Actor-producer Alaric Tay, 35, and his cousin, Keith Oh, 28, share a close bond, despite the fact that Alaric nearly killed him when he was younger.
Actorproducer Alaric Tay and his cousin, Keith Oh.
“The wonderful thing is that we’re always able to pick up where we left off. We’ve never fought over toys or women, though – the age gap guarantees that!”
– Keith Oh
ALARIC, YOU MENTIONED ALMOST “KILLING” KEITH ONCE. WHAT HAPPENED?
Alaric: I was carrying Keith – who was about one at the time – when I accidentally dropped him. He landed on his head; I was so horrified that I ran away while he screamed in shock and pain.
Keith: Yes, he left me for dead. Occasionally, I like reminding him that that’s a debt he hasn’t repaid. (Laughs)
YOU REMAIN VERY CLOSE EVEN WITH THE SEVEN-YEAR AGE GAP.
Keith: Alaric is an only child, so he took me under his wing and became the older brother I never had (Keith has one elder and one younger sister). All the cousins in our family – 15 in total – are close, despite our ages ranging from the early 20s to 40s. But there are only three boys: Alaric, myself and one other cousin, so we sort of banded together.
Alaric: About eight years ago, Keith and I started a Chinese New Year’s Eve tradition with our cousins. After the reunion dinner, we go out for a movie and supper. Now and then, we’ll also organise gatherings, like a Durian Night, to catch up.
DO YOU RECALL THE MOMENT THAT CEMENTED YOUR BROTHERLY TIES?
Alaric: You mean, like in a period drama where a bunch of men cut their fingers, “mix” their blood and become sworn brothers?
Jokes aside, it would have to be when Keith enlisted for national service, and invited me to send him off at Pulau Tekong. It’s usually reserved for the closest kin, so I felt very honoured and privileged.
Keith: For me, it was a series of moments when I was younger. Alaric introduced me to many firsts in my life – the first time I sneaked out at night, the first time I did something risky, and the first time I went to the now- defunct Boom Boom Room when I was 12 years old! I only followed Alaric backstage because he’d lef t something in the dressing room after a rehearsal, but it was still memorable.
TELL US ABOUT THAT RISKY THING YOU DID.
Alaric: I used to live near the old B ukit Timah Railway Station . When Keith stayed over one weekend, we sneaked out at night to explore the railway tracks, and walked to Sunset Way for ice cream. That was a first for me too; I wouldn’t have dared to do it on my own – that’s why I needed Keith.
Keit h : There were no trains running at night, but it was still very dangerous because Alaric insisted on walking along the centre of the tracks, where some of the planks were loose or decaying! I kept praying the entire way that they would hold my weight; I didn’t tell him then, but I was terrified.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE AL ARIC HAS GIVEN YOU?
Kei t h : My sisters and I often stayed over with Alaric’s family when I was in primary school. We fought a lot at that age, so Alaric devised a method to resolve our differences – he created a “complaint form”; whatever we were not happy about, we had to write it down and put it into a folder. At the end of our stay, we’d have to take the folder home and discuss our issues. Naturally, the folder remained empty. (Laughs)
But the idea behind it – to keep our cool so that we wouldn’t say anything we’d regret when we were emotional – was an important lesson in communicating with others. I only remembered this because I’ve recently entered into a relationship.
Alaric: What can I say – I’m an “uncle” at heart.
ALARIC, DO YOU TURN TO KEITH FOR ADVICE TOO?
Alaric: What Keith doesn’t realise is that he’s a great listener. Whenever I need a sympathetic ear, he’s always there. Keith is, in many ways, mature for his age, so even if he’s never been through what I’m talking about, he knows how to put himself in my shoes.
WAS THERE EVER A TIME WHEN YOU WEREN’T CLOSE?
Alaric: Probably only when Keith was a baby. When I was making my short film,
When We Were Bengs (2006), Keith helped out by coming to the set and distributing the film. He was even the best man at my wedding.
Keith: Alaric is busy with his own family now (he and his wife Juliet have a one-year-old son, Elijah), so whenever he has the time, I’ll go over to his place to catch up over lunch or dinner. The wonderful thing is that we’re always able to pick up where we left off. We’ve never fought over toys or women, though – the age gap guarantees that!