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    Emily of emerald hill play.v3 Emily of emerald hill play.v3 Document Transcript

    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweeEmily of Emerald Hill – ANNOTATED FOR REVISION FOR EXAMINATIONSPAGE 2 of Textbook Emily is a “modern Nonya” - What does “modern” meanThere is only one character, Emily. She wears the here?sarong kebaya of a modern Nonya; jade bangle,brooches and ear studs, her hair in a bun. When the Emily is educated.play opens she is in her mid-thirties, but during the She probably has an open mind She is open-mindedplay she will move back and forward through time and about things.through a range of milieux – “Age cannot wither her,nor custom stale for infinite variety.” Emily is in her mid-thirties she is probably a woman who has a lot of life experiences to share with us. She mustThe play opens in 1950. have gone through quite a fair bit of ups and downs.One set is used throughout the play. It suggests a Baba In the play, Emily travels forwards and backwards as if timemansion built at the turn of the century; with plastered did not matter.walls, covered to a height of one metre with ornamentaltiles, interrupted perhaps by Grecian columns or Milieu = your surroundings and how it affects andmarble statues. influences you.On the walls towards stage right hang group What does this quotation mean when it is used onphotographs of a large family, and portraits of the Emily:patriarch and matriarch; also a large oil-painting ofEmily as a young bride, in full traditional costume. “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale for infinite variety.”Near stage centre is a large chair of rosewood, inlaidwith mother-of-pearl. Beside it is a similar occasional It seems to suggest that Emily seems ageless andtable on which stands a telephone. Two wheeled quite affected by the passing of time. The peopletrolleys stand in the wings until needed. around her may come and go but she will always be there. She will always be a refreshingThere is an “auxiliary acting area’ – a side stage, or character unfazed by how other people expect hermerely the area in front of the curtains. to behave. Emily is forever young. Her energy does not go away. This portion of the play is called the STAGE DIRECTIONS. Here the playwright introduces to you in some details what you can expect EMILY is going to be like. At the same time, the playwright also suggests how we should consider the play is being staged on the theatre stage. The SETTING is a suggested one. We have to use our imagination to move along with the play as it progresses.PAGE 3 of Textbook How is Emily’s character revealed to us?Act OneMain stage dark. Spotlight on phone beside largechair. Emily enters, picks up phone and dials. Who is Susie? The Gan Family’s first daughter-in-law. Emily’sSusie ah! Emily here ah. This afternoon I’m going to main rival in the Gan family when she takes over from Emily as hertown, anything that you’re needing? mother-in-law’s favourite. What kind of tone does Emily use on Susie when she speaks to herI’ve got the chicken you wanted from market; and I on the telephone?saw some good jackfruit, your children love it, so Ibought one big one for you. What else you need? Ah, Emily seems to be very familiar with Susie. She uses theschool uniforms for your two girls; I’ll buy the emphatic “ah” to address Susie and to call out to Susie that shematerial. I will take the sizes when I caome to your is calling her. Emily and Susie are so familiar with each otherhouse and send them to my little tailor down the that Emily appears to be rattling on the telephone withoutroad…Ah Susie! Yesterday I went to Whiteaways to pausing or having to think too much before talking. The content here is also rather personal and it is familiar topicbuy shirts for Richard to take to England, so I bought between Susie and Emily. Susie and Emily are so familiar with 1
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweehalf-dozen for Freddy also: even though he’s not going each other that they are able to converse with each other into England he can still wear them around town…Ya- casual English in clear local flavour.lah, I’ve got a lot to do, interviewing new servant, What happens here? When Emily calls up the patisserie at the hotel, she speaks in English too but this time round, she speaks “inpreparing for Richard’s party. I see you, ya. an upper-class educated voice”. Why does Emily use the “upper-class educated” English?PAGE 4 of Textbook Reasons –Rings off, dials again – speaks in an upper-class 1. She is talking to an outsider who is a stranger.educated voice, in amazing contrast to her previous 2. She is a customer. She wants to reflect her status to the person who receives her call atmanner. the patisserie. 3. She wants to be respected as an importantHello, Adelphi Hotel? Good morning – may I be customer.connected to the patisserie (a bakery-cum-cake shop) 4. It is simply good manners.please? Thank you…Good morning, this is Mrs. Gan Joo What can we then say about her way of speaking with Bee Choo?Kheong speaking. I’ve ordered a birthday cake from you, We are informed by the playwright’s stage direction that whenfor tomorrow; may I enquire when it will be ready for talking to Bee Choo, Emily’s voice is “warm, friendly andcollection? Yes, the message on it is “Richard – many relaxed”.happy returns of the day.” And twenty candles. So Emily has a close friend, Bee Choo.Thank you, then I’ll come in to collect it tomorrow What is mime?morning. Yes, thank you very much. Emily is alone on the stage. From her actions, we know that she is speaking to Richard face-to-face.She rings off, dials again. This time her voice is warm,friendly and relaxed. Chotimall – Emily’s favourite tailorshop. What is the relationship like between Emily and Richard?Hello, Bee Choo? Emily here. Just want to remind you,don’t forget dinner tomorrow night, Richard’s birthday. Emily is a doting mother?Ya-lah, the boy so big now, grown-up already, going to True or FalseEngland next month. I asked him whether he’s happy togo, you know what he said? “Mummy, to go to England Emily is a caring mother?happy also – but to leave my home very sad lah!” Yah, True or Falserascal-lah dia. All right, give my regards to your mothereh, hope she’ll be better soon… I see you eh Bee Choo? Emily manages her dollars and cents well? True or FalseBye-bye. Does Emily let Richard have a lot of freedom?She hangs up the phone. She calls:Richard! Richard, come let Mother talk to you something. What do you think Emily is doing here? Do you find this familiar?Emily’s son, Richard enters; but all Emily wants Richard to obey her wishes. She wants Richard tocharacters except Emily are unseen, and know that she will be unhappy if Richard does not obey her or failknown to us only through her mime. to live up to her expectations or wishes. Emily keeps a tight rein on Richard.PAGE 5 of TextbookHullo boy-boy, did you sleep well? Ah, big strong sonny, Emily is constantly busy in her house. All actions seem to begintomorrow going to be twenty years old, eh? with her. She is the livewire.She laughs as Richard flatters her.Ya, “strong son, beautiful mother,” indeed… Eh, thisafternoon I want you to come out with me in the car. I’mmaking five woollen suits for you at Chotirmall’s, I’mtaking you down for fittings.What do you mean not free this afternoon? Riding, I knowyou’re riding, I know you’re riding. You go up to the pologround at five o’clock only. I bring you back here in timeto change and get ready. I know all your plans when Imake my arrangements. Eh, you want new riding boots, isit? True lah, it’s cheaper to make them here and take themto England. We’ll go to the boot-makers this afternoon, 2
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeyou can choose your leather and show them your pattern. Don’t forget this is a FLASHBACK. The dramatist is showingThen we drop into the passport office; Aunty Rosalind’s us a scene of the past, as though, it is the present. The pointhusband who’s working there has got all your papers ready however is to show us the kind of attention to details whichfor you. Emily does things – which can have both GOOD and BAD outcomes.Now the party tomorrow – how many friends have youinvited? Tell me who, Kok Beng, Peter, Joe… No, Here she is seen telling her eldest son, Richard, who it is to invite to his birthday party and who it is not to be. Richard isRichard, you don’t invite that Chong Soo Boey, samseng not a child, but a young man about to celebrate his twentiethitu, he’ll get into trouble one of these days… You don’t be birthday. Still, Emily speaks to him as though he were a child.friendly with boys like that. I have told you before that I Emily may win by getting Richard to do things her way butdon’t like you to mix with him. Richard will not grow and develop healthily. Richard is not given any opportunity at all to feel, think or do things the wayRichard you must not pretend that you don’t care what I he wants to.say. All I want is for you to be a good boy and make meproud of you. If you mix with bad company I willfeel very worried about you. Maybe that boy isnot bad, but your mother is not happy, Richard.Better you don’t invite him to your party.PAGE 6 of TextbookThat’s my good boy sayang sayang. You don’t worryabout your friend. After all in six weeks you will havegone to England and you will lose touch with him anyway,you both won’t remember each other. All right now. Youget ready after lunch to go out with me. EMILY SPEAKS TO US FOR THE FIRST TIME.Emily watches Richard go. She calls to the servant, off-stage: In 1929, Emily was 14 years old. By 1950, Emily was already 35 -36 years old.Ah Hoon! Tell the driver, go and fetch the new servant to Status symbols –come to the house! “old mansion” “big compound”Stage lights go up slowly to show the set. Emily raises “Orchard Road”her eyes and for the first time addresses the audiencedirectly. It was common in those days for girls to be married off when they were in their early teens.This is Emerald Hill: this old mansion in a big compound,just off Orchard Road. My husband’s father, Mr. Gan Eng Traditional extended family.Swee, built it in 1902. In 1929, I came to the house as abride of just fourteen years old; and since then I’ve lived Emily + Gan Joo Kheonghere with Kheong (my husband) and our children, and = Richard (eldest son)Kheong’s parents, when they were alive. = Charles (second son) = Edward (third son)There are six adults in the house at present, Kheong and = Doris (fourth daughter)me, two of his brothers and my two sisters-in-law, Mabel Emily is a very capable daughter-in-law.and Molly. I have Richard, Charles, Edward and Doris;Mabel and Molly have six children between them. The Gan family is really rather well-to-do. During the war, the Japanese Occupation Army probably took over control of importantAnd the servants – well I need two in the kitchen, two to areas in the city area. Remember: Emerald Hill is located in thewash and clean the house, and then there are the various Orchard Road area, very near to the government and businessbaby amahs. And there’s the driver living in the quarters districts. Either the Gans were being evacuated by the Japanese orat the back with his family, and the gardener and his family they moved away to avoid the Japanese on their own accord.too. What do you think, full house or not? I tell you, Maybe this comment by Emily is useful for us to understand whylooking after all of them, no joke lah! the setting of the play is set in 1950.PAGE 7 of Textbook Emily is the matriarch who is responsible for returning the familyBefore the War the house was really crowded. Then mansion to its former glory.during the Occupation we had to leave Emerald Hill andgo to our sea-side bungalow in Siglap. When we cameback, amboi (wow), what a mess the place was in, reallysakit hati (upsetting) … Ever since then I’ve been clearing 3
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeup and putting it straight. Now, 1950, I can say that theplace is back to its former glory.In the dining-room, I’ve hung up again our bigglass chandelier, which I wrapped up and storedaway before the War. The marble floors havebeen polished shining again; the balustrades onthe wide staircase, that the Japs broke, I’ve founda craftsman to carve them in the same, twiningvine-leaf pattern, as they were originally done inthe good old days. At every tall window I’verepaired the hinged wooden louvers, and hung uplong curtains of printed English cotton. All thebig, airy bedrooms have been replastered andpainted; over each bed there’s a white mosquitonet like a tent, and from the high ceiling hangs amodern electric fan that goes round and round to Why does she keep herself busy? Why does she do all the work bycool the air. herself? 1. She is expected to – as a senior daughter-in-law. 2. Her husband spends little time with her.And you know what else I’ve done – I’ve built two 3. Her nature – she likes to be busy.new bathrooms, upstairs, with shower and bath 4. She feels that it is her duty and responsibility to carry onand bidet, and the taps and fittings in gold, and with the family tradition.colour matching throughout – one in rose pink, 5. She is also eternally gratefully to her father-in-law forone in sea green. taking her in as a teenage-bride.So I keep myself busy, running the household,looking after all the family.PAGE 8 of TextbookEmily sits in the big chair and draws forward a sewing Third Mistress = Mabelbasket. She starts to take out her sewing things and put (Emily’s sister-in-law)them on the side table; she stops doing this, to call the Fourth Mistress = Mollyservant. (Another of Emily’s sister-in-law)Ah Hoon! Ah Hoon come! Where are you? Emily keeps the family mansion running and takes care of its upkeeping.She turns away from the sewing things to address the Emily is the new mistress of Emerald Hill. She is married to theservant. family mansion. From the way she says it to the audience, we should be able to tell that her relationship with her husband, GanThose new vests for Master Richard, put them in the sun to Joo Kheong is not a loving one.air. Get Master Edward’s scout uniform mended in time A flashback = Emily brings us back to the past.for his campfire tonight. The Third Mistress is playingbridge at eleven o’clock, tell the driver to bring the carround. Ask the Fourth Mistress’s baby amah to see me, Here you notice how Emily runs her household. Even if she doesthe baby has prickly heat, she must use this powder. Is the not actually do things on her own, she keeps clear instructions andnew servant here? specific orders to her servants on what to do to get things done the correct way in the mansion. We can tell from here that Emily has aEmily rises and goes down left to meet new servant, meticulous touch in the things she does.speaks to her very kindly. The downside of this is that: if she does it so well with the non- living, she might think that she could do the same with the living.So Ah Sim you want to work for me, I give you sixty One by one, over the years, her relationship with her close onesdollars a month, and you have your day off once in two begin to suffer because of Emily’s domineering personality. Sheweeks. You work well for me and I will be very good to expects her husband or her son, Richard to do as she wishes. Theseyou, and surely we will get on very nicely together. You expectations bring about very unfortunate outcomes.know how to wash clothes; you must put a lot of starch inthe Big Master’s trousers, and all the children’s schooluniforms. But don’t put a lot on my kebayas. Only just alittle bit of starch on my kebayas, you do it the way I want.All right, you go with Ah Hoon now, she will show youaround.Emily dismisses servant and speaks to audience. 4
