Friday, July 29, 2016

Only in Singapore

I take the train to work everyday and at Raffles Place station (where most offices are), many would've noticed that SMRT has stationed an employee whose job is to smilingly and loudly say, "good morning sir, good morning m'am, don't forget to smile today!" He is a pleasant-faced grey haired man, probably in his late 40s who keeps smiling at commuters till they eventually smile back at him. 

I am sure the "smiley uncle" (as he is known to everyone) has other jobs at SMRT when he's not persuading commuters to smile during rush hour at Raffles Place, but still I found myself thinking at first, "what a waste of tax payers' money! As if you can brainwash people into feeling happy!"

But you know what, it works! Like everything else in Singapore does. On a particularly gloomy day yesterday, I found myself thinking of the smiley uncle & smiled.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

China Diary

Isn't it crazy- Having spent about a decade in this part of the world, this was only our first ever visit to China! Well, there was a good reason for it. We were worried about not being able to get by without knowing the language (and we don't quite enjoy being guided by someone else when we are traveling). But then H had a conference in Beijing and we tagged along, so it just kind of happened. And we are glad it did.

Beijing, we thought, was a lot like Delhi. Wide roads, important looking government buildings, taxi drivers looking for a reason to fleece you, and lots and lots of cultural history. We also took a day trip to Mutianyu to see the Great Wall, which was pretty darn impressive for a 2000 year old structure. And then Shanghai felt a lot like Hong Kong or Mumbai - chaotic, unplanned, unstructured, vibrant, more cosmopolitan, casual. A sort of Mumbai from the future (in terms of infrastructure and cleanliness). On our last weekend, we visited an ancient Chinese water village in Xitang. At first, we were unsure of what to expect in the Chinese countryside, but it turned out quite charming and quaint, even though a bit touristy. 

Turned out the language wasn't such a big issue after all. Our little translator K did a fantastic job! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Expatriates by Janice Y K Lee

What a lovely book! Set among the American expats in Hong Kong, this was a backdrop which felt very familiar, so it was fun reading about it. Highly recommend it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mother's Day

Mother's Day was well-spent at the park (cricket, picnic lunch, some grown up time, some kiddie time). Would've been perfect if Singapore were a little cooler, but that's being greedy now.
A lot of Whatsapp messages were received on Mother's Day, and many Facebook posts were tagged. Not really sure if I'm comfortable calling myself a 'superhero' or 'an angel from heaven'. It's a bit intimidating, don't you think? I'm human, I make mistakes, I'm imperfect, and I'm a mum only because I love being one.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Alphonso Mangoes!

Are in season... And we've got a whole crate full of them...Yay, smells like the summer of '89

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Swan Lake

Reverse schooled (v): When a child introduces a 30-something parent to something cool and new, and the parent learns with wide-eyed rapture.

K came home from school the other day, and said he learnt about folk-tales in his language class, and would like to watch the ballet The Swan Lake. I had never seen a ballet before. I had watched Natalie Portman's Black Swan and I had watched my friends daughter's ballet recital with students under the age of 12, but never seen a proper ballet. So we googled The Swan Lake and watched it together on YouTube. Little K knew the sequence of the Acts and what happens in each Act, so he talked me through it as the story progressed. It was in the final act, that I saw tears welling up in his eyes as he said, "Now Prince Seigfried & Odelle decide they want to die together rather than live apart". His emotional grasp of the ballet shocked me. At the age of 7, I would've imagined that he would find an hour long ballet boring, but I was so wrong! He surprised me with the breadth of his interests - from Star Wars to Swan Lake it's quite a span! As for me, I learnt and saw something new yesterday. And it sure was pretty!

P.S. Here's me thinking in verses again:

Swans tiptoe across my screen,
As violins make their melody prance,
And a story unfolds of a tragic love,
Beautiful words that can be spoken only in dance.

I watch him tearing at the swan's despair,
Her hollow arched back and despondent gait,
As I watch my own swan's metamorphosis,
I am stunned by the moment's weight.

He has learnt a new language today,
Felt a stir in a new depth within,
Rooting for love he doesn't yet understand,
Unknowingly but not unwittingly, to win.

