posts tagged with singapore
23 october, 2012.
singapore, people are always telling me, is not a very friendly city. maybe this is true. there have been days when people have been bad-tempered and irritable in their responses to me. when people have responded to my tentative smile with a kind of ‘what the fuck?’ look. once, walking with my aunt and cousin, an European woman brushed past us angrily, looking at us (and our brown faces, maybe?) with thinly-veiled disgust. to me, unused to being the minority, to receiving racist slights (or even to being essentialised this way, to being thought of as ‘the Indian girl’ instead of ‘the girl’), this was horribly unsettling; to my aunt, who’s lived outside India for years, it was nothing unusual—she just said ‘mannerless cow!’ very, very loudly and then laughed it off. so, yes, i have seen unfriendly people.
a month ago, i got into a cab with my sister right outside school, and the taxi driver—one of those frail-looking men who always break my heart a little—looked at me and asked if i was a student. i said ‘yes’, and he said, ‘isn’t it terribly expensive travelling by taxi?’ i said yes it was, but i was visiting my family so i was in a hurry; and he smiled and said, ‘it’s difficult to be a student, i know. i’m going to give you a discount’, and didn’t turn on the meter until ten minutes into our journey. i don’t know why he did this.
in my first year in NUS, i lived in the last room on the furthest corridor on the top floor of a hostel with no lift. lugging my suitcase up and down every vacation was horribly exhausting. once, as i stopped on the landing to take a rest between floors, i saw the lady who cleaned the toilets on my floor—a familiar face, we smiled ‘hello’ at each other on an almost daily basis—and she said ‘do you need help?’ i said no, i could manage, and she looked at me, mock-angry, and said ‘no. you are too weak, girl! you’ll hurt yourself!’ i was still protesting when she walked over to a stranger’s door and knocked, and when a confused boy poked his head out, she told him, ‘you were in NS. you are strong. help this girl!’ she watched as he picked my bags up (he grimaced at the weight) and took them down for me. then she called me a cab and hugged me goodbye. i don’t know why she did this.
and there are others—all the other taxi drivers: the one who, on a particularly bad day, noticed that i was looking sad and switched radio stations till he found one playing wish you were here, because i ‘looked like i could use some pink floyd’; the one who waited by the side of the road until i’d found my friends because he didn’t want to leave me alone in a small and poorly-lit street. the lady behind the counter at cheers who became so used to my daily half-conscious rush to buy OJ before class that she’d ring it up before i got to the counter, and have my change all ready. the woman at the thai stall in PGP who said ‘i haven’t seen you before! welcome to singapore!’ when i ate there about a week after i joined college. the toddler at the bus stop yesterday, who flirted from a distance the way little children do—all sidelong looks and furtive giggles—and then walked up to me and offered me a handful of biscuit crumbs. the strangers at laneway who all shared umbrellas, people in the front row lowering them once the concert started and willingly getting soaked so that the people behind us wouldn’t have umbrellas blocking their view.
i don’t know why they do this. nobody has to. the kindness of strangers is always wonderful because it’s so unexpected. of course there are people here who make racist or sexist or simply unkind remarks, who are rude or just indifferent. as far as i know, there are people like this everywhere. but they’re not the only people.
this summer, i was on the circle line from buona vista to dhoby ghaut after an absolutely exhausting day of rehearsals and thesis meetings, and was falling asleep when a lady got in with her little baby and stared resignedly at the man in the ‘reserved’ seat who was avoiding her eye and refusing to get up. when i offered her my seat, she smiled and said ‘that’s all right. you look like you’re more tired than i am. it’s enough to know that there are still people who would offer’.
i think so, too.
27 april, 2012.
it’s just after midnight. it’s stormy outside—so windy that my door stays open of its own accord. wind whips through my hair, blows sticky notes and stray pieces of paper across my room, carries away my rubber slippers so that i am forced to chase after them down my corridor. outside there is thunder, but no rain, not yet. inside, i sit at my desk, hands wrapped around my ever-present cup of earl grey, eating grapes and listening to let’s go sailing’s the chaos in order, my go-to stormy-weather album. i am trying not to think of the internships i haven’t gotten, of emails no one will reply to, of exams i haven’t studied for and suitcases that haven’t been packed. because i have this: a rainy night, a cup of tea, good music, and peace. and maybe, at least for tonight, it is enough.
february 26, 2012.
