- Purchase/rental options available:
Manoa 16.2 (2004) 47-65
[Access article in PDF]
A play commissioned for the 2002 Singapore Arts Festival, Occupation was first presented by Straits Theatre Company at the DBS Arts Centre, Singapore, on 4 June 2002. It was performed by Claire Wong, and directed by Huzir Sulaiman and Claire Wong. The play was published in Huzir Sulaiman's collection, Eight Plays (Kuala Lumpur: Silverfish Books, 2002 ). The interviews with Haji Mohamed Siraj quoted in the play are excerpted from recordings held by the National Archives of Singapore.
Cast of Characters
Played by one actress:
Sarah, Chinese Singaporean, early thirties
Mrs. Siraj, Malay-speaking Indian Muslim Singaporean, seventies
Last Girl, Chinese Singaporean, twenties
Tony, Chinese Singaporean, early thirties
Ogawa, Japanese, early thirties
IN MEMORY OF MY GRANDFATHER, HAJI MOHAMED SIRAJ (1914-1999)
With a pleasing circularity, here is where our story starts, and likewise here it'll end, in ninety minutes, with a wiggle six decades back, then a wriggle back again to now. We start right here, in blocks of flats, upgraded by a grateful People's Action Party, with views of ships from every room, a harbour's worth of blue beneath the steely hulks, great grey-hulled tankers from God-knows-where bleached by tricks of heat and light to match the whitened beach. And from this thirteenth floor it settles, framed by green, the slivered coastal park a border to the scene, a fragile membrane taut between the town and sea. Perhaps that's all a lie. Words come easy to me.
Occupation. My occupation: Oral Historian. Yes. Assigned to sift and dig through people's tangled mess of words, to interview, collect, refine, collate, and package everything politely for the State. Though let's get this straight: it is appreciated by the State. Thank you, they say, imperceptibly.
Bing-bong, madam, bing-booooooooong.
I'm here to conclude the interviews we've done with Khatija Dawood—or Mrs. Mohamed Siraj, as she is known—pioneering feminist and champion of Muslim women's welfare, et cetera, et cetera. My chosen image today is the Caring Bureaucrat. I look out at the morning sea, shimmering, flat.