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweePAGE 9 of TextbookSo I look after the whole household, and I am theMistress of Emerald Hill, just as my husband’smother used to be in the pre-war days. My Emily talks about her humble beginning.goodness, when I first married, I was so scared ofher! I had heard so many stories about wicked A 14-year-old Emily and a 28-year-old husband. We shouldmothers-in-law. understand that this was not a love match. It was an arranged marriage. To Gan Eng Swee, it was a marriage of convenience.The stage lights are dimmed. There is a brighter areastage right, with small spots emphasizing the familyportraits.Emily has put on a long pink baju (coat) in the style ofthe 1930s. She moves into that bright area and does aflashback to the past. Emily was chosen because she did not have any emotional baggageYes, I was frightened when I first came to Emerald Hill. elsewhere. She is totally reliant on her husband and his family. SoThe mother-in-law was not my only trouble. I was my Emily is unlikely to be a difficult wife or daughter-in-law.husband’s second wife – his first wife died three yearsbefore – and the wives of the second and third brothers Emily thinks fondly of her father even though his father did notwere aged eighteen and nineteen, not prepared to accept a seem to be a responsible husband or father.young bride as the senior sister-in-law. I was an orphanfrom a poor family; I was a girl alone, coming to a house Emily’s father’s name is GAN BOON SWEE. Boon Swee is a cousin of Gan Eng Swee.of women who hated me before they knew my name.Emily gazes at the wedding picture.My husband, Gan Joo Kheong, was the eldestson of Mr. Gan Eng Swee. He was twenty-eightyears old and he had been previously married toa tin-miner’s daughter, who died without children. Emily does not have any good memories of her mother. Although her father has a colourful past and has not be a faithful husband,His father decided that Kheong must marry again; Emily has a better memory of him.but this time he would marry a poor girl, whowould be grateful, and humble, and not causetrouble in the house. Even better, instead ofbringing in outside blood, he should marry a girlwho was already related to the family…Mr. Ganremembered his niece, the daughter of his deadcousin Boon Swee, a girl with no one else to care Emily tells us fondly about her father but not about her mother.for her. She claims that her mother “couldn’t be bothered” with her. So although Emily was not exactly unloved or uncared for in herPAGE 10 of Textbook childhood, she was certainly deprived of familial warmth. SheI can’t remember my mother much. She threw me certainly does not have the opportunity to savour motherly loveaway when I was small; she went a bit crazy from her very own mother.when my father took a sing-song girl as hissecond wife. My father went bankrupt about thatsame time, but that didn’t make him change theway he lived…AdmiringlyHe was a fine, jovial man, my father. He was a greatsportsman; I remember when I was about nine hebrought home a big silver cup from the SingaporeTennis Championship. In the evenings I used to run tohim and cling to his big strong shoulder, and I’d smell hisspecial smell of brandy and cigars. Then he’d say: “Sing Emily does not receive any motherly love from her own mother.for your supper, little lady!” and he would pick me up inhis arms and put me right on top of the grand piano. And I Fortunately, because of her bubbly and energetic personality, shewould sing for him the way he taught me… lived through her “motherless” experience. When she actually becomes a mother herself, she is seen as an “overprotective” parent 5
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hwee who takes charge of her children’s lives, as seen in her treatment ofEmily sings in a childish little voice. Richard. We sympathize with Emily because, this is probably her way of trying to make up to her children, the best way that she knows how to, for all the love that she did not receive from herBy-and-by hard times come a-knocking at the door, mother previously. So, she “overcompensates” by taking care ofThen my old Kentucky home, good night. her children because she loves them. Her motivation to giveWeep no more my lady, oh weep no more today Richard the best she can give because she herself did not receiveWe will sing one song for the old Kentucky home, any such opportunities from her own mother. Her insecurity makesFor the old Kentucky home so far away. her “love” her children in a very “controlling manner”. She dictates to Richard, for example, what she thinks, are the “best” decisions. Richard is always a child to her, even at twenty-twoPAGE 11 of Textbook years old.When my father died my mother couldn’t be botheredwith me. I left school and I stayed with one relative oranother. One day the auntie I was living with called me Emily seemed to have a “hard time” when she was a young bride atand said to me, “On Friday you are going to be married.” Emerald Hill. But she already shows us that she has a very strong personality. She recovers very quickly from her position ofMr. Gan sent people to dress me in the red bridal costume, weakness to become the most important member and leader of the Gan household.and deck me out with jewellery and the heavy goldenheaddress, and teach me what to do. One of his houses Emily works very hard to please her mother-in-law. She does notwas prepared for the marriage ceremony. And that Friday scheme or plot to win the heart of her mother-in-law. The otherI was married! The celebrations went on for three days, sisters-in-law, particularly, Susie, are simply not good enough forthen I moved into Emerald Hill. the old lady. Suzie, according to Emily, is a rather irresponsible and lazy senior daughter-in-law. It is no wonder that Susie falls outAt first I had a lot of problems. Of course, I didn’t have a of favour with her mother-in-law. Once Emily replaces Suzie, shepersonal maid. At Emerald Hill, all the young Nonyas replaces her forever.had their own servant to clean their rooms, look after theirclothes, wait on them all the time. Not one of the sisters-in-law offered to let her servant help me. I asked Susie to Emily is grateful to Bee Choo’s mother, because she is “alwayslet her servant wash my clothes. very kind to her”. Emily remains a loyal friend to Bee Choo for the rest of her life. – See ACT TWO.She said, “My servant got no time, got too much things todo!” I washed my clothes myself. Twelve o’clock atnight, I borrowed the iron to iron them. My husbanddidn’t know.She quotes husband’s perfunctory [Joo Kheong is justmerely checking to see if she is all right] enquiry:“Emily you’re all right ah?” Emily plays her role of a daughter-in-law skillfully. She understands the needs and the demands of her mother-in-law. SheShe nods and smiles tightly in reply. understands her position in the home can only be maintained or empowered by her mother-in-law. At the same time, Emily also learns a lot from her and very fortunately, she comes to enjoySo they tried to bully me but I didn’t cry: I never doing what her mother-in-law is doing at the Gan household.cried for myself. I went to visit my old school When the old lady passes away, Emily is more than ready to takefriend, Bee Choo; her mother was always very over her role to be the matriarch.kind to me, and she found a servant for me. I toldBee Choo: “I don’t care for my sisters-in-law. Theonly one I want to worry about is my mother-in-law.”PAGE 12 of TextbookEmily draws the big chair forward.My mother-in-law used to spend her days playing cardswith her friends. And when she did so, she liked to haveone or other of her daughters-in-law standing behind herchair, to make her sireh and wait on her. (She was the realold-fashioned Nonya, spoke and wrote only in Malay, herteeth all black from chewing her sireh.) Before I came,Susie was the senior daughter-in-law, but she was so lazy:she would make excuse, my son is crying, got to runaway. I said, “Oh Susie, you better go and look after 6
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeyour son. I’m so free lah, no children, I can helpMother.” I stood behind the old lady. “matriarch” – the most important motherly figure in a household or organization.Emily stands behind the big chair and watches cardgame. Susie has herself to blame for falling out of favour with the mother- in-law.“Neo, you want to drink tea ah? You want your sireh?” Imade her sireh from her silver box and folded it and What does the “big diamond ring” symbolize?pounded it for her.“Ahyo Neo, cherki eh, tan chit eh?... Ah… Amboi! The “big diamond ring” symbolizes that Emily has become theMampus!... Ahyo, mak mau tombok kah? (Oh Mother most favoured daughter-in-law in the household.you’ve lost. Shall I massage you?”)Emily stands behind mother and pummels hershoulders. Mother wins the next hand.Ah, ah, mata cherki! Chot! Chot! Ho-miah-la Neo. Why is Richard so important to the Gan family and also to Emily?(“You won. Good luck.”) - Richard is the first son of the eldest son - Richard’s birth raises the status of the mother, Emily - Richard is the heir to the Gan family heirloom, at leastSo my mother-in-law liked me a lot. When she went to according to Peranakan culture and tradition.town in the big Studebaker she took me with her -Susie again didn’t want to keep her company. One day Emily really loves Richard.she went to the bank to take out her diamonds for aparty. And that day she happened to be in a goodmood so she took her big ring and she asked me, “Mau-kah Emily?”PAGE 13 of TextbookShows big diamond ring. This is a foreign song learned in a Peranakan household.So she gave me her ring; Susie naik jah-kee saja. (Susiehit the wall.)And then my son was born: Richard. He was the firstson of the eldest son, and the grandparents were veryhappy. Of course, I had a baby amah to look after him;only, sometimes, I would carry him and rock him to Sons are very important to a family because they carry the surnamesleep… of the family. The family line lives on.Emily rocks the baby; she herself looks young and Gan Joo Kheong, like most fathers, does not always sit at home. Men like him are expected to be staying away from home and betense as she sings him to sleep. working busily for their children and wives.Go to sleep, my little piccaninny, So Emily does not expect Kheong to spend quality time with any ofBrer Fox will catch you if you don’t… her children. But she does show us that she is not altogether happyI’s a little Alabama coon, with his inattentiveness. Emily is hinting to us that Kheong doesI’s not been born very long. not care too much for her and her children here.I remember seeing a great big moonI remember hearing one sweet song…Go to sleep, my little piccaninny, Emily is proactive and she certainly has very good skills at makingBrer Fox will catch you if you don’t… friends with people.Lights up. During next speech Emily takes off pinkcoat, leaving it near portraits.I had three sons, father-in-law chose their names –Richard, Charlie, Edward. Then I had a girl; “I like adaughter,” my husband said, “call her Doris.” Not that he Emily is always learning new things. She never seems to sit still.pays much attention to any of the children, of course. She is growing and developing all the time.PAGE 14 of TextbookWhen Richard was going to join Anglo-Chinese School 7
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweeI expected the father to bring him to see theHeadmaster, after all he was from ACS himself, but hecouldn’t be bothered. (Emily imitates Kheong’s Emily is good at home economics. She is good at running her household. She does not merely order people around. She leads bybrusque brush-off) “You look after it, you arrange it example. She is cut out to run a household sensibly andlah!” economically. She does not waste and she knows how to make use of things other people think are worthless. She is already practicingSo I got to know the ACS headmaster and his wife. what we now fondly think of as “recycling”.Through her I started making my patchwork quilts; shetaught handwork to the girls at Methodist Girls’ School,and I learned from her.Emily sits in her big chair and again turns to hersewing things.I never like to sit idle; even when I’m directing thehousehold, I kike to keep my hands busy with something.On the table beside her she sets a series of plaited-leafboxes in which are kept her patches, paper patterns, etc andshe explains the work.First you draw these six-sided shapes on paper and cut What does this line tells us?them out. Then you take the pieces of cloth and tack them This clearly indicates to us that every one of the member into the paper pattern – fold the edges nicely – and when you Emerald Hill Mansion is under the “protection” extended by Emily.have made a lot of the shapes, then you start joining themtogether to form the quilt. You sew with very small neat The “patchwork quilt” is the protective blanket.stitches – and of course you can choose the colours andarrange them to make a nice pattern.This piece came from a brocade gown that I wore the timethat the Governor came to dinner. This is a remnant frommy dress for Mabel’s wedding. This piece was from oneof mother-in-law’s old cheong sams. There were a lot ofher old clothes left behind when she died. Susie said,“Nobody wants them lah, I’ll take them away to throw.” Emily gives generously and asks without any hesitation for favoursShe wanted to make use of them of course. “Oh needn’t whenever she needs them. Here is one example.waste them,” I said, “they can be given to the poor.” I keptthem and sorted them out. Some of them I did give to theSalvation Army. Emily is conservative in some ways.PAGE 15 of TextbookBy now after so many years, I’ve made quilts for all thefamily. Every night, each one of them sleeps all wrappedup in my patchwork quilt.Emily sits at her patchwork. The stage is dim with alow spot on Emily.Over speakers in the auditorium, we hear a pre-recorded tape of Emily’s voice. The following scene hasbeen read softly and close to the mike and is played Emily does everything for Richard. If a mother “spoonfeeds” herback at higher volume, thus providing a contrast in children, do you think they can grow and develop properly?sound-texture to her speech on stage.Mabel, you do look nice in that dress. You have suchgood taste in choosing the pattern, and my little tailor hasmade it up very neatly. Mabel, I wonder whether you like Emily is the decision maker at home.to let your Annie join Doris at Mrs. Swanson’s folk-dancing class? It would be so good for her figure, wouldn’tit? Doris would enjoy her lessons more with her cousin to Emily is so capable that her father and mother-in-law put their trustjoin her. Lately she said she wasn’t satisfied with the folk- in her.dancing, she wanted to transfer to Mrs. Swanson’s ballet 8
