Just Like My Dad Did

I’ve been packing to move office for a fortnight now, and it’d have been faster if it wasn’t for my office being a treasure trove of museum grade paraphernalia. Today alone I found my Dad’s old passports spanning three decades.

My parents had their offices in and around Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar from 1966, the year after they got married. My father knew the streets like the back of his hand. To shake off his afternoon lethargy, he used to take long walks spanning the waterfront, then at Shenton Way, to Beach Road, to North Bridge Road, to Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar, and then back again to the office.

About a decade ago, before Parkinson’s got the better of him, I joined him on his walks. These walks were often dotted with stops for a drink or a meal. Restaurants at Purvis and Seah Streets, stalls at Amoy Street and Maxwell Road food centres were our ports of call.

He’d shuffle towards an available seat, sit, look up at a stallholder/waiter and make eye contact. A nod was exchanged, and his usual dish from the stall/restaurant would arrive at our table a few minutes later. Sometimes, it was a raising of a palm – a silent Hainanese greeting – that would signal the transaction.

Every crappy work day I’ve had at the office in recent months, I’ve had the respite of some similar walks, clearing my head, getting some air. Then one day last week, I stopped at Amoy Street food centre, and sat down at a table. I looked up and saw the chicken rice hawker and he saw me. We exchanged nods. A few minutes later, he served me a plate of chicken rice – drumstick with gizzards. My usual. My father’s too.

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