A WSaDF blog post: Why I wrote “Lotus” – land and lotus flowers.

I wrote “Lotus”, inspired by a persistent image, that of lotus flowers growing in an abandoned building, sunlight flowing down through broken rafters. Furthermore, lotus flowers are a frequent theme/motif in my stories – so this image was woven into the story, into the struggle for survival after a post-apolyptic flood.

In the story, I also explored the issue of land. I am a Singaporean. Singapore is an island at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula (check that on a map). It has been colonised by the British (I am using British English – the English I was taught in school) and is now dealing with postcolonial issues. At the moment, the country is also coping with the issue of immigration. Xenophobia and frustration against foreign workers are common topics for bloggers and citizens. Questions like “Who’s a true Singaporean?” often surface. My grandparents are immigrants; they came from South and North China for a better life. I am a second-generation ethnic Chinese who ended up studying in Australia. So, what’s the issue of land to me? What’s the issue of land to you? We put a lot of energy, power and hope on land – any piece of land and space. Imperialism is obviously an issue about land, more like land-grabbing and empire-building for countries like England, France and the Netherlands. Southeast Asia itself is a colonist’s dream – it has land and its assorted resources like people, flora and fauna.

For many people, having their own piece of land is a knee-jerk visceral emotion. I am sure that land in the various colonies gave the imperialist powers – well – power and the idea of patriotism/nationalism. So, I decided to explore it, unpack it and unravel it in “Lotus”. The landers are seen as territorial as they occupy the only available pieces of land after the flood. The people who have boats (the boaters) move in a fluid environment: the sea and bodies of water. They only congregate together for a while, before moving off in a nomadic existence. Yet, for the boaters, they are still human and have human needs. Basic needs like food and water occupy their waking thoughts. When Si and Cecily find a piece of land, (ie, the lotus pond within an abandoned building), they struggle against deeply-held beliefs of possessing land and territory. Why is having land so important? Is it because of the security it gives or the identity it imbues in a person?

Cecily, the main character in “Lotus”, questions her own beliefs as well. Finding food in the form of lotus roots and carp stirs something inside her. She has to feed her partner and her unborn child. She has to feed herself. Is survival tied to resources? Yes. Yet, as the story progresses, she have dreams where food is shared freely and without prejudice. Food has always been geared towards empire-building. Spices, coffee and tea are food that have been co-opted for imperialist desires and goals, in the expense of the colonised. Is food an universal right, or in the eyes of imperialists, a privilege? Should food be placed in the hands of multi-corporations (another form of imperialism)? Or should it be shared and given freely, because it is a right?

Meaty questions to end off my blog post.

You can purchase We See A Different Frontier from Amazon or from Wizard’s Tower.

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