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeclass. I’ve seen those ballet-dancers on the stage, showinghalf their body naked, stretching their thighs… I told Dorisshe should enjoy the folk-dancing, with those prettypeasant dresses they wear: I’m sure Annie would like ittoo.Emily takes a new piece of patchwork.PAGE 16 of Textbook Another example on how Emily tries to express her concern andRichard come with me. I’ll see to everything you need. influence on her relatives.You don’t have to worry about any problems, just letMother do everything for you. You know how much I Is Emily a busybody or is she merely a caring matriarch of a biglove you, and I want you to be happy. And I know you family? She certainly goes to great lengths to take care of each andwant to make Mother happy too. every member of the Gan family. Her understanding of how a married woman should behave is veryKheong, I’m going to make two new bathrooms and build rooted. She is very clear about what she has to do as a woman, wife and mother in her family. She also expects the other marrieda new wing onto the house. Remember your father always women in her house to do the same.said we needed more rooms, I’m sure he would haveapproved. We can afford it, can’t we – Father’s rubberdividends are coming in. In fact Kheong, I think now youshould make more investments. Not in property. Mr. G.P. Chee told me we could buy shares in some publiccompanies, Whiteaways, Singapore Traction Corporation:in future those shares will be very valuable, he says. Emily plans for Kheong to enter politics. She is quite ambitious for her husband. She may not have the real reasons for Kheong to join the Legislative Council. But she certainly knows how to influenceA risky chance, you think? But I trust Mr. Chee’s advice, Kheong.don’t you? You’ve got the sound judgement like yourfather of course: a shrewd businessman like you won’t leta good opportunity pass by.Molly – wasn’t your husband coughing badly last night?Of course as his wife you’ve noticed it, but don’t you think Emily has her conservative side as well. She thinks, like most mothers, that a son’s future matters more than a daughter’s. A sonhe should see the doctor? Dr. Liew said it’s nothing, who must have a good education. A daughter must marry into a goodis Dr. Liew? He should see the chest specialist at the family. All children are expected to do their parents proud.hospital, I will make an appointment. I will boil Chinesemedicine for him and you must see that he drinks it, Molly,you must look after him. In the 50s and 60s, the Gans are already enjoying a fairly high standard of living in Singapore.He’s that bad, is he, he has to go into hospital? Molly, youmust stay at his side. He must have a private room so that DID YOU KNOW? The HDB which is the statutory board responsible for housing more than 80 – 90 percent of Singaporeansyou can sleep by his bed at night. I’ll send your clothes and has not been set up yet during Emily’s time. So the Gan family isfood to the hospital so that you can stay with him all the actually living WAY ABOVE the ordinary local people’s standardtime. A woman must look after her husband. of living.PAGE 17 of Textbook Emily plans everything for Richard. She expects Richard to do as she says and she tells him clearly that he is supposed to “doKheong – they are forming a new Legislative Council – everything that she wants him to do”.could you be a Councillor, if you wanted to be? You knowso many people don’t you, if you talk to them properly youcan be nominated. Yes of course you have to go to office,but you can spare some time to do this surely? You’ll berespected, people will look up to you. Councillor Gan JooKheong – it sounds very good. DO not forget to read the STAGE DIRECTIONS because they tell us through EMILY’s movements, what she is going to do next. TIME moves back and forth in this play. So be very careful.Charlie, Edward, are you studying hard at school? Youmust work hard to be clever like your brother. Doris, stopreading. What, this girl forever has her nose in a book.Come and ehlp me in the kitchen, when you get marriedyou must know how to cook and look after your family.Molly, Mabel, during the school holidays we’ll take all thefamily to stay at our sea-side bungalow. The children can 9
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeswim and play sand, we’ll play mahjong every day. I’vebought an American barbecue grill so that we can cook out Emily enjoys her role as the hostess of Emerald Hill Mansion.there on the beach. We’ll all just relax and enjoyourselves.Richard, you did so well in your Cambridge Exams. Ihave written to a famous college in London for you to There is definite pride and honour in the Gan family.study there next year. But of course you will like it inEngland, you’ll get on very well there, nothing to befrightened about. Clever boy, Mother is very proud ofyou. You will never do anything to make me sad, willyou?... You’ll do everything that I want you to do. Emily makes comparison between her time and her father-in-law’sPAGE 18 of Textbook time because time changes the practices of the people. Time alsoLights go up on centre stage. Emily puts away her makes traditional concepts and practices change. Emerald Hillwork and goes to the back of the stage; she brings Mansion is not protected from the ravage of time. However, because Emerald Hill Mansion has survived, it shows its ability toforward a wheeled trolley which she positions down adapt itself to meet the needs of the changing times. It also showsleft. us that Emily is a good leader and manager. Her thinking may not be always right but she gets the results, which may not always beBroad spot on the trolley. Emily opens hinged flaps to positive.make the trolley into a long table. From under thetrolley she takes a white tablecloth and varioustableware. She talks to the audience as she spreads the Emilly and her relatives and servants at Emerald Hill Mansiontablecloth. enjoy the hustle and bustle of the parties and functions. They quite obviously take great pride in serving their invited guests.I like to entertain at Emerald Hill. Once in a while we givea big formal dinner, hire cooks and waiters, set out tableson the lawn. Or quite often we have a smaller party likethis, I do the cooking myself. Peranakan families, especially the women folks take great pride in their cooking skills and the special cuisine dishes they prepare forI set out the family silverware; it’s engraved with a capital their guests.G for Gan, and a jeweled mountain, the Emerald Hill. Theold wine-glasses have the symbol too. I put out the Nonyachina, some of it my mother-in-law inherited from hermother – must be over a hundred years old.In the old days my father-in-law used to entertain a lot atEmerald Hill. Every Sunday he held Open House: this longtable would be spread with food, and anybody at all coulddrop in for a meal. All of us daughters-in-law had to helpin the kitchen, picking taugeh, cutting vegetables for the STAGE DIRECTIONS - Emily shows us the great amount ofpopiah – my speciality was my babi buah keluak. And effort Emily puts in to make herself a presentable hostess for one ofsometimes in the evenings he would give a really big party, her dinner parties she holds at the Emerald Hill Mansion.the whole house decorated with lights, a hired bandplaying in the garden.We daughters-in-law had to serve the table. My mother-in-law didn’t really do much cooking herself, she had an Emily takes pain to entertain important guiests whom she thinksexcellent Hainanese boy as our cookie. But at these formal will be useful in maintaining the reputation and prosperity of thedinners she would stand and supervise as though she had Gan family. She works hard to be a useful wife to Gan Joo Kheong.done everything herself; and we daughters-in-law had torun back and forth under her eye.PAGE 19 of Textbook Emily makes an effort to remember her guests and she seems to not only know their names, but also quite a fair bit about their lives asFrom the back of the stage Emily brings dishes to table. well. This is a remarkable quality.All evening we’d be going in and out of the kitchen, taking Emily is confident with her cooking skills and selection of food foraway empty dishes, bringing out full ones. We’d be her guests. Like all true blue Peranakan hostess, she wants only thewearing our best cheong sams or evening gowns – best for her guests.frightened of spilling things on ourselves! Back aching,feet sore, hungry like anything! But my mother-in-law, Emily tries her best to get Richard “connected” with her guests, especially those she considers as important to Richard’s future. 10
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeshe enjoyed herself at those dinner parties.There now. Quite a small function tonight, only a few of Emily plans for Richard’s future. She does this because this is one of the ways she expresses her love for her son.our friends; the party is mostly for the children’s sake.The table is set. Emily steps back and goes to extreme ONE IMPORTANT THING - Emily has never revealed openly tostage right. She powders her face, puts on diamonds, us that she and Joo Kheong are not very much in love. There arehairpins, high-heeled slippers. hints of Joo Kheong being a “dutiful” but not loving husband orThe stage lights up, blazing brilliantly. father. Emily does everything and Joo Kheong, practically notihingEmily sweeps forward magnificently to greet her for their children. Emily has never expressed “unhappiness” withguests. her husband. Gan Joo Kheong and Emily’s marriage is not a love marriage. It is(With overwhelming graciousness) Welcome to Emerald an ARRANGED marriage. It is not surprising that Joo KheongHill, Mr. Lim. I think this is the first time we’ve had the may not love Emily. Emily herself has never loved Kheong. She ispleasure of your company. Some of the other Councillors concerned with her duties and responsibilities.will be coming too. Kheong, here’s Mr. Lim, give him adrink and some makan kecil.(With great cordiality) Hello Mrs. Ong, hello Johnny. Emily is unable to stop Kheong from seeing another woman. DianaHow are you Mrs. Ong? How is your new house coming Lee is Kheong’s mistress. Their relationship cannot be kept secreton? Johnny, you can go inside, Richard is at because it is impossible for keeping such affairs secret. It is anthe back somewhere. Do sit down Mrs. Ong, try my prawn OPEN secret. People in polite society do not discuss such affairssavouries. openly.PAGE 20 of Textbook Susie and Emily never REALLY like each other.(Aside) Richard, where have you been, you must meet Emily never fails to remind Susie how much she has used heryour guests. Straighten your tie. Say good evening to influence to help both Susie and her husband financially. She isMrs. Ong. implying that Susie and her husband owes their living to her. Emily also shows off her influence by telling Susie openly that(Cordial and sedate to male acquaintance) Hello Mr. “G.P. Chee is always so obliging to her”. She is advising Susie toChan – why alone? Where’s the better half? Bring her be grateful and pretends to ask her “why she doesn’t try to se morenext time eh. Yes, here’s our birthday boy. He’ll be of him” – why Susie is NOT friendly to Chee. [We cannot expect Susie to swallow a HUMBLE pill here - Susie has pride too. Sheleaving for England soon. And then when he comes back and her husband may not have willingly accepted help from Emilywith his law degree he can go straight into your office. or Chee.]Richard, look after Mr. Chan, in future he’s going to beyour boss you know! Get a drink for him and maybe he Emily’s hospitality (friendliness towards guests) is reserved for thewill give you some good advice about how to study in guests she considers most useful to her and her family.London!(With real warmth) Hello Bee Choo! How are you?How’s your mother? Come in, sit down, have a cold drink.Try the makan kecil. Yes, we’re all fine thank you,Kheong fine too. (Dropping her voice) Hey Bee Choo,you know what I told you about Kheong? That’s thewoman there, that whore Diana Lee.(With alarming sweetness) Hello, Diana, are you lookingfor Kheong? He’s in the bar over there, do go to him, I’msure he’s dying to see you; it’s full of men there but I’msure that doesn’t bother you at all.(With fake warmth, guard well up) Hello Susie! Wah, Emily treats her guests VERY well because she takes them veryvery nice embroidered blouse, where from? Hello Freddy, seriously.how’s everything? Ahyo, Susie, thank you for the present Emily makes use of Emerald Hill Mansion and her position in theyou sent to Richard. So good of you. You shouldn’t have GAN family to make important friends for herself and her family.spent so much. But Joo Chong is doing well, isn’t he, ever Social networking. She is good at keeping ties with her friends andsince I got Mr. G.P. Chee to support him. Mr. Chee is associates who are influential in the business, legal or politicalalways so obliging to me, just because he was our father- field.in-law’s old friend. I don’t know why you don’t try to seemore of him. 11