The Dressmaker

I got into this book because of a book club I recently joined. I didn't eventually make it to the book club meeting, so as usual, here I am blogging about it.
The book is a good peek into rural Australia from the '50s, but it's a little simplistic, even caricaturish, in its lead characters. The heroine is extremely good. At everything. The village folks are extremely narrow-minded and cruel. With everything. There is no grey (which usually make for fascinating characters, for me).

Not the best book I've read, but it was my first book set in Australia, so it gets points for expanding my literary horizons! Besides, Rosalie Ham is a gifted story teller, she keeps the pace going even though it's a slow story in a rural village-life kind of setting. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Gosh, this blog made it to 10 years!!!

10 years makes a decade! That sounds like a staggeringly long period of time! It certainly didn't feel like it though, and when I started I certainly didn't expect petty-change to be alive 10 years later. How crazy is it that it lived and told the story of my life over the 10 years in many petty changes that led to my personal evolution (or so I would like to think - who would choose to believe in devolution anyway). 

In celebration of this blog's 10th birthday, I went back to scroll through some of my posts from 2006, and I picked this one to repost as a celebration of that evolution.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bali

I met my childhood soulmate Uma after 6 years. In Bali. So you can imagine the excitement leading up to this trip. 

Childhood friends have an unfair advantage over newer friends... They've seen you before you learnt to wear your different masks. They've seen you #nofilter. Years pass by, you add complexities to yourself and your life, you evolve and change, you go from being a person to being a family, you absorb influences and cultures, you adapt, and after a while everyone forgets that original person underneath. Meeting that person again, through an old friend, is an unusual kind of joy!

Bali was great as usual, scorching but great. A bicycle tour around villages of Ubud, and some fantastic meals also contributed towards making it a memorable trip!

K's 7th

7 is the new 17. Seriously, he talks like a teenager, behaves like one, and is complicated like one. The silver lining, he still allows me to kiss and cuddle him (not in front of his friends though).

In the theme of his latest obsession, he celebrated his 7th birthday at the Army Museum and the most loved birthday gift was a book on World War II. There goes my hope of raising a Gandhian. 

Perth

I have a lot to catch up on. First, there was a quick trip to Perth to see our friends S & A who may be leaving Perth soon. Lovely weather, the most beautiful sunset at Cottesloe Beach, the most delish seafood at Freemantle and some great (and so very reasonably priced) Aussie wine.

Fun fact learnt on the trip: Did you know Koalas sleep over 20 hours a day? I see a resemblance... Think I married a wrong species?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Best. Burger. Ever.

Tried MeatLiquor, newly opened in Singapore (relatively new, that's is). I've found my new comfort food!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Quoting Rabindranath Tagore...

"Even though from childhood I had been taught that the idolatry of Nation is almost better than reverence for God and humanity, I believe I have outgrown that teaching, and it is my conviction that my countrymen will gain truly their India by fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity."

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ruled by the mob

The mob holds a trial,
The mob's verdict is guilty,
The mob decides the punishment,
Nothing less than capital would do.

This happens on the streets,
This happens on the telly,
This happens on social media,
Who is the mob, who's who?

Are they people backed by facts?
Are they people who scream their vocal cords hoarse?
Are they people at all, you might ask,
It's okay, I've asked that too.

Thugs who rule by intimidation,
Thugs sneakily disguised as us,
Thugs who shame those who aren't thugs by asking,
Are you starting a coup?

It's easier of course to join that mob,
Than it is to stand apart,
Easier still to lay low and quiet,
And ask - What else could a lone guy like me do?


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What I'm reading...

Some beautiful and hard hitting poetry in there. And some great short stories too.

Saw a rainbow on Valentine's Day...

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Steve McCurry Exhibition

The Sundaram Tagore Gallery in Singapore is running an exhibition of some of Steve McCurry's most famous photographs. These two were little K's favourites. Why? In the first photo, K likes how the little boy is running and both his feet are in mid-air. In the second photo of the shaolin monks, K likes how the guy can walk on a wall like Spider-Man, but what he really loves in this photo is the monk's hairstyle. Perfectly great reasons to love a photo, I say!


