I Almost Published My Own Book


Remember the time when you were young, innocent and above all things, bold? You dreamt big dreams. The world was your oyster, and you believe you can do all that you want, be all that you can be and it will come to pass? And then, the world beat the hell out of you? Last year, I thought of publishing a book about Singapore. The book would chronicle 50 nostalgic stories of places, activities and occupations of Singapore.

This project seeks to rediscover the places, occupations and activities that older generation of Singaporeans can identify with. These places, occupations and activities are nostalgic and showed Singaporean’s way of life in the past. In each of these stories, we look at their significance and learning points from the past. Eg. Cobblers – difficult trade but was a means to get their children through university, people who lived in kampongs – despite living with different ethnic groups, the ‘kampong’ or community spirit is strong, etc. This coffee table book is a platform for older Singaporeans to connect with their past and for younger Singaporeans to learn about the amicable traits of the past.

All in all, what we seek to subtly communicate with our readers through this book is that while many of these cultures iconic to Singapore may cease to exist in the future, there is a beautiful attribute to learn from each and every single one of them. In them show the immensely rich Singaporean culture, the shared experiences Singaporeans have regardless of race and language, the aspirations we have for a better tomorrow, as well as something every Singaporean (community spirit, diligence, etc) of today can learn from.

Introduction of project that was sent to SG50 Committee

I was so excited at the beginning and commenced on the project even though I did not have any concrete plan to bring it to fruition. I whipped out my camera and went places. The project took me to places and introduced me to people I wouldn’t normally speak to have I kept to my daily routines. I took photos of Singapore’s last Kampong and interviewed a former resident. I interviewed one of Singapore’s last remaining traditional ice-cream vendors. I spoke to a newspaper vendor auntie. I interviewed a stall owner and took photos of famous Lavender Food Square which has been demolished sometime last year.

Later on, I got to know about the SG50 funding campaign. I pitched for funding and after a long and arduous process of emailing back and forth, I received news that the project was approved and I would receive up to 75% funding.

By then, the initial excitement has already long but died out. While I had already established an agreement with a local publisher, I have to face a very real problem of funding the remaining 25% and manpower issues to meet the National Day deadline. After my last potential sponsoring company decided not to fund the project, I decided to pull the plug on the project.

That, together with other things happening in my life made me feel terrible. Ah, quarter life crisis. I thought that I could be a somebody in the PR industry but I am not. I thought that I could start a social enterprise but it did not come to pass. I thought that I could start a business but that did not work out (yet) either. I thought I could be a missionary/full time worker but I am nowhere close (yet). But the biggest mistake I made was letting the world beat and trample all over me, telling me “You’re done. You can’t do it. You can’t be it.You just can’t.”

But if my faith was anything, it was my saving grace.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

This was one of the verses I remembered since my youth. I always imagined a ‘me’ that’s 10 (or 20) years older coming to me and telling me, “Don’t worry (so much), mate. Everything will work out just fine.”

I think that if we allow our mistakes, failures or even missed opportunities define our level of success, we will be mentally crippled for sure. Who defines the standard of success anyway? Where is the yardstick to measure against so that I can determine that “I have lived a full life”? Is a self-made millionaire considered a success? What about the billionaire then? Is the cleaner then considered to have ‘failed life’?

Don’t let the world tell you what you can or cannot do, who you can be or not be. If you are defeated in your mind, you have already lost. But if there is anything we could do, it would be to ‘not give up so easily’.I personally think this is one area I need to work on as well. I will end with a quote from my favorite author.

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Maybe one day I will publish a book.

Recognizing Beauty


Above one of the gates in the ancient city wall is a lantern, and Samil explains its significance to us.
This is the origin of one of the most famous Arabic proverbs: “The light falls only on the stranger”.’
The proverb, he says is very apt for the situation we’re in now. Samil wants to be a writer and is fighting to gain recognition in his own country, whereas I, a Brazilian author, am already known here.
I tell him that we have a similar saying: “No one is a prophet in his own land.’ We always tend to value what comes from afar, never recognizing the beauty around us.
‘Although sometimes,’ I go on, ‘we need to be strangers to ourselves. Then the hidden light in our soul will illuminate what we need to see.’

An abstract from Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s novel, Aleph (p42)

Sometimes familiarity may cause us to take what we already have [access to] for granted. Our family who showers us with love, our job, our religious family, our close friends, our spouses and loved ones. They say it breeds contempt. We want that which we don’t have, we want that which others have and suddenly the grass becomes greener on the other side.

Perhaps the pasture may really be greener on the other side of the fence, otherwise we need to re-position ourselves, to be a stranger to ourselves so that we can recognize how blessed we are, to recognize what we have, to recognize the beauty that exists all around us in the form of a loving family, awesome friends, the best spouse [or boyfriend/girlfriend] one could ever ask for, a great job, a [pretty comfortable] roof over our head, blankets to keep us warm on windy nights, a loved one whom we can pour out our woes to, etc. Actually, our lawn isn’t that bad at all.

A note to the future me and the you who will walk beside me: I will cherish you and the days that we have together.

Walk a mile in my shoes and I in yours, and we will realize, actually we are quite blessed after all.

Dangerous Figures

Dangerous not is the man who wields shimmering swords or carry deadly guns. Dangerous are the men who can stir up emotions, sway the hearts of men, provoke men to action, through speech or the written word. These are the ones who [could] make a difference in the world, or bring the world to its knees.

English author, Edward Bulwer-Lytton was only partly correct when he coined the term ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. It’s the minds behind the hand – that wields the pen – that turns it into a weapon of precision which cuts right into the heart.

I need to get me some dangerous.

P.S. This entry was inspired during a read written by author Paulo Coelho. My soul is stirred. One day I would like to meet this remarkable individual in person and shake his hand.

Fight the Good Fight

KidsPHOTO: Reuel Eugene Tay (Ipad2)


The good fight is the one that’s fought in the name of our dreams. When we’re young and our dreams first explode inside us with all of their force, we are very courageous, but we haven’t yet learned how to fight. With great effort, we learn how to fight, but by then we no longer have the courage to go into combat. So we turn against ourselves and do battle within. We become our own worst enemy. We say that our dreams were childish, or too difficult to realize, or the result of our not having known enough about life. We kill our dreams because we are afraid to fight the good fight.’

– The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho

When we were young, the sky’s the limit. We could be a pilot, we could be an inventor, we could travel the world. When we got older, we settle for anything even if it is far off the mark. Key is matching our prudence and decision-making skills that came with maturity and age, with our childlike innocence, inquisitiveness and boldness from young.

Be sane, yet take risks. Be prudent, yet stay curious. Be grounded, yet run for your dreams.