Friday, 31 May 2013
The elderly come down every morning with their songbirds. They walk down from their apartments somewhere around 6-7 am bearing huge cages meticulously woven from rattan; these hold as many as three of the little creatures within, chirping away. No mass-produced cold metal birdcages for these folks.
Being in that nebulous period where my coursework is done and I'm still seeking gainful employment, I've found time in the mornings to go down with a tin mug, buy a mugful of tea from the coffee shop, and then sit down on the benches by the playground to watch the old folks hang up their songbirds and sip at the stuff. No milk, no sugar.
It used to be the case, I hear, that there were whole parks around the country built for the sole purpose of songbird-keeping, with hundreds of metal poles for the elderly of the day to go about and hang their birdcages on, complete with pulleys so the birds could get some extra height. Of course, those parks are a thing of the past now - I have a few faint memories of seeing such parks when I was really young, but that's about it. Today, the old folks who still keep songbirds about my place have to use trees and stepladders for the same purpose.
I've tried talking to some of them, but while pleasant enough, they don't seem to be as gregarious or loquacious as my grandmother was. Offering to help carry their birdcages usually results in a gentle refusal, and so I've learned not to ask, but simply sit and watch. While interaction is little more than a nod and smile, and I could tell that my first few appearances did make the old folks uneasy, a couple weeks of being a semi-regular fixture has ameliorated that somewhat. It would be nice if they would talk to me, but talking to strangers, especially strange young men with wisps of a goatee, is probably right out in atomised Singapore.
And so it's just sitting down and listening to the songbirds. Birds are the one of the few things that are left uncorrupted in this world, I believe; it's a pity that Singapore is not exactly conducive to falconry, although it's practiced in Malaysia with the local birds of prey.