A little bit of nature

It was the long weekend for Chinese New Year, so we decided to do a little nature trail with a few friends. We explored the Dairy Farm Nature Park this time. Walked along the Wallace Trail on a beautiful non-humid day (yes, such a day is possible in Singapore!)



Thursday, February 11, 2016

2015 in Retrospect

I've been very late with this post this year.  We are already in February. This year is already cruising at full speed! 

So, 2015. I got a lot of "alone time" this year with little K going to 'big school'. At first, it was depressing (kind of like being the centre of his universe for 6 years and then finding out that the centre has moved. I did it graciously though ;) It wasn't easy, but I did it). We spent two months of mom-son time in India before he started school and made some amazing memories together. And whether I'm the centre or not, his universe is always going to be with me. 

What did I do with all that alone time post-August? I wrote a lot. I exercised a bit. I cooked a tiny bit. And I spent a very tiny bit of time organising our finances and paperwork - all the projects postponed for too many years! 

We were a little disappointed that our "project 2015" didn't materialize, but we have no regrets about it. The universe spoke and we accepted what it had to say. We were a little jaded with the beureaucracy and the paper-pushing, but glad we have a closure now.

What am I most excited about in 2016? Let's see: maybe a new book, maybe some new business opportunities, some much-anticipated reunions with old friends, a trip to Rottnest Island, little K's acting debut at his school play, a new salmon recipe that I quite love, Bali again, welcoming a new baby to our friends' family, hopefully a new home, there's a lot to look forward to. If I have three wishes for 2016, they'd be:
1. I wish my work bears fruit. Some nice juicy apples would be much appreciated!
2. I wish H wouldn't smoke so much & just live a more healthier lifestyle.
3. I wish K would grow out of his weird fashion phase sooner rather than later .

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Back to Dubai

We spent New Years Eve in Dubai, the city that was our home 8 years ago. On the agenda, was eating, catching up with fam & friends, eating, drinking, and eating. Souvenirs from Dubai? 3 boxes of hummus.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Force Awakens

So we finally watched it!!! 

Let me set the stage first: I wasn't a super fan of the Star Wars movies growing up. Though I remember watching the original trilogy on a VCR in the 80s and my dad explaining parts of it to me, I was too little at the time to understand and appreciate fully the trilogy. I had liked it a great deal, but not to the extent of holding my breath until the next episode came out. I watched the prequels trilogy later, but wasn't blown away by it. It's only two years ago, that our little Super-Fanboy at home, used his force to get me to re-watch all six of the movies, and that's when I was really wowed by them. Also, having a human Star Wars Encyclopedia at home helped (he even knows the back story of why Mace Windu has a purple light saber). Evidently, all we had to do was search our feelings and find out what we already knew: We had to get tickets for this movie on the first day of its release. Having already bought every Star Wars merchandise there was to buy, a movie ticket seemed like a cheap cherry on top that we could buy for the Super Fanboy ("Buy we must, my young Mama padawan", he said wisely.)

Back to Episode VII: 
Star Wars was a difficult story to tell. In any era. Having to create the expanse of an alternate galaxy, create alien life forms, political and physical landscapes, droids and battleships, and then to tell the story of good and evil within a 2-hours movie format must've been a daunting task for George Lucas. He did it nevertheless, with a personal passion that's evident in every scene of the original movies. And because it was this 'one man passionately climbing a Mount Everest of a plot', I felt forgiving towards many of the weaknesses of his movies.
Episode VII, on the other hand, is a Disney production. Maybe that's why I don't feel as forgiving. It's a media giant, not a solitary George Lucas. To me, Episode VII is too much laser bullets flying and people running, and not enough quiet time. To me, Kylo Ren isn't as sinister as Vader was and he felt just too amateurish to give me the chills (maybe he's meant to be an amateur baddie, a wannabe-Vader, still grappling with how not to see the light on the dark side). To me, Rey is not as compelling as Luke was. And the movie oozes of overly sentimental rehashes of the original, that just made it feel like a blatant cry for love from the fans of the old movie. Other than those moments, I don't know, this could've been an Avengers or Transformers movie... They all feel the same to me. 

