Friday, December 17, 2010

Hospitals, witnessing the deterioration of the human body, trying to make sense of pointless family feuds and grudges held over from so long ago no one can really remember when it began, wondering if I will turn out to be the kind of child that argues about paying for my parent's medical bills, questioning the morality of putting someone into a nursing home, wondering how a man can hold it together as he watches his body fall apart.

The doctors are full of optimism, and we try to mirror it when we talk to him. You'll be able to walk by yourself soon. You could barely move your arm yesterday, look how much you're improving!

Someone told him yesterday to 'think happy thoughts'. It made me feel like throwing up. If I should suffer a stroke one day and be faced with the prospect of not ever being able to walk unassisted, please do not ever tell me to think happy thoughts.

I asked him today, "What would you like to do when you get home?"

"What's there left for me to do? There's nothing to do anymore."

My grandfather is notoriously grumpy, and although I've grown fond of his curt and brusque way of talking, his reply was heartbreaking.

Last night I dreamt I was on death row. There were mere minutes left to finding a way to get me off the hook, and no one else (including my parents) but me seemed to realise the urgency of the situation. I thought of ways to escape and make a run for it - I can still taste the fear in my mouth.

Monday, December 06, 2010

"What do you think about all this?"

I can't remember if I ever asked this question to anyone, back in the days when I was the one asking the questions. I know what the right answer is, I know the words they want to hear - expressions of indignation, strong remarks on justice, emotional cries for sympathy. I couldn't help but laugh when I heard this question -- how do I even begin to express what I think? Ridiculous is a word with only 10 letters, and 10 letters are not enough to convey the immensity of the absurdity I see.

So tonight I'm turning the music up loud loud loud and singing along to silly songs. Only 12 hours to go.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No updates - nothing interesting to say, and also because I've been writing for another blog.

There was a third story from China which I wanted to write about, but too much time has passed and I fear the details are a little fuzzy in my head.

The festival starts in TWO DAYS.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chinese Impressions 2

The woman at the airline counter looked pissed off when I argued with her to be reassigned a window seat. I felt bad about being so fussy, but I really hate sitting along the aisle.

When I boarded the plane, my heart sank. I could see from a distance that there was someone occupying the seat I had fought for. I hadn't been in China long, but I had already experienced firsthand how the Chinese are not afraid of public confrontations. I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable argument.

When I got to my seat, I could see there would be no fight. It was an old woman, with her husband next to her, and she gave me an embarassed but hopeful smile.

"Am I in your seat? Do you mind if I sit here? I want to look out the window."

Lifang and Bawen were both natives of Guangdong province. They asked if I could help fill in their immigration forms. "No one from our generation studied English."

From their dates of birth in the passports, I did the math. She was 69, and he was 75.

"How long have the two of you been married?"

"Two years shy of our 50th anniversary," he replied, with unmistakable pride. They reached for the other's hands. It was unbearably sweet.

They used to do business in the region, but had retired long ago and were now heading for a week-long holiday in Phnom Penh. They tried to explain the type of work they used to do, but my Mandarin lacked the vocabulary to comprehend. I did, however, understand that it was large-scale, profitable work which required them to travel to different countries.

"Is Singapore still as beautiful as it was?"

"That depends on whether you think buildings are beautiful."

"Ah well, all in the name of progress. Guangzhou is also too big now. It's such a waste."

They told me to come back to China. I should find a job here, there are plenty of opportunities for someone who could speak English. I should travel and see the rest of the country. China is the most beautiful country in the world, and I had to see it all.

Just minutes before the plane began its descent into Phnom Penh, I found out Lifang was Teochew - the first I had met during my trip.

"I have a traditionally Teochew face."

She was delighted to have found another Teochew speaker, and didn't seem to care that my dialect was worse than my Mandarin. She grabbed my arm and whispered conspiratorially into my ear. It was wonderful.

The pilot didn't do a very good job during the landing - the plane shook a lot more than what I was used to. Lifang saw the look on my face, and she patted my arm as she leaned back in her chair, utterly relaxed.

"I don't have the same fears as you do. I'm not scared. Once you hear the wheels being released, you have nothing to worry about. Trust me."

She gave me a wink.

"We are old and experienced. We know these things."

Chinese Impressions 1

He was short and squat, and I was uncomfortable. Why had they assigned me the male masseuse, and not my male friend who was in the other room? "I'm happy to be able to serve you," he said to me in Mandarin as he arranged the towels on the chair.

There is always that awkward conversation to be had during a foot massage. It's a lot easier to avoid eye contact during the full body ones, but there is no escape when someone's seated right in front of you. How do you make small talk with someone who's holding your feet? I try my best, in any case.

We went through the usual routine - where are you from, what are you doing here, do you like China? He was very concerned about how cold I was.

"Bad blood circulation. You are too skinny."

I asked him about a tattoo he had on his arm. It looked like one of those insignias that members of a gang would have. "Everyone in my family has one," he said. "It means I have 'heart'."

He told me he had a friend who was in Singapore. I asked if he would try heading there as well, that it might be easy to find a good job in one of the many massage places we had.

"I don't have a passport," he replied. "The furthest place I have ever been is Shenzhen."

We passed some moments in silence before he spoke again.

"If you are in Singapore, can you make phone calls to China?"

For sure, I replied.

"I don't believe you. I don't see how it is possible."

I tried my best to convince him, telling him my parents called me daily from Singapore. I don't think he believed me. When the massage was over, he told me my liver was in bad shape.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Siem Reap

Siem Reap

I find it difficult to accept the fact that I'm actually working and being productive - not when I'm in a town like this, when everyday feels like I won the lottery and got sent on a dream holiday.

Siem Reap is beautiful to me because of its simplicity despite the multitudes of luxuries available. It seems like a contradiction, one which I've struggled with for all of five minutes, but I suppose such things resolve themselves in the end.

Of course, this is only because I've deliberately refrained from seeing things as they really are. The only relevant question I've asked was something about local salaries, but I don't think I really listened to the answer. In the midst of the beautiful restaurants and Pub Street there is reality to be found, but I don't quite want to see it yet.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I find that I've been getting angry more often -- not the kind of irritation that stems from a momentary frustration which can be brushed off if you just take a deep enough breath, but the kind of anger that makes me want to go on one of those never-ending rants that always ends with an awkward silence and with me feeling embarrassed. Suddenly, I'm back to being a fucking expert with an opinion on everything. I guess I'm still a judgmental bitch, and no amount of wishing is going to make that part of me go away.

To that end, I've kept myself away from most people. I find that I'm much better behaved if I just stay in with the cats.

I always read about people wishing from their death beds that they hadn't worked so hard, that they had stopped to smell the roses and enjoy life and take more walks on the beach etc etc. -- what about the others? What about those who spent their lives walking on beaches? Are there any dying people out there that say, "Fuck, I should've done something useful with myself. I can't believe the amount of time I wasted getting sand out of my clothes."

I have a feeling I'm going to find out.