1. an early morning—well, the earliest i’ve been up in a week. medha waking me up and then calling me an hour later, knowing that i’d oversleep, and forcing me to get out of bed. coming out of my shower and standing at the end of my corridor looking down at the view—the sea gleaming in the sunshine, so bright it made my eyes hurt. going down to the lounge armed with jasmine green tea and froot loops. watching the rain lash against windows and flood our corridors as i sat cocooned in the lounge, pleasantly silent, drinking my earl grey (sugar stirred in with medha’s fork) as people wandered in and out. snatches of laughter from the lift lobby where megha was studying with a friend floating in with the breeze.
2. little things: medha patiently listening while i talked at her, not to her; kel sending me cat photos on whatsapp; the breeze and the rain blowing off all the ‘danger!’ signs on the ledges just when they’d be needed the most; wearing my lip gloss called sexy mother pucker.
3. chatting with family—my mother and aunts always tell us we should be more in communication, and today i realised why. all of us putting up baby pictures—i still think of niri and my younger cousins as little, but goodness, they were little ten years ago—and commenting and laughing and making fun of each other. hilarity ensuing when my grandmother added me on facebook (!!) and i couldn’t figure out how to put her on limited profile (chaitra googled the answer for me—“aren’t you glad i exist?” “thanks, chaits, you’re my favourite cousin.” “no problem whatsoever. you’re my second favourite!”)
4. spring awakening—cabbing it there with z because we didn’t want to be late. the perfection of the show—everything was so great: sets, music, acting. biting my hand to keep from crying. crying anyway. completely breaking down towards the curtain call, when the cast was crying emotionally and adrian pang did the most romantic shoutout to his wife oh god. hanging out outside, stalkerishly getting pictures with all the cast members—even the little kids!—and saying fabulously awkward things like “thank you you were so awesome” and “you made me cry!!!”
5. drinks at the loof, which was coincidentally where the cast party was held. being hilariously fangirly, nursing free drinks and then bought drinks; shamelessly waving over cast members and just talking and laughing; discussing our love lives and our academic lives and making plans for future nights like this. ridiculous toasts: to being creepy! to failed love! to midterms! long island iced teas. cast members coming over and sitting with us and discussing plans for the future. walking to get a taxi, laughing hysterically and going over the perfection of the day. hacking z’s twitter account on the taxi ride back—with her permission!—and hugging her good night in the lift.
february 13, 2012.
tumblr was down yesterday for some reason, so this is belated…
1. waking up at 9am to jamie’s delicious concoction i call the breakfast cocktail: muesli, vanilla yogurt and fresh berries. seriously, it’s like heaven in your mouth.
2. going shopping with the family; finally finding ballet flats and the pair of cropped pants i’ve been dying to buy for ages. trying on a darth vader mask in the kiddie section of takashimaya, blissfully ignoring the salesperson’s dirty looks.
3. picking up my grandmother and heading to a greek restaurant for lunch; it was closed, so we ended up in a vaguely shady place that turned out to have completely amazing thai food. papaya salad, olive rice, tom yum soup, ginger ale, and family and conversation. walking down bukit timah waiting for taxis and taking double exposures of passing cars.
4. coming back to tembusu all choky and sad — i hate saying goodbye, especially to family — and immediately being swept up into a completely unexpected evening: an outdoor concert with picnic mats and kel’s dessert wine and friends and laughter. declaring wine to be our otp forever. kel and cat embarrassingly announcing our singlehood to the world. lying on the grass and using shaun’s phone app to look at constellations. singing along loudly to all the songs. in its own way, this concert was as exciting as laneway — the same atmosphere of happiness and good music and great company.
5. a cup of tea (super-awesome twinings earl grey). finally getting down to doing some readings.
february 11, 2012.
