It Wasn’t A Sequel To Begin With
November 29, 2012 – 18:32 | No Comment

My 3rd novel wasn’t meant to be a sequel to the 2nd novel in the first place. Then something happened. Characters began to beg to be included in the story. Thus, a sequel was born.

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Home » Creative Writings, Viewpoints

Shades of Red

Submitted by on February 16, 2010 – 01:463 Comments

It would be an odd scene to see a family dressed in red walking side by side on a normal day, all bright and radiant heading in one direction on one path. One may even ask what’s up with the red troop. But on Chinese New Year, it’s a perfectly perfect scene because red is the colour. Red brings luck. Red means prosperity. Red celebrates festivity. Red is and always will be Chinese New Year. However, red would also, somehow, reminds me of death.

The last time I was seen in a bright red t-shirt with my relatives of 80 people, all of them in the same bright red t-shirts, we were at a small town in the state of Johor. It happened nine years ago but whenever I remember that day, it seems to be breathing alive as if it all took place only yesterday. We went in two buses, men and women, boys and girls, all dressed in bright red t-shirts. When we walked into a restaurant for lunch, I remember the boss asking, “Hey, wassup with the red shirts? Are you guys in a group? Chinese New Year was just over two months ago.”

Duh! Obviously we were a group. How many times (if any) have you seen a pack of 80 walking into a place wearing all the same clothes if they weren’t together? But the air was too solemn for a joke. And none of the young ones could give him the answer. Some pointed their fingers at the elders, others turned to look at my grandpa. The boss repeated his question and this time, everyone was silent waiting for my grandpa to say something, or perhaps nothing at all.

“It could be a celebration, or a funeral, depending on how you see it. But we’ve just send my mother-in-law home to a happy place,” a smile slowly formed across my eighty-year-old grandpa’s face. Right at that moment, I smiled too; the same smile I’ve had on my face throughout the 5-days & 4-nights funeral march.

I wasn’t close to my great-grandmother when she was alive. The only time I visited her was when I happened to drop by at Johor Bahru on my way to Singapore for my annual holidays. Even when we met, we never spoke because I couldn’t understand her dialect and she couldn’t understand English. When news came that she died in her sleep (thank God for that because just a few weeks before, she was diagnosed with cancer), I didn’t feel anything. However when I stepped into the funeral march, I can’t help but hide a smile of thankfulness because her passing away brought a new meaning to the colour RED.

When a person who has lived more than 100 years passes away, we celebrate. It’s a Chinese culture. It’s a culture I have not heard of until my great-grandmother left us. It’s the one and only knowledge she left to me before leaving us. As relatives came back from overseas to bid their last farewell, a bright red shirt was given out to them. Instead of solemn sounds, the band played celebration tunes and the little ones dance. At the courtyard, other funerals were taking place too. People looked at us with puffy eyes and a huge question mark masked on their faces. I wanted to laugh out loud at their expression because they could not understand why we were celebrating great-grandmother’s departure with big bangs and loud claps. She was more than 100 years old.

It was probably the only funeral which I could laugh out loud, where we sat around and played games, talked and joked about the old times, learning more about my roots while waiting for the complete five generations of great-grandmother to return and bid her goodbye. And my great-grandmother taught me that red symbolizes more than just Chinese New Year. It symbolizes departure too.

This Chinese New Year, strange and absurd as it may seems, the shades of red that showered my Grandma’s place with wishes and laughters reminded me of life; of how different things could be if we look at it from a new perspective. Sometimes our life may be painted a different colour from that of our favourite, but it’s alright because if you look close enough, there may be something good in that different colour. That red can mean prosperity, life and also death. That green can mean growth, freshness and also jealousy. That blue can mean serenity, peace and also a sense of lost.

Life is a canvas filled with colours; colours which we have chose for ourselves and colours other people have chosen for us. At one glance, we may not like what we see. Or we may love it very much. But always remember that colours bring a vast meaning, so vast you won’t be able to know what it really is until you experience it. Just as you think that you have captured the colour, it shines a different shade. This is life. Embrace it.

Have a colourful life ahead!

Originally written by Gina Yap Lai Yoong © 2010

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