Things I would like to regret: Spending too much time riding horses, reading far too many books, and wasting too much money on train tickets.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Along The Way

While on Bus 107

  • A mother with her young son on a bicycle at a traffic junction, making use of the waiting time by cleaning the boy's face with a towel.
  • A place called 'Yong's Teochew Kueh'. How is it that can't name a single type of Teochew kueh? Does peng kueh count? Is ngo hiang considered Teochew?
  • An ad for '24 hour Prawning'. What? Prawning is the new fishing, apparently.
  • A new 24 hour Indian Muslim coffeeshop on Upper Serangoon. Yay!
  • Serangoon is in Marine Parade GRC? WTF.
  • Public Campaign posters spotted: Recycling, Fire Hazards, Be Gracious on Buses

A little notice at our lift lobby informs us that Lift A and B will be permanently shut down in a couple of days. The openings will be sealed up. Since Lift C has gone through the ubiquitous Upgrading and now stops at every floor, joining its gleaming counterparts newly installed at either ends of the building, the HDB folks probably figured there was no longer a need for these two outdated lifts.

I felt a little sad at the thought of these two coffin-like contraptions becoming scrap metal. After all, I've been taking these lifts for the last 24 years, to the point that I can instinctively predict down to the last second how long it takes to reach each floor.

And then felt really sad for myself because it seems that I've formed attachments to inanimate public objects.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Three Things

1. Heard

"Ah but where is Singapore River ah?"
- local teenage girl speaking on mobile phone while next to the Singapore River.

2. Seen

A man with a bloodied arm.

3. Occurred

A Bangladeshi worker walking towards made a complete U-turn and headed away as I approached.

Friday, September 03, 2010


I've been meaning to blog, to say something in the public sphere - to issue a statement of sorts regarding my supposedly big leap back home after having been away. However, that would require me to summarise, or to explain, or to offer some sort of narrative, but that all seems rather impossible right now as the words just won't come, and personal understanding seems rather out of reach.

Isn't there supposed to be, at the very least, sort of an emotion upon homecoming? I've been trying to figure out what it is. Relief? Respite? Happiness? Unhappiness? Something? I just haven't been able to figure out what I am feeling, and now I think perhaps the elusiveness of that emotion is due to the fact that I feel nothing.

There has certainly been tangible feelings - such as feeling sated by good food, enjoying being physically seated at a kopitiam, and being able to hold and see the cats - but these are physical responses, not emotional ones, and with regards to the latter department, I must say that the lack of response scares me a little.

Then again, I am a bit of an idiot, and its only been less than two weeks. I've not even unpacked.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Goodbye crazy land, and thanks for everything.

Will probably (and hopefully) be offline for the next month as I try to keep my mother out of trouble in India, and then there's this beach you see, which is waiting for me before I embark on my professionally unprofessional life.

Kainee Shesh.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It was late, and as I hung around outside the Building waiting for a CNG to show, I knew I had been spotted. I had seen them as I came out, and it didn't take long for them to be behind me.

"Apu, taka please. We're so hungry."

It also didn't take long for Ruby and Mithu to understand I wasn't dealing out cash, and so their questions started.

"Where are you going?"
"My house."
"Where is your house?"
"Can we come with you?"
"To see your house!"
"Ha, I don't think that's possible."
"You want to come to our house?"
"Where is it?"
"Agargaon. It's nearby. Come?"

There were other questions, but I didn't understand them.

"You need rickshaw?"
"No, a CNG. Dhanmondi is too far away."

Solemn nods of agreement. Ruby asked if she could have my shawl. I said no, I only had one with me.

They waited with me, yelling and shouting at every CNG that passed. I felt sick to see them so close to the heavy speeding traffic, even though I knew from the feather dusters they carried that they could probably maneuver the traffic a lot better than I ever could. Still, it made me nervous and I ordered them to stand away.

A younger boy showed up, carrying a hot flask of tea. I asked the girls if they'd like a cup. Yes!! We went to sit by the curb, further away from the road. They continued to ask me questions I didn't understand, so I decided to take over the conversation to tell them about myself. One hand each on my lap, listening to me babble in my limited Bangla.

When I lit up a cigarette, both girls looked horrified.

"No! Very bad! Not good!"

The boy, who had been silent all this while, countered with a "It's good!" The girls shushed him.

"Cancer! Make you sick!"
I looked at the boy. "They're right, you know."

We finished the tea, and the boy didn't have change. I was going to let him earn an extra taka, but the girls would have none of it. They took out their own money, made change, and sent him on his way. We went back to look for a CNG.

Before they left me to my own devices, Ruby suddenly asked, "Would you take a photo of us?" She hugged Mithu close to her face, stroking the other girl's cheek. I wasn't carrying a camera, nor had I mentioned photography at all, so I guess this is something they ask everyone - but it was still rather poignant to me. We set a date for tomorrow.

"See you tomorrow!" yelled Ruby as she left.

I thought about it on the way back, how the happiness I feel from these small, inconsequential conversations trumps all the good feelings I've ever felt from having someone praise my photos or having my work published. It's nice to think that sometimes it could really just be as simple as that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I walked for half an hour from my house to Neelket - last minute panic-induced attempt to sort out shit in my life - and realised I did a good thing cancelling that trek in Nepal because at some point my mother would've had to drag my exhausted body back down the mountain. I mean, she could do it. That woman runs marathons for fuck's sake.

I've been caught up in a wave of anticipatory nostalgia as the days tick off, trying to soak in the things I think I'll forget. Which, given my goldfish memory, is a pretty fucking long list. So I try to keep things in my head - like how, no matter how hard I try, I always end up stepping on someone's spit. It's everywhere. It's bound to happen.

And like how every road junction has the potential to become a clusterfuck of illogical driving - you stare at the mess of vehicles and the one helpless traffic policeman standing in the midst of it all looking slightly overwhelmed, and you just can't imagine how anything will move ever again. And sometimes, the rickshaw wallahs will start bitching - why can't that car just move oh my god they are idiots. Yesterday, my rickshaw wallah got off and went up to the car in front of us to inform the driver that this jam is all your fault, get the hell out of the way. I would've slapped him a high five but that is probably too much.

The guys at the book market tried selling me Lonely Planet's Bangladesh guide. I looked at them and threw up my hands in the air. Ami keno lagbe? I'm ekhane na? (Why would I need this? Am I not right here?) They laughed. New edition. Bangladesh! Come Bangladesh. Thanks dudes, I'm glad we understand each other.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Measure of Adaptability

The one day I get a CNG driver that actually seems to not have a death wish, I end up feeling extremely impatient in this very safe vehicle and wish that he would just speed the fuck up. I mean, three car lengths between you and the next car? Observing braking distance? How did you get your license?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bangladesh Trumps Singapore: Reason #453 & #454
  • Very high chance that you will pet a goat before the end of the day (every day, any day).
  • The fastest way to avoid a traffic jam (and to die) is to switch to the opposite lane. Sure there's oncoming traffic, but at least you're moving.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This image has been blogged and re-blogged to death, and I (obviously) love it even though I've seen it everywhere. Thanks to my current infantile addiction to exploring the archives of Nick Holmes' tumblr (the most attractive man I've ever slept with), I've finally discovered the artist is 27-year-old Sarolta Bán. Guess who else turns 27 this year? I am a talentless idiot.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

193 pages down, don't know how many more to go. My ass is now permanently glued to this chair, and my fingers just can't stop clicking on websites just so that I don't have to insert punctuation (a full stop is NOT OPTIONAL), correct very strange language and feel like I want to yell LEARN SOME ENGLISH FOR FUCKS' SAKE out of the window. That would be just wrong. Very wrong. Mustn't do that.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

aquariums and puppets

So there was a huge French house that I was lucky enough to lived in, even though I was a student and rightly belonged in a dormitory room somewhere. The second floor had a floor-to-ceiling aquarium running around its entire perimeter -- but the water was half-full and it was clear that the great white shark (and smaller tiger sharks?) were not faring too well. There was even a huge sea cucumber stuck on the wall that looked like it was drying out.

