I ran into Prof Lim Chong Yah…

… today….

I was about to get into a lift to go to the Novena Square carpark and he was coming out.

He was carrying a Fairprice plastic bag which suggested he must have gone to shop at Square 2 (where there’s a Fairprice outlet) but parked somewhere else… perhaps like me, he is a frequent visitor to this Golden Triangle of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Novena Square and Square 2.

No matter.

I greeted him. He looked very pleased and we shook hands. He asked for my name.

I told him gladly but it didn’t register so I said I last met him many, many years ago in Kuala Lumpur when he was with University of Malaya.

He remarked on my good memory. I said no, it’s just that I follow the news and could recognise him from the newspapers and TV appearances over the years.

I didn’t dare refer to his Shock Therapy to raise the wages of the lower paid in Singapore as our short encounter is no place for me to knock what he has suggested nor would there be time for him to defend his “solution”, assuming he was so inclined.

We said good bye; he went on his way and me into the lift.

We managed that two-minute exchange because there was no one inside the lift and none were behind me waiting to get in!

After I left him, I couldn’t help thinking how tiny and bent he had become. I somehow felt I towered over him, which probably wasn’t true, as I was wearing flatties today, due to the rain, not my normal stilts. 🙄

After I left him I couldn’t stop those terrible lines from Yeats from coming unbidden to mind! (I’ve bold the crucial words!)

THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


5 thoughts on “I ran into Prof Lim Chong Yah…

  1. Beautiful sad poignant poem. How I wish to hug our old man Professor Lim for speaking out for the low wage workers even though it may not appear to be very practical!

  2. When we sing ‘Stand up for Singapore’, we are meant to include the old and the needy and to speak out for the low wage workers as stated by Gintai.. lest we forget. My thanks to Prof Lim for the proposition. I am aware that those in Govt and those supporting the Govt does not agree… do not lose heart as there is always a contrary view..

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