Majulah Singapura! (My Singapore)


From the HDB art to the sophisticated art festivals, from the magnificent sky scrapers to the neighbourhood parks, from the humble food courts to the gourmet delights, and from fast city lanes to the kampong style living, presenting the place I call home. Happy 52nd Birthday Singapore!

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My Singapore! Sentosa cable cars (Image: Prionka Ray)

Gardens By The Bay

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Gardens By the Bay (Image: Prionka Ray)

Orchard Road

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Orchard Road (Image: Prionka Ray)

Din Tai Fung

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Din Tai Fung (Image: Prionka Ray)

HDB Art

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My Singapore! HDB Art (Image: Prionka Ray)

Old Supreme Court

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My Singapore! Parliament House (Image: Prionka Ray)

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My Singapore! Neighbourhood Parks (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore! (Image: Prionka Ray)

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Singapore Colours! (Image: Prionka Ray)

Singapore River

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Singapore River, Clarke Quay (Image: Prionka Ray)

Arab street

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Street party @ Arab Street! (Image: Prionka Ray)

Marina Bay Sands

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Marina Bay Sands (Image: Prionka Ray)

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Near China Town (Image: Prionka Ray)

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My Singapore! Singapore Port (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore!(Image: Prionka Ray)

Clark Quay

Singapore River (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore! (Image: Prionka Ray)

My Singapore! (Images: Prionka Ray)

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The Orchard Experience

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If I have known you long enough or even if, you and I are recent acquaintances, chances are that I have met you at Orchard road for a coffee or a meal at some point of time. I love Orchard and I can’t get enough of it. I love its vibe, its grace and its familiarity. My personal favourites there? I like Cedele at Wheelock, Wild Honey at Mandarin Gallery, and PS Cafe at Palais Renaissance for their feel-good food and ambience. I have also developed a new fondness for the Korean dessert, Bingsu at 313. If it’s shopping, then it is Paragon, Ion, Tangs, and 313. My daughter was born at Mt Elizabeth Hospital, so a special mention of the friendly Doctors and nurses there and finally, I really like the stretch near Zara and Wheelock. That’s the place where I love to sit and watch the world pass me by. Yes, I love Orchard, and if I get to write about it, I kinda love it even more.

(Read the original article here, page 5).   

The Orchard Experience (Source: IndoConnect)

The Orchard experience (Source: IndoConnect)

The Orchard Experience (Source: IndoConnect)

And if you flip over to page 17, you will find my interview with Prita Kemal Gani (Founder of LSPR). It was a beautiful afternoon at Mandarin Orchard where we chatted with Ibu Prita. Yet another memorable rendezvous at Orchard!

Interview with Prita Kemal Gani (Source: IndoConnect)

Singapore International Film Festival: Fantasy & Female Empowerment


The longest running international festival in the region, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is back in its the 27thedition to offer a ‘feast for the senses,’ with films that narrate unique stories from the region. This was announced by the Festival at a media conference held at the National Museum of Singapore on 27th October, 2016. This year, SGIFF will screen 161 feature and short films from 52 countries, with 16 world premieres, 9 international premieres and 18 Asian premieres.

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

Yuni Hadi and Zhang Wenjie at the SGIFF Media Preview (Credits: 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Ms Yuni Hadi said that the SGIFF continues to be a discovery ground and platform to connect independent films in Asia and beyond. As the leading international film platform in Southeast Asia, the festival strives to foster the understanding of regional cinema by giving a voice to individuals through stories and dialogue. SGIFF is part of the annual Singapore Media Festival (SMF) that brings together a rich mix of independent filmmaking talent to showcase the region’s stories through film, throughout Asia and beyond. SGIFF also allows established and emerging filmmakers and industry players to interact and exchange ideas, in order to contribute to the growth of cinema in the region.

(More on my write up on SGIFF. This article was first published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

SGIFF by Prionka Ray (First published in Indoconnect)

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Stories and Us!


Stories and Us!

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Our world is made of stories and we are defined by these stories that we tell ourselves. Who then would know if the stories became reality or reality inspired these stories! Exploring the art of storytelling and the unique stories in us all is the The Singapore International Film Festival and nurturing this storytelling in the young students is the National Story Challenge.