So I found the hose, and turned on the pipe and poured the water into the tank which filled up surprisingly quickly. Before I had the chance to see how the fishes were enjoying all the extra water, I noticed a painting/figure/doll of an old woman that was just settling onto the bottom of the tank - no doubt it had been moved around when the waters swirled in.

I stared hard at the wrinkly face and I just knew, that if I stared long enough, it would move. In all my worst nightmares and lengthy-imagination sessions - this always happens. And so her face moved, but I wasn't sure - maybe it was the water that was making her move - and so I tried again and again. And the face got more and more grotesque. I couldn't walk away - what if she followed me? I yelled for Sandrine. I whipped the curtains close around the tank to hide that face from my view.

Sandrine, who had been cooking in the kitchen, came running. What? What? She's alive, I said, trying to sound calm so as to not freak Sandrine out. I let my hands go, and the curtains came down, only now there wasn't an old woman - there was a wooden puppet in the shape of a little girl and she wasn't in the tank anymore. There wasn't any glass between us and her.

Ah. Oh. Sandrine and I stared hard. The little girl came alive, she looked human now, she stepped out and in front of us.

Sandrine tried to speak to her, but it didn't seem like she understood. Try speaking to her in French, I said. It worked (I'm very multilingual in dreams) and the girl said she used to be owned by a duchess, and it was a very long time ago. She didn't seem to realise that time had passed.

I vaguely thought of Harry Potter and how that movie had made talking paintings a lot less scary.

Are you angry I made faces at you just now? I asked. I don't remember her reply. Sandrine was pissed off by now - what the fucked had I dragged her into?


Monday, July 05, 2010


Was out for the count due to a viral fever that went on for too long (at least it wasn't dengoo), now rushing to finish what I couldn't do due to too much lying in bed incapacitated, currently technically unemployed for the first time in I guess a not-so-long time but still busy as fuck, missing roommate Maria who left for some lovely little island in Norway (enjoy the summer, while it lasts), slightly sad the espresso maker broke but will learn to cope, cat-sighting count at an ALL TIME HIGH and I can't help but think its a sign about something but not sure what, feel like I oughta learn the Robot & Robo, successfully stopped Mother from freaking out about monsoon in Nepal & India, still can't stop fantasising about a beach in Sri Lanka.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thou shall not kill. Thou shall not commit adultery. Don't eat pork.
I'm sorry, what was that last one? Don't eat pork. God has spoken.
Is that the word of God or is that pigs trying to outsmart everybody?

My annual Jon Stewart obsession is back.

I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything. Yes, I want to look back and know that I was terrible at a variety of things.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lamb to the slaughter


Sometimes I spend too much time imagining what my life would be like if it had more animals in it. (And I don't mean on my plate, although I do think about that as well.)


Monday, June 14, 2010

Which is precisely what i did

Its time to stop. To think. To question the self and see if you can find a new way to proceed. Otherwise just put aside that camera and do something else.

Asim Rafiqui says exactly what I am only able to express in vague, unhappy grunts. Too much love for his writing.

The handover process is in full swing - with or without a replacement - and I've had to engage in uncomfortable self-reflection. What does it mean to be in charge? What have I learnt? I've always known that I would be an unpleasant person - I have no patience, no tact, and I'm too prone to arrogance. I warned them all at the beginning. I may yell at you, but I'll always apologise later. But only if I'm wrong. Which I won't be. Or something to that effect.

Today, I received one of the best compliments of my life: "Jess, you are so rude, but you feel our pulse."

How on earth did they ever put up with me? Love them to death.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


En route to Barisal.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sights En Route to Sylhet and Back

  • Nothing like a rat's disembowelment to kick off your day!
  • The "Magic Tree" car freshener in the shape of a pine tree.
  • A little van full of packed full of bananas. A windowful of bananas.
  • The Sea Fish Centre. (No, it is not a food court.)
  • A room named Compassion.
  • Two ring floats, a plastic ball, and too much clingy t-shirt action.
  • Chains around and around an elephant's belly.
  • The bobbing heads of swimming cows. (Cows are beyond awesome, now that I've seen how they can swim.)
  • The midnight cry (or moans) of a mating frog.
  • The heroic/misguided attempts of a shama to ward eagles away from its nest.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


Lalakhal, Sylhet

This is my word of the week. It has been a strange couple of days, fueled by my indiscriminate consumption of coffee.

It has been raining a lot. In the morning, during the night. Someone asked on the way to dinner, does this mean the monsoon is here? I didn't know. I've lived here through three monsoons and I still couldn't remember when the season started. The streets outside were flooded today.

So a building collapsed earlier this week. And then there was that fire where so many, so many had died. And then another building (next to the one that had collapsed) started tilting and they had to evacuate the area. And cracks appeared in the walls of another building, somewhere else, and everyone had to leave too.

I don't get that tingle anymore from these things. I don't feel that urge to hop into a CNG and rush there so that I can be part of the media covering the event. I don't feel stressed about 'missing out' on the action. I can remember how that felt like, though.

I looked through the photos when the photographers came back from those events. Dead bodies, crying people, body bags, charred corpses, more grief, more pain, more loss, all caught on a wide angle lens, and you mark down the ones you want. This image works better than this, don't you see? See how her hands clings on so tightly as her friends try to hold her up? It shows just how much pain she is in. And this one - a hint of a dead body, just a foot, its better than the whole thing. We don't show the whole body. That's tasteless, don't you know?

One of the photographers told me he couldn't sleep all night after covering the aftermath of the fire. It's just too much, you know? I patted him on the back and told him he had to let it go.

During drinks at one of those clubs, I said nothing when the topic came up in the conversation. Isn't it horrible? How so many people died in that fire in Old Dhaka? Yes, its terrible. I looked at my feet and sipped my wine. The woman across me wore a flowy silk blouse in salmon pink with sequins across the collar, matched with a thin belt across her waist. She looked very fashionable. Behind her, two men played a game of tennis. I watched a little cute mouse scamper across the tiled floor.

I feel like I don't live here. Like, this happened in another world, you know? They were still talking about it. I lit up another cigarette.

Nazrul called me two days ago. Where are you? Dhanmondi, I said. And you? Woodlands lah. Next week I come back. Fantastic, I replied. It would be nice to see him in his own country. But how will we meet? You live in Gazidpur! Aiyah. Then I come Dhanmondi see you lah.

I would like that very, very much.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


This was so painful to read. So, so very painful.

Beauties dating 'beasts'

IN THE Disney cartoon Beauty and The Beast, Beauty falls in love with the Beast for his beautiful heart despite his hideous looks.

And many 'Average Joes' are finding that fairy tale coming true for them as they live happily ever after with women who are considerably better looking than them.

Founder of dating agency Table for Six, Andrew Chow, who recently match-made such a couple said that it is 'really true love'.

'They look like an odd couple. The man is 1.65 meters and the lady is above 1.7 meters. The lady is very well-groomed and the man is losing his hair. But the personality and character of the gentleman is so much of a giant. He walks like a man who is 1.85 meters,' claimed Andrew.

