Bedtime Story

Abhinayya SaravananNovember 27, 2023Now and ThenFiction
Bedtime Story

Artwork by Abhinayya Saravanan

“You can’t catch me!” my grandson yelled and started running away from me, giggling, just as I was about to usher both my grandchildren, Joseph and Jane, into bed. To them, sleeping was an utter waste of time. Just then, an ear-blasting bang filled the air. I was shocked and my grandchildren were looking up at me, eyes wide. The sound had come from the attic. We went up to the attic and switched on the light. My grandchildren ran over to a rusty old Singapore Airlines model that was lying on the attic floor. The strong wind from outside had caused it to crash. Joseph has always been a curious cat and he nagged at me to tell him more about it.

As we headed back to the bedroom, I began their little bedtime story about a man who has not only been an inspiration but a legend to all of Singapore.

The morning call of the birds outside my room window woke me up. It was the year 1980. I jumped out of bed and rushed excitedly to retrieve my calendar. On it the 16th of November had been circled and marked as “Travel.” Swirling with excitement I leapt onto my parents’ bed and screamed, “Yay! Travel!” We were going on a trip to Europe!

Just as we reached the room, my grandchildren whined, “Grandma! We are hungry. Can we have snacks with your story?” Nodding and knowing it was going to be a long night, I detoured to the kitchen. There the kids each grabbed a tin of biscuits as I continued my story.

Gobbling up my breakfast, I quickly pulled my luggage out to the entrance of the house. Heaving the suitcases into the boot, my father counted five pieces of luggage.

“Passports? Check. Boarding passes? Check. Foreign currency? Check!” declared my mother, who was in the car. The car took off and as soon as the white and blue of Changi Airport’s control tower came into view, I smiled, muttering to myself, “Europe here I come.”

My happiness was short-lived. As we entered the airport, it was awash with confusion. The signboards showed that several flights had been canceled. One of them was ours. Disappointment seeped through me like a piece of tissue soaking up dye. Try as I might, I could not stop the single tear drop from falling over my long, dark lashes. I began to sob uncontrollably. I had been waiting for this trip for a long time. That was when I heard a group of travelers nearby talking amongst themselves about the Singapore pilots refusing to work beyond their working hours and demanding a pay increase. At that time, the sound of a speeding car filled the airport. Our prime minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, alighted from the car. I tiptoed so that I could get a glimpse of him over the heads of several onlookers. Mr. Lee looked as majestic as a lion and I had goosebumps just looking at him. Seeing Mr. Lee storm into the airport with such fury on his face, everyone stepped aside, clearing a path for him. Looking around, he eyed every bit of the chaotic airport.

“The fury in his eyes looked much bigger than this fire in our fireplace, children,” I told Joseph and Jane. “Grandma! Quickly continue with the story!” my grandchildren pleaded with me. Chuckling, I drifted back down memory lane.

Mr. Lee called every single pilot into a meeting room in the airport and banged the door shut behind him. We could neither see nor hear what was happening inside. An hour flew by. Suddenly, the sounds of engines whirring, the systems warming up, and planes taking off were heard. Claps and cheers resounded throughout the airport. We could travel now! My face was flushed with such an aura of joy that I felt myself glowing. I screamed my thanks from afar as many others were already swarming in to thank him. As Mr. Lee made his way up the makeshift stage for a press meeting, I stood behind, grinning to myself as I had just witnessed another of Mr. Lee’s miracles.

The moment Mr. Lee stepped onto the stage, he thundered into the microphone about how he had met the SIA pilots face-to-face and had settled the issue. He explained in detail what went on behind the doors with the pilots. Every single phrase he said still echoes in my ears today. I vividly recall the determination shining brightly in his eyes after willing the pilots back to work.

“Whoever governs Singapore, must have that iron in him,” I finished in the same confident and determined tone with which Mr. Lee finished the press meeting. Looking at the kids, I saw their eyes shining brightly. They had seen The Father of Singapore through my story.

Abhinayya Saravanan is an 11-year-old from Singapore who enjoys writing poems and short novels and reading mystery books.