Monday, June 28, 2010

En Bloc Sale, Almost A Love Story

I was browsing through my older postings and I thought this was pretty good. Good enough to repost here after a year and a half. Something completely different... Readers, do indulge me a bit as I write a short story. I don't even read much fiction, and I don't aspire to be a fiction writer. Its fiction, I tell you, completely fictitious.....

The year was 2006, it was the end of October in Singapore. Sitting idly in her barely rocking, rocking chair - the chair must have seen better times, the ones you know may have existed when Kennedy was president, the rattan barely clinging on to the wooden frame. In many ways, the frail 82 year old lady was barely sitting in her chair. Siu Lan was her name, most of her family has already passed on. She knows she was closer to her time to exit, the way most older folks somehow know.

As the evening soft sun rays bathes her face, her eyes looked as if she was crying but there were no tears. Maybe she has cried all the tears she needed to in her life time. Yet she still cannot believe the events unfolding before her over the last few months.

She lives in Apartment C-412 Lincoln Lodge for over forty years. It was bought for a princely sum of S$85,000 even then. She did not own the apartment but she was told by her lover then that she will be able to live her life out in that grand apartment.

That was forty years ago. Fifty three years ago she was the third mistress of one of Singapore's wealthiest retail tycoon, let's call him Mr. Tang. Those were simpler times, when a man's word meant something. Mr. Tang would also make sure that Siu Lan will be able to get a decent monthly allowance banked into her account for the rest of her life, even after his death. There was no need to draw things up legally then. Those were more decent times. Maybe people were more long-suffering then, maybe they had less distractions, maybe life was simpler then, maybe times were crueler that way too.

Siu Lan, in many ways led a life of quiet desperation.
The apartment was bought under one of Mr. Tang's private company. Siu Lan knew her status and her position. She was happy to just have the occasional visit from Mr. Tang. Sometimes its once a month, sometimes not even that. She bore him a daughter, and called her Su Shan, though she now go with the name Susan.

For an 82 year old woman, the rest of the world seems to be bypassing her for most of her life. Singapore evolved and developed for most of the 40 years Siu Lan stayed in her apartment.

While the rest of the country modernised, the lady stuck to her ways. She was very house proud, keeping every corner spankingly clean, almost unchanged for most of the 40 years. She stayed indoors most days, went for her evening walks and would then sit at the balcony to enjoy the sunset.

The rest of the world left her alone in her ways, except for when both worlds collided 6 months ago. The whole country was stirred into a frenzy by the "en-bloc sale" extravaganza. Murmurs by the corridors turned into vicious rumours in elevators. An initial offer of S$1.8m was offered a couple of weeks later. That was later raised to S$2.1m and was accepted by more than 96% of the owners. All were instant millionaires, when you consider that the market price was just $1.2m last year. Well, almost all...

As Siu Lan sat in her barely rocking chair, her eyes was welling up like a well of her memories. She had to move out of her apartment. But it was more than a place of abode for her. Did she loved her man, she asked herself. She could not say for certain, after all, a woman then usually followed the path that was dictated to her, rather than making out a path for herself. But that was all she had. A large part of her identity was being the mistress of Mr. Tang.

When he passed away twelve years back, she dare not attend his funeral, she wasn't invited, she wasn't welcomed, she wasn't even notified of his passing till three weeks after the funeral.
Now she has to move out of the apartment.

She did not begrudge him for not transferring the apartment to her name. It never came up. To her, the apartment was more than just an apartment. It was a testament of the relationship she had. She had never been with another man all her life. That boxed her in, or rather she willingly was enclosed, or she did not have a choice. How to have a choice when your options are so limited then?

Mr. Tang's two sons from the first wife knew of her existence many years back. They allowed her to stay on but stopped the monthly payments six months after their father passed away. They voted in favour of the en-bloc sale.

She could have ranted and complained but that was not her nature. She ate her bitterness all her life and the moments of joy, far and few in between, were deep in the recesses of her memory.

A week before she was due to move out of her apartment, Siu Lan commited suicide. The coroner wrote that the cause of death was suicide, only that that wasn't the cause of her death.


Eric How, said...

Very morning from you. Upload a post at 1.34am!
Crude Oil now trade at 38.11 usd/barrel. IOI a good buy now? Maybe 3.70?
Have a sound sleep.