However, the reverse doesn't seem to be true. Fewer good looking men are taking 'Plain Janes' as girlfriends.

I don't know where to start. I only regret that I read this online, because if it were in print I'd at least have the satisfaction of ripping this page to shreds and watching each strip of paper burn to its death.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Just a little ongoing project of mine which looks at the ground below, and, as John Lennon said, above us only sky.

Let sleeping dogs



A little altitude makes a whole lotta difference.

My trip north to Sylhet made me feel a little sad for the south of Bangladesh. Sure, the rivers are wider there, but look at all the green they are missing out on! I'm not quite sure why, but up north, the trees seemed greener, thicker, taller and richer. The Sharee river, flowing south from the hills of Meghalaya, was greenish and clear, its water cold and clean. I drank a few mouthfuls whilst on the boat. The last time I drank something that wasn't first boiled or filtered or from a Singaporean tap was when I was 14 years old, at the shores of a lake nestled between the mountains in Yunnan. The taste was the same - cold and free.

We stopped in the middle of the river, as the boatman made a grand sweeping gesture towards the hills in the distance. India! He pronounced, grandly. We got off the boat at some little touristy rest stop, and saw two magnificent Asian elephants.

I am useless in front of elephants. I am in so much awe, that they could be in front of me and not want to crush me to death, that I feel like getting down on my knees to show my respect.

I cannot fathom why animals put up with human beings. It would be so easy to shake off the four silly humans clinging onto its back and lumber away to freedom in the forest. I mean, what could we possibly do? Yell really, really loudly? (No guns present, hence not included in this equation.)

And yet, we've got these elephants doing inane tricks, like a salam with the trunk and a cute curtsey, eliciting loud laughter and even more gawking. What a disgrace. We are not worthy.

This is probably why I like cats, due to their low regard for all things human. They caught on fast to how silly we are.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I am quite good at cutting people out of my life -- it is not always intentional, and it doesn't always hurt, but it does make me feel like a robot with on-off switches.

What is up with these inward-looking thoughts in the middle of the day?? Oh right. I'm procrastinating.

It's like (here comes the bad analogy) surgery with permanent local anesthesia. You don't feel anything as you slice it off, it doesn't hurt even after the surgery, and there sure as hell isn't any sensation as the wound heals up. You don't even think about it, but sometimes you do get a glimpse of that cavity, that hole which you have created and you wonder shouldn't it hurt a lot more than this when you lose a bit of yourself? How is it possible to feel nothing?

This only applies to self-inflicted wounds. If someone else does the slicing against your free will - it will hurt like fuck. I still can't look at photos of my great-grandmother.

Oh shut up, Jess.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It occurred to me today, that I no longer notice the scars on my hands and face, that I am puzzled and surprised if someone asks me about them - which is rarely, since they are not really that noticeable - and I reply with a Oh! But that was ages ago! Which is true - it has been almost six months since the crash. I am used to the dentures, I hardly ever forget to wear them in the morning now, and I can taste food again even with that huge piece of plastic in my mouth. I still can't quite take a good bite from an apple though. I showed the dentures to a person I liked, because I didn't want to feel like I was hiding anything, and he said, "Are you trying to make me leave?". I knew it was a joke, but it was a bit of a mean joke, I think.

Anyway, the point of this mid-morning ramble is to muse on how quickly I forget. If a near-death accident doesn't make an impact on me - what can?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

no te metas con el toro

Amongst other random, strange things from my mornings - a Huffingtonpost report on how a celebrity couple no longer sleeps in the same bed, a video on too many of my friends' Facebook Walls on teeny tiny girls doing some sexy dance (so much irony in re-posting a video that you find nauseating), an image of the matador that got gored through the throat (you've been warned), brief musings on how I'm getting increasingly irritated by photographers who are too in love with their own work, shock at news of Sygma being closed down, and trying very hard to recall the last dream I had before I woke up and not being able to and then suddenly remembering it as I brushed my teeth that I had dreamt of two toddlers standing on a parapet and yelling at them to come in IMMEDIATELY and then somehow my mom was there and asking me why I was yelling and I explained to her and she seemed not to quite get it and tried to fall out of the window to see what the fuss was all about and then there was a lot more yelling (from me) as I grabbed her feet and dragged her in.

And then, my Mom metamorphosed into a young Caucasian man with suicidal tendancies ("This is my third try but I keep failing") and I sat with his hands in mine as his wife sat beside us and I tried looking into his eyes to try and understand why why why why why. And his wife, who was blonde with big eyes grabbed my arm and pleaded to help her understand as well.

The daily act of reading newspapers in the morning is always a bit of a despondent affair.
Today's papers, for instance -- An an 18-year-old boy beaten to death in the middle of the night at Kamalapur railway station. A 14-year-old domestic worker who was "found" hanging from the ceiling fan in the house of a policeman where she works. The last line was a particularly nice touch.

The deceased went to sleep around 11:30pm on Saturday and did not respond to repeated calls the next morning, he added.

And the International pages -- out of the six stories on one page, five of them had some variation of the word "kill" in the headlines. Kill. Killed. Killing. Assassination.

I don't really have pleasant dreams, but even my imagination isn't that fucked up. I think now about that line from that speech Meryl Streep gave at a commencement ceremony in NY (another FB-linked video) about how you should pay attention to the cracks because that's where the light gets in.

I like how she whispered this line, leaning in close to the microphone but whispering it so softly that you just had to lean in to listen and thus listened to every word she said.

And this in turn reminded me of a dream I almost had - I can't remember now if I made this up or I dreamt it, but either way it is all very real to me.

And also, there was this:

I subscribe to an RSS feed that feeds (I do beg your pardon) me with lots of interior design images which I usually click through with a Pffffft but this one elicited more of a gutteral purr quickly followed by a brief imagination session about the many ways one can climb into a hammock.

Of course, in my version of this room, there is at least one cat sprawled belly-up on the stone floor, soaking up the sun.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Writing grant proposals, drinking too much espresso, dreams of Cambodia and South Africa threatening to distract me, really needing a tiny little cigarette.

Monday, May 10, 2010


- A sign that advertised 'Live Surgical Demonstration'
- Electric storm over Dhaka with humidity so thick you feel like there is a mask on your face. Thunder-less lightning is always unsettling.
- A dream about an entire cinema hall singing out loud BOWIE'S IN SPACE

Saturday, May 08, 2010


Today I met an ayah on the roof of our building. She was walking up and down, across the length of the roof. I watched her for a while and couldn't help but ask her what she was doing. Walking! she said. Because any other form of exercise wasn't possible in Dhaka for her.

The city does strange things to people.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Whoever said that a watched pot never boils clearly didn't watch it for long enough.

Or at least, I think that is the belief on which my stupid brain operates.

Monday, May 03, 2010

the nearest exit may be behind you

Back in 2005, I actually did a daily countdown on this blog just to see how many days I had left in Dhaka. I remember getting rather stressed, because I couldn't finish doing all the things I wanted to do.

I expect that things will be a lot different this time around.

On my iTunes playlist is a 45 minute-long recording of an interview I did during my days at Lexean. I interviewed someone who ran a counselling center for single fathers, and I think it was one of the most enjoyable chats I had with someone while on the job. The conversation flowed effortlessly, and it makes me smile hear the words 'acrimonious' and 'state of equilibrium' uttered with a Singlish accent.

