ARTHUR YAP (1943–2006) (1)
2 mothers in a h d b playground (1980)
ah beng is so smart,
already he can watch tv & know the whole story.
your kim cheong is also quite smart,
what boy is he in the exam?
this playground is not too bad, but i’m always 5
so worried, car here, car there.
at exam time, it’s worse.
because you know why?
kim cheong eats so little.
give him some complan. my ah beng was like that, 10
now he’s different. if you give him anything
he’s sure to finish it all up.
sure, sure. cheong’s father buys him
vitamins but he keeps it inside his mouth
& later gives it to the cat. 15
i scold like mad but what for?
if i don’t see it, how can i scold?
on Saturday, tv showed a new type,
special for children. why don’t you call
his father buy some? maybe they are better. 20
money’s no problem. it’s not that
we want to save. if we buy it
& he doesn’t eat it, throwing money
into the jamban is the same.
ah beng’s father spends so much, 25
takes out the mosaic floor & wants
to make terazzo or what.
we also got new furniture, bought from diethelm.
the sofa is so soft. i dare not sit. they all
sit like don’t want to get up. so expensive. 30
nearly two thousand dollars, sure must be good.
that you can’t say. my toa-soh
bought an expensive sewing machine,
after 6 months, it is already spoilt.
she took it back but … beng, 35
come here, come, don’t play the fool.
your tuition teacher is coming.
wah! kim cheong, now you’re quite big.
come, cheong, quick go home & bathe.
ah pah wants to take you chya-hong in new motor-car. 40
— from Down the Line (1980)
ARTHUR YAP (2)
group dynamics II (1977)
reginald is 19, very smart & somewhat bored.
wingho is like reginald, without the honda sports.
benny is like wingho, both are wong.
may-lin comes from another school
& our pre.u’s real strong, you know. 5
wingho calls may-lin sis & she giggles.
julie, also wong, thinks it’s all so wrong
all this giggling, & i don’t always want to go out.
she does if they are, (ring-ring) she’s in, julie speaking.
let’s chase them. reginald sped. stupid nut 10
may-lin said. stupid nut wingho said
to any driver reginald had overtaken.
to bedok julie said. go to bedok, you bodoh
wingho said. we’ll send you a postcard, julie
indicated, forming an oblong with her finger. 15
swiftly passed-by drivers registered no surprise.
next week let’s go …
(a screech) simultaneously almost
the lampost quivered forward. thrown forward, julie
reached out as if to light it. reginald’s face 20
wiped the sole of wingho’s shoe. the windscreen wove
a spider’s web. the mascot on may-lin’s lap.
reginald’s licence is suspended.
julie still sulks. may-lin doesn’t worry,
she’s going to university. 25
never mind what faculty
she puts the phone down on benny.
wingho is like reginald,
benny is like wingho.
they wait for the bus, 30
they wait for a taxi
to take susie & bee ngah
to the troika.
they wait for the call-up.
— from Commonplace, 1977
EDWARD DORALL (b. 1936)
from A Tiger is Loose in Our Community (1972)
SAN FAN: Hurry up! Put down money! [He turns to notice SWEE SENG and NAGARAJAH.] Nemmind that fellow. Sing like a frog.
ARUL [as TIGER enters]: Your brother come.
SAN FAN [not looking]: Wake up already ah? Come. Don’t waste time.
[ARUL, HAMID, CHAN FONG and he put forward their stake. To HOONG TAN.] Why you don’t put money?
HOONG TAN: Why you always win?
SAN FAN: Luck lah!
HOONG TAN: I think you cheat ah.
SAN FAN [speaking in Cantonese as he slams down the cards]: Cheat ah? Say that again.
HOONG TAN [also in Cantonese]: You cheat.
SAN FAN [in Cantonese]: I smash up your face. [Reaches forward and strikes out at HOONG TAN. The others try to separate them.]
THE OTHER THREE [variously]: Stop fighting lah! Come on Hoong Tan! Come on San Fan!
