Monday, December 31, 2012

The Energy in New Ends

It’s been a relatively funny year and I've managed to end it feeling rather pleased with myself. Didn’t win the lottery and my financial prospects are not startling. However, I found a plan of sorts and stuck to it reasonably well enough to see results at the end of the year.

Events on the global front gave the blogger in me lots of talk about. The USA had an election and American voters, thankfully made the right choice. The world economy is in a mess and they voters decided not to hand it to someone from the group that was responsible for the mess in the first place.

Here, at home, in Singapore, the ‘gossip writer’ in me had lots of fun. This was the year of sex-scandals. It started off with the head of the Singapore Civil Defense and Central Narcotics Bureau stepping down because of a sex scandal. At the end of the year, the Speaker of Parliament has resigned over an extra-marital affair. In between you had a host of senior civil servants and prominent members of society being arrested for soliciting sex with underage prostitutes.  You could say that the proverbial worms are coming out of the can. For me, I’d like to think that these scandals are a sign of the powerful being held to account and Singapore deciding to be the country it pledges to be rather than the one with unspoken caveats – i.e. “regardless of race, language or religion (provided you have lots of money in your bank account)”

On the family front I had to say goodbye to my Dad’s oldest brother. Uncle Richard was in many ways the original maverick – the uneducated Chinatown Boy who made good. Unfortunately he forgot that it wasn’t just about making money – you had to keep the stuff and more worryingly he abused his body. His passing was a relief in as much as it was the end of his physical suffering. As much as I regard the passing of a sick old man as a blessing, I will also miss a much loved uncle.

However, there were some good beginnings too. Max, my younger brother has started his career in real-estate. He’s become more studious and both he and Caitlan look like they’re settling down into a very stable life together. My other siblings are also managing well. Tara has started her own photography studio in London and Christopher fully integrated into university life.

There was a big birthday party for me this year. Lee, my stepfather turned 80 and I made it to Washington State to spend time with him. He is thankfully healthy and his mind is still buzzing. However, it sometimes hard to be the decent stepson I’d like to be in as much as, I think it was hard for him to accept that it was now my turn to buy the good lunches.

It was also good to catch up with my stepsister, Carol and her family. I’m particularly happy that I got to attend the wedding of my step nephew, Brennon and his lovely wife, Chava, who is now pregnant. I think they’re going to make a very beautiful baby……

As for me, there was something of a transition of sorts. Joyce, the girl who had been such a central part of my life two-years ago left for China. In a way it was a relief. Although my relationship with her was exceedingly passionate, it was, as they say, a little too hot for most people to handle. She couldn't handle “us” and life in Singapore. I hope she’s finding some sense of balance in China. We still trade the odd email and thankfully she’s gracious enough to send me photos of Yooga once in a while. This little boy is a gem and I pray, that somehow, despite the adversities he faces, he’ll grow into a man that the world will admire, though I have to remember what he once told his mother at the age of four, “I’m NOT GOD, I DON’T know everything.”

Just as Joyce and Yooga left my life, Thuy, the little girl who showed me what it was like to live for something greater than myself, reentered it. The seven-year old girl I knew six-years ago is now a teenager of 13.

It’s taken a bit of getting used to each other again. I got to remember that she’s almost a grown woman and I have to respect that but at the same time she’s not quite a grown woman yet and the worries that one has for a small child remain. She’s also adjusting to me too and in between the usual teasing, she is acknowledging that I might be a force of good in her life.

You could say that this is God’s way of making me pay for all my past nonsense with the opposite sex. However, it’s a task that I take on with some amount of pride and someone remarked that having Thuy in my life has brought out the unknown “Responsible” Tang Li.

In terms of work, the highlight will undoubtedly be the PANIIT Conference, which took place in April, 2012. The conference brought together a host of some of the most prominent people in Indian industry and it allowed me to better understand the transformation of a giant country that was once known as backwater of contentious people.  While the vast majority of Indians live below the poverty line, there is a vast number who are educated and well to do. The group at IIT is on their way up and doing so in a hurry. This group is rich with ideas and some of them are now shifting their attention to giving back to where they came from, something which can only be good for India. For me, working with them was exhilarating and I’m grateful to continued friendship of Supriyo Sircar, CEO of Polaris Asia-Pacific and the new friendships with people like Amrit Barman from SAP, Dhruv Jain from Energizer and Mr KV Rao from Tata Power. I’m grateful for having had the chance to meet the likes of Mr R.Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director of Tata Sons and Arjun Mahlotra, one of the founders of Hindustan Computers (HCL) and Headstrong.

The other high point came from an industry that my family seems to be drawn to – the Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF). I am grateful to Mr Glenn Lim, Director 20twenty PR for inviting me to work with him for the three months of launching a festival that brought renown photographers like Stuart Franklin (he who shot the famous photo of the man defying the tank at Tiananmen Square) to not just display their works but to mentor aspiring photographers. There is talent in Singapore and it’s good that we’re looking to and learning from the world.

I also seem to have found a knack with picking up litigation support jobs. This year, I found myself supporting Mr PN Balji in a job that involved a trade mark dispute between the founding members of Ku Te Da. As the trial is still ongoing (lawyers are currently working on submissions) I won’t say much other than the fact that Singapore’s court rooms are a source of stories that are worth telling.

While I remain a media relations consultant, I’m also putting a foot in what could be a career change or a pension plan. I've been spending my weekends helping at a restaurant called Bruno’s. It’s an Italian Restaurant that serves exceedingly good food. I’m currently working as service staff and while the pay is not great, I am enjoying meeting people. Being part of the blue collar work force also helps me to better understand issues that I care about.

On the flip side it’s also good for my health. I've never been one for the gym so a job that keeps me on my feet has been good form of exercise. My blood pressure has lowered and I've managed to shed a few kilos.

While I've called Singapore home for the last decade, this is a year that I've also started to look at the region as an alternative for me. After many day-trips to Johor, I have now set up a fixed-deposit and savings account there. Malaysia has issues but it’s the most obvious place for Singaporeans to expand to. Both Singapore and Malaysia complement each other.  I don’t know how things will be but Malaysia has a certain amount of space that Singapore doesn't have and JB is close enough to provide one with extra space.

Vietnam is also interesting. Although it is still a third world country, it is dynamic and filled with a certain type of energy. After one trip I’d like to go back again and with a plan of sorts.

I don’t know what 2013 will bring. I just hope that I can grow what little I've managed to gain in 2012. There will undoubtedly be challenges but as always, I've come to accept that these are things to be relished and I hope that I remain healthy and able to grab the chances that I get in 2013. 

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