I let it play for a bit today - I find it strangely comforting to hear myself talking with a Singlish accent. I'm not sure if it's because I'm overseas, but I often catch myself lapsing into some weird bastardised British/American/Pretentious mixed accent -- it sounds so awful I don't know why people talk to me.

I find that I have a tendency to mimic accents -- you may want to kill me when you hear me speaking to someone who is French.

Anyway, the person I was interviewing was explaining the consequences of divorce and how they are trying to help keep families together, and something he said hit me as hard as when I first heard it:

"And after a while, the child is forced to choose - and that's what breaks children."

Saturday, May 01, 2010

For all those who can't remember the lyrics. Remember - Sunday always comes too late.

Friday, April 30, 2010

That's Not Art

Rage (when not directed towards me) can be funny. Behold my latest source of the giggles:

That's Not Art
by Garrett Murray -- where he bashes the shit out of so-called emo 'art'. I'm not sure why and how he comes across all these things, and god forbid that he's actually seeking them out.

Anyway. This site is not going to help me with my attempt to be POSITIVE and surround myself with GOOD energy. But it makes me laugh, so I figure it balances itself out.

See the Sun (via thelasthomerecording)

Hard not to, you know, unless you’re blind. In fact, I completely fail to take any meaning from this, even after trying very hard to get my mind into the state of ridiculous “things mean more than they seem” pseudo-artists. After 20 minutes of staring at this and thinking intensely, I’ve realized it actually has zero meaning. ZERO.

Things (via haylieerin)

Then you’re going to love this thing you just created.

Only More Love (via gatekeeper)

Shut up. Seriously.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

So he asked me to tell him what I liked about him. In my reply, I tried to give answers that wouldn't make me sound too crazy. I didn't list down everything either. It would be impossible, and would not help much in the trying-not-to-seem-crazy department.

He laughed slightly at some of the things I said, but I'm not sure if he was amused or uncomfortable. When I was done, he remarked offhandedly, "You like everything!"

Oh you silly, silly man, you've got no idea.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's reached that stage where some people actually leave the room when I enter. Perhaps its not so much because of my presence (this is credit that I would not like to take) but because they're not really supposed to be there.

Still, I don't enjoy being the Walking Reminder That We Have Work To Do.

Monday, April 26, 2010


It was time for a change anyway.

Am trying to get more organised, and posting all visual-related posts on Pause. Stop. Play -- I just need to direct my random-ness elsewhere.

I realised, that even after about five years of blogging, I've still not upgraded my technical blog skills - other than being able to find free templates a lot quicker than before.

And regarding Catharine Lim's latest article -- I'm not quite sure why, but it didn't go down very well with me, mainly because she slapped a negative connotation to the word 'dissent' from the beginning. Doesn't it just mean having a different opinion?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

(I realised after writing this post that it is insanely boring. Sigh. And all I had wanted to do was to throw spitballs from the back of the class!)

Watched Lee Hsien Loong's interview with Charlie Rose today, and I. Cannot. Believe. He. Mentioned. SARS.

A question from a friend about Singaporean politics had me feeling rather ashamed and ignorant, and I tried to do some brief research online just to understand the fundamental principals of how is it we operate. I came across this paper Asian Values, Authoritarianism and Capitalism in Singapore by Soek-Fang Sim, in which it states:

Rather than being a proud and self-confident nation, Singapore exists only through psychosis, as an existentially anxious nation (that awaits the salvation provided by the PAP).

The sense of national fragility is heightened through the staging of media spectres...

Media spectres which we are all too familiar with, and which puts LSL's SARS comment (I don't care if he later retracted it, it just showed how well-rehearsed that response was) in an interesting light.

Total Defence campaigns, that image of LKY sobbing, those terrible racial riots, the National Day songs (There was a time when troubles seemed too much for us to take...) and the strange divisiveness in our notion of multiculturalism. LHL said as much in his interview (transcript):

LEE HSIEN LOONG: Well, we’re happy to be a metaphor, but we remind
ourselves that we have no safety net and we can always fail if we get it

CHARLIE ROSE: And what would "get it wrong" be?

LEE HSIEN LOONG: If you don’t have the right government, if you have
the wrong policies, if you cause a loss of confidence. Supposing we were
in the situation of Iceland, of Greece --

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, I wanted to talk to you about that.

LEE HSIEN LOONG: Where would we be? Iceland is a friend of the EU,
Greece is in the EU, so the Germans come riding to the rescue in some way.
But in Singapore, how are you ever come back?

CHARLIE ROSE: And who would come to the rescue of Singapore if you
had a huge debt problem?

LEE HSIEN LOONG: Exactly. We’d be just another broken-back country

CHARLIE ROSE: So you can’t afford to be -- have that kind of
financial crisis because you’re not sure --

LEE HSIEN LOONG: We can’t afford to have --

CHARLIE ROSE: The IMF is not going to be there for you.

LEE HSIEN LOONG: We can’t afford to have a disastrous bump in the
night, whether it’s a financial crisis, whether it’s government
misbehavior, whether it’s a security problem. But we only have one chance
to make a go of it. You can fail -- you can succeed in many battles. You
fail once, it’s finished.

In the beginning of this paper, Sim explains that Singapore has managed to avoid the transition to a liberal democracy even though the problems of late-capitalism exists which should rightly lead to a "flourishing of liberal discourses". How did we manage to avoid developing such "liberal inclinations" and demand of "political choices"? How did we manage to avoid ideological fragmentation?

To protect its one-party rule against threats of liberalisation and welfarism, the PAP labelled these tendencies as dangerous "Western" values, the antidote to which was the "Asianisation" of society, where communitarianism is promoted as an alternative to welfarism and plural/liberal democracy.

At this point, I realise I am basically just attempting to summarise the paper as a way of understanding it better. Ah well, in my defence, 'Asian Capitalism' was not on Cenite's reading list for political science.

Asian Capitalism, as Sim points out, is contradictory. The Asian Values component preaches harmony, the whole idea of community/nation before self, and self-reliance (ie meritocracy). It supports the one-party ideology by "emphasisng consensus over conflict" and de-legtimises ideological alternatives as "opposition for the sake of opposition" is deemed un-Asian.

Through Asian Values, capitalism and authoritarianism becomes mutually reinforcing: authorianism protects capitalism by enabling it to be un-compromised by welfarist demands, while capitalism success "protects" and provides economic legitimacy for authoritarian governments.

The contradiction comes when you realise that communitariansm is opposite to competitveness -- but it is this opposite nature that allows the former to be used to make this version of capitalism "more caring and the nation more cohesive"

By encouraging citizems to dream a dream that only the PAP can bring to fruition, authoritarianism is rendered tolerable, even necessary.

Ah that Singapore Dream. For those who will spend their lives chasing that Dream, it is bolstered by what Sim calls the "meritocratic myth" - that if you work hard enough, you can make it. For those who already have plenty, you raise the ceiling so that they never reach that stage where non-economic dreams become important or relevant.

At this point, I had to resort to Googling more about this meritocratic myth which, as usual, made me feel stupid - how is it I have never come across this before? We have a chapter to ourselves on Wiki's Meritocracy page!

The success of this myth is just one of the many examples of the PAP's ideological success. That we complain about the cost of healthcare and yet think of welfarist values as being unthinkable and inferior, that we are exasperated by how stifling the Singapore Dream can be and yet accept it to be the "normal path" of life etc...

