Monday, 29 October 2012

Au Revoir Yash Chopra

Yash Chopra, a name that never got old fashioned for any of the many generations that came and went. From Deewar to Dil To Pagal Hain, his movies are ageless treats the whole family could watch and enjoy. 
Yash Chopra was the zest we saw in Shah Rukh’s romantic adventures. His larger than life sets made mundane lives want to dream. His Swiss getaways chilled our mad summers. I remember bunking dreary college to watch Dil to Pagal Hain and what a well spent day it was! Sad, sappy Veer Zaara made me cry and I thanked Shah Rukh’s parents for not leaving British India after partition. Lamhe makes me wish Sridevi married Anil and not his brother. I doubt Jaya Bachchan ever dared to watch Silsila - She would have choked in the flame from the smoldering chemistry that almost burnt the tree. If Deewar didn’t make B big, wonder what did.

Here is my favorite Yash Chopra song......(courtesy the yrf channel on youtube)

His death just got us closer to those revered moments we felt watching his movies. I’m making a deal with my weekend schedule for some movie time with Yash Chopra. Let me soak myself in those crazy songs and moves; let me cry and laugh on lines and moments that make a 3 hour movie one wholesome experience. Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Kabhi Kabhi nahin par har Lamhe Dil will remain Pagal for Yash Chopra's movies. And always have enough Waqt for reruns and more reruns of the same without any Darr.

Au Revoir Yash Chopra. No Goodbyes, because we will see your films again and again!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

When Halloween met Puja......

Halloween has never been a part of my celebration culture. But I know that it's pretty popular in Singapore. All the fun horror greeting my eyes at the weekend stores tickled me, till I saw these women parading and looking gorgeously scary. Their annual Halloween costume flashed just one picture in my head....Heidi Klum, in her 2008 Indian goddess costume! Since then, no Halloween attire has been able to beat this one.

Now, a lot of people are not familiar with the blue Indian goddess that was Halloween-ed on Heidi. It wasn't Medusa, but the goddess Kali, the most powerful of all Hindu Gods, who reigns over and destroys evil that's represented by the heads of men strung around her the model’s stunning hip! What a deadly belt the beheaded men make! Heidi took the term drop dead gorgeous to a whole new level!

At first glance, I too, like everyone back home saw the religious taboo being worn by Heidi of the goddess who is worshiped as the protector of the good and destroyer of evil. But Klum looked so convincing in her Kali avatar, that every time I went back to Google pics, the images almost got me on my knees. Maybe it was the aura of two strong women empowering each other. I'm not sure if she meant banter of goddess Kali (that would be "Heidi-eous"). Maybe she just came across a Puja experience that happens around the same time....and subsequently grabbed the Halloween chance to feel and show the goddess' power.  And yes, I saw raw unadulterated POWER written all over her face and that blue heavy outfit she was wearing. Hopefully, she did not don this to get into the Most Powerful Women list for that year. I'm sure Ma Kali herself must have been amused by the avatar.

* All pics taken from Perezhilton.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Maid in Singapore

This is purely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to employers or maids (living or ... leaving or left!) is coincidental and purely unintentional.

Bio Data of an Experienced Maid....

First employer: Very rich. House too big and never left any food from table for us. I get bored with noodles.  My other helper complained about it to her friends in the neighbourhood. Believe me, I was quiet good little mouse in such complains -never gossip. I complete my contract. 2 years, you know. They want variety I think and that is why employer never renew. That was HongKong. I never thought getting another employer in same city so went home. How give reference of HK employer - no contact with me already!

Second employer: Old maam and her son. I don’t mind the old woman ,who never likes sharing utensils with her son. Son eat fish, meat and he also eat my head. He want me to work from 7am to 9pm. Just 10 hours of rest and sleep! I got sick when he would just shout at my afternoon naps and tell me to get up and find some dirt in the corners of the house. Don't know how dirt came, clean last month only! I got tired and left. Don’t know how long I last. I resting from all that tired house. Maybe one month.

Third employer: Old,dying maam. Very nice maam. The contract didn’t last even one month. Old, not well,died and they send me back. I never take such employers again.

Fourth Employer: Nice but not nice. Ma'am and sir nice. They had too many guests. Local guests on weekend made me sleep very late. My sir want all ingredients were ready for next day’s party. They made me clean the house only on guest come. Tiiired! Maam mom and sister, they come and stay for 2-3 months. Vegetarian, but too spicy. And so many dishes to make. Almost whole day at the kitchen. I thought the guests leave, they ask  tea.  I thought now that the mother and sister gone, sir mother arrived  same evening. She was ok. Not like the other. But didn’t want me in the kitchen. Imagine! It was My Kitchen. Mine! Mine! Mine! How to give my kitchen to strangers? I didn’t leave well. They renew my contract but I not happy. Too much work. Complete 2 years of old contract and 2 months of new.

Fifth Employer: No agency, I got employer on my own. Not bad people.They did use-furniture business in the house. House was very dirty. I got dust and saw dust to welcome me on the door. Maam not good. Maam got child from one man, who was not there. Instead there was white man with maam. I had to work in Aunty home also. Aunty told me that maam was not a good girl. Since it was a shop house, no food, no water, no kitchen. They even ate the bread I buy for myself. After 3 weeks , I told my ma'am I wanted to quit. She said no. I got police. They solve my problem.

Sixth employer: They give me no food, only plain food. Not allow me to take anything from the fridge. I last 23 days and went agency.

