Monday, 27 February 2012

Noodles and Rice

Valerie is a girl who comes from a rich family, stays in a landed property and has family who believes that a good man should be one that has a good education (degree-holder at least), comes from a family of similar background, and is a typical good man who holds a good job.

Michael is your typical Ah-beng, the kind who gets into fights easily, has long centre-parted hair, wears attire which your pirated-DVD-seller would wear, carries a sharp comb in the back of his pocket, and studies in ITE. In other words, a "bad student", one frowned upon by most teachers, and especially people of the "rich background".

Michael calls Valerie "Noodles", and Valerie calls Michael "Rice", because rice and noodles go together.

They are in a relationship, and Valerie's parents do not like it at all.

They had their first major fight due to the disparity in their O'level results, and Michael had refused to see Valerie for a week. He finally did though, reluctantly, and kept insisting that he only has a short while, as he needed to go to work...

"Ah Xin!" Ah Gong said as he dawdled down the stairs. All my relatives called me Ah Xin. The house was filled with expensive retro furniture that seemed to be cleaned every minute. Ah Gong had grown old, but the design of the house had not. I had been here so many times that I knew every hiding spot in the living room. I tightened the grip on Michael's hand and realized that I was trembling. "Where's your father?"

"I come with my boyfriend." I frowned at the predicament that would befall us.

Ah Gong was in his seventies but could pass off as a fifty-year-old. As he took a few more steps down, he stared at Michael intently with furrowed eyebrows. I had seldom seen Ah Gong angry before; he was always calm and composed. As a property developer who refused to retire, he had to make many critical decisions, and his calmness always helped.

"Where is your father?"

"Ah Gong, where's Ah Ma? And Ah Gu?"

Ah Gu was Daddy's younger sister. During office hours, she would always go to Ah Gong's house to accompany her parents. She was a middle-aged woman who believed that money could light up the night. She married an investment banker immediately after getting her degree from Australia, and her first and only full-time job was shopping in Paragon and having high tea with other affluent women. She would not hesitate to flay my decision to date a poor bloke - her aversion for the low educated was more pronouced than any of us.

"Ah Ma went out for exercise. Ah Gu-"

As if on cue, Ah Gu came down the stairs. Even in the house, she was wearing a Gucci dress. Always satisfied with her looks, she often dressed this way everywhere she went because she could "meet anyone anytime".

"Ah Xin!" Ah Gu smiled. She fingered her hair as if to straighten her permed hair. "And you're?"

I pointed to Micheal. "His name is Michael. He is in ITE now. I don't know if he can even graduate from there. In other words, he's not going to earn $10,000 a month when he is thirty years old."

Ah Gu swallowed then smiled in the same second. "Oh. I see. I see. Hi Micheal."

"Yo, auntie Kuku-"

"You've seen my boyfriend," I cut in. "During your high tea tomorrow in Paragon, please feel free to gossip about us. We're going off. See you next week. Ah Gong, Ah Gu, isn't my boyfriend handsome?"

I did not wait for their answer. I pulled Michael out of the house. As we marched to the exit, I heard Michael saying, "Goodbye," to Ah Gong and Ah Gu, and then to me, "I'm so not going to work later, Ah Xin. Where's the nearest shopping centre?"

I smiled as we walked on the centre of the road. When cars appeared, they had to swerve to the other lane to avoid hitting us. Some honked but we maintained our course. "We're walking on the 'most expensive road' in Singapore, and people are driving the most expensive cars. But still, they have to give way to us."

Michael pulled me closer to him. "Yeah, who gives a fuck about social difference, as long as you love me, I love you. Noodles, you have no idea how much I love you."

And so, we hugged in the middle of the road for a full minute."

If you're smiling, I hope you're someone who can overlook the whole idea of social difference. Ever been in a relationship which is non-mainstream, frowned upon by others and not accepted by your family? Or simply, been in a relationship which your family did not approve of? I have, and I wonder if I would do the same thing Valerie did. I know back in my late teens I would fight as fiercely for love. I'm not so sure I would now, but reading this actually made me take a step back and wonder if we twisted the whole idea of love as we grew up. Which is why so many people in their late twenties onwards become so jaded with relationships.

I would like to thank Low Kay Hwa for reminding me what love should be like, for bringing back fond memories of the sweet love back when I was still a student.

This book will make you smile until so tian mi mi, laugh until peng and cry until no day no night. A Singapore Love Story - any person who has loved in our little island will love this.

Word of warning: Prepare the tissues. 
Other than that, enjoy the book!

1 comment:

  1. Ah Low Kay Hwa... I am no Singaporean, but have heard about his books.