Too young to sense even my own age, it could have been two.

Stood in front of the mirror, contemplating walking through.

Naked only in brown pants with scissors in right hand.

To step into the other realm I had to stick the blades in if I can.

Wanting to pop in just my head to bring back to family a message.

Though I knew not of death, I sensed it would be a one-way passage.

Still I am unsure what happened that fateful day as I write these verses.

What I am certain is that was the beginning of my adventures with Twin Universes.

 

My life began in Singapore, a colonial enclave of the British Empire.

Tropical land of heat that makes even the mad English dogs perspire.

From the birth canal of a native mother of Chinese Fujian ancestry.

And a father who sailed out from Ningbo to serve onboard her Majesty.

A child knows not of poorness when playing in monsoon waters.

Mindless of adult pains and careless of natural dangers.

Even my entry upon this earth is marked by confusing farce.

Stabbed at Kandang Kerbau hospital by the delivery staff.

The heavens chimed me in before midnight the twenty-six of December.

But it is three minutes into the next day before my birth is register.

 

I was told I was babysat by my elder sisters.

As my mother slaved at work to keep us from hunger.

Small Aunty, Big Aunty and an Uncle with tattoo marks.

This was the Lim clan with Grandma as the matriarch.

 

The Ying branch of our family sailed from China.

My father leaving his hometown to seek labor as a minor.

A chef on a merchant vessel plying trade from east to west.

On dock he wedded twice, though my mother was last and best.

 

First taste of girl was not a pleasant flavor.

She ate a slice of cheese before I kissed her.

To this date I loathe the smelly odor.

Except for grownup women with fragrant aroma.

 

Living in a shanty town there was little privacy.

Bedroom lusts and toilet flush were not of quiet niceties.

Even animals of the wild and domestic types.

Invaded our opened home without personal invites.

Once I carried in a nest of baby mice.

The screams of horror were not so nice.

 

We had a dog who didnít seem to like me.

He tried to take a bite that wasnít to be.

My sister jumped in to protect this baby from his hate.

Her bloodied pain meant the end for our petís fate.

There was a piglet that I did adore.

A playful mate with tasty allure.

Fattened up with scraps of human food.

The night he was butchered saddened my mood.

 

For the most part I had a happy careful childhood.

There was pretense of sadness during a funeral in our neighborhood.

I felt worst for eels my grandma released into freedom during a festive New Year.

Only for bad boys to stone the slippery fishes, which brought on real tears.

Come to think of it, I seem to have more empathy for beasts than my humankind.

Perhaps because dumb animals are as innocent as an infant mind.

 

In the botanical gardens we were mocked by monkeys.

Into the protective clutches of my mother did I flee.

On my return as a teen I went in search of the simians.

They had long deserted their lush green dominion.

In solemn reflection I recognized that it was to be a futile search.

That day of motherly bond could not be rediscovered on a leafy perch.

A true parentís devotion for their offspring will never waver.

It is within a rebellious child that emotions can taper.

My continued hunt for redemption is fiercely determined.

Hoping one day I will be nursed back to my mother in Eden.

 

Stories told of past histories I plugged my ears and glazed my eyes.

When one is young you look to the future and up at the skies.

As years past by the reality is what came before will show the signs forward.

So now I retrace in these poetic verses the steps of my life backwards.

 

Childhood pranks was one of my specialty.

Bricking up a carís rear wheels to observe its causality.

Most mischievous deeds were experiments upon me.

Cutting my own hair drew motherís anger from which I flee.

Fascinated to see what effects of chewing gum on facial hair.

I manage to bald one side of my eyebrows so it was no longer a pair.

My worst injuries came from a firework explosion.

A nosey face near a buried cracker is not a smart exploration.

If curiosity can indeed kill a cat.

Then my nine lives have already been whacked.

 

Being near the equator meant seasonal change was from hot to very hot.

Excessive heat was compounded by humidity making it an uncomfortable spot.

Coolness came from sporadic downpours as skies darkened to dump buckets of rain.

You only had to stand a few minutes in the returning sun to dry out your mane.

My favorite time of year came with the monsoons that flooded the land.

Wading in torrents, joyfully oblivious of the dangers with your life in Godís hand.

 

If the weather was not to my liking, then that could not be said of the delicious food.

Most famous local dish is Singaporean chilly crab, a taste that went beyond good.

Influence from Indian, Chinese and Malay gave us the greatest of meals.

Spicy laksa, chicken-rice and satay are just some of the delightful appeals.

