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Friday, 14 June 2013


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I saw the giant rubber duck five times whilst it was in Hong Kong. It got me every single time. It was awesome. It looked like it could easily crush the cruise ship docked on Ocean Terminal. Even Hong Kong's iconic skyscrapers looked like hapless matchsticks behind this ginormous sculpture.

I love rubber ducks; they remind us of a time when taking baths were not just functional but also fun.

But this sculpture - officially entitled Spreading Joy Around the World by Dutch conceptual artist Florentijn Hofman - swept over Hong Kong like Biebermania would sweep an arena of tweens at a Justin Bieber concert. Hofman himself was reportedly overwhelmed when the duck was greeted by a cheering crowd when it floated into Victoria Harbour. We elbowed for hours to capture the perfect smartphone pic. We braved crippling heat, sweltering humidity and even relentless rain to catch a sight of the duck in all its glory.

The duck also compelled many of us to open our wallets on unplanned shopping sprees in Tsim Sha Tsui's gleaming commercial temples. Crowd control was in strict enforcement outside Ocean Terminal. In order to take the perfect duck pic, you'd have to plunge into the sea of people being funneled into the shopping mall. It didn't matter if you didn't want to; it's futile to even attempt going against the current of duck worshipers. The sculpture inspired amongst us Hong Kongers a kind of fervor we have yet to accord a religious icon -  Beijing's benevolent hand, even less!

When the duck was deflated - sick with avian flu? - there was mass hysteria. We wept and wailed because we had taken a day off work just to see the most sacred testament to our wanton culture of consumerism! The sight of the duck lying on its side shook our beliefs to the core. We held vigil until it once again inflated and regained its reassuring girth. (We don't like skinny ducks.)

Being in the duck's presence gave me a taste of what Mecca must be like during Hajj. Surely, our duck worship mirrors the intensity of having 100 million Hindu pilgrims waiting to bathe in the Ganges during Kumbh Mela. Except this is Hong Kong, of course, so this "peaceful gathering" is maintained by a fragile understanding that everyone will get the perfect pic for Facebook or Weibo - as long as we all observe queuing etiquette. And as long as there's order, our very identity as Hong Kongers is preserved. Our beliefs are reinforced. We're enlightened!

I saw the duck five times.

I fell under its spell, too, although in my case I suspect it's because touching any rubber duck evokes naughtier adult pleasures, of late. The bigger, the better.

The duck is gone and life is back to "normal."

I know now, it takes a fool to define normalcy in this town.

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