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Monday, April 1, 2013 | 2:44 PM | 0 comments
Today, we shall take a look at a Singaporean classic: '2 mothers in a h d b playground' by Arthur Yap


Lok Meng Chue gives an animated reading of Arthur Yap's '2 mothers in a h d b playground'

2 mothers in a h d b playground
ah beng is so smart,
already he can watch tv & know the whole story.
your kim cheong is also quite smart,
what boy is he in the exam?
this playground is not too bad, but i’m always
so worried, car here, car there.
at exam time, it’s worse.
because you know why?
kim cheong eats so little.
give him some complan. my ah beng was like that,
now he’s different. if you give him anything
he’s sure to finish it all up.
sure, sure. cheong’s father buys him
vitamins but he keeps it inside his mouth
& later gives it to the cat.
i scold like mad but what for?
if i don’t see it, how can i scold?
on Saturday, tv showed a new type,
special for children. why don’t you call
his father buy some? maybe they are better.
money’s no problem. it’s not that
we want to save. if we buy it
& he doesn’t eat it, throwing money
into the jamban is the same.
ah beng’s father spends so much,
takes out the mosaic floor & wants
to make terazzo or what.
we also got new furniture, bought from diethelm.
the sofa is so soft. i dare not sit. they all
sit like don’t want to get up. so expensive.
nearly two thousand dollars, sure must be good.
that you can’t say. my toa-soh
bought an expensive sewing machine,
after 6 months, it is already spoilt.
she took it back but … beng,
come here, come, don’t play the fool.
your tuition teacher is coming.
wah! kim cheong, now you’re quite big.
come, cheong, quick go home & bathe.
ah pah wants to take you chya-hong in new motor-car. 
From down the line, 1980
The poem takes us through the hoi polloi of Singapore and covers the same issues that The Correctfulness of Flavour does - namely, the local linguistic phenomenon that is Singlish. This can be seen within the agrammatical banter between the 2 housewives, and also makes an appearance in the title. Standard British English would prescribe the word 'h d b' to be preceded with the word 'an' instead of 'a'. This is due to the way locals pronounce the letter 'h' as 'haytch' rather than the standard pronunciation 'aytch'.

Other themes the poem explores include the urbanisation of Singapore at the time. In 1980, Singapore was undergoing rapid development. Some would even consider the 80's as the golden age of Singapore. Many construction and developmental projects were taking place, like the playground mentioned in the poem.

Traditional sand-based playgrounds that were locally designed with dragon or pelican motifs. Many were torn down in the late nineties. Only a few remain as nostalgic keepsakes of the past.

With the city fast becoming metropolitanised, the drive to succeed became a prominent key feature in the lives of the citizens. This ambition could have been the contributor to Singapore's economic boom. The competitive nature of the people can be noticed in the poem when the 2 mothers subtly compare their children's academic progress as well as their standards of living through the assets they possess (e.g. an expensive couch, a car, new tiles for the floor).

Once again, Arthur Yap has skilfully managed to bring together these aspects of Singaporean life in the 1980s through a mundane, trivial conversation between the members of our grassroot community.

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