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweePAGE 21 of TextbookShe flies to the door, she “manjas”Mr. Chee! So glad you can come! I’m just waiting for youto be the guest of honour at the table. Ah yo Mr. Chee, nomore “little Em-lee”, got such a big buffalo for a son, I’man old hag already…”Fountain of youth”, pula! Whatabout yourself Mr. Chee, never look a day older, you’ll seethe rest of us six feet under…Really you look very well. Iheard you went for new treatment in Switzerland ya?...Are you ready to makan? Would you like another drink?Yes-lah, I know what you like to eat, I’ve made my otakspecially for your sake. Ladies and Gentlemen – shall weadjourn to the dining-room? Time is being FAST FORWARD here to TWO YEARS later.Emily leads the way to the dining table where she When Richard goes away from Emily and gets out of her side, hestands, presiding over the buffet. gets on with his life in a way VERY DIFFERENTLY from his mother’s wish.Buffet style, eh, do please help yourselves. Roast chickenis there, sambal, achar, babi buah keluak, soup. Molly,please can you serve the rice… Mabel please see to thesoup…Mr. Chan, fill up your plate. Mr. Chee – try a bit ofsambal? Here’s the otak – and the duck soup. Ladies ifyou’re watching your weight you just rata-rata lah, eat Emily does not understand why Richard is not writing home.dishes only, don’t worry about rice. Come, Freddy,Johnnie, don’t be shy boys, just gasak… Afterwards we’llhave a film show for you young people, I have got someCharlie Chaplin films. Kheong please will you set up theprojector and the screen. TIME IS FLASHBACKED again to the time the Gan family is seeing Richard off at the Keppel Harbour to see Richard off to England.PAGE 22 of TextbookDoris, call all the young children to come – we’re going tocut the birthday cake! Come, Richard, ready to blow outyour candles…Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happybirthday to Richard, happy birthday to you!Main lights go down leaving the stage very dim.Emily rolls the trolley away into the wings. Sheremoves her jewellery etc. She goes over to pick up thephone. Stage lights up.No lah Bee Choo, I haven’t heard from Richard forquite a while. Yah, he’s been there nearly two yearsnow. He seems to be enjoying himself there. In his ARRIVAL OF RICHARD’S UNFORTUNATE LETTER.holidays he goes hiking in the country and riding at ariding school. In fact I tell you Bee Choo, I am afraid that In his letter, Richard reveals a lot of himself to his mother and alsohe is playing too much and neglecting his studies, he failed to us. We know for the first time, that he is now 22 years old andhis last examinations and he will have to sit for them again. like all young adults, has a mind of his own. He has his own plansYes I am a bit worried about him. I must write and ask on how his life should be heading from then onwards. He appealshim to concentrate more on his work. to his mother to give him the opportunity to “make some decisions for himself”.Puts down phone. We know that Richard cannot grow and develop as a person if he continues to take orders on what to do or what not to do from hisOn the day Richard left, the whole family went down to mother. We also know that Emily has high hopes for Richard. WeKeppel Harbour to see him off. We went on board the also know that Emily resorts to using EMOTIONALbig liner, P&O Carthage, and had tea in the saloon. BLACKMAILING a lotThe Indian porters carried his big trunks. We all wentdown to look at his cabin, the younger children climbed 12
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweein and out of the bunks.PAGE 23 of Textbook“Bye-bye Richard! Don’t forget to work hard. Don’t To Emily, Richard’s request is a BETRAYAL of her HOPES,worry about money, if you need anything you just write AMBIION, DREAMS and TRUST. Her main intention to go toback and ask. Study hared, pass your exams, come back England is to put Richard back on the RIGHT track. She cannotsoon! You’ll have a good future, Richard, you’ll have a see that Richard is begging her to let him have an opportunity togood career. Study hard and make Mother very proud of lead a new life, more importantly, the kind of life which Richard thinks he truly wants for himself.you.”And so he sailed away. What is he doing? Why hasn’t hewritten for so long? Ah Hoon! See whether that’s thepostman there… Although a caring mother, Emily as she appears here in this scene, can appear to be quite a scary woman – She can be ratherEmily picks up a letter and reads it. intimidating here and if you place her beside her son, Richard, who is only beginning to discover what life is like for himself, you will realize why Richard is no match to her mother at all.Dear Mummy, I’m afraid you’re going to be awfully angrywhen you read this letter! As you can see, I’ve left the Emily will never be able to fully appreciate how her aggressivenessUniversity and I’m in Salisbury now. I’ve started a job has driven her son, Richard to cut short his life.here that could become my permanent way of living. You Richard takes his own life because he probably thinksremember that last summer holidays, I worked as an 1. he is no match for his mother because he understandsinstructor at Mr. Green’s riding school. Mr. Green has her too well. He probably thinks she will make him gjveoffered me a permanent job as his assistant, and in a few up his work at the riding school and return to hisyears I could become his partner. Meanwhile I’m teaching university to complete his studies.the younger pupils and helping around the stables. 2. he does not know how to persuade his mother to give in to his wish to stsy in Salisbury and continue working.Mummy, I know you won’t like this idea much, but I’ve 3. he has done all he could to persuade his mother in his earlier letter. So he cannot bring himself to clash withbeen thinking it over very carefully. I will work hard and her face-to-face. He has always been living in hersave my pay so that I can buy a share of the business in shadow so it is not for him to fight directly against herfuture. The important thing is that I shall be standing on wish.my own feet and earning my own living. I feel it’s time 4. he thinks it is the end of the road for him because hethat I made some decisions for myself, and stopped does not receive any support from his mother – probablydepending on you for everything. the only person who cares for him and whom he cares for. He may be too disappointed and distraught andPlease don’t be too angry, Mummy, because I’ve definitely think it meaningless to continue living.made up my mind. I like working with horses, and I 5. he does not want to be a mother’s boy anymore. He has gotten used to his new-found independence. He doeswasn’t ever very keen about going into Mr. Chan’s law not want to move backwards.office. Your son, Richard. Emily always gets what she wants. She expects Richard to deliverPAGE 24 of Textbook what she expects him to achieve. She does not expectEmily abandons letter…is grimly silent for a moment. disappointment or betrayal. She treats Richard’s betrayal as a matter which urgently needs to be settled, acts immediately and travels swiftly by air to pin her son down.Kheong! You’d better read this letter. Ah Hoon, bringdown my suitcase to be packed. Tell the driver to bring the What Emily has failed to realize is that she cannot stop Richardcar, to take me to the ticket office. No Kheong don’t waste from making drastic decisions to go further against her. She hasyour time writing to Richard. I’m going to go to England failed to realize that Richard has already grown up, that he hasto see him. Boat? The boat takes three weeks to get there. tasted what life is like abroad. Emily underestimates Richard’sI am going to fly by plane. determination to what to decide things for himself now that he is 23 years old. She certainly has not expected Richard to commit suicide and take his own life.Emily leaves the main stage for auxiliary acting area. It is a very tragic ending for both Richard and Emily.Salisbury? Salisbury? Excuse me, is this the SalisburyRiding School? I know it’s late but could you please show What Emily wants Richard to do is to admit that what he hasme where Richard Gan lives? Thank you…He’s going to decided for himself to do is a mistake and he is supposed to undo it.get a shock when he sees me…Richard!! Your mother is here! Emily may not have realized it but her love for her son is laden with conditions. In order for Richard to receive her love, he has gotWhat is this wonderful job you have, to throw away your to fulfil her wishes and do things her way.education for? Instructor is it? You’re a syce in astableyard! Is this all you care for all that I’ve done for 13
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeyou? You forget everything I’ve given you, you throwaway all the sacrifices I’ve made, you drage down all myhopes into the mud! You trample on your mother’s heart,no love, no gratitude, anak cherkeh darah, you eat yourmother’s blood. I should have hanged myself first, beforeI have a son like you!PAGE 25 of TextbookOh yes. What is this famous job of yours? You thinkyou’re very clever don’t you, going to stand on your ownfeet, going to be independent it seems! You think you’regoing to save money do you? How much are you earningin one month? How much do you pay for food, clothes,tax? You’re not sure. You stupid boy, this man is justusing you as a cheap worker to sweep his tai kuda. Heoffered you partnership hah? Have you got anything inwriting? All right, trust him, wait and see… TIME SHIFTS FORWARD AGAIN and EMILY IS BACK TO CONTINUE HER STORY-TELLING IIN SINGAPORE.You think this place has good prospects do you. Will youlisten to what I have to say? I am not saying this to hurtyou - I never want to hurt you. I only want the best for It is quite clear here that Emily has failed to treat Richard as ayou. I have had a good look at this place. The grounds are person with his own mind, thinking and feelings. Richard seemsneglected, the buildings need repair. When I asked my more like an object to be used for pleasing her own desires. Sheway here, the place wasn’t well known. You think the can change her mind about what to do with Richard and his future any which way she likes.business is flourishing? I see that he is struggling to keephis head above the water. Within a few years this place wilhave to close down. And then what will happen to you?Yes, you’d better think of these things. If you go on withthis scheme, soon you will be without a job, without anyprospects. You will have thrown all my hopes down thedrain - you will have broken your mother’s heart fornothing. But I don’t care for myself, Richard, it doesn’tmatter how I suffer as long as you don’t ruin your ownfuture, you understand? The telegram turns out to be a deathnote regarding Richard.Richard, you better listen to my advice. You can still giveup the job and go back to complete your studies. Think itover carefully, what’s the right thing to do. Are youmature enough to admit when you have made a mistake?Can you do that Richard?PAGE 26 of TextbookAh yes, Richard. You have made the right decision. Tell Why is Richard’s death the “worst shock” of Emily’s life?Mr. Green that you can’t work for him, because your .parents need you to go back to your country. He willunderstand. Then you go and finish this term at theUniversity. Why is Richard’s suicide kept a secret from other people?I am very proud of you, Richard. You have had the sense If the Gan family is Catholic, then the reason is quite obvious. Ifto choose the right thing to do. You understand that my Richard’s suicide is known, Emily and Kheong will not be able toplan for you is the best. arrange any church service before his burial. Charlie and Doris’s promise to Emily tells us that there is still anSmiling, Emily turns away and returns to main stage opportunity for Emily to make up for her past mistake as aarea. domineering mother to her children.So, Richard will soon be back in Singapore! Actually,come to think of it, why does he have to take his lawdegree? He doesn’t have to work for his living at all. Iwill tell him that he doesn’t have to go back to theUniversity, he may as well stay here and start to settle 14
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweedown…I’ll invite Mr. G. P. Chee’s grand-daughter to visitus, she’s just back from Switzerland, a nice young girl.Ah Hoon! See who’s at the door! Who’s ringing the bell!What? A telegram? A telegram from England? What isit…?“Regret to inform that Richard Gan found dead – policebelieve suicide. Deepest sympathies, Green.”Emily stares blankly out at the audience. She speakssubduedly, as the lights dim.I never saw his body. His ashes were sent back to us.Richard hanged himself in his room, he hanged himselfwith the long leather reins that he used for training thehorses…It was the worst shock of my whole life.PAGE 27 of TextbookThe Bishop conducted a ceremony, at the family plot atBidadari. We told people that he died in an accident,falling from a horse. Everyone was there crying at thefuneral…The other children did their best to comfort me.“We will look after you Mum,” Charlie said.“Don’t cry Mum. You still have us, “ Doris said.It was raining that day. There were lots of flowers. Mr. G.P. Chee sent a big wreath of white frangipani, ever sincethen I hate that smell…I have lost my big strong son…Lights outEnd of Act OnePAGE 28 of TextbookAct Two Auxiliary = On the side of the stage.Main stage dark. Low lights on auxiliary acting area. Bawling = calling out loudly.We hear Emily bawling, offstage.Ah Hoon! Ah Hoon! Open the door! Bring the basket!Call the driver! Tel him Nonya Besar wants to go to Harangues him = aggressively bothersmarket! HimLights up on auxiliary acting area. Emily enters, with Emily is basically verymarketing basket. Approaches fishmonger and much in control of her family and her servants.harangues him. She is snobbish in every way. It is not necessarily a good or a badHei, Botak! What are you doing ah! What kind of fish thing for her. She is the mistress of the house, and she uses heryou sent to me yesterday? All rotten ones lah! Yes! How power well. She is rich and she knows it. People then understand the power held by mistresses like Emily.to eat ah? You want my family all go to hospital die ah?Mmh! You don’t know ah, how can you don’t know – all Feistiness in Emily = She is energetic. Her survival instinct isright. You give me good ones today. If not all right I strong. She lives for her family. So it is natural for her to drive abring back I throw at your head… good bargain. She acts as a “bully” here because she is familiar with the fishmonger and she is demonstrating her bargaining powerShe squats comfortably to examine his baskets. at the wet market. Gregarious – sociable 15