The moral, economic and political legitimacy of the PAP is seemingly undefeatable.

CHARLIE ROSE: How do you measure your commitment to democracy?

LEE HSIEN LOONG: I think we measure it by the legitimacy of the
government and by the results, how Singapore works and whether Singaporeans
are able to have a better life.

I'm halfway through the paper and am already exhausted. It was enlightening to read about all these things when they are being discussed in a coherent manner.

Told ya it was a weird day.

Weird Starts

A slightly strange start to the day - listening to Chávez's Copenhagen speech, enjoying my wonderful housemate's tale of her very strange dream which involved me and an unwanted party in our house, and a sudden recollection of this incident in Singapore in 2004.

I remember it made for wonderful tabloid fodder - managed to find a report of this 'investigation' conducted by TNP on Ondine's blog- and it made mrbrown's SNE column as well.

And to end it all, being 'followed' on twitter by a person who calls himself a 'conservatrucker':

He tweets:

If my life ever comes to a point that I have to accept any type of gov't assistance, that is when I'll consider myself a failure.

Ah... here's a toast to the health of you and your loved ones, and the excellent insurance coverage you guys must enjoy!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not for a long, long, long while.


Called Sis to congratulate her on the arrival of Choon's baby. She sounded so happy and excited.She forgot I am in Taiwn. She will be a good grandmother. JUST WONDER WHEN YOUR TURN will come.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Forgotten Things

Because I have a memory of a goldfish, trawling through old emails can be a rather nostalgic experience.

I had completely forgotten about acting for Joce's Serum City as a propaganda host, forgotten about a trip to Tioman with some friends, forgotten that I signed off an email to Mal with "don't fire me", forgotten what an self-righteous idiot I was/am, forgotten about the photos I took with a green lizard next to my face, forgotten about that an email with the words: "Hi! I have attached the pictures of the girls. Hope you like them." Ahhh....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It makes me very happy to have two hours in the morning to 'warm up' before the day begins - filled with a routine of mindless internet surfing, elaborate breakfasts, multiple cups of coffee, careless browsing of newspapers.

And then the day starts and I sometimes wonder to myself is it really so bad to wish that the morning would last forever?

Monday, April 12, 2010


  • There are indications of mistakes in life arising from your impulsiveness, which is heightened and readily expressed by your emotional nature.
  • In love you are sympathetic and intense and try to conduct your romance according to your idealistic conception of love.
  • Your well-developed imagination often leads you into the realm of *mysticism, and there are *religious tendencies in your nature. (*Applicable only if you substitute 'mysticism' with 'idiocy' and 'religious' with 'alcoholic'.)
  • Once you have made up your mind, you are closed to all other suggestion or opinion.
  • Pluto opposition the Ascendant shows that you attract people with powerful egos and strong temperaments. (Cause...)
  • This indicates that the key to more spiritual and material development lies in your response to the several tests destined for you which consist of patiently enduring difficulties through human relationships. (... and Effect.)
  • Your inner self seems attracted to unusual matters related to the termination of life-death and its mysteries.
  • You will begin to realize the significance of friends and how important they are to you.
  • It may be necessary to struggle and break free from circumstances that you encounter in your work or with authorities, such as employers or government agencies.
  • At any rate some obstacle is preventing you from doing what you have to do, and you want to rebel against it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


  • I think you guys can get back to work. Adda [chat] time is over.
  • Erm... I think its a lot more complicated than that.
  • I don't care.
  • What you've done is unacceptable.
  • I'm going to need a better excuse than that

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

"Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good."- Phillip Pullman

Goosebumps. Read from here, thanks to this first link from Tym!
The heat is taking a toll on things. I count one case of a severe stomach virus thingamajig, four cases of semi-serious diarrhoea and general nausea, one case of high fever and one case of high-blood pressure that was a skip away from a heart stroke.

All this within the last week - general productivity is down because everyone feels like CRAP (and you can't go online in the house when there isn't electricity), the erratic electric supply is wrecking havoc on generators and computers, and just getting through the day uses up all the energy you have.

I never thought of things in terms of energy levels and good/bad vibes etc -- but I've been doing so recently, and it seems to make sense. It's just becoming really difficult to recharge, although a basketful of kittens might just do the trick for me.

I just feel worried, that the worst has yet to come.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The days are growing unbearable as the suffocating heat of summer descends upon us. Power cuts are now for two hours at a stretch, several times a day - so sometimes I'm only able to go online for an hour or two when I'm back in the house. I'm already pretty lucky that my area doesn't seem to suffer from a shortage of water (yet), unlike many other areas of Dhaka where you see queues of women and children collecting water.

I said to a friend last night, how I don't understand how anyone can be sure about anything anymore. And yet, I find great comfort in constant sensation of 'not knowing'. If anything, this certainty of doubt gives me great consolation. And strangely enough, given all that has happened over the last few months, I was pleasantly surprised to find out - after being forced to dig deep into my head - that I am still unchangeably hopelessly and inexplicably optimistic.

And in my head, I find myself constantly thinking about what Delahaye said:
... he maintains that "photojournalism is neither photography or journalism. It has it's function but it's not where I see myself: the press is for me just a means for photographing, for material, not for telling the truth. In magazines, the images are vulgar, reality is reduced to a symbolic or simplistic function. . . one of the reasons for the photographs' large size is to make them incompatible with the economy of the press." - Link

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In other words, what inspired the picture-takers, the newspapers, the magazines and television the most was not the civil war or the planned massacres of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, but the humanitariam melodrama, ‘the endless lines of refugees, the sacks of rice, the orphans and field hospitals, the images of downtrodden humanity and resolute volunteers, of suffering and salvation’.

- The media and the Rwanda genocide. Allan Thompson. 2007.
The dead bird in an open cage is a visual that I've always had in my head - and I hope to be able to develop this and take it further some day.

- The Dead Bird. Margaret Wise Brown and Remy Charlip. 1958.

These remarks have been forced from us by a keen sense of the wrongs and injuries to which our feathered friends are constantly subjected, arising from an observation of the vast amount of unnecessary suffering entailed upon them by carelessness more than heartlessness. "We are persuaded that many of the tears which have been shed over dead birds, have proceeded as much from contrition for neglect, as from sorrow for the loss sustained; and our fair readers will, we trust, pardon us if we remind them in the words of Thomas Hood, that,

"Evil is wrought by want of thought, As much as by want of heart."

The cage should never, in winter, be left in a room without fire.

- Waking. John Everett Millais. 1865.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Theme of the week.

"ll est beau comme la rétractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces ; ou encore, comme l’incertitude des mouvements musculaires dans les plaies des parties molles de la région cervicale postérieure ; ou plutôt, comme ce piège à rats perpétuel, toujours retendu par l’animal pris, qui peut prendre seul des rongeurs indéfiniment, et fonctionner même caché sous la paille ; et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d’une machine à coudre et d’un parapluie ! "

- Les Chants de Maldoror. Comte de Lautréamont. 1869.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oh how clever.

A few years ago I had this great fantastic wonderful idea of printing my own t-shirts so that I could wear a new one every day. How else would I be able to share my thoughts and feelings with general society?

Well that is not going to happen, although I still yearn for that purple shirt with these words in shiny gold: "Your Disco Needs You."

