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The PAP and the People – an old married couple?

Dr Ng Eng Hen, the People’s Action Party’s organising secretary has described the relationship between Singaporeans and the PAP as that of an “old married couple”.

Here’s the story:

Tan Ah Seng, 59, looked at the toilet roll. The wife has bought that deluxe, superior multi-ply roll again. He’s been telling her that a normal toilet roll will do but she insists on the top-grade, which costs three times more. And yet, she still complains about the allowance he gives her every month. He could hear the wife’s movements in the kitchen. He knows the drill, half boiled eggs and white bread again. It’s been the same breakfast for the 35 years. Same ole, same ole…

He flushed.

He opens the cupboard and puts on the usual corporate attire of white shirt and tailored pants. Time for work. He hopes the trains work today. Yesterday evening, he got an earful when he came home late because the wife couldn’t believe that Singapore’s trains break down. She wants him to get a car. When, or how, did she get that way, he wondered. Thirty five years ago, she was the ideal soul-mate, who agreed with him on everything, even to the point of sterilising herself because he thought they should stop at two.

He smiled.

Their two sons have done them proud, he thought, although he was regretful that they stopped at one kid each. As for the wife…

He hears her calling for him, and braces himself for another nagging session about her allowance. She thinks he’s keeping money away from her, forgetting that he was merely saving for their old age. In fact, he wants to downgrade to a studio apartment arguing that it was too big a place for them now that the boys have moved out, but she wants to continue living in the maisonette. That was the cause of another blazing row. He ended up sleeping in a hotel that night. When he came home in the morning, she seemed chastened. She even let him have two cups of kopi-o, instead of restricting him to one.

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He sighed.

There she goes again, asking if they could get a live-in maid because she can’t cope with the housework. Doesn’t she realise that he is 59 and there’s that young punk looking to take over his job? He dips his bread into the egg, refusing to answer her.

“Old man, are you deaf? Why don’t you ever listen to me? Live with me for so long you take me for granted is it?’’

“Aiyoh, what you want me to do? I keep telling you we can move out if the house is too big for you! Why don’t YOU listen to me instead!’’

He took up the newspapers to read. He is internet-savvy but he thinks there are too many crazy people online. In fact, he thinks most of them should be sued. He wonders if the wife goes on the Internet while he’s at work. Is that why she is getting so cranky? These days, she doesn’t even call herself Mrs Tan. She goes by her maiden name. Why? Was she ashamed to be his wife?

He pursed his lips, smeared with egg yolk.

Okay, fair enough. He hasn’t been spending much time with her. He needs to re-capture that old intimacy. He remembered how her eyes lit up when he bought her a bouquet of roses the other day. The trouble is…roses die and that glow on her face only lasted while they lived. How to please her? My goodness, he thought, is their marriage in trouble? Not after all this time surely?

He shakes his head, continuing to read about the latest court case. This Roy Ngerng…very bad. The wife thinks he’s cute though. She likes how he is asking for CPF to be returned to the people, (“You should get your own money back,” she had told him!). And she doesn’t like the idea that he has to work till he’s 62. It doesn’t matter how many times he told her that he’d rather work as long as he can, even past 62, than stay stuck at home with her. (Of course, he never tells her that.)

The phone rings.

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He hears her answer it and then…silence. This is happening too often, he thought. Is she seeing someone? Can’t be. She’s 55. Then again, younger men, including foreign men, have been known to prey on older women. Good thing the bank account is in his name then. He isn’t about to give her the second key. But who is that on the line??

He grits his teeth.

He would punch anyone who touches his wife. Let him try seducing her, he thought to himself. He’s looked after her for so long, attended to her every need, he was the breadwinner, the hardworking husband, the good father…how can she even think of someone else?

He calms down. It was unworthy of him to think this way. Their fates are tied. They’ve been through so much together; they have a shared history. No one can change that. Yup, they can’t revise history.

The wife returns, face aglow.

“Who was that?’’ he asks nonchalantly.

“Oh just someone from church…,’’ she replies.

“Who?’’ he asks.

“Janet lah,’’ she replies, looking away from him.

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He took up his briefcase. All’s fine. The wife is going to play mah-jong and doesn’t want him to know. He decides not to kick up a fuss.

As he went out the door, she reminds him to get another roll of toilet paper, deluxe, superior, multi-ply.

He nods.

This article was first posted on The Middle Ground at

Yup. I’m writing there now in case you didn’t know

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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