A decade’s work – Part III

You meet all sorts of people on the job. Almost all taxi drivers converse with me in Hokkien from the get-go, without asking if I can actually speak dialect. And I, like many other SPH journos, never tell them my real job. I usually tell them I’m a clerk or something.

Because if you don’t, you’ll have to roll your eyes the whole journey as they rant about everything from horse-racing rigging to how to fix the PAP. As far as they’re concerned, they know how to run the country.

Well, as long as they don’t cheat on the taxi fare, I’ll gladly agree with them. I did try arguing with a few over some issues, but I never won, so I stopped doing so.

But these are not the weird tales I’m going to talk about. And here I go with one from my PJ days…


The Lizard’s My Son

In 2001, this particular tale was picked up by the wires a few days before I headed to Thailand for a junket. I told my boss I was going to do a follow-up on it, since there were no detailed stories, only a picture story.

The story – This lady, living in a rural area in the outskirts of Bangkok, had claimed that this huge monitor lizard was her reincarnated son and had become fiercely protective of it/him.

It took me some time to track her down (with the help of a very street smart hotel driver) and it was really odd to see this old lady carrying a huge lizard like a big baby (it would hug her shoulder and she would coo to it).

She didn’t want to talk to me at all, especially after the earlier press coverage. My Thai driver then spun a long and wild tale about me to convince her why she should open up. (It’s very important to have local people help you during overseas assignments) She was still wary though, and looked me in the eye and asked: “Do you believe that this is my son?”

I looked at the lizard long and hard. According to her, it had appeared at her gate a few weeks after her young son had died in a road accident and waited there patiently until she called her son’s name. Usually, such lizards avoid human contact, but here I was looking at it being fed milk from a baby bottle and looking really contented.

How not to believe?

A few weeks later, Thai newspapers reported that the lizard had become gravely ill and the vets were trying to persuade the woman to give the animal over the right people for proper healthcare. She refused, saying that no one was going to take her son away from her again. I didn’t follow up with the story again after that, but I believe the lizard died, breaking the lady’s heart one more time.