out of sight, out of mind
工喜發財，烘包兩個來！All images in this post by J
It seems apt that the annual budget debates is taking place in the midst of the Chinese New Year fortnight, what with the festival's associations with goodies and handouts. But the prime minister gave a CNY message on the family, to balance and reinforce instead his government's other favourite message - that the family is the "basic unit" of society. Hence if you do run into trouble, look not to the state as your first line of defence and assistance, look to your family.
Of course, the prime minister's own family can give him such assurance. His dad, wife, sister and brother... there is really no need to elaborate.
But things are not always as the prime minister would have it.
This CNY will be the first spent with Ma J confined mostly to her bed and all of J's siblings in various states of unspoken annoyance with each other. Still, a Reunion Dinner was a must. Hence, there being no healthy cook or resources for fancy dishes, it was decided that the dinner shall be conducted potluck style instead. And it shall start at 5pm, which is Ma J's new dinner time.
Being game always to try something new, us amps planned 2 dishes instead of 1 - necessitating an early Friday morning trip before work to the wet market at Mr Chiam's territory. And with so many old skool wet markets "upgraded" or replaced by new, cleaner "dry" ones, we decided to offer you this little detour to give 3 useful tips to all you young 'uns who decide to venture to your grandma/ma's fast disappearing world of slippery mosaic tiled floors and jostling housewives.
1. Prepare a shopping list: You are not your grandma/ma. Your brain's not trained to function so early in the morning.
2. Know your freshness scale: You are not your grandma/ma. The stallowner knows what you don't. So make sure you know all the signs for prawns that have been left frozen for the past 3 days and onions that will bring you tears.
3. Just pay more: Since you are not your grandma/ma, the stallowners don't recognise you and don't care to because they know you're not likely going to be a "regular". This means simply that you should be ready to pay more than your average neighbourhood Auntie
The lessons of this shopping trip aside, the Reunion Dinner showed us something about invisibility.
That evening, despite the earlier intention to start the dinner at 5pm, Ma J ate alone. Instead, her children fussed about cleaning the house. And when dinner for the rest of us started, Ma J was brought to sit in the dining room on her wheelchair. The chairs formed around the table in a tight circle - she was outside. Quietly she sat, her eyes half-closed. Then someone noticed, for she was returned to her bed shortly. There, she lay down alone and in silence as the other festivitiesin the living room warned up. No one could bear to look at her - and most did not.
A year ago, my brother E told us about Mr Kam, the invisible man. Then, we had imagined invisibility to be a power we wish we could command at will, but cannot have - not unless someone else chooses to be blind. But when the world does choose to be blind, invisibility becomes a curse we are powerless to shake off. In this way, not by her choice, Ma J has become an invisible woman.
This new year, instead of GongXiFaCai, perhaps J and I should say - Ma J, even if we cannot help you, we see and hear you.
sb - yah, maybe chinese families have a taste for these dramatics, they even have an idiom for it. "家家有本難念的經"? [literally trans: every house has its own book of difficult "sutra"/scripture]
I'm coming back first week of march for a week,let's meet up okaaay.dinner.tell me which night works for you