Who owns you?

I just watched *again* the documentary ‘The Corporation’ by Joel Bakan. Big mamma ChannelNewsAsia showed it in 4 parts – but alas, it is good to expose Singaporeans to such thought-provoking masterpieces as compared to locally-produced documentaries which are often cobbled together within a few weeks, at most – months.How the Singaporean producers are able to conduct their research within that short time, and then label the work as documentaries (some even go as far as saying it is a POV (Point-of-View) docus) baffles me. The best docus I’ve watched are made in years, mostly shot patiently and with hundreds of hours of research. Here in Singapore, I do understand that it is hard to find that luxury called Time to make such quality work. I just wish we are not so cocky as to call touch-n-go pieces of current affairs work as ‘documentaries’. If you think about it, this cockiness *right spelling?* comes from a huge sense of of ownership (Singapore’s TV industry is of course a monopoly).

Many may not realise that Ownership, if not checked and audited – will rear its ugly head called Control.When you are in control of the industry, you can define things the way you want them to be – an infotainment can be labelled as documentary, a news story can be labelled as a current affairs programme and the list goes on. Put that against Singapore’s backdrop of competitiveness, no one will really take the time (or have any) to reflect and make some noise about this shallowness. We are not known to be the kind of society who will question definitions, and I don’t think we will ever be. For the minority who do engage in such activities – they will be ridiculed.

For the above reasons, I cannot understand Singaporeans who complain, complain, complain about everything without thinking of a solution and the cause.They blame the government for all the high costs, the neighbours for all the noise, the police for all the crimes and the firemen for bushfires! How can you complain when you choose to disengage yourself from the evolution of something in the first place?! You choose to disown the process of defining, so do NOT complain when someone else define it for you.

Here’s a more micro example. My cousin owns an employment agency for foreign maids. Occasionally, she will have maids in transition who need to be housed for a few days before their next assignment. When her own home is full of maids (up to 4 at one time!), she will house them at our place.

Today, 2 such maids were at my place. One of them was crying – and when asked by my mum – we found out that her ex-employer terminated her contract within a few days and on top of that – refuses to let her take her bag of clothes home! The poor lady, a single mother of 4 from Indonesia and who is merely trying to make ends meet – now has nothing to wear except for a well-worn T-shirt and a pair of soft jeans she has on. You may ask why in the first place was her contract terminated suddenly – well, it is because she cut the chicken the wrong way and not according to what the employer asked her to. For that reason, the ex-employer take it upon herself to keep the poor maid’s bag of clothes as a ‘punishment’ for the mistake. Talk about definition, control and a warped sense of ownership!

I was speechless. Like most of you, my human instinct told me to execute damage control – so I ploughed through my closet and put together a bag of clothes that I can give her. A few T-shirts, pants, and several blouses. There was one particular T-shirt that I hesitated to put into the bag because it has sentimental value until, I reminded myself that it is only an act of giving when you give something you love, not something you don’t need. And so that T-shirt goes into the bag too.

Ownership and control is a lethal combination. The trouble with the human mind is – we tend to automatically shy away from intangible issues and not explore where within ourselves does a dangerous trait like this, lurks. Good for our soul? Why don’t YOU define that.

Stop the music.

If you, like many others in my close circle wonder how I cope with a marriage geographically divided by a mean distance of 18,000 miles apart – the key factor is, none other than, – music. Sentimental music to be exact. It is not that I listen to it to soothe my nerves, I just shut it down these days.

Music is like a key to an entire floodgate of emotions in me. In a space where I need to keep check of my missing a loved one so badly, keep the rational-side of my brain dominant and maintaining the energy to not give up so easily on our endless job search for suitable work (for him) in Singapore, I simply cannot afford to listen to sentimental music. I cannot afford to cry cos I will break.

I had stopped singing in the bathroom, and recently, even in my mind. No hums while walking to the bus-stops either. If any, it is just the occasional zikir to keep myself calm.

It is indeed a sorry state for a music lover. I love singing, and my happiest days were when I used to jam every week – hijab securely on head, with the now-defunct band F & C in a small studio called Boon’s down at Macpherson Road. Those were the days.

How the band played Sarah MachLachlan’s ‘Angel’ every single week to get me warmed up for the repertoire of original-songs that the band members wrote, cos that was, and is still, my favourite song. So many a time that I sang ‘Angel’, until one day, Melvin Singh – whose daytime job is also to chase reporters to file stories for The New Paper – one day literally beat the drums and made all of us sang ‘Angel’ reggae-style! Hilarious.

Carl Baptista, who is now a new daddy and is still travelling in and out of Singapore as the world’s busiest pestbuster (Carl runs Origins Exterminators) will ask me over and over again to sing Anggun’s ‘Snow On The Sahara’, and how I will forget the lyrics every single time. I sure hope Carl sings that song to his new baby somehow…

I miss my music. I miss simply, the connection that music has with my emotions. But I cannot afford that right now. Not until we have settled our lives (*read: living in one country*). For now, music is NOT music to my ears.