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweePAGE 29 of Textbook She is gregarious – she likes to talk to people and her socialSee your prawns…Cheh, all small ones! You have some networking skills is very good. In the market place, she may begood big ones hidden at the back somewhere, you bring engaging freely in small talks with the food stallholders. She isthem out for me. All right, five katis, how much? Four both respected and feared.dollars, you crazy ah? I give you three dollars can already. She could be a big customer because she buys things for her bigCannot lah, three-seventy too much also. Three-forty lah. household.All right all right, I give you three-sixty, enough lah. Sendit to the car with my driver outside.She goes on to the next stall.Ah Soh! How are you, chiak pah boey? Ya I’m fine, When she goes to the wet market, Emily feels as easy as the nextfamily is fine, chin ho, chin ho. I want to buy sixteen housewife because she is very comfortable dealing with thecucumbers today, half a kati of long beans, half a kati of stallholders in the wet market.French beans. Yes, you guessed correctly, I’m makingachar for the New Year. I have to make such a largequantity, we have so many people visiting the house. Giveme four carrots and a small cauliflower and half a cabbage;bitter gourd, ladies fingers. Let me select the garlic andsmall onions, I like to have them all the same size in theachar. Yes, how time flies doesn’t it? Again it’s time to This simple introduction to Act 2 tells us that the Gans are usheringprepare for another New Year. in another NEW YEAR and time has passed yet again.She moves on to the next stall.Ai, tambi! Give me sesame seed please, dried chilli,peanuts. Thank you, thank you. Not everybody gets to go to Cold Storage. Remember: only theHai Mat, put all the marketing into the car and wait for me, rich can afford refrigerators. This is the time whereby the averageI am just popping in to Cold Storage. family lives on leftover food. Rice left over is usually fried for eating at the next meal. Cold Storage in the 1950s – 1970s –She enters Cold Storage and assumes a posh accent. considered the largest and best shopping spots in Orchard Road and the whole of Singapore.PAGE 30 of Textbook Emily is not about to give up anything: She hints to us that sheGood morning Mr. Chai. I would like to order one honey- “can still go out in the car with the driver to do her shopping” andbaked ham for the Chinese New Year. Eleven pounds will she still have friends to call on. She claims that she is still sociallybe excellent, please deliver it to Emerald Hill. active and relevant to herself and the people who mean anything to her at all.Oh, good morning Mrs. Schneider, how nice to run into It is natural to expect an air of snobbishness to prevail in a placeyou! Yes indeed, I shall send you some orchids for the like Cold Storage because it serves the middle-upper class of theChurch Bazaar as usual. Not at all, with my sons at the local people and the Europeans.Anglo-Chinese School I’m very glad to make my littlecontribution. Do give the Bishop my best wishes won’t In the middle upper class social setting of Cold Storage, Emilyyou? runs into another group of “FRIENDS” – those which she gives or receives favours from. In this case, we see her being very cordial to Mrs. Schneider, the wife of the bishop. Emily is open enough toShe leaves Cold Storage. She bawls: mention that “with her sons at the Anglo-Chinese School, she is very glad to make her little contribution” when she makes clear herAhmad!!! Bring the car!!!! Go back to Emerald Hill! intention to send Mrs. Schneider “some orchids for the Church Bazaar as usual”. This tells us that she connects actively with theEmily walks to the edge of the main stage. She rich and the influential in her community.addresses the driver. All these ordering about of the people who work for her tells us thatAfter this you carry Baba Tengah to office. Then Nonya Emily is indeed the manageress. She runs her own show and dares anybody who defies her or not do her work according to how sheMabel going to play mahjong and Nonya Molly going to wants it done.the hairdressers; you send them both before you go tofetch the children home from school.This evening Tuan Besar is playing golf after work, youmake sure his golf-clubs are in the car when you fetch himfrom office. 16
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweeThen you remember, tonight Tuan Besar and I are goingout for dinner so you be ready to send us at seven, and youtell your wife to have your coat nicely washed and ironed.Ah Hoon, carry the baskets in!PAGE 31 of TextbookThe stage lights go up on the main set. BE CAREFUL: Read Emily’s narration carefully. She tells us explicitly that: SEVERAL YEARS HAVE PASSED.Several years have passed. A large framed photograph ofRichard now hangs on the wall and there are a few TIME is fast forward. What happens to Emily and Emerald Hillmodernizations such as a new fan or a television set. Mansion after Richard’s death? The age of television has arrived. We know that it has toAh Fong!! Have you finished sewing the dress for Second be mid 1960s because television arrived in Singapore onMistress? Why so slow? Even with a sewing machine you 15 February 1963.take so long, I can use a needle and thread to sew fasterthan that. Quickly hurry up lah and finish it in time forNew Year.Ah Choey Koon – now listen what I tell you! When youmake the pineapple jam, you put in a piece of cinnamon Tuan Besar - Her husband, Gan Joo Kheongfor special flavour. Get the girls to start cutting thecucumbers for achar, and put them in the sun to dry. Emily is just as active and energetic as ever. She simplyShe seats herself and picks up her phone. does not seem to have aged a bit. Perhaps it is true that “age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infiniteHello, Bee Choo, how are you? I wonder whether you are variety.” Emily goes around her house paying close attention tomaking love-letters this year, can you spare some for me? what her servants or hired help are supposed to be doing. SheYou let me have ten tins please. Of course, of course, four directs her helpers and controls the minutest details. She takesdollars one tin is fine, I’ll come and pick them up great pride in her leadership and in the outcome of her leadership.Wednesday then. Thanks a lot eh Bee Choo, bye bye.Rings off, dials again. Emily is loyal to Bee Choo. Emily has very few friends. Bee ChooHello, Cheng Nam Soon, Mrs. Gan here. I want you to is one of them.send a gift hamper from me, to Mr. G. P. Chee. Yes, twoHennessy brandy, two VSOP, and a small Australian Cheng Nam Soon is a hamper gift shop. It is a popular practice forsmoked ham. Deliver it to his house and put it on my people to spend money on hampers to be given away to friends oraccount. business associates. Today, we have a famous brand, Noel’s Hampers to do the same job.Rings off, rises.PAGE 32 of TextbookMat! Kebun! Come two of you. I’m making ice-cream, Ineed you to turn the handle. Kebun, you chop the bigblock of ice to small pieces.Mat, put the pieces of ice in the bucket here – around thecontainer – sprinkle lots of salt. Now you and Kebun turnthe handle, round and round, yes, like starting Tuan’s oldMorris long ago!Yes, every year I make the same ice-cream, withcondensed milk and sugar, and creamed corn. This year I Emily reveals to us that year after year, she sticks to her routine byadded something special, small thin strips of coconut flesh observing her duties and responsibilities as the mistress of Emeraldfrom very young coconuts – let’s see how they like it. Hill Mansion.Is it harder to turn? Is it very stiff now? Should be nearlyready… Ah Hoon, take the ice-cream out, put it in thefridge. Kebun, go and cut flowers for me, bring in myspider orchids and golden shower and vanda Joachim, I 17
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweewill arrange them in vases throughout the house.Mat, bring the big ladder – bring it to the front door. Hangup the red cloth – ya, ya, careful now.Emily uses a long bamboo to hang up the traditionalbanner on hooks which already hang above the stage.All right… so we’re all ready now for New Year.Emily does a flashback to herself as a young wife. Sheputs on the long pink coat. The stage lights dim A flashback = Going back in Time.slightly, spotlights pick out the old family portraits. THIS IS A FLASHBACK of EMILY when she is a YOUNG wife.PAGE 33 of TextbookI remember my first Chinese New Year at Emerald Ask yourselves: What do you recall usually about your younger days?Hill. It was my first New Year as a married woman,and I had to give red packets to all the children in the Although Emily has a lot of things to do as a daughter-in-law, shehousehold, and pay respects to my father and mother- seems to take to her role positively.in-law. According to the old traditional custom,the younger ones have to kneel down in front of Traditions do not always endure. Educated peranakans do awaytheir elders to pay their respects. But my father- with the more traditional practice of how the young should showin-law said we didn’t have to do this. He was respect to the seniors in the family.English-educated, Mr. Gan Eng Swee, my father- Emily’s father in law is an English-educated man and so it is not surprising that he does away with the Chinese way of showingin-law. In his time he doubled the family fortunes, respect to seniority by kneeling.and he built properties, and his sea-side However Emily insists on kneeling. She actually does so willingly.bungalow, and his motor-cars, and his horses atthe Turf Club. In 1936 he won the Singapore Gold Emily says “never mind lah” but she actually cares a lot forCup with his best mare, Miss Peterson, wah, he the traditional customs of the Peranakans.gave such a big dinner to celebrate. So he wasquite modern in his ways, and he said we did nothave to kneel down to him and mother-in-law. Emily tries her utmost to be a dutiful and respectful daughter-in- law. This is one example of her responsible nature. She is also full of gratitude to her father-in-law andEmily “manjas” like a cajoling, willful little girl. mother-in-law.Never mind lah, I want to kneel down. Father is very Because she observes the traditional customs dutifully, Emily ismodern, but I am so old-fashioned. I want to kneel down. sure to have made other young folks in the Gan family unhappy with her “old-fashioned” ways.She kneels with joined hands. This is also why she is the favourite daughter-in-law for the old folks at home.Father, Mother, I wish you the very best good fortune andprosperity in the coming year. Father, I hope that businesswill grow bigger and bigger – this year, can make anotherone million! Mother, I wish that your grandchildren can bemore and more, and that the good cards will always come,and every game can sampai!PAGE 34 of TextbookShe rises gracefully, steps back and watches with side-long satisfaction.So the rest of the family also had to kneel down. Mysecond sister-in-law wasn’t smiling very much, but mymother-in-law was simply beaming away…And then theyounger brothers and sisters-in-law had to pay theirrespects to Kheong and me…Emily takes her place beside Kheong in the state chair,with a girlish giggle. Although Emily “giggles” as she makes her demand to get herNow Joo Chong and Su-see must kneel down to us. Of younger or junior relatives to kneel down to her and Joo Kheong, she is actually not joking about the symbolic gesture. She is quite 18
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweecourse-lah, we kneel down to Father and Mother, now you insistent to be at the receiving end of proper traditional customs inmust kneel down to us, Kheong is your elder brother what. her own household.Giggles.Must-lah!She turns with a little-girl pout and shake of head toamused father-in-law.Father, you see Chong and Su-see don’t want to kneel toKheong. You tell them lah, they must show respect fortheir brother lah…So the old man laughed and he told them to kneel down!So Joo Chong and Susie and all the younger brothers, theyall had to kneel down to Kheong and me. Emily “hides her trumph” because she manages successfully to get the junior members in the Gan family to kneel down to her andHiding triumph, Emily accepts the homage of the her husband. She does not want to appear to be overly excited or happy to see them do that to her. It is a silent victory to her. If theybrother and sister-in-law. kneel down to her, it means that she is their “mistress” and they are her “slaves”.PAGE 35 of TextbookEmily moves away from that spot and continues her The narration about the past = Emily is still recalling her past as anarration about the past. young bride. Emily recalls the “good old days” when she is young and newlyThose were good old days, when Susie and Molly and married.Kheong and I were young. I joined their set when theywent to their balls and dinners and dance-parties – “You After her marriage, Emily adapts quickly to the social schedule ofmust bring Little Emily,” the hostesses used to say. We the Gan household. She is probably popular and well received bywore our gowns from Europe or our modern-style cheong the hostesses of parties and dinners. She starts to learn about lifesams; we danced the foxtrot and the quick-step! In 1934 and develop her taste for the kinds of friends she keeps, the kinds ofMr. G. P. Chee gave a New Year’s Eve dance at his house. clothes she wears and the kinds of social activities she takes part in. Emily loves and savours the limelight (attention) given to her byI have a cutting from the Singapore Free Press: “Mrs. the hosts and the media (the reporters). She is living her live to theEmily Gan was voted Belle of the Ball!” fullest in this context. Although her life is not one of entertaining and partying, she is actually good at it and enjoying it. When she isDuring the day we had lots of time to amuse ourselves. not playing the host, she is gladly socializing with the rich, theWe played a lot of bridge and mahjong. Susie and Molly famous and the powerful.joined the Chinese Ladies’ Association, they went to talks Emily is actually quite popular and very much in demand, if weon Chinese porcelain and brush-painting. I didn’t follow believe what she is telling us in her narration.them. Richard and Charlie used to study with a private There is a saying which goes like this: “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”. This means that it is the woman whotutor, and I sat with them. Later I took lessons myself, I helps make her man successful. Emily is THAT woman whostudied English and French and classical Malay. When the stands solidly behind her husband. Without Emily, Gan Jooboys started going to Anglo-Chinese School I got to know Kheong may not have been successful at all.the Methodist pastor, Mr. Schneider, he’s BishopSchneider now, and I became involved with their charity Remember: It is Emily who makes Gan Joo Kheong invite famouswork. There’s a big hall up at the new school which is people, ministers and politicians to their house parties so that Joonamed because of our contributions, “Gan Joo Kheong Kheong may get to know them. The aim is to get Joo Kheong to beHall”. a counselor. Emily may not have all the advantages of a rich girl because of her unfortunate childhood (read ACT 1) but she makes up for that withAnd then sometimes we would have a musical evening at her natural talents and her willingness to work hard. When sheEmerald Hill, we called it a “soiree”. Kheong would play believes in something which will help herself, her husband or herhis violin, Susie played the piano. I couldn’t play piano family, she will be very focused and she will work hard to achievebut I got a teacher to give me music lessons, and I learned it.to sing. (Susie sang like a frog.) Emily’s positive qualities: 1. energeticPAGE 36 of Textbook 2. task-orientated – she gets things doneEmily performs at one of those soirees. She sings withpoise and artistry: 3. willing to learn 4. willing to strive for achievement“The sun shines bright on the old Kentucky home, 5. putting her family first before anything else‘Tis summer, the meadow is bright – 19
