The Year of the Smartphone

It was Lunar New Year festivities, once again.

For Kate and her brother, Charles, it was a festive occasion once again. Kate could return to her grandmother’s home to show her her latest single. Charles wanted to gorge on as much food as possible, and collect as many angpows as he could.

The family soon made arrangements to whisk themselves up to their grandmother’s house.

New flamboyant clothing, check.
Record label, check.
Most importantly, the M1 Data Passport, check.

Kate and Charles rested at the back of their parents’ 7-seater as it raced from their home in Pasir Ris, to their grandmother’s house in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. For Kate and Charles, this would be their yearly encounter with grandmother, considering their busy schedules. Kate was utterly busy with records and would regularly publish previews on them to her Instagram followers, whereas Charles was a younger, more precocious child, especially when it came to catching the latest digital trends on his iPhone XS. It could be online shopping on Lazada, memes on SGAG or almost-obsessive gaming on the latest Brawl Stars.

As soon as the car screeched to a halt in Kuala Lumpur, the relatives heralded the arrival of the “Singaporean family”. The yearly affair of the Singaporeans making their way up to Kuala Lumpur was met with both anticipation and a tinge of tension. The grandmother dearly wanted to see her beautiful daughter and the grandchildren, Kate and Charles. Almost instantaneously, the grandmother’s eyes shone, and exclaimed, “Kate, Charles! You’re finally back!”

Kate and Charles expected the usual Lunar New Year tirades such as:

“Kate, have you found a boyfriend already? Surely there are many eligible bachelors in Singapore! Surely you want to serve grandmother the sweetest tea she can ever drink!”
“Charles, have you managed to get to the top school in Singapore? Grandmother heard about this school… called Raffles Junior College. I heard it was where so many successful Singaporeans went to.”

They quickly disappeared, leaving their parents to bear the brunt of the “grandmother interrogation”.

Not before long, their phones buzzed with immense flurry of activity through the pathetic Data Passport connection.

Kate: Charles, did you get any 4G?
Charles: My brawler’s lagging. Can’t seem to get a good connection at all.
Kate: Dang. I wanted to insta-story grandma’s awesome lion dance. Makes for an awesome story alongside my new pink dress I picked up at Lazada, right?
Charles: There you go again… and I thought I hoped I could get enough angpow money, and flee Kuala Lumpur to get my new Razer mouse.
Kate: Charles, is the 4G any better?
Charles: My brawler’s dead (again).
Kate: My Insta is flooded with my fans’ IMs, gosh… how can I do an Insta live chat with them and the firecrackers later?

And it was soon to be the first dinner of the new year. The different families congregated together, with their children in tow, to wish their grandmother many more years of longevity. Kate gladly contributed a state-of-the-art wefie stick, and directed the extended family, numbering over 30, for a squarish family portrait, before narrowly managing to coax the 4G connection to accept her flutter of activity for her fans to witness her filial piety. However, few other words were exchanged at the dinner — Charles was playing food critic with his friends as compensation for a lagging Brawl Stars. Kate was unlocking the achievement to hit 10,000 likes for her auspicious pink dress, and coaxing her fans of the invincibility of her voice in the midst of a bakkwa and pineapple tarts onslaught.

The occasional darting of eyes around only led to fleeting eye contact, before the eyes would retreat into their own screens as well. Kate glimpsed momentarily at Sara, who was also busily shooting selfies and food pictures. Sara’s profile was almost always encircled with a red circle. Kate would click, and then shoot a selfie of her own, making sure to tag Sara in it to show her greater popularity. Charles saw his cousin, James, with his phone in landscape mode. His shivers became more vigorous, owing to the withdrawal symptoms arising from a poor data connection.

Meanwhile, the grandmother turned to Kate’s parents and asked, “How are the grandchildren doing? I don’t seem to have much of a chance to speak to them.”

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