Smiles are not returned in Little India,
where dreams are stolen rather than softly scribbled
and shophouses shrink from each other. Their varied
dissolve into dirty puddles.
The young bachelor
of commerce selling phonecards on the corner
will tell you
means more to him than most citizens
(and a life off the streets)
while the awkward Chinese couple wedged
in the quaint souvenir shop
between the pawnshop and the chilli-man will say
it took them longer to find this space
than they are allowed to keep it.
You round the corner to the five-sided square
between Lembu Road and Desker, hoping
to find solace in the tick of carom boards
or the fluttering of many pigeons.It is an open space
where memories are flicked and mixed, where
we disappear into ourselves. Where we become strangers
treading the dirty puddles.
[They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue, Theophilus Kwek 2011]