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Karen Tan

Singaporean. Based in Singapore.


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White is uniform.
I have to wear white shirts with shorts and later pants for four years.
That is why I don’t wear white trousers now.
A white shirt is OK.
White is dirty because it is difficult to keep clean.

Yellow is holy.
It is also my childhood as I remember walking on the beach during sunset.
Yellow is Buddhism

I like Orange.
And Red because monks’ robes have similar colours.
I think that’s why I have so many orange T-Shirts.

Orange is also paddy fields, or close to it.
I want to retire and be a monk who plants rice.

Green is childhood.
I grew up with lots of green in the countryside before the flats were built.

I don’t like grey because it’s the colour of cement that took away my childhood.


Seven Days with a Gen Z Makes One Woke

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t dislike the Gen Y/Z-ers at all; I mean, I was a Gen-Something, and I know my mother was often equally puzzled and irritated by my speech and ideas – “I am Chinese-educated, I don’t know these things”.


To be “woke”…? The past tense of a verb becomes a descriptive noun…? In other words, you all anyhow.

Then again, this is a generation to be reckoned with. If ever, in my youth, I could only daydream about doing something, the young people these days get to do it, almost immediately, and three, four times over. The range of choices, and sub-choices, available to them is both mind-boggling, and enviable. When they get criticized for being floppy about making decisions, I can only say that they’re surrounded by so much, how are they to choose at once? And how can they stick to something, when there are five other equally good options? Just as I always asked my parents to please understand where I was coming from, I think we owe it to the Gen-ers to see the world that they’ve grown up in, and accept that they really can’t, and shouldn’t, be exactly like us.

Except in respecting older people. Being able to single out an elderly person, greeting them politely, offering a seat, is the mark of a great generation, no matter where we are in the alphabet.

Karen Tan is a Singaporean theatre actor.

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