“Though I rarely had occasion to use it, I know the word and its implications well. It was truly a Southeast Asian word, soft as its people and well-understood from Marang to Manila, Surabaya to Sulawesi, Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu. It describes a love bound to sadness, a tenderness trembling on the edge or tears, a passion from which pity could not be detached... I did not realise how fully I would understand saying. Had I known, I would have given it more thought.”
Joe Samy suspects that his wife, Ri is pulling the blinds on him. So he engages the rough but affable private eye, Sigmund Lee, to track her movements. As he is led on a roundable ride, Joe succumbs to temptation himself, first with a transsexual, then with his son's girlfriend.
Events begin to take a twist for the macabre as Ri falls mysteriously ill and his son, Kris, submits his body to a drug peddler while Joe himself tangles with a defrocked priest. As his family falls apart, Joe Samy, now vulnerable and not so smug, takes a hard lesson from life on the true meaning of 'sayang.'
The late Dr. Gopal Baratham (1935–2002) was a proud Singaporean, a distinguished writer and a prominent neurosurgeon in about equal parts. He was born in the quiet of the mid-thirties, survived in the turmoil of the fifties and sixties and in the nineties, found the tranquility for writing.
Considered a literary light during his lifetime, his oeuvre consists of five volumes of short stories, three novels and non-fiction book. His first book, A Candle or The Sun, won the Southeast Asia Write Award in 1991 and was short-listed for the Commonwealth Book Prize in 1992. One of the first Singapore writers to have their work published by an overseas publisher, his books also received much international praise.