Tag Archive | Coronation Plaza

Where’s home?

To end every year of the Chinese calendar, I participate in two family re-unions. Reason: I have 7 brothers with whom I share the same father and one sister with whom I share both parents.

After my grandfather passed away in 1986, my father for reasons best known to himself initiated the mammoth re-union dinner for the extended family. Which was never on Chinese New Year eve itself but on a night close enough. That’s a nod to the fact that majority of the extended family members already have families and in-laws of their own and their priorities for New Year’s eve might not co-incide with the minority.

The reunion dinners with Dad were always in a vegetarian restaurant — mostly at Kingsland (now gone with the wind as has the complex where it once was — Albert Complex, now renamed OG) but occasionally there were deviations, such as once in Coronation Plaza This was because Dad was a full-blown vegetarian.

When he left us in 2001, the extended family wanted to carry on with the reunion dinners, tho with one important change. We forsook vegetarian restaurants: we went from buffet outlets (eg Princess Terrace) to sit-down fare at Old Hongkong one year and Zhou’s Kitchen another year, both at Novena Square.

We might have gone to another restaurant for the latest mammoth reunion but as there were easily 50 of us, even when the full complement is never present, someone thought a potluck at a condo club house might be more economical and relaxed especially now that the extended family includes some restless early primary school kids who are less easy to restrain that babes in arm!

So there we were on Saturday night (Jan 21) at a condo (where No 1 nephew lives) on Dunearn Road with a satay man working overtime to feed the hungry mouths. In addition, there were home fried beehoon Putien style (we are more or less Putienese), chicken wings from Ikea, brocoli and cauliflower vegetarian dish, tofu vegetarian dish, vegetarian fried rice, vegetarian vegetable curry, tradional Cantonese “chai”, Peking duck, pizzas, whole soy sauce chicken from Chinatown, home made Drambuie fruit cake, papaya, Jeyu grapes, white nectarine, bean curd gingko nut soup and Belgian chocolates.

potluck lucky mish mash

Alas, I overlooked to take any pictures of the ecclectic spread but managed too late to take one of what I was eating in my third round, as I listened to my oldest brother explain why he’s still nostalgic for Singapore.

P said: “I’ve been living in Melbourne since 2005 but the longer I’ve been away, the more I miss home. I don’t feel at home unless I’m in Singapore.”

I postulated that it’s because he and wife live with their daughter and family Down Under.

“No,” he replied. “We feel at home when we are there. It’s only during the 3 nights every week when we are in our own house that we feel home-sick.”

Shorthand? Family makes for home and reduces home-sickness when away from Singapore.

I looked around the room as those who share my bloodline or are related to me through marriage cluster in small groups bonding over food and catching up.

Two nephews have relocated from the Middle East; one after 5 years in Egypt; another after 3 years in Qatar. Another absent nephew has worked in Kuala Lumpur longer than he has worked in Singapore.

There’s a brother who is almost a China permanent resident having been there since the early 1980s, not to live but on short stints that lasted several months a time in places like Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu — till more recently when one factory he’s overseeing in Xian is finally done and he like all of us are getting on in age and prefer the bubble of S’pore to the wide expanse of the world.

His daughter, however, has globe-trotted for one year even be4 she had completed her tertiary education, calling many parts of the US and parts of Italy her temporary home.

Yet another brother makes such regular and extended trips to Shanghai shepherding his Singapore students to a twin school there that he feels quite an expert on the former “Paree of the East” :lol:!

I wonder how many of my nieces and nephews and their offspring — or even my younger siblings– would feel like my oldest brother feels: nowhere in the world other than Singapore feels like home? After all, unlike us — ie their parents and/or grand-parents —  the wider world would be where their own family would be scattered as more and more places would be accessible to Singapore and Singapore to those places.

By contrast, my reunion dinner at my sister’s last night was less of a thought provoking affair. It’s always good robust Chinese cooking as her late MIL used to serve the family. And my sister and her hubby have been living in the same home for the last 39 years — which is really rare in a world of rapid and constant change! 🙄

Not sure if this is exhilirating or plain depressing, especially when I consider that after many, many house moves I too have settled in one place for gasp-gasp (!!) 22 years! Have I grown roots or have I just become moribund?

Done this for 39 reunion dinners

Kindness of strangers

Does Singapore need a Kindness Movement? I often think not, considering how many times I and my mother have been at the receiving end of kindness from total strangers.

Or perhaps the Kindness Movement after so many years has rubbed off on people sharing this island? Whatever…

Today, I was again at the receiving end of kindness from a total stranger, well-dressed and looking every inch the tai-tai or at least an upper echelon career woman.

I was going down the steep stairs to the Coronation Plaza carpark, carrying five bulging bags of grocery, veggies and fruits from Fairprice and while not exactly in teetering heels, my sandals were nothing short of 3cm off the ground.

I had started my shopping intending to get only spring onions, celery and ginger as I know the Fairprice there had no lifts to the carpark. Then, of cos, I got carried away. And consequently looked very likely to have to carried out of the carpark if I slipped and fell…

But then an angel appeared at the bottom of the stairs, asking me if I needed any help while I was at the top, calculating whether I could safely make the descent.

I hesitated. Then I said, timidly, “Perhaps just one bag?”, because she was after all a woman and might not be any stronger than me.

“Let me take these,” the angel said and, running up, relieved me of all three bags in my left hand, so in effect taking over the bulk of my shopping.

She accompanied me to my car, put the shopping in and waved off my thanks with a smile and then disappeared back up the stairs.

It was the same a few months ago, when my mother lost her balance at Shaw Centre, while I was several paces ahead and her dozy maid Siti was several paces behind her.

Immediately, people who were passing mum on both sides stopped and rushed to her, even as Siti ran up and I turned back on hearing the commotion. Nor were all the Good Samaritans willing to walk away even after ensuring that the octogenarian had carers with her.

At least three aunties ladened with Isetan bags accompanied us all the way to the lift, up to the carpark and volunteered to stay with mum, while I went to bring the car to the lobby.

OK, they might be ladies who lunch who didn’t have much to do, but then, if they had a selfish bone in them, they would have preferred to do nothing than take on the gratuitous task of looking after a stranger’s mum.

I’ve a 3rd encounter of help from strangers. About 3 years ago, I fell down on the side road that separated Tangs from Lucky Plaza. It was busy lunch time and as I was winding my way thru the pushing mass, I slipped and crashed heavily to the ground, hand-bag and sandals flying a metre or more from where I fell.

Miraculously, the human mass parted; no one trampled on me and it seemed no one walked on by as several people squated around me, all wanting to help me up while a couple of others rescued my handbag and sandals.

I was badly shaken but had no visible external injuries. Just sat there dazed for a couple of minutes unable to respond fully to the murmurs of concern. I was helped to my feet and was asked repeatedly if I was OK.

Slowly tho reluctantly most of the Good Samaritans moved away but two women remained, suggesting that they accompany me to Tangs to rest. Which was what happened.

My experience tells me that there are very kind people in Singapore, who don’t mind giving their attention and time to a stranger in need.