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweeBy-an-by hard times come a-knocking at the door.Then my old Kentucky home good night.Weep no more my lady, oh weep no more today,We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home, Emily is very much a part of the Gan family. She is young andFor the old Kentucky home so far away.” highly adaptive. She has to be highly intelligent in order to blend in with Joo Kheong and the rest of the Gan family.Those were the years when the children were all growingup. Richard was at the Anglo-Chinese School as I told This is a FLASHBACK. Richard is still a school-going child.you. And so was Susie’s son Freddy, they were in the Emily is like any other mother. This is a very common mother-same class. child conversation. Freddy is Susie’s (Gan family’s first daughter-in-law) son. There isRichard, come show me your report card. Heh, what is rivalry between Emily and Susie. So naturally, Emily is eager tothis red mark…for mathematics? Why so bad? You’re not make sure that her Richard does not lose out knowingly to Freddy.studying hard ah? A for history and for French. That’sbetter. What is your class position – eight? Mathematics is always a challenge. Can you identify with Richard? How different are Richard’s school lessons from yoursDropping for voice now? Do you take FRENCH in school? Why do you think FRENCH is taught in ACS then? REMEMBER: This is still theWhat was Freddy’s position? Eleventh? How did he do in 1960s.mathematics…? Failed also? There is competition among the boys at home. Not only do the children compete, the parents too. And look at how fiercely EmilyAll right lah – you did quite well. Good boy, Mamma give is competing on behalf of Richard here.you five dollars to spend. What else? … All right,Mamma will buy those roller skates from Robinsons. See how quickly Emily changes her attitude towards Richard’s failing Mathematics. Not only that, because Richard has doneShe takes the report card to the side of the big chair. COMPARATIVELY well when compared with Freddy, Emily has decided to reward her son with a pair of “roller skates from Robinsons”. REMEMBER: In the 1960s and possibly the 1970s,PAGE 37 of Textbook Robinsons was a trendy and fashionable shopping hub for the well-Father (referring to her father-in-law) , you want to see to-do in Singapore. Shopping in departmental stores only becameRichard’s report card? Not too bad lah – of course he only fashionable and a way of life in the 1980s in Singapore.came in eighth in the class. Ah, Susie, how is Freddydoing, has he improved in his mathematics? Ya-lah, true, The parents compete for favours from Gan Eng Swee when in this scene, Emily throws the children’s academic performance open forRichard’s maths not strong also, after all he is younger all to see in the family. We can only say that this shows us justthan Freddy. Father, have you seen Freddy’s report by the how ruthless and competitive Emily is when the idea is to advanceway? What was his class position? her interest in the family. Here she makes use of her son, Richard’s school results to put her rival, Susie and Freddy down. She does itMy father-in-law was starting to get old, he was talking in a dramatically predicatble manner but as long as the method isabout making his will. He wanted the estate to stay in one effective, I don’t think she really cares. Throughout Act 1,piece till the next generation, so we expected that he would Emily has been trying to make Richard a “better grandson” thanleave it to his grandsons. My Richard was the eldest son Freddy.of the eldest son, of course he should have got the biggestshare of the property. But Susie said that her Freddy Emily cultivates Richard carefully to make him “take after hisshould get it because he was the oldest grandson. She was grandfather”.always trying to get on Father’s good side. I heard hertelling Father: “Father, my friends say that Freddy is Emily is the one who dictates that Richard needs “a little pony”.growing up to be handsome boy ah. My friends say that helooks just like you lah! I think this son of mine really Emily makes sure Gan Eng Swee knows about Richard’s pony andtakes after the grandfather lah.” riding lessons. For those readers who may not take too kindly to Emily’s “caring”Hmmh! Takes after the grandfather pula… Richard! After disposition, there is a valid reason to criticize her at this point. It isschool today, you go with me to visit Uncle Ben. Yes, indeed Emily who has actually caused Richard to have actuallyUncle Ben who plays polo: He’s going to teach you how taken a liking to riding which leads to the tragedy (howeverto ride. indirectly) in his later years.Kheong, Richard has been taking riding lessons: I want toget him a little pony, Ben will advise me how to buy one.Father, did you hear that we buying Richard a pony? Yes,he has been taking riding lessons, Ben says that he has anatural ability for it. And he has such a love of horses, sowe are buying him a little pony. And next time when he isolder, perhaps he can ride in amateur racing. Oh yes, 20
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeperhaps he can even ride one of your horses for you. Thatwould be wonderful. Perhaps your grandson can winanother Gold Cup for you.PAGE 38 of TextbookThere’s a photo of Richard sitting on Miss Peterson, withthe old man standing by. Remember: This is how Emily became the mistress of EmeraldStage lights dim. Spot on Emily. She removes pink Hill.coat. She is already a mistress of Emerald Hill mansion in spirit becauseMy father-in-law died just before the War; and when she makes the house a home for everybody in the Gan family. Shethe will was read, he left the house and the big share of deserves to inherit the house because Emily and the Emerald Hillthe property…to Richard. When Richard died, all his Mansion are both one and the same thing.property went back to his parents – and then whenKheong died it came back to me. In the end – after Emily showcases her cooking skills. All daughters-in-law are supposed to know how to prepare proper Peranakan dishes for thepaying death duties and taxes and everything – I am family.the owner of Emerald Hill. Although Emily does not say it as openly as she should have, she isEmily wheels forward a trolley which she positions the great cook that she is because: The way to win a man’s heart isdownstage centre. On it are various kitchen utensils: to satisfy his appetite with her cooking skills. She makes Joostone pestle and mortar; circular chopping block and Kheong so dependent on her that she does not see Joo Kheong’schopper; kuali (wok); clay cooking pot (blangah). relationship with Diana Lee as a potential threat to her marriage, at least, not in the beginning.Stage lights are low except for a broad spot on the She makes everybody in the Gan family addicted to her cookingtrolley. and her food. This is like “opium”. She expects them to comeEmily, addressing audience directly, demonstrates her back to her repeatedly for MORE. Better yet, they cannot dorecipe. without her.I’m going to show you how I make my famous babi buah Joo Kheong may not have felt it but we should not forget that:keluak (pork with Indonesian black nuts). This is the buah Emily takes her husband seriously, whether they love each other orkeluak, this black sort of nut. It comes from Java and not. Joo Kheong is the reason for Emily’s existence as Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong. Here is the evidence: Emily is narrating to us howwhen you buy it it’s dirty and muddy, so you have to scrub Joo Kheong’s favourite – BABI BUAH KELUAK is beingit with a brush till all the mud’s gone and then you soak it prepared. Notice her confidence with her food: Joo Kheongin water overnight to soften it. Then you cut open the top “simply loves it; he’ll sit down and pour gravy on his rice, andof the nut, and you soak it again for about one hour. Then he’ll take so many helpings”.you can cook it with the babi. And when you eat it youuse a small spoon to scrape out the flesh of the nut, and the Emily’s hold on Joo Kheong is quite complete: Although she doesflesh is black and oily and rich. Ahyo, sedap sekali – like not approve of it, she tolerates Joo Kheong’s love affair with Dianaopium! Lee. She despises Diana Lee and will never be able to understand why Joo Kheong has chosen to live with her. However, Emily still continues to LOOK AFTER Joo Kheong during his time when hePAGE 39 of Textbook chooses to live with Diana Lee at Amber Road.So this is how I do it. I take about five katis of good porkribs, and forty or fifty of the buah keluak. Then I start withthe rempah (mixture of spices). I pound up the spices,serai (lemon grass), daun kunyit (turmeric leaves),lengkuas (galingale), a few buah keras (candlenut), somebelachan. And chillies and onion. Then I fry the rempahin the kuali, not too hot, keep on stirring it back and forthtill the oil starts to come to the top again. Then put in thebuah keluak and fry it a little bit and put in the pork ribs.Then put in some asam (tamarind) water and salt, andtransfer it to the blangah and leave it to simmer veryslowly. And you know what else I like to add in – I put in STUDY THIS SCENE CAREFULLY: The chopper is sharp.a few pieces of rock sugar, one piece at a time. Ah yah. Emily “looks challengingly at the audience”. You can almostVery nice. This is my husband’s favourite, he simply image her fury gaze.loves it; he’ll sit down and pour the gravy on his rice, andhe’ll take so many helpings. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MOMENT IN THE SCENE.Emily takes the chopper and starts chopping the pork.She stops for a moment and looks challengingly at the Emily reveals another dark secret (an open secret, because everybody in the Gan household should already have known) – that 21
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeaudience. Gan Joo Kheong has another woman – he is keeping a mistress.And when I’ve finished cooking this, I’ll put it in a big pot REMEMBER: This is the 50s – 60s Singapore. Bigamy (a man marrying or keeping more than one wife) is widely practiced and itand send it over to my husband’s mistress’s house. Oh is not something to scream about if a married man keeps a womanyes, he’s left my house and he’s staying with his mistress as a mistress. Gan Joo Kheong is rich and so if he can affordin Amber Road. That whore Diana Lee. But I send him another woman by keeping her as his mistress, why not?special food from day to day, and his clean clothes, and thedriver brings back his dirty clothes for my amah to wash. Here, Emily is telling us that she put up with Gan Joo KheongNo matter what he does, I still am his wife, I must continue because she simply cannot do anything to stop her husband fromto look after him. keeping a mistress. This is the first time Emily openly admits to the audience that she cannot do anything to stop her husband from seeing another woman and openly keeping her as a mistress. SoPAGE 40 of Textbook Emily takes a practical view of the matter.Emily turns to her cooking. The spot on her dimsslightly. As she goes about chopping, pounding, frying, Emily, however, is not exactly helpless. She knows how to dealwe hear a prerecorded tape of her voice. The sounds of with Joo Kheong.food preparation, perhaps largely mixed, punctuate the Gan Joo Kheong does not love Emily but what Emily wants him tonarrative without interrupting it. know is that he is still her husband and she is his wife. Emily reminds him constantly that he has his duties and responsibilitiesWhat do you do when a husband goes astray? If you towards Emily and the Gan family. Emily makes Gan Joo Kheonggrumble and complain, he is not going to change his ways. choose between her and Diana Lee.He will still continue just as he likes. If you keep quiet, hefeels very free: “My wife doesn’t mind, she gives melicence!” if you make a scene, you yell and shout, then, he All is not well with Mr. and Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong. This is onehas an excuse to get angry! “Oh, my wife is such a shrew, example of argument between Emily and Joo Kheong.no wonder I can’t stay with her!” Mampus, you’refinished!For more than a year now, Kheong has been seeing that Amber Road – still around today, very near to Parkway Parade.whore, Diana Lee, on and off. Lately he’s more gatal. Hesays he has dinners and functions, coming back very late; Emily stays on stoically as the pillar of the Gan Family while Joohe even had two outstation trips to Malacca, business trips Kheong leaves Emerald Hill Mansion to live with his mistress.it seems! He thinks I’m blind? Stupid fool, he leaves his Emily is a very clever and smart wife. If she were to agree to a divorce, she will lose her official status as Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong.car parked near her house – right next to Chinese She is very right too to say that she has done nothing wrong.Swimming Club.I’ve had enough of his nonsense It’s time I said something Emily dutifully performs her role as Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong. Sheto him. (Brazenly) Kheong, what function are you going behaves as though everything is still just like the same as before.to tonight? Recreation Club dinner? That’s a funny thing,I am also going there with Bee Choo and her mother. Whydon’t you come in our car instead of driving by yourself? Emily is claiming that Gan Joo Kheong’s friends and colleagues treat his infidelity as a private matter and pretend that there isThat’s fine, we leave at seven o’clock. Oh yes, what are nothing wrong for Kheong to keep a mistress.you doing tomorrow evening? Emily naturally hates/dislikes Diana for snatching Kheong awayI want to let him know that he cannot get away any from her.more. He cannot continue to live in my house, and seehis whore. See what he wants to do about it.PAGE 41 of Textbook KNOW YOUR COUNTRY’s HISTORYRight, you are going out now, you will be home late. You Singapore was captured by the Japanese Army on 15 Februarywon’t be home tonight? Oh, where will you be? When 1942.will you be coming home? Oh, you want me to shut up. The occupation of Singapore by the Japanese Army lasted for threeSurely, I will keep quiet – you don’t have to tell me years and eight months.anything. Emily tries her best to keep her relationship with Joo Kheong intactTime passes. by putting aside her emotions. She suppresses her feelings and tries her best to persuade herself that she should at least work with JooHello Bee Choo, nice of you to come over…Yes, I’m fine Kheong to continue to invite people to their annual celebrationthank you…Ya lah, Kheong is living in Amber Road with dinner. She is successful in her persuasion.that woman. Sometimes he comes home to see thechildren, doesn’t want to talk to me. I don’t know how canhe do this to his family, Bee Choo? I think he wouldn’t 22
