Every Wednesday evening I go to N’s house to tutor her son. She was my senior back in secondary school and is one of the increasing number of ex-girls from there who somehow landed here. Like myself.
Her children go to the international school here, courtesy of her husband’s expat package but being ‘just in case his contract ends and not renewed’ she wants her kids to remain in touch with the syllabus of our hometown. N has been here since July last year, which makes her family one of the most recent ‘crossovers’ in our area, which is somehow fast becoming a “mini-kampung” of people from our island. Her husband is a CanadianIndian, but for most of their 11 year marriage, they had resided in our hometown. They have 4 lovely kids and although the family travel extensively, this is the first time they uprooted themselves out of our sunny island set in the sea down south and moved here.
Each Wednesday after tuition, N and I would just yak. What else could two people from the same ‘kg’ be talking about but about things back home. Today she mentioned something which took me a bit by surprise. Like myself, N had some adjustments problems for the first 6 months she was here, complaining about everything else–the traffic, the this, the that, ( the everything lah). Like a common rite of passage for those who do the cross over from island down south to up north. Like myself.
Today in a half beaming manner, she told me she now feels very liberated here and it is very liberating to be away from our hometown. Huh? Why, I asked. Well… she began listing, back there the children ‘die-die’ must do well in PSLE by sheer expectations of her relatives, O and A levels matter ( too much ) and whatever it is, no matter what, get your a** into a university and get attached, HDB flat, marrried by a certain age OR risk having relatives haunt you during weekend weddings/hari raya, and whom you marry matters too-must be of a certain educational standing and when the kids arrive, they must go to this kindy-that kindy and let’s compare PSLE results and the cycle goes on. She rattled all that in an almost one breath. So, yeah…the absence of all that. That’s what liberating, she ended her rendition.
While I am happy for her that she has found her grounds here, it did make me think. Like many others who left, I fall under the catogary of marriage as a reason to leave. Others would be work. Another group that I know of is the ‘push factors’ from within the island itself. Another group that I also know of is ‘children’. And like N, I do find it liberating to be out. Very liberating.
I can now love the island from far and associate it with lovely memories of family and friends, minus the dread of going for social gatherings/events where everyone is comparing this and that. I am no longer under the pressure of my parents and their ‘aper nanti orang kata syndrome’… I am free from social expectations. Period. Like M.Nasir sang in his song…‘ Kata orang, jangan cuba melawan arus…’ But I am one of those very difficult to follow the ‘arus’ because the ‘arus’ doesn’t always flow where I want to go. And I like to have my life, my way.
And so, yes N… I do agree with you this time. It is liberating. 🙂