When my cousin Chin-Yee turned 32, she announced she was giving up her job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs to become a yoga teacher. Her mother — my mother’s sister, Ee-Ling — promptly fainted.
When she came to, she immediately flew off to Colorado, my mother tagging along for moral support, and checked into a very expensive health spa from which they didn’t emerge for two weeks, drinking cold-pressed kale juice and getting their chakras re-aligned with burning sage and crystals.
When they finally returned to Singapore, Auntie Ee-Ling — her emotions now completely balanced and focused — headed straight from Changi Airport to the family lawyer in Raffle Place, where she rewrote her will, basically giving Chin-Yee’s share of the estate to the SPCA.
“Ungrateful child!” she told all her mahjong friends. Which was the cue for all the aunties present to parade stories of their ungrateful children who, despite all their privileges and expensive education, had, one and all, proven to be such disappointments.
But Chin-Yee didn’t care. She went off to India, entered an ashram where you didn’t speak for weeks, perfected her head-stand, and when she came out, she didn’t speak to her mother for five years until Auntie Ee-Ling’s cancer scare.
“Wah, your family very drama hor?” Sharyn said recently when I told her the story over lunch at Lau Pa Sat.
“Tell it!” I told her. “When my grandfather died and was lying in his casket at home, in the other room, his 11 children were fighting over the will. For the next 20 years, at least one child was not speaking to at least two other siblings!”
Sharyn was goggle-eyed. “He got so much money meh?” she asked, as she slurped her sugar cane juice.
I waved a spoonful of laksa at her. “It’s never about the money, Shazz. When people fight over money, it’s usually about something deeper.”
Sharyn shook her head. “Wah, you all ah. Even your family ploh-blem so cheem!”
Later, when she got back to the office, she repeated my family history to Saffy who said her friend Jenny was going through the exact same thing as Chin-Yee.
It turns out that after 10 years of practice at a huge Sydney law firm, Jenny recently told her boss she was resigning.
“But why?” her boss asked. “You’re up for partner next year!”
Apparently, Jenny shrugged and essentially told her boss that she just wasn’t “feeling it” anymore.
“I don’t want to end up like Mr Gilmore,” she said, referring to one of the firm’s senior partners who had gone into the office on a Sunday morning to work on an urgent file.
Some time before lunch, he suffered a major heart attack and died, face-planted into his laptop. By the time he was discovered on Monday morning, still at his desk, rigor mortis had set it and he basically had to be carted out on the ambulance gurney in a position that Chin-Yee would have recognised as the happy baby pose from yoga.
As Amanda remarked that night over dinner, “You really can’t make up this kind of thing!”
“But didn’t his family wonder where he was?” Saffy asked.
“Divorced,” Amanda said tersely. “He was never home, always at the office. Jenny says she was turning into him.”
“Oh. My. God,” Saffy sighed. “Imagine dying like that.”
“Hannor,” Sharyn said.
“The last thing you see is your keyboard!” Saffy went on. “That’s almost as bad as dying and the last thing you ate was a salad!”
What was Jenny’s next step then, I asked.
“She’s going to become a Reiki master!”
Saffy paused and frowned. “Wait. What? A Reiki master? That’s a thing? Like a Jedi master?”
Amanda stared. “No,” she said slowly. “A Jedi master is not a thing. But a Reiki master is. My spa therapist is a Reiki master.”
Saffy looked unconvinced. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a Reiki session. Don’t they just sit there and put their hands over your body? What would be the point of that?”
She remained unconvinced even after Amanda had explained that energy flows from the hands, and into the areas that need healing. “How much could that possibly pay?” she wondered. “Compared to being a lawyer, especially.”
Sharyn nodded. “Hannor! I oh-so say! Her mud-der sure angry one. Confirm kick out of her will, like Jason cousin.”
“Well, money isn’t everything,” Amanda said, an observation that led Saffy to tell all her friends that it’s only rich people who say such stupid things.