Thoughts on decisionmaking

When you need to decide between the better of two evils, which do you choose and how?

For me, I put off my decision-making till the last minute possible, (I do give myself a logical and feasible deadline till which to put off, though) think over it, dream about it and sleep over it…..then let instinct take over. That is because I mostly have the luxury of time. I realize not many people have that. I have always had a lot of respect for decisive people, those who look a problem in the eye and decide to do something about it.

I wonder what people do when faced with difficult decisions. Probably says a real lot about who they are as people.

Writing Ideas from a Digital Photo Frame

Too much of technology in our modern lives: from the cell phone, the MP3 players, the media players: there is just too much input to process, at least for me.

But there is one piece of technology I have come to really appreciate in the last few days: and that, surprisingly, is the Digital Photo Frame.

As one picture follows the other within its sleek contours, I am transported to different times, different places. Pictures of friends, romantic moments, sheer fun, of incredible beauty— all captured at different times of my life, and now displayed in a timed, unbroken chain.

Lines and snatches of writing ideas start coming to me, unbidden, out of nowhere.  Who knew a piece of digital technology would prove to be such an inspiration? But so it is.

So much for the United States of America!

Yesterday my father-in-law moved into intensive care all of a sudden, and is still in a critical situation. I am thousands of miles away from the family, in Singapore.

Unfortunately, my husband also had just then taken a flight to Chicago from Hong Kong, a long 14-hour flight.

I called Chicago United Airlines, desperate.

A computer answered me, which is normal. It understood human voice, and when I said Help, Agent, it directed me to an agent. So far, so good.

I finally managed to get thru to a human being.

But I realized, this one was not much better than a robot. She sounded like a dragon lady, silently put me on indefinite holds without telling me she was checking or whatever, was unfailingly rude, and finally told me her computer did not have any data regarding my husband…she needed the ticket number to confirm his existence on the plane.

I called again, armed with the ticket number.

Second dragon lady, just as winsome as the first one, who again put me on various silent holds without telling me what was going on. She finally came up with: He is on the flight, but we do not have the means to pass him a message on the flight. Can pass it once he has landed.

No matter how I requested, I was told that a message cannot be passed on board the flight.

The supervisor who came on line was a little better trained (actually uttered the words I am sorry for the difficult situation you are in etc.,) but said the pilot can only be contacted if there is an emergency threat to the plane: FAA regulations and all that.

But he promised that the message would definitely be delivered once my husband landed in Chicago.

I was disappointed. But I thought, fair enough, they are doing their job, thanked them and hung up.

I waited up till 2am in the morning so I could call my husband, and after a few dozen calls finally found him. He had not got any message so far, so I told him about his dad, and he hung up so he could call his family.

I talked to him now, a few hours later, and realized no one from the United Airlines ever gave him any message.

So much for United Airlines.

For all their snobbish, holier-than-thou and patronizing attitudes, none of the agents did their job.

Welcome to the real United States, I told myself.

I had so far only met very nice, compassionate and extremely competent American expats, and my view of America and Americans had been largely shaped by them.

But with this one experience over the phone (during which I paid full international call charges between Singapore and Chicago for over an hour), I began to have a completely new and different view of the country and its people.

I don’t think individuals realize how much their actions count in the image of their country.

For now, I have this much to say: So much for the United States of America!

Some days, you write

Some days, you write. Other days, you simply cannot.

Today is one of those days, when I have a dozen things on my mind, most of them not so cheerful.

After years of writing, I have come to accept that some days you write, other days you don’t, and that is how things are. Today is just one of those “other” days.

Running to win

I can see the park by the bay as I write, and it is so amusing to see all the joggers early in the morning. There are those that amble along, dragging their feet, barely awake. Probably been dragged out of bed by unforgiving spouses and shoved out of the house to jog for health reasons.

Then there are those who would jog bare-bodied, no matter how puny their bodies, heart monitors stuck across their chests and on the arm. ( A lot of Singaporean men are undeniably puny). And when they pass a woman they puff up their chests, oh, just a little. I know this because I have seen them in action when I used to be a regular morning walker myself.

There are also the athletic types, who  probably run marathons, in their very fancy nike and adidas, both men and women, their ipods letting them set their pace. They look different, even from a distance.

And it is with them that I see the most interesting dramas played out everyday.

There would be one casual jogger or another who would be running along while these chiseled marathon types effortlessly passes him or her by. Most take it cool, but there are some that take it as a personal affront. (Women somehow never seem to take it personally, perhaps because they are not as naturally physically competitive?)

Then they put everything they have into their run, and cross the athletes with a superior look. After a hundred meters, they are huffing and puffing, and have  to stop soon afterwards. The athletes pass them by without a second glance.

Not unlike in school or office, where I have seen everyone always running for the first place.

Running to win is all very well, but it cannot be done in a day. The athletes did not peak their physical condition in a day and nor can anyone else.

But this is a truth we often forget, I guess, not only while jogging, but in life itself.

Writing from a dream

Writing mostly surfaces from the subconcious, and dreams are our window to our subconcious. Some of the most wonderful ideas can strike you just as you begin to wake up, ideas not necessarily practical, but with undeniable potential to develop into a story.

From the cusp of sleep and awakening it is possible to pull out skeins that can become anything you want it to, a poem, a flash story, a short story, a novella…. the sky is the limit.


I always keep a pencil and notebook handy beside my bed, and on mornings I wake up from a memorable, yet already half-forgotten dream, I make a few notes. That is where I get most of my imagery from, even sometimes for some of my most everyday articles. I was checking the internet for people who write dream journals, and I found an interesting one that reminded me of so many things about my own dreams.

Turning dreams into reality can work out even in the most literal sense.

To write a story, look for one in your dreams.

On the lingering fragrance of old letters

I was cleaning up one of my study drawers (because I was trying to find a piece of paper and could not find it, story of my life) when I happened on an envelope full of letters from my family when I was away at college.

They were lying there forgotten, having been dutifully carried as I moved from city to city, country to country.

Writing letters was a necessity then, phone calls were expensive and nobody had heard of the internet.

I held up the folded sheafs of paper filled with my dad’s neat handwriting, my aunt’s occasional scrawls and my sister’s quick scribbles and sifted through them one by one. A turn of phrase here, a word of love and longing there, scattered about in those aging pages. The letters smelt of home: of mum’s cooking, of dad’s garden, my sister’s hugs—they were all there, pressed within the folds of those precious letters, a sum-total of my teenage and youth.

I have moved on since then, I call my parents across the seas and exchange emails with my sister. But the exchanges float away in ether. As I grow old, I’m afraid I would have only the fragrance of these frail old letters to take me back to those times long gone.