yellow dress

when you go home, tell them of us and say
we gave tomorrow for your today.
inscription on a connector from the death highway

there was a section in the museum dedicated to interns who were physically restricted but did not allow their creativity to be held captive as well. every drawing was a cathartic representation of their true inner thoughts and feelings while keeping up a brave face in front of their captors.

one particular piece by angela bateman stood out. it was a drawing of a prison corridor, with several downbeat prisoners in downbeat positions, in black and white. however, in the foreground was a little girl in a yellow dress. she was the only bit of colour in that work and there she was, ready to run down the bleak corridor that was her only playground.

it reminded me of the girl in the red coat in “schindler’s list“. when i watched that movie, i had to pinch myself to remember that such horrors really did happen just over 6 decades ago. when i saw the same red coat among a pile of bodies being sent to the incinerator, i had to hold myself to stop shaking with the sobs that followed.

seeing that little girl in her pigtails and yellow dress brought about the same disbelief. the japanese occupation really did happen. people really did die in changi. survivors returned to a lifelong wrestle with the war demons that followed them home. prisoners of war rolled tobacco with pages from church hymnals, made sandals out of tyres and inscribed everything they could in order to keep their stories alive.

alive, for future generations like mine, who have known nothing but peace and prosperity.

i cannot imagine what it’s like to be in the midst of conflict. the only fear i’ve felt is that of my father’s wrath in times when his temper gets the better of him.

i’m just grateful for the men and women who gave their tomorrows for my today, who suffered the consequences of someone else’s lust for power. it’s unlikely that the relative calm we live in now will last forever – nothing does – but at least it’s not something i need to be worried about for now.

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