Meant to be

There it was—like a non-judgemental mother musing at her teenage daughter growing up too fast to comprehend, a ring sat in his empty tea cup. Unassuming, almost hidden in the shadow of the dark tea, it had nestled, snuggling in the assurance of warmth.

Daniel felt lost.

It was a nice—a simple frill-free band of silver with no ugly engraving or dents. It was the perfect multi-purpose ring, with just enough ambiguity to serve both as an accessory and a testament to a sacred commitment.

Who put it there though?

It seemed silly. To place a ring in a cup of tea. It was the kind of thing non-drinking, overly health conscious, hopeful hippies would do. He smiled. Whoever did this knew him well. Enough to know how much he dreaded jewellery and the spotlight that came with it. 

His curiosity was piqued. He hadn’t told many people about his parents pressuring him to find a partner. So whoever did this was close to him. 

Except he couldn’t quite tell who.

He looked around for a clue. 

Time stood still. Behind the till, Augusta, her face screwed in concentration, held a twenty dollar bill in her right hand and a pile of miscellaneous notes in the other. She was an economics student at the university working casual hours, trying to make some extra cash on the side. She hated math, Daniel recalled her bold declaration in one of their small talks. It couldn’t have been Augusta. She was too involved with her life, and he in math.

Barista Jason’s hand was frozen in midair too, hovering over the milk nozzle, ready to caress its smooth curves. Not him for sure. He was way out of league for Daniel—in every aspect, except perhaps money. 

Cafe chatter he’d gotten used to over the last five years had ceased in mid-conversations, vowels hanging, modifiers dangling, and fragments awaiting completion. Beyond the tainted glass, cars were a blur, as if caught red-handed by amateur photographers, whizzing passed red lights.

He looked back at the ring. And almost instantly, the world went back into motion. Annoying giggles started up from the table nearby and impatient honking from the street waltzed in through the door as someone walked in.

Sigh.

It felt wrong to take the ring without knowing who it came from.

What the hell. 

Pocketing the shiny silver, Daniel walked out the cafe, waving at Augusta and Jason on his way out. It was a good day.

The door clinked behind him.

Not two seconds after, a purple-haired man in the cafe wailed, “Oh, my goodness! They gave you the wrong cup!”

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She’d definitely be at the opera. Alone.

I should go too—there’s no way she’d bring the restraining order along.

Tell me a story

“Oh, I thought you’d forgotten!”

“How can I, mom? I just got 20 per cent off of bread on Mother’s Day sale.”

My mother thought I’d forgotten about Mother’s Day because I didn’t wish her on Sunday. It came up when I mentioned it, with the flyaway tone it deserves, in a conversation two days later.

Every street corner has a flyer or a billboard reminding us about this celebratory day. Everywhere I look, there’re roses and pinkish red ribbons cajoling people to splurge, guilting them into buying things their mothers may never even enjoy.

But that’s just the tradition of Mother’s Day. Each year during this time, storefronts and in-stores promote maternity, maternal thankfulness, love, and forever gratitude.

What a story, huh?

Storytelling is now an unmistakeable chapter in marketing books. Almost every marketer I know understands its value, speaks about it, and in public forums vouches for it. But this “trend” came about only in the last three to five years. Before that, no one spoke as much about the great tactic that’s storytelling and its role in marketing and sales.

And yet, for years, we’ve been falling prey to some of the most wonderful storytelling the retail industry has ever divulged.

Yes, I’m saying Mother’s Day is a story. And a well-said one too.

In most of Asia, children live with their parents until they get married or go off to work in a different city. However, in most of the western world, children move out of their parents’ far sooner—sometimes as early as fifteen years. That is an excellent market for the Mother’s Day story. You know how it goes: the child takes one day off from their personal life to meet with their mother, praise her, thank her, and show her how much they love her. It’s the perfect story—with the right blend of care- and guilt-inducing narrative, the story can survive generations, as we see it has. The best part? As the Asian culture adapted to westernisation, more Asian children experience it too.

In a sense, the grand narrative of being there for your mother, at least one day of the year, has become such a relatable matter for so many of us that we give in to without second thoughts.

With today’s tech growth, we don’t need one day of the year to bond with our mother. Heck, I moved to Australia a month ago, and I still call my mom twice every day. I don’t always want to—when you’re talking to your mom that often, you run out of things to talk about much sooner than you’d imagine—but I still make time to call her. She would freak out otherwise, but it’s also a nice way to acknowledge her and what she means to me.

I’m not the only one either. A lot of people I know have regular interactions with their parents. But even they follow Mother’s Day ritual because it’s just so baked into our minds, and—gosh what would people think about them if they don’t?

That’s how compelling this story is. It’s so haunting that you can’t get away from it without going through with it. And like a vicious cycle, as people fuelled the tradition every year, we’ve ended up with a generation of mothers who’re accustomed to expecting the $100 wine bottle (which they know was on sale for $89.95) as proof of their children’s love.

As a marketer, I appreciate the mastery of the storytelling. But as a child, it just makes me a monster who’s so obsessed with work that she couldn’t even send her mother a card on Mother’s Day.

Oh, well.

Love yo’self

Self-love training. Pfft.

Don’t they know forcing it only invokes hatred? Like mother did.


A few days ago, I came across a challenge—write a story about love in 14 words. Since half the world is celebrating Valentine’s Day today, thought I might post it here. What 14-word love stories can you come up with?

East and West

“You know what, Mildred? I can’t wait for Kevin to leave for college. I mean, I love the kid, but to be honest, Rick and I haven’t had the house to ourselves in almost 20 years.”

“It’d be nice to be alone with each other again.”

“Oh, yeah,” Mildred agreed her mouth full of Julia’s fresh-baked blueberry muffin. “I get it, Jules. You and Kevin need some time off. The kids are grown up now, they have their own lives to take care of.”

“You two should go on a second honeymoon or some’n,” She added as an afterthought.

“What are you watching, Raj?”

“It’s this new American sitcom, Ma—Rick & Julia. Everyone in college is talking about it.”

“Ok. Here—drink this juice. Do you want anything to eat?” Mrs Patil asked as she cleared up Raj’s empty breakfast plate.

“Nah.”

“Alright. I’m just in the kitchen chatting with Geetha aunty. Let me know if you want anything.”

“Ok.”

“So… how’s it like having Raj back home?” Mrs Patil’s neighbour asked as she entered the kitchen.

“Oh, Geetha! It’s wonderful! I was so bored and Raj’s father doesn’t come home until dinner time—he’s always busy with his business. I was starting to feel depressed.”

“Oh, I wish Raj had a longer holiday,” she stopped chopping onions and turned to face Mrs. Geetha, “with him around, it’s like my life’s got purpose again.”

“I’m making his favourite biriyani today,” she announced without apparent reason her eyes beaming with joy.