A Meh-Lion With A Singapore Dream

There once lived a Merlion call Mehtilda, Or Meh for short. She’s a not-so-typical typical Singaporean, not the grey Merlion of the past but a colourful one that carries the hope of the future. She grew up in a lower middle class family, stayed in a HDB and is now a successful law partner at the largest law firm in Singapore - Sang Nila Ultimate. She is living the Singaporean dream but underneath the Kueh Lapis façade of pragmatic agreeability, nothing is truly going swimmingly. 
Her merparents told her the only three PROPER professions are lawyer, doctor or engineer. Accountant also meh. So she said OK, put her head down and studied hard. School was uninspiring but she loved learning. Inspired by The Little Mermaid, she sewed and made colorful Mertails in her free time. Nothing pleases her more than someone wearing her creations.
Her specialty is the silky sequined Mertail, light as the wind on shore and glistening in the sun, perfect for lazy Sundays, casual with a touch of glamour. All the Tai Tais loved it, so did the metrosexual Mermen. Glamsual she called it.
She dreamt of the day Ariel will wear her creations and tag her on Fishbook. She knows she’s busy dating the prince but hey, a Merlion got to dream. Her favourites are the crystal studded ones, those she gifted to differently abled Merlions.
She would painstakingly sewed each bead by hand and imagine the look on their faces when she delivers it. It’s always worth it. Her parents nag at her to stop doing so. Unless you want to turn it into a side business, if not it’s pointless, they say. Follow the money, they joked seriously. It’s taking time away from studying, they reminded her, repeatedly. Even though her grades are above average and she’s on the school team.
When she complained to her merfriends, they all nodded their heads in recognition. At least you don’t get caned, they said. Those dried seaweed canes hurt like hell; even wearing several Mertails won’t do much good. If you run, you get double. So lan lan stay and receive it. If you question, you get double as well, so no choice, just take it.
So she tried to be thankful and kept quiet. She ain’t no complain queen, that’s for sure. She listened to her merfriends complain all the time and it gets overwhelming, if you’re not going to do anything about it, what’s the point? She was an achiever, a scholar and a born leader.
So she quit sewing Mertails and studied tirelessly. She went to National University of Singapore Law School and graduated with a law degree. Her parents abandoned their posts and clapped their tailfins together in glee. Sloshing water into the banks of Singapore River. Even THEY didn't follow a designated stream for once.

Our daughter made it! All their merrelatives knew about it, if they didn't, they made sure to let them know. They engaged a whale to announce the sonic humble brag, reaching the merlion tribe far and wide. Of course they posted on FB as well. "No lah, she got lucky! Your son doing so well too." They always said with beaming smiles on their usually stern lion faces. Just loud enough but not TOO loud. No way. Harmony first you know, they ARE Singaporeans after all. 

Her parents are proud of her and she IS happy they’re proud of her. Yet in the stillness of the night, she feels this emptiness in her heart, a roar caught in her throat, all the things she wanted to say to the world and couldn’t. Her usually perfectly coiffed mane in a hot mess, unlike the perfect life she portrayed on FB, with a massive following mind you. Don’t play play.

She read about Dory’s adventure in Tails As Old As Times and found that slightly fishy. Can a little fish really do it? A forgetful clown fish moreover. The jesters of the Meriverse with a terrible sense of direction and minute fins. She laughed when she heard this.

She was a Merlion. A fierce competitor, a dynamic leader with a lion’s heart, destined to sail the seven seas and bring glory back to Singapore. Yet she’s here, feeling more alone than ever before. She did the Singapore thing, even achieved the Singapore dream and yet she is mehing away deep inside.

No one wanted a Negative Nelly. Everyone loves a Positive Sally. Perfection is the only way to be. Be all or nothing. It’s exhausting. She felt displaced in her own country. She's suppose to belong here but she doesn’t. She really doesn't. She doesn't feel it in her lion head or in her cat heart, definitely not in her mertail swag. She doesn't. 

On the outside, she put on her bravest lion face, knowing that she was more of a creative cat on the inside. She knows she’s lucky to be born in Singapore, she tried to be grateful and to an extent it worked. She trudged along like everyone else, day after day, year after year and before you know it, it's been 35 years. 

She has gone on the straight and narrow for so long. She doesn’t know what passion feels like, what freedom taste like anymore. What is it like to believe in something greater than herself? Not just a job but a passion, something to look forward to with glee. Something that awaken all our senses from the top of our heads to the bottom of your shoes, I mean, Mertail. Something that makes you not just EXIST but LIVE. 

What does Dory feel like? Can Dory even remember? Ha. What does coming home mean? How does someone turn Kueh Lapis into Rainbow Lapis? 

There must be something more. Something, anything, maybe. HOPEFULLY.

In celebration of Singapore's 52nd birthday, inspired by the Merlion, an icon of Singapore, written in Singlish (Singaporean English)

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Find image here. 

The Merlion is an icon of Singapore. Its name combines "mer", meaning the sea, and "lion".

HDB or Housing Development Board is a government subsidised flat. 

Sang Nila Utama is a a Palembang prince who coined the name Singapura upon his discovery of the island in the 14th century. 

Kueh Lapis is a “Makanan Khas” or specialty food from Indonesia. It is a light, layered cake that is available in many different flavours.  

Tai tai (太太) is a Chinese colloquial term for an elected leader-wife or head-wife of a multi-wife (polygynous / sister-wife) family; or a wealthy married woman who doesn't work. 
Don't play play is a Singaporean colloquial term for don't fool around, derived the Hokkien dialect phrase, "mai sng-sng".
Lan Lan is a Singaporean colloquial term for a reluctant choice, forced upon by circumstances. 



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