For Kim Cheng Boey ‘between stations’ describes the state of the migrant writer, living between his place of birth, his adopted country, and the wider world; between the past and the present; between the city he is in, and those that live in his memory.
The book traces the author’s travels through India, China, Egypt and Morocco, during the year of wandering between his departure from his native Singapore, to the making of his new home in Australia. In each place he visits, the cosmopolitan mix of peoples, the markets and crossroads, the overlays of history and religion, remind him of his old city, now demolished, and of his gambler father, who would return after long absences to walk with him down the vanished arcades and alleys, past the shophouses and hawkers’ stalls.
Boey’s essays capture a historic moment in the modernisation of the Asian city; they chronicle the breakup and the resilience of the family; they trace his formation as a poet.
You are an emigrant to those you left behind and immigrant to your new friends. But in between the tags fall off. You lose the certainty of the state you are in, as though you are on a train whose front half rests in one state and whose back carriages lag in another. In between, you pass the same stations again and again, stations whose names blur and become interchangeable and you forget if you have a destination…