Salvatore_Dali said...

yes, i think so...

Soon Hui said...

uh wah! True story? Never know you as a fiction writer....

All I can say is that this kind of story ( meaning a tycoon has more than one mistresses, not that an old lady doesn't want to sell her apartment!) is all too familiar for me.

Money is indeed a good thing,

MikeLing said...

Me think the mistress storyline is the distraction to create emotional response. You must be very concerned about the en bloc sales of so many office and condo last 2 years. Will they dis-entangle naturally or divorce in court? very quiet lately huh. Please dig something out from ppl inside YNH etc.

Richard Cranium said...

USDJPY fell below your 1st tranche 94 figure. As the pundits tell it, risk aversion is on the rise.

Risk aversion = stay out of the equity markets?

KoSong Cafe said...

It is a touching story of a mistress's life with personal sacrifices. I can still remember a mistress's lament of how she wished she could wake up in the company of her lover.

Anyway, I am tempted to relate my story on how a landlord can be a victim.

We used to own a piece of land in KL and almost all the tenants (tractor repairer, bus coach builder, mechanic, wireman, panel beaters, spray-painters and even an electro-plating business) claimed to be old friends of my father. We did not have any agreements, just monthly rental receipts. They often re-assured my father that since he had been nice to them (one third of market rental), at anytime he wanted the place back they would readily give up their tenancies.

Just three years after my father's death, our notice for eviction was challenged in court by 11 out of 14 tenants. It took us 5 years to end the case at then Supreme Court level, and another 3 years to collect judgment debts. 8 of the 11 debtors opted to be made bankrupts and we wrote off about Rm500,000. Our lawyer then was, Mathias Chang (now well known as ex-Dr. M's special assistant) and one of their lawyers (changed a few times) included Low Hop Bing (Judge now) who was more interested in reaching a compromise.

The key lesson learnt was that promises are meant to be broken, especially if the other person was already dead and gone. The other lesson was that, with an exceptionally low rental, judgment not in their favour would cost them only double rental, still lower than the market rates! We could have raised the rentals until they gave up voluntarily! But, we treated them as old friends and this was what we got in return.

To add insult to injury, one day when I returned from BG, I got a shock when I read The Star with headline, 'The long legal tussle between landlord and tenants took a turn for the worse when one of the workshops nearly caught fire'. There was a picture showing one of the tenants looking at a window and it was described as, 'at around 6 pm, a tenant saw a window burning and there was an empty tin and some matches'!

I wrote a letter to The Star and they just published in a small corner my questioning why would anyone start a fire when the tenants were still around?!

The effect of this episode has a great impact on how I view matters, one of which was never trust people's promises. I have a different outlook on eviction cases where the occupants had been there for a long time at ridiculously low rentals. You can bet that most of them have made good already but refused to give up a strategic location and waiting for compensations when there are plans for development. One of our tenants had his own house in Taman Bukit Maluri, yet kept his place for years, in the now to be demolished Pekeliling Flats in Jalan Pekeliling.

easystar said...

While there are always few men and women who will honour their words at great cost, most promises cannot be counted on when it involved large sum of RM/$.

Some... I normally deal with things at arm lengths.

Hong Chen said...

to KoSong Cafe,

I stayed at Taman Bukit Maluri... where is the house? I will go and have a look... he he he

AnakMelaka said...

thanks for a lovely story, I understand that en bloc sales is enforceable if 75% of the tenants/owners agreed - is that right?

if yes, under which section of the law?

thank you and keep blogging :-)

Salvatore_Dali said...

anak melaka,

i think its 80%... but not sure where in the legislation... go ask yr singapore realtor...he/she should know

bonny b said...

Dear Dali,
This is as close to the truth as it gets. Sad, but alas there are such descendants of wealthy people who behave worse than conceivable. No pity for them for their misfortunes/

kl said...

In my personal experience, promises about money are more often broken than not. Lend money to a friend and expect to lose both money and friendship.

Promises to mistresses are in the same category, and definitely stretching it if expecting them to be kept by the next generation. The fault lies both with the man for not making adequate provision, and with the mistress, for being too trusting. I think mistresses these days are much more clued on.

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