Am enjoying the rants of MOG (Miserable Old Git) thanks to a link from Christine. His comments of this year's WPP makes me feel all kinds of good. There had already been discussion here about the strange lack of captions, and the changing visual taste of WPP juries, but I think what we really needed was a good rant like this.

I was rather undecided about the winning picture, but MOG helped me make up my mind:

...isn’t it reasonable to assume that the appropriate place to see the image that goes on to win the world’s most prestigious photojournalism competition is actually on the front pages of the world’s press? The problem is, this perfectly successful picture would just not read on an average newspaper front page; it would need a Guardian-type centre spread or magazine double page display to do it justice. Or is it really meant to be a framed print on a gallery wall? I rather think that those who guide the destiny of WPPh would not be unhappy if this were to happen.

Of course, thousands of people go to see the WPPh exhibitions all over the world but this is not press coverage in any real sense but rather photojournalism extracted from its natural context and put on the wall. There’s a danger that we will end up with a pointless parade of photojournalists as visual peacocks, displaying their beautiful feathers to each other in a secret garden.

I've met a few peacocks here and there. They are the ones who introduce their work by first listing all the awards and accolades it received. The story and the purpose takes second place. This itself is not a problem - it becomes irritating when you claim to have done the story because you want to 'help' or 'raise awareness' or 'make visible the invisible'.

And I couldn't help but laugh when I read about the CREEP:

Exhausted by his internet experience, MOG is now inviting readers of this blog to join him in a campaign for the eradication of repetitive photojournalism (CREEP). The mission statement is to encourage contemporary photojournalists to pledge to avoid predictable visual situations. Among suggested subjects generally embargoed might be:

• Women in black weeping over their dead menfolk.
• Terrified civilians running away from trouble in a crouching position.
• Posed groups of defiant rebels waving Kalashnikovs or rocket launchers, giving the victory sign.
• Soldiers on the frontline, arms at the ready, looking meaningfully at the enemy.
• Soldiers leaping out of helicopters, primed for action.
• Anyone taking, smoking or injecting drugs.
• Hell’s Angels posing with macho motorbikes.
• Frenzied music audiences screaming at rock bands.
• Skate boarders silhouetted against a brooding sky.

* Update: Have now read Matthias Bruggmann's passionate response to the article in the comments section and I'm all confused.

Morning Moments

The Makings of a Good Day

  • A man with carrying a solitary fish in a plastic bag.
  • A public wall painted with the words of Henry Miller: "I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive." Touché.
  • Silly motorcyclists carrying their helmets instead of putting it on.
  • A man with purple pants and red socks.
  • My CNG driver alerting me to a road accident (look look look!!! tsk tsk tsk) because I was too distracted scribbling down these notes in my notebook.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Its been a month since I started my own Bollywood movie, and I'm still waiting for it to end. I've had two days of peace (hooray!) and lets hope I haven't jinxed it by talking about it.

A very nice couple from Hong Kong stopped by the office - a photographer and his wife does psychology work with NGOs. I thought it was rather nice/strange how they didn't automatically assume I was of the same race until they saw my namecard. Lim? You're Chinese?

Then I started apologising, the way I always do, for my poor Mandarin and non-existent Cantonese - but they assured me that they weren't that fluent in Mandarin either. It was nice, how we instinctively switched to speaking in Mandarin even though we seemed to communicate a lot more fluently in English.

I watched Wolfgang Haffner live in concert (with the Haffner-Trio) a couple of hours ago. I've never seen a drummer smile so much. After the week I've had, I think I really needed this.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Excerpts (Part II)


(*Note for non-Singaporean friends:
JN is a Singaporean film director whose affair with
a young girl was recently splashed all over the papers

Dad: Your mommy so lucky I'm not rich and famous.

Mom: Oh please, only the cats want you.

Dad: But then you, as a man with FOUR kids - your son is already 19 years old!!! - you blardy hell still go and take advantage of young girl! Damn blardy buaya lah.

Dad: (to Mom) Why you never say anything bad about Jack Neo.

Mom: Aiyah I don't pity the girls man. Come on. You know he is married with children - what you expect? In the first place, they are also in the wrong.

Dad: If the girl was smart enough, she should have taken him to the point of fucking blackmail man. "Try anything funny, I will expose you!" Now, expose already, how to get anything out of him. At least get some money out of it lah.

Mom: For heaven's sake, go and blackmail the Dubai king's son lah. Of all people go and blackmail Jack Neo? I don't even think he is that rich. Aiyah stupid lah. Make a fool of themselves.

Me: Why is Pa siding with the girls?

Mom: Aiyah Pa is always like that. But to me, they are stupid. They are not so gullible. Nowadays, 18 or 19-year-old girls... wah you hold my hand and tell me I'll be Fann Wong number two? Who is so stupid to believe that man? You think what? Writing a book ah? Even Ah Lian also not so stupid.

Mom: Ok lah, at least ST reporter got story to write now, otherwise they have no job. (Laughs)

Mom: Ya, America had their Tiger, but Singapore is Lion City, so we got Lion here. Want to see next week how many more girls pop out?

Dad: You know what is his next movie? One Hole No Enough.

I personally don't care about this at all, but I brought up the topic intentionally because I knew the soundbites would be hilarious.

So, ahem, maybe this is what equality means: that my 54-year-old mother thinks the mistress is 'shameless' and 'stupid', and my 56-year-old father thinks the married man is a lying sonabitch.

Apologies for crude and harsh language - runs in the family.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Women's Day

I've been enjoying Dorothy Surrenders for some time now - mainly because I love the writing, because I love fawning over the same women they fawn over, and because reading that blog makes me feel like I'm talking to a friend who gets me. Plus, where else am I going to get my fix of androgyny?

And thus, in tribute to International Women's Day - I decided to read all Buffy-related posts on the blog, and intend to fall asleep to the sounds of Season 7. The logic may seem rather strained, but well, it makes sense to me.

I have two younger women working with me, aged 24 and 22, and I love them to bits. We rarely talk in the office, but a couple of days ago I had some time alone with them and asked them how they handled the "eve-teasing" (I really shouldn't use that word) situation here in Dhaka.

As a bideshi, I have the luxury of fighting back. Either by acknowledging remarks with a glare or a stare-down, or a good old-fashioned slap. As locals, their only option is to ignore the cat calls and lewd comments.

I found out that just days earlier, the younger one had been grabbed by four guys on motorbikes who blocked her as she was walking to work. She said they grabbed at her, and there was no one around. She was so scared, she did not know what to do. The guys left when some other pedestrians came by.

The other told me that the last time she tried to confront a guy who had said something rude to her, a crowd gathered and she ended up feeling embarrassed and ridiculed because the guy simply denied having said anything.

"If we say anything, we get in trouble." The two girls laughed it off and giggled while talking to me. It seemed they are so used to it that they regard it as just another instance of how ridiculous life can be.

And yet, when I told them about how a friend had smashed a phone (guy trying to show us porn videos on the street) and how I slapped someone -- their glee was unmistakable. They were overjoyed that we had done those things, and I wonder if they wished they could do it too.

Yesterday, I hinted/suggested/ordered the men in the department to GET US SOME CAKE - and they did. I wish I had planned something better than this.

I'll admit that I never really thought much of having a special day for women - in the same way I find Valentine's Day, Friendship Day, and all those other Days basically meaningless. But I suppose I only thought like that because I had the luxury of never needing to be reminded that I had rights, to be reminded that equality was still something we had to strive for, to be reminded that things have to change.