TIGER [greeting his friends]: Hi! [He notices the scuffle between his brother and HOONG TAN and walks towards them. SWEE SENG and NAGARAJAH stand watching the following scene.]
TIGER: Hey! San Fan! Stop fighting! [He seizes SAN FAN by the neck and lifts him to his feet. PILLAI and his group are obviously listening.] Ai yah, so fierce.
SAN FAN [struggling]: You get out! No one ask you. Let go, man!
TIGER [not releasing him]: Where you go last night? Why you come back so late?
SAN FAN [still struggling]: Let go lah! Bloody bully!
TIGER: Where you go last night?
SAN FAN: Why you want know? Not your business ah?
TIGER: Look, San Fan, don’t make me angry.
SAN FAN: I no ask where you go. Sometime you not even sleep here.
TIGER [twisting his neck, angrily]: Where you go?
SAN FAN [grimacing]: Ai yah! Paining lah! OK I tell you. [TIGER releases his grip.] You big bully! One day I show you something.
Back to Global English
ARUNDHATI ROY (Indian, b. 1961)
from The God of Small Things (1997)
. . . it was a skyblue day in December sixty-nine (the nineteen silent). It was the kind of time in the life of a family when something happens to nudge its hidden morality from its resting place and make it bubble to the surface and float for a while. In clear view. For everyone to see.
A skyblue Plymouth, with the sun in its tailfins, sped past young rice-fields and old rubber trees, on its way to Cochin. Further east, in a small country with similar landscape (jungles, rivers, rice-fields, communists), enough bombs were being dropped to cover all of it in six inches of steel.
Here, however, it was peacetime and the family in the Plymouth travelled without fear or foreboding.
The Plymouth used to belong to Pappachi, Rahel and Estha’s grandfather. Now that he was dead, it belonged to Mammachi, their grandmother, and Rahel and Estha were on their way to Cochin to see The Sound of Music for the third time. They knew all the songs.
After that they were all going to stay at Hotel Sea Queen with the oldfood smell. Bookings had been made. Early next morning they would go to Cochin Airport to pick up Chacko’s ex-wife – their English aunt, Margaret Kochamma – and their cousin, Sophie Mol, who were coming from London to spend Christmas at Ayemenem. Earlier that year, Margaret Kochamma’s second husband, Joe, had been killed in a car accident. When Chacko heard about the accident he invited them to Ayemenem. He said that he couldn’t bear to think of them spending a lonely, desolate Christmas in England. In a house full of memories.
Ammu said that Chacko had never stopped loving Margaret Kochamma. Mammachi disagreed. She liked to believe that he had never loved her in the first place.
Rahel and Estha had never met Sophie Mol. They’d heard a lot about her, though, that last week. From Baby Kochamma, from Kochu Maria, and even Mammachi. None of them had met her either, but they all behaved as though they already knew her. It had been the What Will Sophie Mol Think? week.
That whole week Baby Kochamma eavesdropped relentlessly on the twins’ private conversations, and whenever she caught them speaking in Malayalam, she levied a small fine which was deducted at source. From their pocket money. She made them write lines – ‘impositions’ she called them – I will always speak in English, I will always speak in English. A hundred times each. When they were done, she scored them out with her red, pen to make sure that old lines were not recycled for new punishments.
She had made them practise an English car song for the way back. They had to form the words properly, and be particularly careful about their pronunciation. Prer NUN sea ayshun.
Rej-Oice in the Lo-Ord Or-Orlways
And again I say rej-Oice,
And again I say rej-Oice.
(pages 35–36, Flamingo edition, UK)
The twins are Rahel and Estha. Ammu is their term for their mother; mammachi for grandmother; and pappachi for grandfather. Baby Kochamma is pappachi’s sister. Chacko is ammu’s brother and Margaret Kochamma is Chacko’s ex-wife; their daughter is Sophie Mol (‘Sophie girl’)]