The Dancing Lights of the Dark Nights


This post is dedicated to the warriors who shine their brightest when the night is at its darkest.

It is somewhat myopic and perhaps, superficial to think of lights, colours and music in terms of happy spaces, effervescent emotions, and expressions of many beautiful intangibles. Because by relating happy to beauty, we leave out the beauty of the spaces that are vacuous, the music of the silence, and the emotions that are dark, and yet beautiful. It is impossible to ignore darkness in a world that stays dark half the time. So, today I applaud the, ‘not so bright and happy.’ After all, shiny is a facade, happy is momentary and success is fleeting.

Beauty this week has presented itself in the darkest of places. I have witnessed souls that shine in the dark, music that’s made out of nothing, and brilliance that emerges from melancholy.

The first set of warriors came on a cadence of music that was built on the world of silence. At the MSF Volunteer Awards night, the group, Redeafination enthralled the audience. The deaf dancers danced, and oh so gracefully to the music they couldn’t hear! Or maybe, to the music they heard in their hearts. And thus, the music of the silence became the happiest dance that I had seen in a very long time. Here’s Singapore’s Deaf Dance Crew, Redeafination

Next came the play that explored death, and dealt with loss through metaphors, symbols and a performance, so raw and powerful, that it left the audience sobbing. Yes, me included. With an uncomfortable name like Poop, I had expected humour or worse, an attempt at humour, but what I encountered was an exploration of darkness, both on the stage and also in the crevices of human minds and hearts. The most melancholic and heart wrenching subject of death and loss became the most sublime form of artistic expression. Though the topic was devoid of colours, the storytelling, the acting, and the stage direction of Poop by The Finger Players was anything but colourless.

Poop. Source: The Finger Players

Poop. Source: The Finger Players

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another form of beauty presented itself  through the dark narration of pain, longing and yearning in Rupi Kaur’s poetry. The poems are too raw in places, too uneven to be conventionally pretty, and yet its honest exploration of the secrets of human yearnings took my breath away. It’s candid and how!

 

Thus, in the acknowledgment of failures, and blemishes in our lives, the beauty lives on and the warriors of the night, stay relentless in their efforts to turn their darkness in to beautiful light. They turn failures of life in to successes of a different kind. And I am fortunate to have witnessed the darknesses turn in to dancing lights!

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Favourites of 2015: Eateries, Places, Events, Shows, Books and Music (Singapore edition)


The year seems to have rushed a bit too fast and in its rush to be somewhere else, it deposited vast sediments of experiences all over me. Now I must sieve the contents, organise them with care and see where they might fit. I must also remember the moments that stood out. Once I have tabulated (or at least tried to tabulate) some of these, I must share them with the others so that my moments can become part of some other moments elsewhere. The  moments will then continue to be special. So, presenting the favourites of 2015: eateries, places, events, shows, books and music (Singapore edition).

 

Eateries

This year, I have had the opportunity to eat at some very exciting places around the world. However, it was possible to indulge in diverse gastronomical experiences when I was not travelling as well. Here are some local favourites that have topped my list (not in any order):

  1. PS Cafe, Harding Road. Do try their Pad Thai salad for a beautiful combination of refreshing flavours. I love their ambiance too and those fairy lights add sparkle to the festive season. Too delightful to miss!
Pad Thai Salad (Source: PS Cafe)

Pad Thai Salad (Source: PS Cafe)

2.  Din Tai Fung for the very best in dumplings.

3.  TungLok XiHe Peking Duck, especially during the Chinese New Year.

4. Cedele & The Living Cafe for guilt-free eating.

5.  Bangla Biryani by Fakruddin.

6.  My food court choices this year: North Point & Junction 8.

 

 Events

1. Affordable Art Fair: The fair manages to strip the ‘exclusive’ tag off and squarely place beauty and creativity at the eye level. It thrills me to bits! The next fair is slotted for 22 – 24 April 2016, at the F1 Pit Building.

2.  Writers Festival (November): An event where words, thoughts, insights and discussions are in free flow. I recommend the festival pass that gives you access to multiple book launches, talks and events through out the festival.

Writers Festival

Writers Festival

 

Places

1. Clarke Quay at dusk: It’s a party place and most people frequent it by the night, but do try loitering there in the evening. There’s something magical when the river turns silvery grey and the boats gently glide by.

Clark Quay

Clarke Quay

2. The East coast Park, especially if you are on a biking trail and have managed to reach the areas where the crowd thins and the ocean moves closer.

3. Botanic Gardens in the early hours of the morning. There’s nothing as beautiful as the glitter of the sun that drenches the branches, petals and the swans alike.

4.  Marina Bay, especially when the sky turns jubilant and the firecrackers announce the arrival of a new year.

 

Shows

I caught Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of the Opera on the Broadway this year. To put it mildly, it was overwhelming! That remains my all-time favourite but there were shows in Singapore that delighted me as well.

1. Shakespeare in the Park: The bard, the park and the open sky. What’s there not to like? Their next play, Romeo & Juliet is scheduled for April 2016.

2. Theatre by Wild Rice Productions: My favourite local shows are here. Each character on that stage enriches the joy of being an audience. I certainly hope to catch more of them in the coming year.

3.  Treasure Island: A musical presented by SRT’s The Little Company is replete with pirate talk and funny moments. The show targets the ‘little’ audience, however, music, dance and feel-good moments are recommended for every age. The musical runs till the 13th of December 2015.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island

 

 

Poems

I am a Dickinson fan and this year I ventured further into her deceptively short poems. As expected, I ended up entangled in them a bit more. Isn’t that lovely!