I don't know if I can put my finger on it... Going from Lucasfilm to Disney, was a bit like moving from a crumbly old villa with character to a plush modern condo with a jacuzzi and tennis court. With the same rehashed furniture. You'll either love it or you won't. I didn't.

Will I still watch Episode VIII? Yes, absolutely -in its first week too. I'm every marketeer's shameless dream!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

If I could afford these shoes, I would eat out of them! So pretty!

Taiwan

We went to Taiwan this fall break. After an initial day in Taipei, we did a cross country road trip from the west coast to the east coast of Taiwan. A day at a farm in Miaoli, couple of days at the Sun Moon Lake, driving through the Central Mountain range past Cingjing, we finally reached the icing on our Taiwanese cake: Taroko Gorge. This place should be on everybody's "must visit before I die" list. Just gorgeous! 


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Jafar Panahi's Taxi

Watched a great movie last evening: Jafar Panahi's Tehran Taxi. I didn't know how celebrated and controversial a film-maker Panahi is in his home country of Iran. But I did read a bit about him beforehand. A brief background: He had been banned by the authorities from making anti-regime movies and was even put under house arrest; but had made a couple of movies while he was still under house arrest (I know, what a guy!). Now he has been out of house arrest for a while (though the big brother is still watching him) and working as a taxi driver (well, sort of), and this new movie of his has been shot entirely by a stationery camera in the taxi with the look & feel of taxi camera footage. To emphasize that it's not a movie, there are no credits either. 

With this information, you might expect some sort of rebellious & tough movie. Well it is that, but it's also unexpectedly & wonderfully humorous, fun and sensitive. Loved it!

Friday, September 04, 2015

Social Media

When on social media, people can be so frivolous with their own credibility. When re-posting something, they barely give a thought to whether what they're re-posting is accurate or not. In a time where all the information is on your fingertips, why are some people still re-posting stuff like "leaving a chopped onion overnight in your fridge can make it toxic" or "100000 likes will give this little girl a new kidney"...? Perhaps people feel that re-posting something doesn't necessarily mean you're endorsing that statement as true. Wonder why that is... Would you repeat verbally in a face-to-face conversation that same statement?

Friday, August 21, 2015

K's mom's school schedule

As I mentioned in my last post, little K has started going to a 'big school'. Literally. The school is huge and built like a maze and I'm constantly worried about losing K when I go to fetch him from school. But here's the most difficult part for ME about K's new school: Getting him ready on time! 
Chinese torture technique #1...take a 6 year old who normally eats a meal in 15 mins; give him 35 mins to finish his breakfast on a school morning; watch him procrastinate swallowing that first bite for 30 mins; then watch your blood boil while you stuff his face with the remaining food in the remaining time of 5 minutes! 
Ps: I'm so tired!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

SG50

One word to describe the Golden Jubilee Celebrations: Grand! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nehru Planetarium

Did I mention that I went to the Nehru Planetarium? For the first time since I was 11 or 12 perhaps. And let me say, it didn't disappoint. Have I seen cooler science centers or space centers? Yes. But having said that, a child doesn't care about cool. All K could do was marvel at the science of space, and gape at the graphics (updated with a lot of cool Hubble Telescope images) & soak in what it means to be part of The Universe (which he now understands is "ginormous").

Roald Dahl Crazy

While we were in India, K picked up something unexpected from his older cousin: he is now obsessed with Roald Dahl books! Thought he would enjoy them a couple of years later, but he is loving them already (expect for The Witches, which fascinated him immensely but also gave him nightmares). Started with Fantastic Mr. Fox, and let's just say, he kept digging ;)

I'm so excited, we finally have a favourite author in common!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Nasik

Our last stop on the long Indian Soujourn was the land of Sula Vineyards, Nasik. We went there to see our friend & spend some time with her little boo. Quite unexpectedly, Nasik treated us to some great monsoon beauty. The network of waterfalls & rivers leading to the mighty Godavari (the starting point of the river is very close to Nasik), made for a very picturesque setting. There was that moment under the waterfall when one wonders, why do we have to live that city life at all. 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Mumbai by Night

They say this city never sleeps. Here's the evidence.

