Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Fragmented Family


It was passed midnight on a Monday night. My takings was bad for the day and I was determined to drive a bit longer to make a decent profit. I rushed to my favorite spot in IBP (International Business Park) after dropping my last customer nearby. To my great disappointment, there were already a long queue of taxis at IBP when I arrived. I decided to give the place a miss and cruised towards city instead, hoping to pick some customers along the way. But there was none. Finally, I turned into Holland Village, a popular foodie paradise in the west of Singapore. This place is usually crowed in the evening because it has a very good mix of restaurants serving Italian, Mediterranean cuisine, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Vietnamese, you name it, they have it.

As I was slowly making a turn into the narrow lane that leads to the queuing spot at Crystal Jade Restaurant, a yellow top taxi overtook me and queued ahead of me. A moment later, I saw a Caucasian man with a can of beer in his hand and in a drunken demeanor stumbled into the yellow top taxi infront of me. At least a long five minutes passed before the taxi moved off. I reckoned the taxi driver must have some disagreement with the white man and I was glad that he was not my customer for obvious reasons.

My eyes then caught sight of two men standing beside my taxi. They seems like my potential customers, ready to hop into my taxi at any moment. One chap was a young, astonishingly handsome Chinese man in early twenty at about 1.7 meter tall. He looks scholarly, elegant in T-shirt and with a face that reminds me of Mr. Chow Yin Fatt, a famous Hong Kong actor. The other guy was a stout Caucasian man of about fifty in casual wear. They were standing and chatting happily for a long while, like lovers unwilling to bid good bye to each other. Eventually, the older man passed a fifty dollar note to the handsome young man and they hugged each other affectionately like young lovers biding farewell for the last time. It was a touching and emotional sight to behold.

Finally, the white man got into the back seat of my taxi, leaving the young chap behind and told me to go to Carlton Hotel. He spoke with an unrecognizable western accent in a wary voice. Soon, he was on his cell phone chatting with his loved ones. I can't help eavesdropping on his conversation but embraced it to pass a tiring day. We did not exchanged a word till we reached the junction of Orchard and Scott Road. The traffic was slow moving as there was road work at the junction.
"What are they doing", the man suddenly broke the silence in my cab.
"I guess they are repairing the underground passage ways that connects the various malls at this junctions'. I replied like the project manager of the road work.

I can't remember what we spoke after breaking the ice of silence, but he later said "That young man was my son". I was pleasantly surprised and stole a closer look at him through my rear view mirror. He do not come anywhere close in appearance to the young handsome chap. He looked western, while the young chap was oriental.

"My wife is a Singaporean Chinese. She lives with my daughter in Switzerland, while my son is in Singapore and I work in Hong Kong. We are a fragmented family. This is terrible and I don't like it". He revealed in a disgruntled voice.

"I flew into Singapore this morning and immediately had a office meeting till 10pm this evening. I had to steal an hour to meet my son, whom I had not met for a long time. I had work long enough for others and must made a change for the sake of my family. I love Singapore and definitely want to make this place a permanent home for my family." He spoke to me like an old acquaintance letting off his inner thoughts and frustrations.

"What do you do for a living" I ventured to ask tongue in cheek.
"I'm in freight forwarding business". he answered instantly.
"How old are you". I asked. "I'm 50 and an Austrian". he answered.
"You are still young, my friend. One day you will achieve your dream if you dare to dream". I tried to cheer him up but I was not sure he heard what I said. I wanted to quote the Chinese proverb of "turning a steel rod into a needle" but then we had hit the hotel.
The fare was $12.50. He paid $14 and asked me to keep the change.

A fragmented family indeed and a complex one too. But I like to quote a epilogue from Dr's Cai book :

           To see a world in a grain of sand,
           And heaven in a wild flower,
           Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
           And eternity in an hour.

This is a stanza written by the English poet William Blake. It simply mean that it is only possible to truly understand the big picture after you have studied the fine details.

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