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweehave done something like this when Richard was alive. Emily’s continual reminder of duties and responsibilities seems to(With saintly resignation) What can I do Bee Choo, I have worked on Joo Kheong. Emily never revealsto us why Joo Kheong has finally decided to return to Emerald Hill Mansion. Joojust go on living my life as usual, and I keep on doing my Kheong returns to Emerald Hill Mansion but he does not return toduty. He wants me to give him a divorce. Why should I Emily Gan.give him a divorce? I am his wife, whatever he has done, Ihave not done anything wrong. Joo Kheong has to give up Diana Lee also probably due to the fact that he is a political figure in the country and has to set a goodAh Hoon, take the soup from the kitchen, it’s in the example.tingkat, give it to the driver. Put Baba’s clothes for golf inthe car also, today he is due to play at the Island Club. Tell Joo Kheong does not love Emil anymore even though he has chosen to return to Emerald Hill Mansion.the driver to take the things to Amber Road, and bringback any dirty clothes and remind Baba that on Friday he WHY DOES JOO KHEONG return to Emily?has to go for his meeting of the Legislative Assembly. But their relationship does not improve. Kheong dies and EmilyAll his fellow Assemblymen know what he’s doing. All inherits Emerald Hill Mansion.his friends know. They won’t tell him he’s wrong – theyall stick together, a man has his pleasures, they say – but Kheong simply loses his fight for independence and right to pursuehe will know what they think as they look at him. “Gan his own happiness with another woman.can have his fun with his mistress, but he is treating hiswife badly. She is a fine woman, a good wife and mother. FLASHBACK: Joo Kheong does not wish to see Emily even at hisThe way he has behaved to her is shameful…” deathbed. Their relationship has to be really bad.PAGE 42 of Textbook Kheong actually hates Emily that much by then.What can that Diana do for him? The modern woman, Emily will never be able to understand what Kheong gets out ofworking all day in an office, does she have time to look Diana Lee.after him properly? I wonder how she attracted him; shemust have used magic charms from the Siamese priest.Diana Lee. Can he take that whore out with him to go for REMEMBER: Emily is only fourteen years old when Joo Kheongformal functions? Can he bring his friends back to her marries her. It is not a love match but an arranged marriage.house – can he invite people there?... Why does Kheong seek self-destruction? We will never know. He has chosen to return to Emerald HillEvery year since the War ended, on the fifth of September, Mansion probably because Emily’s attitude and behaviour forcehe gives a big dinner here to celebrate the end of the him to consider his social position and responsibilities above hisOccupation. He makes it an occasion to invite his business own love life. So Kheong has to give up Diana Lee even though heassociates, and the other Assemblymen, and the Governor. probably loves her over Emily. Since Emily does not tell usWhat is he going to do this year? anything about Joo Kheong and Emily, we can only make a guess here.By now Emily has got all her ingredients into theblangah; she stands and watches it simmering.Kheong! If you can just spare me a few minutes, I have todiscuss something with you. I am making arrangements torent the marquee and tables for September the fifth. I amhiring the extra staff we need for the dinner. If you want tocarry on with the function, you’d better ask your staff atthe office to send out the invitations.He sent out the invitations. I made all the arrangementsand prepared the house. And two days before the dinnerhe came home, bringing his clothes and his shoes and hisgolf-clubs, and put them back in his room.PAGE 43 of TextbookEmily has removed her pot from the fire and is stirringit, lasting it.Yes. Next day the Singapore Free Press reported the socialevent: “Mr. and Mrs. Gan Joo Kheong gave a splendidly-attended dinner at their residence, Emerald Hill.” 23
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweeBroad spot on Emily brightens. With a flourish shelays down her cooking spoon: stands for a moment intriumph. Then briskly she trundles the trolley awayfrom the stage, she returns to stand downstage andcontinues the narrative “live”.Kheong never went astray again, from that day till he died.But the next year, he did not give any party on the fifth ofSeptember. He started spending more and more of his freetime at his club, playing mahjong, losing a lot of money.In fact he was at the Club when he had his heart attack andcollapsed, and they took him straight to the Hospital… The scene at the hospital is especially tense: Emily, the allKheong! Kheong!Which ward is he in? Is he awake now? powerful matriarch is forced to face the fact that her husband, JooCan I talk to him? …Oh, Needs to rest, does he? Well of Kheong, has refused to see her at his hospital bed. He is seeing hercourse I mustn’t disturb him if he can’t see anyone yet. I’ll children but not Emily.come back tomorrow.What, I still can’t see him? What’s wrong, is he very bad?Not bad but he needs complete rest – surely a short visitfor a few minutes won’t hurt him – well I suppose I mustlisten to the doctor. You’ll give him the soup I broughtwon’t you. What’s wrong, what won’t they let me seehim…Charlie! Where were you? Were you inside theward? They told me your father is too sick to see anyone.What do you mean he asked to see you? They’ve beentelling me he’s unable to have any visitors at all…PAGE 44 of TextbookEmily tries to force her way into the ward. READ: Emily TRIES TO FORCE her way into Joo Kheong’s ward.Doctor! I want to see my husband! What do you mean bykeeping me out of his room? How dare you keep How big a blow is this to Emily?me away from him? What do you mean, he doesn’t want How much does Emily mean to Joo Kheong?to see me…I’m his wife don’t you know that?... I don’t How much does Joo Kheong dislike or even hate Emily?believe it. I don’t believe he said that. He must be ill andout of his mind…Well if he’s getting so upset about it Isuppose I better not see him just now. I’ll leave him alonefor the present. When he recovers, I will come in and lookafter him…Kheong died in the hospital. Everybody came to thefuneral, all his friends and eminent colleagues… I supposenot many of these people knew, that when he wasdying, he refused to see his wife.The stage grows completely dark; the spotlight onEmily narrows.She wanders across to look at her own childhoodportrait, picking up the pink coat that lies under it.Perhaps for the first time, her voice is subdued, filledwith pain.When my father died my mother went away and left me Emily’s mother is a strong influence in shaping the way Emilybehind. I remember I was in her room and she came in, looks at herself and the way Emily treats her family members, especially her children. Emily is determined not to be a “uselessstarted packing up her clothes. “I can’t look after you!” girl”. Despite the fact that Emily pleads with her mother to let hershe said. “Why am I so unlucky, I don’t have a son to take go with her, Emily’s mother leaves her for good. This we mustcare of me? I only have a useless girl like you. What were remember is a very traumatic experience for the ten-year-old girl.you born for?” I cried to her: “Ma! Take me with you! Emily is a helpless child for FOUR precious years of her childhood.Ma! Take me with you!” She pushed me back into the She crosses over to the Gan family as a CHILD BRIDE. Do youroom and went away. From that time on I lived with one expect her to fully understand what she is in for when she becomes 24
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweerelative of another, doing housework and kitchen work, “MARRIED” to a man twice her age?and they would say to me: “We took you out of the gutter,when your mother threw you away.” From when I wasten, I lived like that for four years, until they sent for me tobe married to a man twice my age.PAGE 45 of Textbook Emily attempts to explain to us that she is what she is because sheDirectly to audience is taught how to behave as a married woman in the Peranakan culture. The life of a woman revolves around her husband. Without her husband, Emily thinks that her social position will beDo you understand what made me what I am? Before nothing.my breasts were grown, I learned that a woman isnothing in this world that men have made, except in the The darkest lamentation.role that men demand of her. Your life is meaningless, Emily does not understand why the two men who are dearest to heryou have no value, except as you are a wife and mother. does not want to have anything more to do with her.Look after your husband and family, yes: do everythingfor them, wrap them, bind them in the web of your Ask yourself this question: 1. Is it Emily’s fault thatproviding, till they can’t lift a finger to help themselves: so Richard dies?that husband and son and sister-in-law must all depend onyou, so that you control them and keep them in the palm of 2. Is it Emily’s fault that Kheong decides to have ayour hand. So that the whole world knows your worth – so relationship with Diana Lee?that a screaming girl-child, long ago, may be reassured thather life has some significance, that no one is going to 3. Is it Emily’s fault that to the last minute at the deathbed,throw her back into the gutter. Kheong refuses to see her?Richard, I was a good mother to you! Kheong, I was agood wife! Why did you both hate me then? I didn’tdo anything wrong!Emily looks down to see that the pink coat has beencrushed and wrung unheedingly in her clenched hands.She opens her hands and smoothes the cloth, and gentlyputs the coat away as though putting a hurt child torest.Stage lights up. Emily faces the changing times as Singapore moves into the 70sPAGE 46 of Textbook and the 80s. Singapore grew strongly as the country became industrialized and more and more HDB new towns, roads, schoolsIt’s all over now. It’s all past, It can’t be changed… and other kinds of facilities were built. Orchard Road, where you can still find the real Emerald Hill Mansion today, has become anThe children are all growing up and moving away. important shopping and tourism district. You either catch up withMolly and Mabel have gone to live with their children the change or get left behind.in new modern flats. Charles is building his own housein Clementi Road, jawoh sahja. Soon there won’t be so TIME IS FASTFORWARD ONCE AGAIN. EMILY IS NOWmany people in Emerald Hill, so I have told Doris that A GRANDMOTHER.after she’s married she and her husband must continue Porpor = Grandma / Grandmotherto live here with me. I have spoken to the Ling boy’s Charles must be done wonderfully in his career because he isparents and we all agree on it. Right now Doris is in “building his onw house in Clementi Road”. Clementi New Townthe USA visiting her Auntie. Charles has a little boy, did not appear until mid 80s.Bin Seong. His wife is out teaching during the day somy grandson is left at home with me… Originally, Doris, the youngest daughter is engaged to marry “the Ling boy”. Engagement as a ritual dies out eventually. It is rareEmily plays with her little grandson. We may note that for young couples to become engaged before they get married.she is more relaxed and kindly than with her own Emily plays her role as a grandmother as dutifully as ever. All herchildren. life, she has devoted herself to being a married woman, a devoted wife and a caring mother.Come Bin-bin…Porpor play with you… (Pinching game)“Chubit-chubit semut, siapa sakit naik atas!” Come, that’sright, go up on top ya… “Chubit-chubit semut, siapa sakitnaik atas…ohh!” Ayo, sayang anak chu-chu. Come, goodboy, time to go to sleep. (Pats baby’s bottomrhythmically) Du du du. 25
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweePAGE 47 of TextbookShe croons. This song brings us back to the old times when Emily is still in her younger self.I’s a little Alabama coon,I’s not been born very long.I remember seeing one great big moon,I remember hearing one sweet songAs l lay upon my Mammy’s knee,This was the song she sang to me –Go to sleep, my little piccaninny,Brer Fox will catch you if you don’t.Slumber on, Mammy’s little baby,Mammy’s little Alabama coon!Emily turns away from the sleeping baby. Emily receives a surprising news from her daughter, Doris Gan thatThe phone rings. She answers it. she is marrying an American man. How times have changed.Doris? Hello Doris, yes, Mother here. Where are you How Emily has changed.calling me from? Washington! What are you doing in Doris is making her own decision and she is telling it to Emily.Washington, I thought you were with Aunt Lucy inPhiladelphia… Emily seems to have learnt her lesson. She is no longer insistent on her children listening to her instructions and obeying everythingWhat did you say? You’re going to get married? What are she demands of them.you telling me Doris Gan…? PLEASE: This is not about what Emily is doing right or what she is doing wrong. It is her change in the way she now tries toSteve Jackson: an American is he? How long have you manage her thinking and behaviour when dealing with herknown him?... Six weeks? Oh you’ve made up your mind children’s life problems.have you – you don’t care if I don’t send you money –you’re going to be independent, are you? And after that,do you think you’re coming back to Singapore?Emily takes receiver from her ear in distress. Then sheseems to think.Wait a minute, Doris. Let me think about it. Don’t cry, Emly is no longer as impulsive or aggressive as before. She isgirl! Let Mother think. prepared to “think” because she wants a feasible solution for Doris.PAGE 48 of TextbookDoris, why do you want to marry this man? You’ve onlyknown him a short time – is it because you want to stay inAmerica? You don’t want to come back home?All right, you listen to me Doris. I don’t forbid you to get Emily no longer issues threats. She takes back her initial threatmarried. I will send you some money to support you there. from Doris. She “begs” Doris now – a turnabout from her usualBut I advise you – I – I beg you as your mother – to wait behaviour – “to wait before she gets married”.before you get married. You don’t have to come home.You can stay in America, study there, anything. After oneyear, if you still want to marry Steve, you go ahead, Iwon’t object.All right, you don’t worry about the Ling boy, I’ll Emily is even willing to break off any promises she may have madeexplain to his parents. But will you please wait for a with the Ling family for Doris’ sake.while, Doris?... Yes. Live your own life. Make your Emily allows Doris the freedom “to live her own life” and “makeown decisions. But don’t rush into marriage just her own decisions”.because you want to escape from me…All right Doris. You wait a few months. Keep in touchwith Aunt Lucy. I will send you money.Slowly Emily sets down the receiver, and opens herhand with a gesture of releasing, of setting free. 26
