uncles, nyonya half aunties and half cousins, who have made an effort to have some family ties with us after my baba grandfather's (and their nyonya mother's) passing, i've never considered myself as a nyonya. maybe when someone
commented that i don't look like a pure chinese (which happened a few times when i went to hk/china. i guess the locals here are used to these looks to really notice it in me?), i'd just make a passing remark that my maternal grandfather was a baba.

but watching this drama series has raised a kind of curiosity in me towards that (quarter) part of my ancestry. not that i'd suddenly start to take up cooking classes in nyonya dishes and kuih, and make bead-embroidered slippers, the two main skills the family matriarch look for in future daughters-in-law (which if is still practiced today, i'd surely die an anak dara tua [malay for "old maid"]), or start donning the kebaya, speak baba malay and chew betel nut leaves while playing cheki. instead, it has had me thinking about my baba nyonya nenek moyang (malay for "ancestors"), of what trade they went into in the olden days, if they were rich and influential (as most olden peranakan families were) and if the women folk were indeed embroiled in so much conniving, jealousy, domestic violence and drama.

and don't this kebaya look simply yummy? wonder how i'd look in one! :P

Friday, 9 October 2009

that creature called sleep...

friends who've been following my facebook status would know that i've been having sleeping problems lately...

it all started last week, on a wednesday night (or rather, thursday morning). i went to bed at my usual time of 1 am - 2am and as always, i like to do some reading before i switch off my bedside lamp to go to sleep. normally, i'd be so tired by then that after a page or two, my eyes will become so heavy that i can't take in anymore word even if i wanted to.

but dunno what went wrong that day... after reading for more than 1 hour, i still didn't feel the usual drowsiness wash over me. so at 3.30am, i decided that sleepy or not, i really should get some sleep. it's a working day the next day, after all... after putting down my book and switching off my lamp, i did went off into slumber. but only for 1.5 hour! opened my eyes, saw that it's still dark and turned to look at the clock. the glow-in-the-dark hands of my alarm clock said 5am. what the heck am i waking up at 5am for??? what more, i feel so 'fresh' and wide awake! for someone who needs 2 alarm clocks to wake her up in the morning, this is really a first. and tried as i may - tossed and turned, counted sheep, cleared my mind, turned up the fan, stared at the ceiling, everything! - i just can't seem to doze off again!

at 6.30am, i've had enough. so i got up, got ready and reached the office at exactly 8am, the start of the 1st shift. actually i'm on the 2nd shift, which starts at 9.30am, so needless to say everyone was quite surprised to see me in the office so early. but that whole day in the office was like hell! it's really a mental torture trying to focus my tired eyes on the screen, focus my attention to the things ppl tell me, focus my brain to process all those info. i feel like in a nazi concentration camp where i'm being subjected to forced sleep deprivation!

and tho' i try to put in as much rest as possible in the days following that sleepless night, i've been in a state of perpetual exhaustion! gosh... the sleep debt interest is indeed exorbitant!

and this week, just when i've started to recover some, it happened again! also on a wednesday! argh!!! this time, i didn't even fall asleep. i was dead tired, but seemed like my brain has gone into hyperactivity. what the heck is wrong with me?

this time round, i'm forced to take emergency leave. how can i drag my ass off to the office when i've not gotten even a wink of sleep? i think i would just collapse from the fatigue. and right after i made up my mind to skip work and sent an sms to the bossboss, i felt my brain shutting down and sleep finally came to me! hmm...

it's so infuriating... normally i'm a big sleepy head. i can sleep practically at anytime and anywhere. once, i've even fallen asleep right on the couch in a noisy pub while the rest of my colleagues were playing pool. since then, i've been nicknamed the sleeping beauty by my colleagues and banned from joining them in any more outings to the pub that involves pool games! hehe...

so it really boggles the mind why i've suddenly turned into a weekly insomniac! stress at work? the hot and humid weather? the positions of the moon and the stars? someone spiked my food and drinks with copious amount of caffeine? an enemy pulled a voodoo on me?

whatever it is, just hope it won't happen again. i'm already so heavily in sleep debt, another setback might just force me into sleep bankruptcy!(wonder what happens when someone is sleep bankrupt...)

Monday, 5 October 2009

the queer skeleton...

i recently stumbled upon a friend's blog and discovered that he's actually gay! well, actually i wasn't very surprised. my reaction was more like, "hmm... gay huh? ok..."

i would say that has been my standard reaction when discovering that some of my friends are not straight, be it they coming out to me themselves or i found it out by chance. i've always been quite liberal abt such things... wanna get a tatoo? go for it! wanna take up pole dancing? why not? love someone of your own sex? hey, it's ur life!

actually, i kinda enjoy being in the company of my gay and les friends. sure, some of them can be pretty lewd and disgusting, but on the whole, i find them to be more truthful and open to their true self (at least those who've thrown open the closet door lar) than some of my straight friends, especially the girls. some straight girls can be pretty tight-assed, putting up a prim and proper front to such things as queers and same-sex relationships. i mean, come on lah, isn't homosexuality a pretty common thing now in this time and age?

for me, as long as they do not harm others, steal, rob, kill, murder etc, i'm ready to accept them for who they are. it's their life, after all. and as long as they're happy, who are we to judge what's right and what's wrong? i'm sure life is difficult enough for them as it is, without having their friends turning their backs on them once their skeletons spill out from the closet.

anyway, back to my gay friend. let's call him ryuu for easy reference. ryuu's actually the son of my parents' friends. so i can't say we had a particularly close friendship. sure, we played together when we were young, and meet occasionally during the get-together sessions of our families but i don't really know him that well, other than of course the general info such as he studied A in B university and is now a C in D state.

and finding out abt his sexual preference don't disturb me at all. on the contrary, i think i may have liked him a little bit more compared to before! yeah, i know, it's weird. but i've always prefered him to his (straight) elder bro anyway. maybe it's the age gap, but straight elder bro never really took much notice of me. racked my brains, but i can't recall a single occasion where he actually talked to me! on the other hand, ryuu is always making funny remarks at me, teasing me and telling me stuff. and he's such a drama queen! it's hard to keep up an appearance of shy feminine decorum when someone is pretending to faint on us, or giving a hilarious and exaggerated impersonation of the typical dragon lady mother-in-law!

but that being said, discovering ryuu's blog has put me in a dilemma. should i tell mom? from what i read in ryuu's blog, his parents are already in the know, so there's really no harm of mom spilling the beans. what i'm afraid of is mom asking those questions that they all like to ask when they get together... questions like, "has (name of son/daughter) found a girlfriend/boyfriend yet?" how should a mother to a gay son answer that?! "oh, not anytime soon. he's gay!"? i don't think so lor...

and god forbid if mom should ask that question to ryuu directly, and IN FRONT OF ME! gosh, i wouldn't know where to look! it'll be SO DEM BLARDY AWKWARD, i tell u!