1. waking up at 6.30 to a phone call from my mother saying they’d just landed in singapore. going for a bath in the darkness; coming out to see the sky lightening into colour and the sea smooth and glittering and lovely. waiting for a taxi in the deserted lobby, reading chimaera and enjoying the quiet.
2. seeing my mother and sister; yummy breakfast; niri and i stalking each other’s tumblr dashboards and having too many internet feelings and re-watching kristen bell’s sloth meltdown video.
3. a super-yummy lunch at a chinese restaurant we spontaneously decided to visit in marina bay sands. we didn’t know what we were ordering — so much of it was unfamiliar — but everything was delicious (partly because we put soy sauce and chilli in everything). ‘translating’ the waitress’s heavily-accented english for my family and teaching some of them how to use chopsticks and feeling very local.
4. WICKED WICKED WICKED. such good seats and such a brilliant show; i am so ridiculously lucky to have had the chance to see it twice. i was terrified i’d inevitably compare it to the london production but it was spectacular and i didn’t have to because i was so wrapped up in the show. the staging and dancing and costumes, perfect; suzie mather’s glinda as close as possible to being kristen chenoweth while still being a wonderfully unique interpretation; a stunning nessarose (always underrated — only niri and i clapped); zoe jarrett not the best elphaba (we are cursed with watching understudies) but still a wonderful actress with some truly lovely moments in her performance. it was our second time watching the show, so there weren’t many surprises (when the audience ohhhhhhed at a plot twist, niri and i high-fived knowingly — we knew that!), but there was enough that was different and exciting and unexpected. i still teared up through for good and bit my hand when i had too many feelings (which was
often practically all through) and gasped and then cried when chistery talked, which i’d forgotten.
5. coming back from the show feeling a little upset, the way i always feel about theatre — that terrible-yet-lovely feeling of transience: knowing i’ve just seen something that i can never see again, or even go back to in quite the same way as re-reading a book (although re-reading is always different too); knowing also that this is precisely the beauty of theatre. falling asleep for two hours; only waking up in time for a gorgeous dinner — pomelo salad and pita bread and hummus and pesto pasta, and then everyone going to their rooms to get some rest before laneway tomorrow.
january 27, 2012.
so exhausted, eyes closing, and an early morning tomorrow so this will be a bit brief.
1. having my shameless eavesdropping work for good: in my gender class I heard a boy complain that he couldn’t buy a copy of The Freud Reader so I offered to give him mine (cannot be gladder to be rid of it, to be honest). when he took my number down he smiled and said “so magic does happen!”
2. learning new things. sometimes simple things can be so illuminating: discussing the subjectivity of all histories in my gender class, then listening to my professor in dystopian lit talk about how all histories are narratives but how all fictions are also structured as histories: often written in the past tense, requiring the suspension of disbelief, the reader participating in a game of let’s pretend this really happened. my head’s been buzzing with that idea all day.
3. going all the way to Dhoby Ghaut to watch The Artist with a friend, and then finding out that the show was sold out. refusing to feel disappointed (I am so zen these days I amaze myself): buying fried wantons, wandering around a lovely quirky shop (I entered solely because it was playing Ingrid Michaelson), and then walking around Bugis with Sumu and having the loveliest evening.
4. a long lazy dinner, one of those conversations which flits from topic to topic (social awkwardness, school gossip, Michael Fassbender) and never exhausts itself. sitting in a restaurant for an hour before we realised we hadn’t ordered food, then eating and talking and laughing and completely forgetting to leave.
5. the MRT ride back (I am very emotionally attached to the MRT, okay). riding the Circle Line for 50 minutes, ridiculously excited that I was in the first compartment of the unmanned train and could see the tunnel and the flashing lights. at Caldecott a lady got in with her husband and baby and stared pointedly at the person sitting in the reserved seat who refused to move; I caught her eye and offered to give her my seat and she smiled and said “no thank you, I really appreciate it though”. doodling in my notebook and then just sitting, watching the train empty itself until it was just me and bright lights and pink seats and the all-too-familiar disembodied voice announcing the next station. I love train journeys.