This year I was also fortunate to be able to explore works of some accomplished local poets and I must say that I am in awe. While I greedily catch up with the poems, here are their names:

  1. Desmond Kon (And not only is Desmond a great poet but I have to say that he is a wonderful person to know as well).
  2. Pooja Nansi
  3. Jee Leong Koh
Jee Leong Koh (Source: Singapore Literature Festival)

Jee Leong Koh (Source: Singapore Literature Festival)

 

Books

I found myself reading books by women authors this year. However, they were all very different reads and hence I am uncomfortable about categorising them similarly. But, similar they were! They all seeped out of their boundaries, spilled out of neat borders and escaped things that tied them and labeled them. They transgressed and I found that fascinating. Do I relate more to them because I am of the same gender? Maybe. Or maybe not. I read Hemingway too and discreetly he did away with boundaries as well. So, I am just generally happy to experience these shifty boundaries. Here are few of my favourite reads this year.

  1. How to be Both by Ali Smith
  2. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  4. Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
  5. The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
  6. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (My absolute, absolute favourite!)
The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things

I didn’t manage to read local authors this year. So, my wish list for 2016 starts with:

Gone Case by Dave Chua

 

Music

My current playlist includes:

Sia (& David Guetta), Ed Sheeran, Adele, Arijit Singh and music composed by RD Burman. However, my list has included various other artists at different points of the year as well. In fact, there were few songs that got so ‘stuck’ that I had to consciously shrug them off me.

Locally, I am listening to ‘Sixty Five’ by Gentle Bones. It gives me goose bumps.

I am also following The Sam Willows music scene because:

  1. Their music is peppy
  2. I like their style
  3. ‘neighbourly loyalty’

 

 

Now that I have tabulated my favourite moments here, I remember them differently. And that’s the beauty of memory, it alters each time you remember it. We still wish to remember though and we still wish to hold on to them and to pass them on… as I did. They will hopefully float by and become parts of some other memory and some other moments somewhere. Never fading, always there.

 

 

 

 

Music, Laughter and Prayer


Ever had one of those days when nothing feels right? Yes, I am talking of those hopelessly dark days where the only bright spots are either the beads of frustration or the sparks of irritation. However, those days have their advantages too because, on one such day, I discovered that Bhangra and witty women are useful allies.

Source: Punjab Cultural Promotion Council

Source: Punjab Cultural Promotion Council

Now, let us start at the beginning. Bhangra. You mean you really don’t know about Bhangra??? Well, here goes…Bhangra is a genre of music from the state of Punjab in India and though it can have a slower tempo, most Bhangra numbers are fun and peppy and are accompanied by vigorous drumming. There is a stereotype that Punjabis are happy-go-lucky people who know how to have fun. Well, it is true. Do email me if you want to refute but there’s not much point in refuting, really. Bhangra showcases everything that’s fun, joyous, and upbeat. And, just in case you are wondering, if I am from Punjab, stop your thoughts! I am not.

Now, that it is established, let us move to the next definition, that of a witty woman. The rare and refreshing specimen of the female gender, gifted with the art, science and the craft of humour. Blessed are such people, who bring laughter in to this world. This includes both men and women of course, but it was a lady, who ticked my funny bones that day.

To be specific, ‘that day,’ was Thursday in the month of March. I was feeling rather glum and sorry for myself when I switched the music on and instantly, a particular Bhangra beat cruised through my earphones and pulsated through my veins, activating all the feel-good hormones. I could almost imagine many of those hormones going ‘pop, pop, pop’ and waking up, bright-eyed. Since it is rather difficult to sulk with Bhangra music blasting in your ears, I stopped and involuntarily swayed a bit to the rhythm of the music.

That brings me to my next ‘day-brightener,’ the woman with the sense of humour. This slightly elderly woman, with the salt and pepper hair and a comely face was so delightful, that not only me but a whole bunch of people laughed at her descriptions, at her examples and at her brutal honest answers. I have to point out here that she wasn’t trying to be funny, she WAS naturally funny and we were not laughing at her, but we were laughing with her. Such are the joys of laughter that my day sparkled. They say laughter is the best medicine, so I assume that I was adequately medicated as well. My ailment of ‘brooding-itis’ completely cured.

Source: Dave's World Of Wisdom

Source: Dave’s World Of Wisdom

Just a little information here, I am back at school and adding another degree through evening classes and the lady in question was my lecturer. Wish all the lecturers were as entertaining! Needless, to say, my Thursday ended up much, much brighter than before. So, what’s the lesson learnt? Music and laughter are the perfect mood-lifters! I knew that, didn’t I? And I am sure that you know that too, but still, reminders are good. I am also reminded that the simple things are definitely more effective than all those complicated and expensive paraphernalia that we clutter our lives with.  So, I am adding a few more sparks, a few some sizzles, some additional drops of joy and that extra dollop of hope to my life.

One of those hopes is for MH 370, the elusive aircraft. I am hoping that it is found soon. Too many lives are at stake, one of them slightly more in my thoughts as he and I were batch mates. So, my prayers are for his family, but like music and laughter, prayers are not limited to select few or restricted in its quantity. They are to be widely used, generously distributed and spread in all directions. Similarly, my prayers are meant for all. Do help me spread it if you can and while you are at it, spread some music and laughter too. The days are bleak and the brighteners, much-needed.

Photo Credit: nyulocal.com. Connor Durkin

Photo Credit: Connor Durkin. nyulocal.com.