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Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, SGIFF)

Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Championing the voice of Asian Cinema, the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) rolled out the red carpet for its gala opening yesterday at Marina Bay Sands. Celebrated Malaysian auteur, Dain Iskandar Said opened the 12-day celebration of independent cinema with the Asian premiere of his fantasy noir thriller Interchange. Present with him were award-winning Indonesian TV personality and actor, Nicholas Saputra, husband-wife duo Iedil Putra and Prisia Nasution. Other noted guests were last year’s SGIFF Cinema Legend Award recipient, actress, Michelle Yeoh, Korean director Lee Sang-woo, acclaimed Southeast Asian filmmakers Eric Khoo, Joko Anwar, Brillante Mendoza, and Vietnamese-born director Tran Anh Hung, who will be receiving the IWC Filmmaker Award – the first to be presented in Singapore – on 26 November 2016.

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Yuni Hadi, said, “It is heartening to see the gathering of so many passionate film lovers at the opening of SGIFF. While the industry witnesses the transformation of cinema reflected in how we watch and make films today, the timeless stories told through film will always continue to engage and captivate us.” Over the next two weeks, SGIFF will present 161 films from 52 countries, and a varied slate of panel discussions and masterclasses with renowned filmmakers and industry experts.

I am excited to catch some of the movies. Having interviewed Indonesian Film maker, Nia Dinata recently, I am looking forward to watching her movie, Three Sassy Sisters!

National Story Challenge 2017

Story Challenge

Story Challenge

Meanwhile, to nurture the stories while young, is the The National Story Challenge Tournament. The challenge is an original improvisational storytelling competition created by The Theatre Practice, and is open to students in all primary and secondary schools in Singapore.  Registration starts from 19th December! Details here

And last, but not the least, here’s my contribution to the stories: reading stories to the children at the community centre, where I am part of the committee that organises programmes for youth and children.

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

The wise said, that we become the stories we tell. If that be true, then let the voices be heard and let the stories define us again and again and again…

Reading now: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

Human Library: Read with an Open Mind!


human-lib1The largest Human Library event in Singapore took place yesterday at The Red Box and 400 readers were in attendance! The event, organised by volunteer group, Human Library Singapore, comes from a Danish concept, in which groups in the community exposed to stigma, prejudice and/or discrimination become the “Human Books.” And thus the readers get that rare opportunity to challenge prejudices through respectful conversations. Human Library aims to establish a safe conversational space, where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and hopefully answered by the Human Book.

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Among the Human Books at the Singapore event were people from a wide range of diverse groups. They included a former sex worker, migrant workers, a bipolar sufferer, a journalist, a foreign business consultant, a Muslim, MMA fighters and individuals with cerebral palsy and alopecia. Event lead organiser Kelly Ann Zainal said, “We are incredibly encouraged that so many individuals not only registered their interest in the event, but even set aside time to volunteer with us. The success of this event really shows that people are willing to have open conversations to challenge preconceived stereotypes.”

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Similarly, the discriminated group felt equally fortunate to have the opportunity to share their personal experiences with others. Shafiqah, a Human Book and a suicide attempt survivor was surprised that there were many, who earnestly wanted to know about suicide, and they also wanted to know ways in which they could help in such situations. In a society where such topics are considered taboo, the event urged people to open their minds and to understand things that went beyond their experience range. Though some conversations were uncomfortable, there was a compelling need to understand and respect others by withholding prior bias or judgement.

A society can only succeed when people lay their differences aside and forge ahead together. It is therefore, not just advisable but also essential that people accept others sans judgment. The 400 Readers and the 48 Books at the Singapore event yesterday began such conversations. And this may just be the step in the right direction!

(To read other posts, click on ‘prionkaray’ on the title bar)

Lessons in Humility


Right before the Hindus celebrate the festival of lights, Diwali, here’s an endearing sight! This video, which is an initiative of Tamil Murasu, featured the MPs of Singapore, decked up in saris to wish the residents a happy Diwali. What a beautiful gesture, Singapore!!

And also happy to see my ex- neighbour, Mrs Josephine Teo in here. Those days, I was totally clueless as to who she was. My bad! We spoke about schools, kids and many other things. When we got talking about work, she informed quietly that she works in the ministry and in Finance. No unnecessary elaborations were provided. By the time I figured out that she’s Senior Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Ministry of Transport, I was too embarrassed to let her know that I had goofed up. So, she remained, Josephine, who stayed in my estate briefly and I remained her clueless neighbour, Prionka. Dear MP, Josephine, you, as well as the other ministers that I have met so far, and found completely approachable, make me feel proud of this nation that I live in. On a personal note, lessons in humility learnt!

The Miracle of Big and Small


Today’s post is dedicated to a precious little boy we loved. Knowingly and unknowingly, he touched as many with his presence as he did with his absence. What I remember most, is his unconditional angelic smile. That smile prophesied and the smile said, “I know.” He did. He knew more about giving back than many of us put together. He inspires me to look around for more of the exceptional, the miraculous and the unconditional. He inspires me to look around for what he perhaps already knew and what we will only begin to comprehend little by little, with time.

