Letters of Life

The Hour Before Dinner

Somewhere in the Serengeti

…of glory in the flower.

A recent road accident killed two young boys, who were brothers, riding on a bike. In an urban city like Singapore built right up to the edges, road traffic accidents are frequent occurences, and cyclists seem to court death each time they take to the city’s backlanes, roads, and highways. But these two boys were riding their bike across a pedestrian crossing when the cement mixer hit them. They did not feel a thing), but it makes their dying seem all the more senseless.

At the time of the accident, I was inside a mall, thinking about making dinner for the children now sitting around the dining table with their Chinese tutor, while I was getting pasta, lettuce for a salad, and scanning the supermarket aisles for the UHT milk. The store had been recently renovated and people in office dress looking strangely alert were walking up and down the former places for items which now had disappeared.

It seemed trivial, all of it, in the light of the inexorable tragedy which started at 5.43 in the afternoon of a Monday. If I had been doing something of greater consequence, but what?, it wouldn’t have mattered. But they were merely riding home from school, after the seven-year-old’s wushu class.

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind.

William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Mortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (1770–1850)

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