Book Review | 'Singapore at Home: Life across Lines' is about finding home

How people experience home is not only shaped by where they live and who they live with; it is mediated by their gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality and marital status.

Published: 20th February 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th February 2022 06:50 PM   |  A+A-

Singapore at Home: Life across Lines

Singapore at Home: Life across Lines

Express News Service

As the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic compels people across the world to work from home, it seems urgent to reflect on what ‘home’ represents and means to different individuals. How people experience home is not only shaped by where they live and who they live with; it is mediated by their gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality and marital status.

Singapore at Home: Life across Lines is an anthology exploring how home is felt, constructed, and negotiated through 21 short stories of varying lengths. These fictional universes feature characters from diverse socio-economic backgrounds in the multicultural Republic of Singapore. Edited by Pallavi Narayan and Iman Fahim Hameed, the book grew out of a writing workshop ‘Ungender Home’ in 2018.

One of the promising stories is Ken Lye’s ‘Her Father’s Business’ that scratches under the surface of familial togetherness, and exposes the violence awaiting those who question the patriarchal status quo. When Ling’s academic success is being celebrated by her mother, her father sees no reason to rejoice. He says, “She is just a girl. She is going to get married out of the family anyway.” The parental obsession with marriage as a milestone comes up again in Surinder Kaur’s story ‘Papaji’s Desire’. Daljit’s parents want her to marry a Punjabi man but none of the matches arranged by them work out for her. She is happy to live alone but her mother believes that she must get married because “children are the greatest joy in a woman’s life.”  

Can one feel at home without putting down roots in a particular location? What is the relationship between feeling and memory? Does a house cease to be home when the people who make it warm and inviting die one day? When does a place become a home away from home? This book throws up such questions for contemplation, so it might be a good idea to linger over the pages instead of reading it quickly from cover to cover.

Azeena Badarudeen’s story ‘A Bold Crossover (The ABC of a New Beginning)’ revolves around Alyna, who seeks to establish emotional independence from her mother by purchasing her own flat. Her education in New York gives her the courage to make this decision after returning to Singapore. In a way, she is like Daljit, whose ideas are influenced by her education in Toronto. Going away from home for a short while makes them look at their own situation from a new perspective. They become aware of possibilities that seemed out of reach not so long ago. Both Daljit and Alyna are free to make choices that were not available to their mothers. However, there are consequences accompanying these decisions that they cannot escape. 

Singapore at Home
Pallavi Narayan, Iman Fahim Hameed
Publisher: Kitaab
Pages: 262
Price: Rs 1,776


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