Today, as I sat in an office filled with laughter and the sounds of people enjoying free cake, and I listened to this speech by Joss Whedon, I realised its time for me to arrange for a Buffy marathon in my house.

I love his words so much I wanted to write it down. In his speech, Joss reenacts his replies to the question he is always asked during press junkets:

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Why are you even asking me this? (This is like ) How is it possible that this is even a question? Honestly, seriously. Why did you write that down? Why aren't you asking a hundred other guys why they don't write strong women characters? I believe what I'm doing should not be remarked upon, or even honoured... But seriously, this question is ridiculous, and you've just got to stop.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because. Equality is not a concept, it is not something we should be striving for. It is a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women. And the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition, it is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who is confronted with it.

We need equality. Kinda now.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because you are still asking me that question.


I don't know if this qualifies as a Fail or a Win, but this explains everything.

President, PM's pay near doubled

Dhaka, Mar 8 (

The cabinet on Monday approved a huge pay hike for the president, prime minister, ministers, chief justice and Supreme Court judges, of up to 83 percent.

The president's monthly salary will jump from Tk 33,400 to Tk 61,200. The prime minister's will rise from Tk 32,000 to Tk 58,600.

Once you get over the shock of a EIGHT-THREE PERCENT PAY RISE - you realise that a Bangladeshi construction worker in Singapore earns almost the same amount as his Prime Minister.

Of course, the S$640 the Prime Minister of Bangladesh used to earn does not include the other substantial financial perks she receives. I've seen her around - she's not doing too badly for herself.

But still. I can almost hear LKY saying, "See? Told ya."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Daily Untruth Project

I've decided to tell one deliberate lie everyday to make everyone's lives all that more interesting.

There are pink bananas in South America.

After I told the lie, I realised that my friends with dirty-minded friends would have a lot to snigger about, but I work with really sweet folks who didn't take that route. I promise tomorrow's lie will not be fruit-related. Maybe something about unproven scientific theories. For instance, did you know that the whip is the first man made device capable of exceeding the sound barrier? I had no idea.

After I returned, I saw a pigeon in a cage, hanging in the balcony of the house across from the rooftop of my office. Birds in cages are generally depressing, and the size of this cage made this a particularly dismal example. Maybe they saved it from certain death and are nursing it back to health. Sometimes I try to go against my nature and refrain from negative judgement. But after seeing someone stomp on the neck of a German Shepherd last week, and that incident of the overweight monkey (did I ever tell you about the monkey that was so fat it couldn't move?) -- well, let's just say I've been given the impression that the concept of pet ownership is rather different here.

Still! Guess what. I spoke to the nice girl who lives in that house (rooftop conversations across buildings are always fun) and it turns out that I was right. That bird don't fly so good no more. Right on cue, the pigeon clumsily flew out of the living room onto the balcony, perching itself on a box and seeming rather content.

OK Go has a new video and it is pretty. This too shall pass? Sure, if you say so.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


There's a funny thing that bideshis here say sometimes - that nothing in Bangladesh is real. Or maybe this is a statement I made up myself, and made myself believe that someone else uttered it so that I could repeat it guiltlessly.

Anyway, this is likely less to do with the country and more to do with the bideshis themselves. To have come so far to a place so unlike their home, that they end up having no point of reference when they leave. Sometimes, it feels like the things that happened here never took place at all.

I felt like this when I went back to Singapore. I tried bringing up Dhaka in conversations, to reintroduce that point of reference so I wouldn't feel so unanchored, so lost. It worked sometimes, especially with those who had felt similar sentiments at some point in their lives. More often than not, I felt like I was recounting a dream - an interesting conversation point with no real consequence.

A few days ago, I did something on impulse that has very real consequences. I broke someone's heart - and I say that in the least melodramatic way possible. But the truth is really that severe, and my actions will likely alter someone's life in a way that had never been contemplated or considered by either of us.

This is a lesson I learnt from the past - that I don't do anything if I don't act on impulse, if I don't follow my gut. Because with time, my brain thinks too much and I'm pretty good at talking myself out of just about any difficult decision I have to make.

So I suppose it was a good thing that I didn't stop to consider the consequences before I did what I did, and said what I said. If I had any inkling or suspicion about just how bad it could get, you can be damned sure that I would have no trouble easing myself off that platform.

What's done is done, and I can only hope that time will do its magic and help us make sense of everything again.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I'll tell ya this much kiddos, wearing dentures suck. I know I'll get used to it over time, but I guess this is one of those things, that I don't really want to get used to.

I also can't believe they are now going to form a committee to figure out what to do about all those accidents along Upper Thomson Road. A new overhead bridge? Or traffic lights? Or underpass? Choices, choices.

I also can't believe the amount of vehemence some of my friends show towards workers from China. I'd understand the anger if they had lost jobs or money because of these workers, but it seemed like they just dislike having them around. Dislike them serving them in hawker centers, dislike them showing up in their clinics, dislike them living next door to them in the HDB estate.

I read a bit of Alex Tan's blog to try and understand the angst about foreigners being in Singapore. However, his criticisms were directed towards the government's policies and how Singaporeans were directly affected by the influx of migrant workers. My friends are, for lack of a better word, xenophobic bastards.

To be fair, I know half of what they said don't mean anything - guys sometimes have a tendency say stupid things when they gather together and too much testosterone is in the air. Apparently they are rude and 'uncivilised' - but I would argue that there are plenty of Singaporeans who match that description as well.


Friday, January 29, 2010

No hope for the human race indeed. From Shadakalo blog (

Daily Star is reporting that:

Eight months after being raped, a 16-year-old at Khargor of Kasba upazila in Brahmanbaria had to receive 101 lashes as "punishment".

A village arbitration found her guilty and issued the 101 lashes fatwa (religious edict) but amazingly left alleged rapist Enamul Mia, 20, untouched.

The arbitration also fined the victim's father Tk 1,000 and issued another fatwa that her family would be forced into isolation if he failed to pay up.

Village matbar (local leader) Delwar Hossain alias Ullashi executed the durra (lashes) on January 17.

I don't know what hell the rapist will burn in, but I am sure he will be joined there by Mr. Delwar Hossain, who was the judge, jury and executioner against this girl.

Madam Prime Minister and Madam Home Minister: you are women. You have also taken an oath to uphold the constitution of this country. Please, in the name of all that you hold holy and dear, wake up and defend this girl.

She has been raped and became pregnant. The news report mentions pregnancy upto 7 months and a subsequent abortion. Such late-term abortions are considered high-risk even in the USA.

But after all that, the rapist is walking around a free man because, according to the local matbors, "he belongs to another village" while this girl was beaten until she fainted. Her father was also fined Taka 1000, which presumably the matbors will spend on partying.

Full marks to Daily Star for refraining from posting the name and a picture of the victim. Have they finally realised that girls and women don't deserve to have their faces splashed across national newspapers when they have been raped/attacked with acid? Hooray for some decency!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I had a dream last night Cedar Rapids

This is very random, but I think a highlight of my life would be attending a live concert of NIN, Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga. I have goosebumps just thinking about it.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The theme of my week so far - being true to yourself.

Helping along with the theme is having Lady Gaga on repeat mode. God help me, I love that woman.