Month: September 2011

Woman, interrupted

They didn’t stay much upon their stand
Wood, glass, acrylic bands
Bangles of every tone and hue
To match the silks and cottons new
And decorate her hands.

This set is missing a few because they’re made of glass. When she wore them for a dance performance they broke as they smashed against each other with the vigour of her movements. One piece pierced her foot. She danced on, no outward sign of pain on her face. Afterward she sobbed as he gently eased the offending splinter out of her flesh. Glass bangles are beautiful, but they break easily. And she doesn’t dance anymore.

More glass bangles, red and green, interspersed with gold. To match her wedding sari. Gently eased on ceremoniously, to mark her status as a bride. Everywhere she goes for the next few weeks, the bangles, the henna on her hands and the yellow thread around her neck mark her as newly married. Glass bangles get in the way of the lovemaking, but offer a ritualistic challenge because of their delicate tinkle when they are aroused, their inevitable shattering when they are not treated gently enough. And she’s not a new bride anymore.

These with the pink salwar khameez, those with the blue sari. Oh! These never matched anything so she only wore them when she was in a certain contrary mood. If he had been more observant, her bangles could have foretold that argument. Prevented the shouting, the inevitable tears, the passionate rapprochement after the storm…on second thoughts, perhaps the blinkers made life more fun. Contrary unmatching bangles be damned. And she’s not an overexcited girl anymore.

Plastic bangles, mostly, when the babies came along. They played with the coloured bands as she nursed them. She used them to remind herself which side she had to nurse them on the next time, switching them from one wrist to the other. When they got bored at a gathering or a dinner party, spinning the acrylic circles on the floor mesmerised them, stimulated them, kept them happy long enough for her to grab a bite. A little later, the metal bangles were perfect as a template for drawing circles. And her babies are all grown up.

Metal bangles not good when cooking though. Oh no! They heated up too quickly when she was stirring at the stove, burning her wrist. All it took was once to learn her lesson. A single bangle on each wrist, so that no clanking or tinkling or jingling will wake sleeping children. So that there are no annoyingly repetitive noises from annoyingly repetitive movements like folding clothes, making beds, mopping floors. And she doesn’t do that anymore.

Bangles get in the way when you’re typing at a computer, writing on a notepad, feverishly thumbing through books, trying to frame your thoughts. Bangles remind you of a past life when your femininity was invested in what you did, whom you did it for, how you fit into the rules. Bangles made you a woman, because that was the joke- when a man was less than a man, they gave him bangles. A woman is…less than a man? Bangles are…a woman? A woman is…her bangles? And she’s not that woman anymore.

They’re back there now upon their stand
Decorative in a way that she isn’t anymore
They don’t stand for what she can achieve

Womanhood interruptus

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Wikileaks and the deafening silence

The links are being blasted onto my Twitter timeline by this account I follow called @Vote_SG. They are also being posted on Facebook by The Online Citizen. The content of the Wikileaks cables are damning in many ways, yet come as no surprise. What they contain is pretty much what navel-gazing old men in coffeeshops and audience-hungry taxi drivers have been pontificating about all along. Lack of press freedom, tight government control, problems among the opposition, dominant party’s tactics and opinions, problematic immigration policy…if you’ve been in Singapore for even a week, you know all this already. You certainly don’t need Wikileaks to tell it to you. Maybe we are more open and less repressed a society than we thought we were.

When Wikileaks first burst on the scene last year there were major debates about freedom of information versus the need to protect government secrets. There are governments that have been deceiving their people – in these cases the cause of democracy has (it is argued) been furthered by Assange’s setup. But there are people whose lives are in grave danger because of Wikileaks, as James Ball reports in The Guardian.

The Singapore cables are probably the least important ones in terms of their immediate impact. But even so, some heads must be rolling now. The silence as far as the public is concerned is deafening. I can see how it would make sense for the frontline government action to be “no comment”. Commenting would indicate that Wikileaks is being taken seriously, given legitimacy. But not commenting may not be an option in today’s political climate. If there is anything that the General Election and the Presidential Election have shown us, it is that Singaporeans are clamouring for more transparency. What has been leaked this time are not official documents. They are conversations that had taken place (I assume) under conditions of confidentiality. How are these to be handled?

One of the journalists highlighted in the cable concerning press freedom wrote a Facebook note explaining that she had been quoted out of context. I think that is par for the course in that particular profession. She also pretty much contradicted everything in the cable. I don’t blame her for doing this. Clearly it is not easy to be in the eye of the storm, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. There is a clear policy on the handling of confidential government information. But this latest round of revelations concerning Singapore came mainly from conversations which were then recorded (amazing memories these chaps have, I must say). What is our policy on those?

Given our current political climate, it might be time for some comment. Love it or hate it, Wikileaks has changed the rules of the game. I’d like to know how we plan to play it on our end.

PS: Found the above picture here