A would-be Singaporean novelist's blog

Bonsai – Foreword to The City and the Sea

At a glance, it gives an idea on what I’m currently working on.

It was during those many discussions over MSN that I once mentioned to a friend that Singaporeans (the both of us included), were very much like bonsai. Why bonsai, you’d ask? Why not something more glorious, something like the mythical Merlion, if mythical meant confabulated? I put it this way: When you’re young, the pot allotted to you is enough space to grow in. There is nothing wrong with the pot. It shelters and protects, and keeps the seedling from harm until it can come unto its own. But as time grows by, the little plant finds itself at the confines of its pot, a prisoner of good intentions. It is not easy to break the enamelled expectations of our parents, or the thick walls of social norms. The young plant is at a crossroad; what should it do? Where should it go?

There are those who repot themselves in wilder lands; these we call quitters. Distant cousins they are, rarely heard of except for the occasional mention. What about those who stay, faithful to their given pots? We love them for their faithfulness, and with the bind of good intentions, stunt even the stoutest oaks into cute ornamental shrubs, preferably to be admired and bartered at a high price. A remarkable feat of human engineering, and a rewarding hobby practiced by generations of potted shrubs, each bestowing the virtues and wisdom of pottedness upon the next.

Perhaps this is what the story is about. A young plant that has found itself at the edge of its confines, and takes the arduous task of breaking beyond it, into the world beyond. With this, I dedicate this book to those still in their eggs, waiting to hatch.

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