Mumbai

Went to Prithvi in Mumbai to catch some local theatre. After about 15 years or more. And exhilarating as it sounds, it's also a little sad that Prithvi is no longer the low-key hangout of the arty-farty crowd dressed in traditionally woven cotton saris & carrying jholas on their shoulders. Neither is it home to experimental theatre like it used to be. It's a much more commercial establishment now with back-to-back house-full shows. While that's a big yay! for the local theatre scene, it's also another little treasure island lost to Mumbai.  

By the way, traditionally woven cotton saris have also been commercialized, or rather Bollywoodised, by a certain sari label named Raw Mango. The world is going bananas. 

Delhi Diaries

I haven't spent a lot of time in Delhi, but on this trip we spent a few leisurely days there, and you know what, we actually had a lot of fun. Despite all the negative stereotypes about Delhi, it's such a culturally rich city. We stayed at the Delhi Gym (little K was so thrilled that he was neighbour to the Prime Minister of India!) & walked around the gorgeous Lodhi Gardens, went shopping in the hoity toity (in a rather chaotic way) Khan Market, ate some delicious North Indian food, went to a folk artisanal center, and soaked in some hot Delhi sun at Qutub Minar! 
And now here's the most exciting part: we did not take a flight to / from Delhi. Instead we did the overnight Rajdhani! Travelled in Indian Railways after eons & what a fun experience it was. So many great childhood memories of hot chai, sleeping on the top berths, singing songs aloud & watching mom clutch her valuables even when she was fast asleep! 

Himachal Holiday In the Hills!

Our family vacation this year was in the beautiful hills of Himachal. We made Macleodganj our base & walked through the small-town narrow* lanes to & back from Dalai Lama's residence, ate Tibetian food, shopped for trinkets, and enjoyed walking through the clouds. We couldn't have wished for a more perfect weather! 

* Incidentally, the fact that the hilly roads were so narrow was apparent only to us tourists. The local cabbies seemed to drive like they were on a 8-lane freeway. We even saw a taxi-wheel go off the edge of the road (right above a valley), & as the other taxi drivers got off to help pull the car up, it all seemed like a normal day in their lives rather than a near-death accident into a deep valley. 
One of the days, we did a short trek from Dharamkot to Bhagsu. It's a beautiful walk through the hilly huts and mountain side slopes. We passed many a dialated pupils, Israeli backpacking teenagers, ecstasy party signs, and cafes dedicated to a chillum-bearing Shiva or Bob Marley. Don't get me wrong, it didn't seem dodgy, but more like a Goa in the hills. There's a cool bohemian backpackers vibe to the place (we were in fact the only party poopers with a 6-year old in tow). And then the waterfall at the end of the trail (Bhagsu Falls) was just out of this world! What a sight! 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fireflies Festival

The next stop on our Great Indian Sojourn was Purushwadi. Google Maps may tell you that this tiny village is close to Akole, but really it is close to nowhere! It's in the middle of mighty mountains and under the open blue sky, but pretty darn far from any other town (let alone city). The reason for our visit was to watch the fireflies extravaganza in its natural setting. You see, fireflies mate in late summer (just before monsoon begins) & it's a miraculous sight watching them glow all around you...it's like Christmas lights surrounding you; except that it's all nature. It's an experience K & I will remember all our lives! 

The other fun part of this trip was that this was our first go at "rural tourism".  And I don't mean the kind where a village-like experience is recreated for the pleasure of tourists...Purushwadi was very real & very basic! Cow-dung floors, village huts, bulls ploughing fields & bathing in gushing rivers. 
You've got to love the spirit of the young entrepreneurs of Grass Routes (www.grassroutes.co.in)...what a well-executed concept promoting rural tourism and such a great social cause bringing city folk & village folk of India together! Our host was this young village guy from Purushwadi, living with his financially-independent tractor-driving farmer-mum, pursuing his BSc in Agriculture, aspiring to do an MBA & showing us proudly the beauties of his village.