They say miracle can only be extremely outstanding or unusual. They say that miracle goes beyond the ordinary, beyond the normal and sometimes even beyond comprehension. Put across like that, it seems almost impossible to believe that miracles exist and even more absurd to expect that it will ever cross your path. However, it does. Perhaps, it depends on what you call a miracle. For me miracle is in the exceptional as well as in the ordinary. It is in the unconditional as well as in the intentional. In a way, it is as much in the act of an organ donor as it is in the story of a student’s resilience. Somehow, it is as much in the act of kindness as it is in the extended hand of friendship. Miracle is both big and small.

Organ donor (Singapore)

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(Image: The Bone Marrow Donor Programme, Singapore)

Herlina was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and would have died but Xu Kang, her bone marrow donor saved her with his extraordinary act of kindness. For Herlina, Xu is nothing less than her “angel from heaven.”

 

2) The miracle baby (New York)

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(Image: The Buffalo News)

4 days old Wyatt Eli is the, ‘miracle baby’ born to mum, Kim Vaillancourt. Kim is currently battling terminal stages of brain cancer and for her the baby is exceptional in all ways possible.

 

3) Charity Worker (Nigeria)

(Image: Anja Ringgren Loven/ Facebook)

(Image: Anja Ringgren Loven/ Facebook)

This Nigerian boy was found emaciated and riddled with worms after wandering streets for eight months. His family had deserted him but he was eventually rescued by aid worker, Anja Ringgren Loven. She gave him food and water and took him to the hospital.

Hope

Hope

Now named Hope, the little guy has put on weight and is doing well. As Loven says, ‘He’s a little strong boy. This is what makes life so beautiful.’ It does!

Student (India)

(Image: Hindustan Times)

(Image: Hindustan Times)

Born in the outskirts of Lucknow, India, Sushma’s father was a daily-wage labourer and mother, a homemaker. Financially, there was an acute struggle. The opportunities were abysmal too but that didn’t stop a little girl interested in books and Sushma went on to create history as the youngest student, aged 7, to pass the class 10 Board exam. This exam is usually taken by 15 year olds. Sushma is now 15 and enrolled in a PhD course!

Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis (Singapore)

(Image: Prionka Ray)

(Image: Prionka Ray)

And lastly, the miracle of creation, hope and beauty that is ubiquitous. Like this little flower that chose to come to a plant long forgotten and long barren. And like the angelic little fellow we loved. And like that lady who lends her voice to the books for the blind, the man who sponsors education for the needy and many others who in their small and quiet ways, reach out. They remind us that sometimes exceptional is not about how little you are but it is about how you impact the ones around you.

 

Coming up next…

Singapore International Festival of Arts

It’s March!


Ola!

March is always an exciting month and it is usually at this time of the year that the ideas and plans from the previous year germinate and begin to grow shoot.  So, it’s the perfect time for me to emerge from my blog hibernation and say howdy!

Firstly, a bit of news from the SG50 post event! It was a lovely evening at the dome (Gardens by the Bay) on the 18th of March as I joined the SG50 celebratory dinner. The Sakura was in full bloom ouside the glass doors while the ceiling of the hall was lit up by the most astounding colourful lights that I had ever seen. It was enchanting! And in such a beautiful setting, we bid farewell to SG 50 and set our sight on the next 50 years instead. Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong officiated the ceremony for a time capsule containing items like identity cards and school uniforms and this capsule will be opened for centennial celebrations in 2065. I would love to be part of it again… if I am still alive!

Prime Minister Lee, PM Lee with Minster Heng and Minister Wong at the SG 50 Appreciation Dinner

Prime Minister Lee, PM Lee with Minster Heng and Minister Wong at the SG 50 Appreciation Dinner. (Source: Prionka Ray)

Yours truly with Finance Minister Heng. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

Yours truly with Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

With Minster Lawrence Wong. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

With Minster Lawrence Wong. (Source: Prionka Ray©)

 

Next, I have a book list update. Actually, I got a bit overwhelmed by the adult fiction and took a tiny detour to the kids’ section instead. And, if at all you think children’s books are kids’ play. Well, think again! When books in their deceptively simple style tackle issues like gender bias, racial discrimination and topics usually considered socially difficult, then it’s surely time to pay homage to the great authors and illustrators who create these books. My list here includes books that might be of interest to kids and early teens though some are evergreen books, to be enjoyed by all.

