My Grandmother, the Grande Dame of Peking Opera

Feminism, in my books, refers to the empowerment of women and my maternal grandmother is the epitome of feminism. She always had a fiery mav...

Feminism, in my books, refers to the empowerment of women and my maternal grandmother is the epitome of feminism. She always had a fiery maverick streak, and was a sharp, opinionated and determined lady who defied the conventions of her era.


In those days, the role of women was to be a virtuous wife and mother. Nothing more. But my grandmother chose to take fate into her own hands by pursuing a career in Peking opera. The journey, though tumultuous to say the least, eventually led to her resounding success as a top notch Peking opera actress. She was a born performer and could easily memorize her lines although she was illiterate.


Her hard work and resilience paid off. She stayed true to her art for the decades that followed and became a common fixture in the media and the Peking opera scene in Singapore till she retired some years ago.
I remember that one of her proudest moments was when she received the Cultural Medallion award in 1992. For years thereafter, she would beam with pride whenever anyone made mention of the award.

I was surprised to find a clip of her interview for the award on the internet. If you're interested to find out more, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

video
credits: http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_1364_2009-09-14.html

Now, my grandmother has mellowed with age, in tandem with gradual memory loss. Her memory has deteriorated to the extent that she tends to repeat herself several times during a conversation. Sometimes, she can't recall if I am already married and on other occasions, she would be urging me to procreate and respond to the government's plea for a higher birth rate. Nonetheless, the one thing that remains unchanged is that child-like sparkle in her eyes which continues to express her relentless zest for opera and life.


It may be a scary thought to depart from this earth, but to die without having lived is much worse than one can imagine. To follow in my grandmother's footsteps literally is no mean feat, but I can at least try to abide by her mantra and embark on a path that passion takes me.

Thank you grandma, for being my inspiration.



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