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Our Self-Written Obituaries – Phebe Bay, Singapore

The 34th death.

[Text by Phebe Bay; photo by Marcel Sim]

Born to a middle-class couple, Phebe Bay did moderately well, although she was not exceptional. As a student, for instance, she was neither the best in her classroom, nor the most outspoken. She did not play any musical instrument and, definitely, she was not the most poised.

Ms Bay’s life was also marked by a series of imperfections.

Growing up in Singapore’s heartland, her first bicycle ride sent an impeccably trimmed row of innocent neighbourhood saplings to their early death.

Her choice in clothes, too, left much to be desired – this is obviously not the place to talk about her zebra print dresses.

So, what happened when that imperfect woman landed up in a similarly imperfect country like India? Sparks flew — of the heated sort — between Ms Bay, and those persistent beggars, those cheating auto rickshaw drivers and, of course, those disrespectful men.

India was the place where Ms Bay experienced a wide spectrum of emotions. In a night bus from Dehradun to Delhi, she found fear but also courage. In a 15-year-old boy selling fried bread with eggs at Delhi’s Kashmere Gate bus terminus at 5 in the morning, she found respect. In crossing the city’s congested roads, she found extreme frustration, and while partaking of her colleague’s imported stash of Smirnoff vodka, she found joy and friendship.

Although she used to run a travelling blog, The Travelling Squid, Ms Bay often got lost and had to rely on the kindness of strangers to find the right way. Travelling with her was always different and inconvenient. At one moment you found yourself under Mount Bromo’s ash rain, and at another moment, you were shivering under the duvet in a badly insulated guesthouse in Sapa, Vietnam — because Ms Bay forgot that the night temperatures there could fall as low as 2 degree Celsius.

Indeed, Ms Bay was unplanned, unorganised, uncouth, insensible, illogical and pretty much inconceivable. But beneath that unpolished veneer was a person with a big heart that embraced life with naive optimism. (And who could ever forget her famous signature shrug that she made each time she said, “I don’t know”!)

Ms Bay wanted her ashes to be scattered in the river Ganges in Varanasi.

That ancient city was the best illustration of her life — a twist of fate, a mix of chaos and a tussle between the old and new. A city full of things that one could not comprehend and could not control, and at the same time, a place so full of something beautiful.

Our Self-Written Obituaries invites people to write their obituary in 200 words. The idea is to share with the world how you will like to be remembered after you are gone. (May you live a long life, of course!) Please mail me your self-obit at

One thought on “Our Self-Written Obituaries – Phebe Bay, Singapore

  1. Varanasi? Really? I fail to see why perfectly sane men and women flock to that abomination of a city. I am also amazed by those who wish to romanticize its filth, squalor and peddlers of ‘woo’.

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