For the tiny tots, I recommend, The Paper Bag Princess. The story goes against the usual fairy tale tradition of portraying female characters as a damsel in distress. Instead, the female lead turns in to a witty and sassy role model who takes charge of her life. So, this book is for all the little girls and the little boys because they all should know that gender bias is not cool. Not at all!

 

imagesVoices in the Park by Anthony Browne: This book is recommended for primary school kids. Yes, it’s a picture book but don’t be fooled by that. It packs a serious punch as it narrates the story using different perspectives. It talks of racial and social disparity and its illustrations are so clever that you better spend some time locating the hidden images in there. (Hint:I am talking about images such as Monalisa and King Kong).

 

Bird by Zetta Elliott: This is a sensitive and beautiful picture book for readers aged, 5-13 (or even above). It talks about loss, addiction and acceptance through words that are subtle and illustrations that are gentle. I am a fan.

 

 

 

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: Of course, this classic needs no introduction! It’s a book of friendship for both kids and adults alike.

 

 

 

little pioneersLittle Pioneers by Bessie Chua: This book is recommended for all the young readers of Singapore, aged 8 and above. The book talks about a beautiful relationship between Chun and her grandmother and paints a vivid picture of the streets of Chinatown, Singapore in 1897.

 

 

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine is a book recommended for adults, kids and teens alike. The story is based on real life events in the concentration camp. The narration however begins in the year 2000, when a suitcase arrives at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan, marked “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931.” The center’s curator searches for clues to young Hana and her family, whose happy life in a small Czech town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis. It is difficult to read this book and not be moved!

 

 

But moving is mandatory and so I shall move out of the lit zone to an inspirational quote by Peter Drucker that says that “You can either take action, or you can hang back and hope for a miracle. Miracles are great, but they are so unpredictable.”

So, here’s the action that I have taken after a decade of seeing the ravages of depression, bullying and labelling in kids and teens, alike. It gives me great pleasure to announce an initiative against stereotyping, peer pressure, bullying and negativity through an online initiative, In-Group. Agreed, these are  mere baby steps, but I am hoping that it will begin a journey that will be worthwhile in the long run and reach out to those in need. The initiative is currently on Facebook and aspires to be a resource for ideas, solutions and stories that raise awareness and eventually provide support to those who need help. In-Group is also proud to be collaborating with CABCY-Singapore and it joins CABCY’s effort to raise money for an Intervention Centre for School Bullying.

Lastly, ending my post with information on a bright and fun-filled Easter event organised by The Party Elves.  886075_968712196553321_4538804887317665666_oYou can book your tickets here 

 

 

 

 

This month, we are focusing on an organisation that uplifts the needy by providing jobs, Upaya.

Upaya’s mission is to create dignified jobs for the ultra poor by investing in small businesses in India’s poorest communities. Check about their projects here

That’s all for now! Keep connecting, keep believing in miracles and keep taking actions!

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Company’s Treasure Island


It is impossible to see a feel-good musical and not talk about it. And especially, if you have watched it (like I did) flanked by four and five-year olds who giggled and clapped throughout, you can’t help but be enthused by the same child-like excitement.

Treasure Island is a new adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s popular novel of the same name, and follows the adventure of Jim Hawkins, a 13-year-old girl who receives a treasure map from an old seaman. Jim eventually joins the crew that sets out to find the treasure and that’s how the adventure begins. Staged by SRT’s The Little Company, Treasure Island can be described as a “swashbuckling, action-packed musical.” Though its underlying themes of friendship and trust are not new, they still retain their relevance in the otherwise materialistic world.

The musical is replete with pirate talk, likeable characters, impressive stage settings that change with economic movements and loads of relatable heartwarming moments. The kids in the audience seemed to enjoy O’Brien’s character the most. Played by Mitchell Lagos, the character struggles to speak coherently and our little guests roared with laughter when O’Brien struggles with the word, “phenomenon,” and calls it a “pineapple” instead. Personally, I enjoyed watching and listening to Kimberly Chan who plays characters of Ben Gunn, Jim’s Mother and pirate-Hands. Chan is versatile and not only does she have a strong stage presence but she also has an impressive voice.

The musical boasts of didactic moments with dialogues like, “We don’t need treasure. We have each other and that’s treasure enough for me.” Additionally, it begins and ends with adventure where you follow the lead of Jim Hawkins (played by Ann Lek). This combination of adventure and heart-felt moments in a musical setting, makes Treasure Island an entertaining treat indeed.

(Now on till 13 Dec 2015 at the DBS Arts Centre. Tickets available from SISTIC)

 

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.