Last week, on 23 March 2012, I celebrated my 70th birthday, with a party generously thrown for me by ex-students whom I had taught nearly 40 years ago!
It was an evening of fun and hilarity, celebrated with family, relatives, friends, ex-students, ex-colleagues, fans and well-wishers.
What made the occasion special and meaningful for me was that it was used to benefit certain charities that I had been supporting. Instead of the customary birthday gifts, guests were requested to make donations to these charities. My publisher Marshall Cavendish, on their part, brought out attractive, commemorative box-sets of my books (which can be purchased from their office at Times Centre).
Turning 70 was for me both exhilarating and alarming, for I suddenly realised that: 1. I had attained the biblically revered milestone of Three Score and Ten 2. I had left the delectable-sounding league of Sexagenarians to enter that of the rather grim-sounding Septuagenarians 3. I had gained membership of the Super, de Luxe Class of Senior Citizens in Singapore, who enjoy the full benefits of the Confucian edict of respect for the old in society 4. I had also gained membership of the club of the ‘Graying Population’ with its full quota of gout, arthritis, a porridge-only diet, dentures, walking sticks, etc.
However, on balance, I will say, in the language of the young, that being 70 can still be hunky dory. For it gives me the confidence to look back on my life and actually have a good laugh at the many, varied and rather colourful roles I have played—as a teacher, a writer of fiction, a political critic, a feminist, a swinging single on luxury cruise ships. In the process of laughing at myself, I am tempted to take a good-natured dig at the lighter side of our Singapore culture, such as out ‘kiasuism’, our 5Cs, our Singlish.
So it was in this cheerful frame of mind that I belted out the following rather rambunctious birthday song at my party (sung to the tune of an old favourite that nobody above the age of sixty should pretend not to know):
A woman’s a creature who’s sweet, just and wise,
So men, for your mistakes, you must ‘pologise,
But what if she’s wrong and is thus blameable?
Oh, c’mon, you fellas, that’s not possible!
A man is a creature who’s full of ego,
So bent on his bragging he’ll never let go,
He’ll boast of that tool of his manly success,
And adds on the inches it doesn’t possess.
A feminist is someone in womanly prime,
Says Yes to her man, but she wins all the time,
So men always come before women, I see,
But, mind you, that’s only—in the dictionary!
A playboy is someone with charm, dash and style,
Seduces the women with wit and with guile,
So pleased with his skills that he’ll never give up,
So don’t take him for that low-class ‘hum-sub’!
A teacher is someone you simply adore
Despite all that homework she gave you galore,
Despite all that scolding you bravely withstood,
Because, as she said, it’s all for your good.
A writer is someone who dares to express
The lusts and the longings of passion’s excess,
The secrets, the drama of passion’s sweet strife,
She makes up in fiction what she lacks in real life.
A critic is someone who’s reckless and free
To needle and poke at the powers that be,
She even takes on the Supreme PAP,
Oh surely that’s foolish, and so ‘mm-chai-see’!
A single when she is past youth and beauty
Can’t wed or have babies, a national duty,
The government won’t match-make to fulfil her wish,
So she goes on those cruises, to catch that big fish.
Merlion’s a symbol of dear Singapore,
An icon of beauty, and oh! so much more,
It shows that we do have a culture so nice,
So don’t only think of that famed chicken rice.
A Condo, a gold Card, that prestigious Car,
Or is it our King Cash that’s mightier by far,
Is there a sixth C that will suit you just fine?
Well, dream on, you fellas, of that sweet Concubine.
O Singlish is our own dear lingua franca,
Despite its poor grammar and use of the ‘lah’,
Now here is a sample of its charm and flair:
‘Wah, Cat Lim, the Gahmen, she humtum, don’t care!’
A ‘kiasu’ is someone who’s so full of fear
Of losing that bus seat, that precious free beer,
This label he’ll carry through life, and what’s more,
He’s also, poor fellow, a ‘kiasi’, ‘kiabor’!
A sex life is good, so the experts all say,
It takes you to Heaven and back all the way,
It gives you that radiance, the zest and the zing,
And makes you feel richer than old Li Ka-Shing.
A cheongsam’s a costume with cunning appeal,
It just seems so modest, but seeks to reveal,
Just think of those side slits that tease and torment
That long-lasting species, called ‘Dirty Old Men’.
A birthday is awkward at age seventy,
With wrinkles and bad knees and aches a-plenty,
No more all that flirting, those pinches and winks,
They call you ‘Dear Auntie’, and oh! how that stinks!’