Even the desserts could bring a smile to a condemned manís last supper.

Such as ice kacang, coconut jelly and fruity durian with its overwhelming odor.

 

We had no kindergarten or at least none we could afford.

There was primary schooling where I went to be taught.

All I can remember was singing the national anthem each morning.

And playing tough by leading the line for needles during inoculating.

Being dyslexia meant my linguistic skills were of very low limits.

With four national languages to be learnt, I was labeled stupid.

Perhaps thatís why along with poor scores in testing of learning fundamentals.

I had an impediment of speaking Chinese words during English recitals.

 

To avoid tropical heat, lessons were early morning to finish before noon.

It meant many hours of idle play before the rising of the nightly moon.

My lousy grade card was not a proud thing I wanted to rush home to show.

So I larked around with cousins and friends until the Sun crept low.

It wasnít all fun in the playground, for once my mate ran onto a rusty nail.

Rubber sandals on feet offered no protection from being impale.

 

Nights were the time for idle gatherings.

Sitting on the cooling porch with siblings.

A favorite hawker comes peddling his yummy congee.

With pot and penny in hand I approach to be greeted fondly.

In later years when I was living in a faraway continent.

I gifted cash to my meals on wheel server as compliment.

 

There were no celebrations for personal anniversaries.

But I never went a day hungry or suffer adversities.

Chinese New Year and Independence Day were festive times.

Floating lighted lanterns on dark waters was highlight primes.

Banquet feasts and opera plays were outdoor events.

A showman I would dance until my energy was totally vent.

 

Singapore was ravaged by the Second World War.

Occupied by Japanese Imperial forces that conquered all.

From China, Korea, Burma they marched south across The Strait.

The once mighty British Empire was on a losing fate.

Evil atrocities on civilians and prisoners were committed upon

My young motherís haunting experience made her a hater of Nippon.

 

The end of war brought to the peninsula no peace urgency.

Guerrilla campaign was fought during the Malayan Emergency.

Federation of Malaysia was formed independent of Britanniaís rule.

Two years later on ninth of August 1965 our Republic grew.

So I am a baby born into fighting conflicts and peaceful transitions.

Forever I seem to walk down dual paths toward my godly ambitions.

 

Spiritual veneration in this secular nation is as mixed as its peopleís ethnic race.

Worshippers of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism walk at equal pace.

In some cases they even share temples as they read from their different scriptures.

If only the rest of the intolerant world could follow this idyllic picture.

My parentís approach was simply to pay respect to all religions.

Our virtuous paths are forged by our deeds and not our proclamations.

 

Lim Tua Bak was my motherís full title, born on fourteenth of October 1930.

Parents were Ang Ho Pang and Lim Eng Hock who worked as a coolie.

Both my grandparentsí nationalities are noted as Hokien on the birth registry.

Fujian province in the southeast region of China was their original ancestry.

 

Though barely five feet off the ground, mum could fight ferociously above her weight.

I recalled baby trotting by her side as she assaulted a guy who towered over her height.

It took many to restrain her as she fought until she was stripped down to her bra.

The wrongdoers who stole money learned the scary way they couldnít run afar.

And even if they did survive my motherís battling assault and vanished.

When story got out, my gangster Uncle made sure the guilty were duly punished.

 

There is a single infant memory I shared with both parents.

For father was absence plying trade on the ocean currents.

Not surprising therefore I ran away as I would from a stranger.

And forever in life that marked our ongoing relationship as minor.

 

Fatherís Singaporean naturalization had three different names entered in the official book.

He was born in China with the registered names of Soo Huan and Hoong Fook.

But I only knew him by his final designated full title of Ying See Wai.

The multiple variants are how the Chinese dialects are pronounced in different ways.

 

Like many of his Chinese seaman friends my dad left the fleet to settle in England.

Most started their new life in the home port of Liverpool when they permanently set foot on land.

Their only skill was cooking so they exchanged the shipís galley for a restaurant kitchen.

A step up in class came when they could buy a business and wear their own bossí apron.

The sixties was a boom time with the local band the Beatles at the pinnacle of global success.

And once my father had his own fish and chip shop it was time to bring over his entire family nest.

 

Eldest sister Cher Lee was the first to join our father in the United Kingdom.

I sulked under the bed refusing to join in the celebration of her new found freedom.

But it would not be long before it was the turn of mum, me and sister Kwee Ngin.

It was 1967 when we flew away and into a new chapter of life we were entering.