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam HweeThe lights go down slightly. TIME FLASHES BACK AGAIN TO Emily recalling CharlesEmily puts on a pair of spectacles. She seems older. getting married.When Charles got married, I gave a very big party at Charles – gets married.Emerald Hill. I hired cooks and waiters; there were forty Edward – gets married.tables set out on the lawn under a big marquee, the wholehouse was flood-lit, and a brass band played all night The family size keeps getting smaller as more and more marriedbeside the goldfish pond. Then he went to his house in couples choose to move out of their parents or in-laws’ homes.Clementi Road. The nuclear family structure becomes more and more common. Traditional families with a lot of people living under one roofPAGE 49 of Textbook become less and less popular or even possible.Next Edward got married, I gave another big dinner. Thenhe went to live in Ang Mo Kio – alamakgua, Ang Mo Kio, Charles and Edward both move out of Emerald Hill Mansion.right in the ulu, middle of nowhere. So the house is a bit Clementi and Ang Mo Kio are new towns. People of the 70s andquiet now, but I can still go out in the car with the driver to 80s were beginning to experience more choices in terms of jobs,do my shopping and call on my friends. Now and again housing and lifestyles. There was also an overall increase in thethe children come to call on me, and Mabel’s children and living standards of Singaporeans.Molly’s children come to visit the old auntie. Old houses, neighbourhoods, districts make way for urbal renewalHullo Annie, nice of you to drop in. How’s your son? projects around the island republic. Bee Choo’s house is just a hintSeven years old already, when are you going to have of the new development taking place in Singapore as the countryanother one?... Don’t want any more! You believe in small develops and modernizes.families, better opportunity for them!... Eh, theses modern Certain things such as family customs or traditions or things whichways of thinking tsk tsk… Well, how’s your mother? She Emily or even the whole Gan family enjoys doing do not disappearwent to Aunty Bee Choo’s place the other day – why is just because we claim that the times have changed. Anyway,Aunty Bee Choo worried? No place to stay? Her house is joyous occasions such as Charles’ wedding – and we do not heargoing to be demolished and she can’t afford to go anything at all about how Charles gets to know his girlfriend orsomewhere else? I know she doesn’t have much money. how much interference comes from Emily; does Emily decide forBut you can’t simply give charity to people…All right Charles and how much does she do so and so on - It was allAnnie, thanks for telling me. quiet. Edward’s marriage too, is mentioned only in a sentence or two.Emily taps her ringed finger reflectively. She picks up There is an air of acceptance in Emily’s narration. Or has she losther phone. her energy, signifying that she is getting old?Hello Mr. Fang, this is Mrs. Gan here, that’s right, your Or is Emily just like the Emerald Hill Mansion – getting old andlandlady. Mr. Fang, your lease with me is expiring at the becoming “a bit quiet now”?end of the year; I called to tell you that I’m afraid I can’trenew your lease next year. Yes, my daughter will be Questions you will need to ask yourselves What does the narration here reveal to you about Emily?coming back from America and she wants to stay in the Why does she have practically nothing much to tell about Charleshouse. So sorry ah, now l let you know, next year I want or Edward?to take back the house. Can we then say that she leaves the two sons very much alone to do what they like?PAGE 50 of Textbook If so, what does this suggest to you about Emily? Any change?She rings off and dials again. This conversation here shows us that Emily has her humane side: She is genuinely concerned for Bee Choo and she hides her feelingBee Choo, this is Emily here, how are you? Fine well, even at this age when she tells Annie that nobody shouldhere…Bee Choo, I want to ask you a favour, can you help “simply give charity to other people”. She wants Annie to hear thisme with something? You know I have a house in Sennett but she is only talking tough – the way she has always shown toughEstate, I’ve been renting it out to a tenant. Now this stupid love.tenant says he doesn’t want to continue the lease, jelakadia, and the house will be empty. So I think I don’t want The next change of scene reveals to us that Emily does not hesitate to act on her desire to help Bee Choo settle her house-relatedto rent out the house again, too much trouble only. I think problem. Here, whether you like it or not, she tells Mr. Fang, herI’ll keep it vacant for a while, maybe if Doris wants to existing tenant, a white lie, to get rid of him so that Bee Choo cancome back from America she can make use of it. come live at her other house.Meanwhile, I just want someone to stay there and keep theplace clean for me, just pay a nominal rental. So I wonderwhether you can help me look around for someone suitable FOR THOSE READERS WHO ARE NOT TOO CAREFUL: you– someone clean and decent… The trouble is that I cannot may think that it is wrong of Emily to have told white lies twice –trust just anybody to stay there and look after the house Once to Mr. Fang and another time to Bee Choo. Try and understand that Emily also has LIMITED RESOURCES – in order 27
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweewell…What, Bee Choo? You want to stay there? I say to be able to extend any MEANINGFUL ASSISTANCE to Beeman that would be ideal. But how can you give up your own Choo, she has to take back her house from Mr. Fang so that Beehouse to take care of my place?...You are leaving your house? Oh Choo can “rent it for a token sum of money”. This shows us that– are you sure you want to stay in my house? Well that would be even though she does not have much to offer, Emily tries her bestwonderful. That would be a weight off my mind. Thank you so to help her best friend, Bee Choo.much Bee Choo. You’ve always been so helpful to me. Thankyou, ah. Emily is also very careful – she is tactful in offering her assistance to Bee Choo by making it sound as though it is Bee Choo who isEmily puts down the phone. Thoughtfully, she picks up doing her a very huge favour – in agreeing to help to house-sit. Emily also makes it looks as though it is a godsend coincidence foran airmail letter from the table and holds it at arm’s Bee Choo who has encountered a housing-related problem.length to read it.“Dear Mother, Well, Benjamin and I will be building our Airmails, also known as aerogrammes (much later; which was stillown house next spring, a little way out from Philadelphia, very much in use in the 1980s). Emily holds the letter at “arm’sand I hope you will come out to see it. You were quite length to read Doris’s letter” because she is probably now ratherright, Steve would have been a disaster for me. I am very, longsighted.very happy with Benjamin and with his whole wonderful Doris Gan writes to tell Emily that she loves her and misses her.family, his mother is so good to me. My only regret is that Emily has gotten it right this time.I do miss all at home. Especially most of all, Mother, I –miss you and I love you. Doris.” How do you think Emily must have felt after reading Doris’ letter? Do you think Emily is sufficiently consoled by letting Doris doPAGE 51 of Textbook what she wants? Do you think Emily is trying to make up for what she has done toCalls servant: Richard? Do you think Emily is getting old and so she cannot possibly catchAh Sim! Come let’s start making the kueh chang. Every up with Doris and that is why she lets go of her?year, fifth month, I make for all the family and distribute toall their houses. Bring the leaves to wrap the kueh chang.What do you mean, not ready? Didn’t I tell you yesterday,get the leaves washed and dried so that I can make kueh Emily is still as feisty as ever when she is dealing with her servantschang today? What were you doing all day yesterday? I and helpers back at Emerald Hill Mansion.was out the whole day playing mahjong, you had nothingto do, you just sit in the house shaking legs? A lot ofwork? Where do you have a lot of work, with just me, oneperson in the house to take care of. If you can’t do thework you can get out, your hear me? What else did you doyesterday?... You washed my clothes. And again you puttoo much starch in my dress. How many times do l have totell you, you got no ears or what? All right, you don’t liketo work for me you can get out! Off you go! Yes, I giveyou your money and you go, you don’t stay on here, such auseless creature I have never seen – so idle, so bone-lazy…Emily, having chased the servant off-stage, returns Emily is as energetic and demanding as ever when she runs hergrumbling to make a phone-call. household.Hello Susie! Anchua? I just sacked that useless servant ofmine. Yes I know Mrs. Ong has a girl who is looking forwork. I will interview her tomorrow. You also looking fora servant? Freddy’s wife wants a new amah? Ahyah,good servants are so hard to find these days, but I will findone for your… Oh, is she expecting again? That will betheir fifth child… Yes, Susie, in the old days we had bigfamilies but nowadays that’s considered very old-fashioned. Today people believe in small families andbetter opportunities. Yes, all right Susie. I’ll see yousometime eh, bye bye.PAGE 52 of TextbookCharlie comes by to visit me and he talks about taxes andduties. After his father died I was quite short of moneyand we sold off a lot of properties. Charlie said, “Mum,you better sell Emerald Hill.” “How to sell,” I said, “This 28
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweeis the family house for you all to stay.” “Mum, actually I Although Emily and Susie have been fighting each other for years,don’t want to live in Emerald Hill,” he said, and in the end, they still keep in touch all these years. They are sisters-in-law aftertrue enough, all of them moved away. all.In the end I took his advice and I sold most of the land,except the house itself. Charlie helped me get a goodprice. Then the builders came and they were driving theirpiles bang bang bang all day long, woh, kepala pusing.Now there are these blocks of flats every side. And there’sa busy road running close by, with traffice rattling andrapping, just where the band used to play…Emily lowers herself into her chair. Lights begin tofade. Today, Emerald Hill Mansion is surrounded by CentrepointWe used to have a big front lawn with all kinds of flower Shopping Mall, Orchard Point, Grand Central Hotel, Cuppagebeds, with three gardeners to look after them. At the back Building and so on. You can only locate the mansion behindthere were two tennis courts, and some fruit trees, Centrepoint shopping mall.rambutan, chiku, mangosteen, and I had my orchids Emily continues to recall the good old days.planted on the slope of the hill. I had spider orchids and There is no more of the good old days.vanda Joachim, and there was a new hybrid from Mr. G. P.Chee’s garden, he named it vanda Emily.Now the garden’s gone and the tall apartment blocks press up Bin Seong – Charles first boy has grown up to be a fine young man.around the house. The paint is flaking off the pillars of the frontporch. On the verandahs, the rattan chicks hand crooked, anddead leaves blow along the patterned tiles. The big bedrooms stayclosed. I just sit here, very quietly, listening to the noises from theroad…PAGE 53 of Textbook Emily is an old woman now. She needs to rest.The stage is very dim. A harsh overhead spot shines onthe chair where Emily sits, looking small and frail.Hello – hello, Bin-bin. Time is now no longer important as the play comes closer to theLooking up at the tall boy end.Wah, now my chu-chu is a big buffalo, grown upalready… This is your fiancée, is it? Mei Choon – are youat the University also? Bin Seong is a good boy, he comesand takes me out, we go to the food centre for supper, orjust go for a drive, makan angin. Otherwise I don’t go outvery much nowadays… Emily is in a state of confusion or daydreaming now. She is in herNo-lah Bin-bin, I think I don’t want to go for a drive today, I’m last stages of her life. So many things have taken place during herfeeling a bit tired. You young folks go out together lah. lifetime – her own life, her family and the fast-paced development of Singapore. No matter how capable she is, she cannot stopI just rest quietly here lah… You think it’s noisy ah Mei Choon? changes from taking place. Neither can she fully comprehend theseI don’t mind the traffic noises. They sound like voices laughing changes. She has a lot of things which puzzle her: the death ofand talking, echoing in the house. Thank you for coming, eh, Bin- Richard and the estrangement in her relationship with Gan Joobin. Night-night. Kheong.The stage is now totally dark except for the spotlight on Emily. As the play comes to an end, Emily’s strength also starts toShe sits very still and presently she seems to talk in a dream. dissipate. She becomes increasingly confused. She thinks Bin Seong, her grandson, is her son, Richard. She, to the very end, cannot let go of her eldest son, Richard. We do not know if it isPAGE 54 of Textbook guilt which continually haunts her conscience or is it love whichAh, Bin-bin, sayang chu-chu mak ni. Porpor make ice-cream for pins her down with memories which she cannot let go.you. Turn harder, Mat, turn the handle. After that, you go toAmber Road, fetch Tuan Besar home.I don’t care lah! My son must inherit, even though her son isolder. She thinks she so clever because she can play piano. I can 29
    • Literature in English Reissued St. Hilda’s Secondary SchoolSecondary 2BCD Term 4.2011 Prepared by Yeo Yam Hweelearn music also.SingsWeep no more my lady, O weep no more today,We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,For the old Kentucky home so far away.Be careful don’t fall from the pony, Richard! You did well inschool, ya? Sometimes you take Mother out for a drive to makanangin, you’re a good boy ya.Enough driving now, Richard. Mother is getting verytired, you take me home now. Ya, I want to go home andsleep. You are a good boy, you take care of Mother, ya?...My big strong son.The lights go out END OF PLAY. 30