23 Aug Dhoby Ghaut, Oh Dhoby Ghaut
On a typical day in the week, let’s call it a Wednesday. Just before lunch time, at elevenish in the morning. Dhoby Ghaut MRT. The massive interchange sits above three train lines.
It was a cacophony of sights and sounds.
Workers from the MacDonald House file out for an early lunch. Corporate types disgorge themselves from their cubicles, meeting rooms and corner offices that has come to signify their existence. The florescent lamps failed to prepare their eyes for the harsh sunlight they are about to encounter.
Some scurry across Oldham lane despite the red man insisting that they wait. Others find solace in the shade of the building as they await the arrival of Mr Green.
Tucked away in the corner of the building, next to the car park entrance, lies the de facto smoking corner. Against the railings, next to the rubbish bin, delivery couriers with their motorcycles at the curb side and a pack of poised Office Ladies, with ‘shades on their eyes and their heels so high’ fraternise over a ciggie. The more divisive an idea that smoking is, the more united its proponents will be.
It is hard not to spot the tinge of admiration in the couriers eyes. After all, an office is the domain of the better educated, and higher education is something many of them are lacking.
How wonderful would it be to be encased in the comfortable cubicle every working day, to not have to brave torrential rain or the merciless sun. Life would be so perfect then.
The OLs, on the other hand, cannot believe that save for a trip back to the office at Golden Shoe Complex, the couriers are done for the day. That is an easy job, they tell themselves.
No sales targets, presentation deadlines and no having the boss breathing down my neck for 10 hours each day. Plenty of gallivanting and spare time for shopping. Life would be so perfect then.
The Boy and the Dancers
At the corner of Plaza Sing, at the shop selling bubble tea, packs of giggly school girls queue up for their daily squishy pearl fix. Amongst them, a pack of graduating friends from School of the Arts, barely a stone throw away. The dancer physique is apparent in all four of them, their limbs lithe and supple from hours of honing their craft in the studio.
From the corner of their eyes they spy the Boy through the glass walls. They see him around once in a while, SMU Swim Team boldly emblazoned on his T-shirt. He is tall, as most successful swimmers need to be, and his cherubic grin puts him right up there with Joseph Schooling in the desirability rankings.
Like the girls, he will be graduating this year and his sterling results have snagged him a management associate position at a global bank. The girls know, because they have managed to ferret out his Instagram and Facebook accounts.
On one hand, they look up to him with a sense of awe and infatuation. On the other, there is a huge dose of envy as they grapple with their own employment status and uncertain future in a few months. After all, there is only so much work to go around for someone with an education in dance and the performing arts.
Each of them also secretly hope that he will look their way and ask her out. They would go on dates, get married have two kids and live happily ever after. Life would be so perfect.
The Boy noticed the girls too. They are dancers, he knows. For the longest of time he had been fascinated with dance. Not the head banging non-stop twerking version his friends get up to when they are drunk. But real dance, where the fluidity of the movements tell a story and bring out the beauty of the human body.
He still dances, in the bathroom, in the elevator, when he is all alone. Given a chance he would drop everything and head to a faraway land to learn and pursue his interest. It would be heartbreaking for his parents he knows. After all, what are they going to tell their friends, that their Ah Boy is headed for dance school? Oh, if only he could. Life would be so perfect then.
In the podium of Plaza Sing, a roadshow is in full swing. One of the many that adrons the open space at different times of the year. It could be toys, or sporting equipment, chocolates and candies, or Japanese produce. This time of the year, it is mooncakes galore. The usually barren space is packed with counters from hotels and restaurants and bakeries as they peddle their assortment of mid autumn delights.
Tucked amongst the many very established names, a smallish neighborhood bakery that makes amazing mooncakes has taken up a stand. It was a break from the norm, the first time they have ventured out from the comfort of the heartland ever.
The decision was a bold one, made by the Son who is progressively taking over the business. His parents were against the call – they are up against big names and they will never be able to recover the rental for the space. He was adamant though, he saw that this was the only way to bring their bakes beyond the neighbourhood and all over the island.
The Son had hired a couple of temporary staff to help man the booth. After the initial couple of days, they started to get into the groove. They were conscientious enough but hardly proactive in promoting the mooncakes, preferring instead to spend their time on buried in their phones. They are young, and carefree, and this was a good gig for them to spend a few weeks of their school holidays in town and get paid for it.
The Son thought back to his school days – no worries then about the business he has been entrusted with, about the paychecks he has to dish out every month to the employees, about supplier issues and about the pending economic slowdown. Life was so perfect.
The staff, both of them looked up to their boss. He is firm but kind to them. Barely a few years ahead, he is already taking over and running a business. On top of that, he had a car to call his own.
Fair enough it is a little Euro van that is used to ferry bakery stuff, but at least it is his own set of wheels. It is freedom, it releases him from the shackles of public transport. If only they had a car of their own, there would be nothing else to ask for. Life would be so perfect.
Retirees and wannabe retirees
Tucked deep in the bowels of Plaza Sing, in the basement right in the corner, in the ubiquitous coffee shop chain you see at every mall nowadays. Three retirees hunched over their morning kopi.
They were neighbors since young, and have gone to school together. They have seen each other through the different stages of life and have shared in each other’s struggles and victories over the past six decades. They were fortunate, their children have all turned out well and have given them many grandkids to find joy in. In between their grand-fathering duties, they make it a point to meet and catch up every week.
This week’s session was particular bittersweet. Just last week they sent off one of their own who finally succumbed after a long battle with cancer. They were four but now they are only three. It felt different, but that’s life, they all agreed. Save for the minor aches here and there, they are all extremely thankful to be in the pink of health.
They looked around at everyone else in the coffee shop. Everyone is so much younger by far. If only they are young again. If only they have time in their side. Life would have been perfect.
Across at the next table, the lady has just concluded a meeting with her prospective clients. Except that it went so badly that she does not even care to think of them as prospective anymore. Not only were they demanding, they were demeaning and impatient as well. The investment plan she prepared for the couple was met with objections on every account.
They claimed that the returns are too low and insisted that other plans could perform better. On top of that, they kept on extorting her for freebies; shopping vouchers and attraction tickets which they insisted is the norm. It was frustrating to say the least. Now she is even running late for her next appointment.
She looked across at the retirees. They seem to have all the time in the world. A pang of worry about her own retirement streaked through her thoughts but she banished it and moved on quickly.
She has been working too hard and she needs a break, but the condominium unit she shared with a friend is still vacant and tenants are hard to come by these days. The new Beemer is also taking up a chunk of her monthly commissions. Plus the kids’ expenses and their enrichment classes and their constant demands for the newest gadgets. If only she could retire now, life would be so perfect.
Dhoby Ghaut, Oh Dhoby Ghaut
She has seen it all, Dhoby Ghaut has. From the washerwomen of yesteryear to the modern day occupants of her embrace, life is never perfect. Dhoby Ghaut, oh Dhoby Ghaut.
It seems like moments ago when Bigfatpurse moved into 38 Orchard Road (and I was out buying toilet paper). In the blink of an eye, two years have come and gone. This is our last week in the area as we prepare for the move to Blk 73 in Ayer Rajah.
As much as we would miss Dolby Ghaut, the move will puts us right in the heart of the Fintech ecosystem and puts the company in good stead for the next phase of growth.
Life cannot be more perfect.