From 2013-2014, I spent a few hours a day in the afternoon in an Indian-Muslim family restaurant cum coffeeshop in my neighbourhood. Because its business is catered for the evening dinner crowd, it was mostly empty during the day time, and I could order ginger-tea throughout the afternoon, and do my writing and research in a place that was cheap and quiet.
Because I had spent so much time in there, I observed many intimate episodes of the Chinese migrant workers going about their cleaning and serving duties. They barely wait on tables due to a lack of working competency in English and Malay.
The story “Sayang” is based on the interactions, vernacular and patois of the Chinese and Singaporean workers in the restaurant. It is published in Balik Kampung 3B: Some East, More West by Math Paper Press (2016).
I developed the literary trail and activity booklet as part of the Singapore Writers Festival, bringing participants to the actual location, introducing significant landmarks of the neighbourhood, and talked about how the personal can overlap in fiction and narratives.
Last two images credit of The Occasional Traveller