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Updated: Mar 12

My mother used to tell me the story about the iron club that is sanded down to a needle –

I imagined the minuscule grains of metal

Shimmering, falling

Erosion at the hands of diligence.

I imagined myself as the hands that weathered

at the iron under the sun. I wondered what I would become.

Deft enough to move mountains, or the soft golden refraction

of underwater ripples.

I was 11 when I realized that I was not the hands

smooth and steady, a work of art in its own right. I was the needle

under foreign palms. Unknowing, but meek by nature.

I recognized the silver powder that drifted down like snow

to be pieces of me. I stayed still, and in some kind of disturbed fascination,

allowed the erosion to take place.

I must admit that I was thankful to begin with,

Often shy but basked in the warmth of the words that kneaded me, unknowingly,

into the sewing pin – the industrial child intended not to be one in a million, but one of a billion

Of course you scored well, you’re Asian.

No wonder you chose maths, you’re Asian after all.

She’s creative… for a Chinese!

These were words that I accepted. In all naivety, I assumed them to be indicators

that I was – selfishly – special.

I believed myself to be in good hands – unaware of the production line I was in reality placed upon. The hands I had pictured in my childhood washed away – my own that were fumbling, small – but pouring forth with love. Gold, and a desire to be.

Some years later, I learnt to look down, kneel

and collect the metallic grains around my ankles. To recognize the elements that built my body, even after the confines of uniformity weathered away at their shells.

To relearn what it means to be – that my successes are not in spite of my Asia, nor excused

by it.

And to hold on to the parts that cannot be sanded away.