03 | D is for…

Maple and Market

“1919” from Maple and Market

To say the very least, the past week has been “eventful”. Finding out how stomach-turning the allocated modules will be wasn’t a great way to start a new semester. Having two days’ worth of kitchen work, on the other hand, was consolatory. A hectic beginning and sleep-deprivation left me in a semi-mortified state, but friendly encouragement and hypnotizing myself that “every bit counts” keep me going, as always. I have complained too much about my business modules, so I’ll just mention how fortunate I am to have opted for a philosophy module. Reading Plato’s dialogues and navigating the ethical fog never seemed so interesting, and just maybe, credit goes to the bleargh modules.

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”  Woah… sounds like a General Paper topic. (Actually it was, they love Wilde don’t they?)

Let’s move on from the mundane stuff… to more mundane stuff? I passed by Ion Orchard yesterday night, and there was a series of charity advertisements on the walls which caught my attention. I can’t find the name of campaign on the internet (there, there… the elusive everything means nothing concept), but it pictured children sleeping in their elaborately decorated bedrooms. They had blankets printed with the figures of doctors, basketball stars, firemen etc. superimposing on their tiny growing bodies. It said “every child deserves the right to dream”.

Now… There is absolutely no bones to pick on that, but it brought me to a line from one of Neil Gaiman’s poems in Fragile Things:

“If I were young as once I was, and dreams and death more distant then,”

It’s bizarre how we regard the act of dreaming as a prerogative of the young. They would if they could and they should (this is what taking a philosophy module does to you). What I meant to say was that children dream and we don’t, or that we no longer believe in them. Some of us still do, but then there are duties, drudgery, disappointments, decay, disease, death… you get the point.

I was in a quaint café (everyone seems to be saying this these days) – Maple and Market, sitting by the window with a piccolo latte and a Kaya-Gula Melaka-Coconut cake. This pâtisserie was opened last April by Sarah Khaw, a friend of a friend. My friend told me to check the place out almost a year ago, when I was back in Paris, and I only managed this spontaneous visit until now, guilty as charged. Still the place was lovely, sitting right beside a hawker centre under the flats, seemingly out of place. The glass windows overlooked a small road alongside a patch of open green, such rarity in this sardine-packed concrete jungle. It’s not a grand surprise, but intriguing still, that cafés like this are popping up in the most unlikely places. We can learn that from ecology, about niche specialization, or something like that. Anyways, it’s a dream-come-true in that tiny ‘niche’, with her dedication and penchant for details translated into the small little things and the food. The coffee wasn’t extraordinary but the cake, it was surprising balanced. Le gateau was more amercain than français, but still I liked it. You can go really wrong with those flavors – I’m not a big fan of this combination, but it was made just right that it doesn’t run you over like a truck would.

And then it did. A truck hit me. An 80-over-year-old lady was trying to cross the small road with the help of another two. She had a walking-crutch on hand, but she didn’t use it. She was trying not to use it. Her helper and the other stranger presumably, were all hands and legs, and she herself was in pain, beyond reasonable doubt. The glass of dreamland’s windows didn’t protect me. It struck me hard, especially so when I’m having a cake and a cup of fancy coffee, with the company of a kinfolk magazine.

These days, when I see the elderly reverting to taking baby steps, or the handicap in some sort of discomfort, I am reminded of how real and how close pain can be. Not that my back hasn’t been giving me some sort of problem already. Increasingly, it is difficult not to despise how people paint lives in such romantic, dream-like ways. I never liked kinfolk. Then again, I never hated it.

Now, some of you must think that I’m not making a lot of sense. The person who writes about pursuing some dream more often than not, who composes photographs with more care than necessary, who loves Paris still despite all its grunge, is now putting down romanticism a.k.a kinfolk-iness?

It’s a love-hate relationship.

In retrospect, she was trying to walk, without the crutch. Perhaps she still dreams of walking by herself one day. Dreams, they may be luxuries for the rich, but they are also sustenance for the poor, and motivation for the rest of us. Everyone deserves the right to dream.

P.S. I really don’t mind receiving a kinfolk issue as a birthday present.

Maple & Market
34 Cassia Crescent #01-82
Singapore 559160
T: 6348 8068

http://mapleandmarket.com/

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