Seventh employer: First time, got Sunday off every week. Sign contract for 400 dollar salary but they gave increase to 500 dollars starting second month only. Sign contract for 2 Sundays off, but they gave all Sundays off! And they also give 15 dollars allowance every Sunday to spend on non-veg because only vegetarian food in house. But too much work. 2 adults and 1 baby. No cars, no dogs. No taking the baby down to play (only ma'm and sir do that). So only house work - cannot even go down to gossip with other maids who go to take baby down or walk dog or wash car. And no ya, no yeah. Said their child needs to learn full words and sentences without any slangs. How to talk then? Every Sunday off, with 15 dollars not enough.

All I want is to work whenever I want, eat and cook whatever and whenever I want (and others to eat what I want to cook). To talk anything anytime. And have all Sundays off. No small kids, dogs or cars. Nice house but small house (easier to clean) but with my independent room. All washing in machine and all drying in dryer. And no need teach me, ya? I know everything!

You see maam, I am very easy . I know all the jobs. I do you favor by allowing you hire me. So you have dog, car, small baby? Yes ?!! Then I dunwan. Many people in line to interview me. Sorry. Dun mind.

Monday, 15 October 2012

My Book Fair Lady

With books and stationery in hand, I waved out at the girl at the counter. Since I hardly pay by cash, I asked the lady which card was preferred. Her blank look was enough to lead me to assume that she was a steal the organisers hurriedly got. They needed someone urgently to "man" the three day mini book fair. What they forgot to ask at the interview was about her proficiency in English. Or maybe they expected only Chinese speaking buyers. But then again, they couldn’t have been doing that! The book fair had three sections strictly devoted to English books - Children, Leisure and Recipe.
Anyway, what happened at the interview stage will be a mystery. What happened at the venue was simple - Poor girl and poor me had just vague, helpless smiles to exchange. My enthusiasm to investigate her on the Spanish dictionary wobbled off.
I quickly checked the counter when the lady exclaimed, “cash cash!’’, with her eyes wandering with the card, held in my loaded hand. The organisers could have spent some time and a few dollars on an "Only Cash" sign at the counter. She pointed to the Cold Storage ATM, which had a long queue of lunchers from the nearby offices. I thought, how sweet of her! If only she had insisted the organisers on having a card machine. Now, why I was I so hassled? This book fair was very close to my house, but cashless me had to go and surrender the carefully selected items. The lady took the stuff and we parted with her timid “tomorrow?..:-).” I have to admit she was nice.

I don’t blame the girl. She didn’t even know what she was doing. With no signs of literary empathy, the kind that you get from people at Popular and Kinokuniya, the lady and her colleague, in the midst of a rather quiet book fair, were laughing at some indigenous jokes. This made them look like they did the interview and got the job together. The rest of us were either puzzled, looking at a very old edition of the Spanish-English dictionary or just harried at the counter, with cards in hands.
An affair like a book fair should be taken seriously. Books will never go wrong but people, they need to be just as right! Get people with the right proficiency, gifted with some sly guts and social pretensions that will make a book fair sail and sell. Because, honestly, it’s really not enough to be sweet!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Steamboating on the Island

Steamboat or Chinese fondue, refers to several East Asian varieties of stew, consisting of a simmering metal pot of stock at the centre of the dining table.  It is believed to have originated in Mongolia and got popular in China during the time of the Tang dynasty. Over a thousand years old, it was essentially a winter treat of stewed meat and vegetables.

Ready to (self) cook!*

It’s the self-cook aspect of steamboat that that makes it unique. In the modern world, the coal heated steamboat has been replaced by electric, gas and induction gas heaters.
In equatorial Singapore, the winter mood that goes well with 'steamboating' is created by the excess, sometimes severe cold, caused by air-conditioning in the restaurants and malls. So at JPOT, VivoCity mall, Singapore, we - a delighted bunch of five - bravely dived into the 'steamboat '. Bravely, for, three of us were first time steam boaters, and the two who invited us into the experience were (I guess) concerned about that fact.

United Colors of Condiments (and sauces)!*

The staff was polite, helping us to a table installed with four heaters. They showed no obvious signs of alarm at the sight of non-Chinese diners. Nor did they jolt on hearing that they were vegetarians, a very rare race in noodle land. God bless them. Clearly no Amy Cheongs there!
Bowls, each with soup and a corn piece that gave away lovely aroma, were brought and put on the table heaters to boil. As we browsed the menu, we happily found out that it had a good spread of vegetarian ingredients. When the food got on the table, we were amused at the sight of fresh green, fresh meat and raw noodles. All of them were to go into the boiling hot soups in the four bowls and create some kind of eatable potion.

Devour these quick!*
The next step was to go to the sauce section. We did our pick of different accompaniments; put them all in a small bowl to make a sauce that was to go with the main food. I thanked God for the divinely red, rich garlic and chilli sauce which I mixed with a dash of sesame oil, spring onion and coriander leaves. Heaven!
The happy hand that ...
holds the hand that...holds the spoon!
My dear husband, who's a fan of bland food, skipped the sauce ritual and jumped into the boiling experience. Happiness never left his face as he dipped raw veggies, seaweed and noodles into the hot bowl of soup that itself looked hungry for some action. I guess he felt like a magician, being able to cook on his own, in such a relaxed way; and multi-tasking it with lazy Sunday talk. He relished every bit of his steamboat. He didn't even spare the poor corn piece, with all its flavour gone into making of the soup stock!
My daughter was my steamboat angel who devoured a couple of lovely fish balls and noodles which she proudly ‘dived’ into the bowl.
Ours was a table with two sides. One side a contented picture  of a couple enjoying their normal steamboat of chops and prawns.  And, on the other, an almost vegetarian family munching away stewed kang kong and spinach leaves, emptying plates of  good old bean curd and sweet potato. All this, with glasses and glasses of cold barley water and happy talks on bucket lists of places to go and things to do, made one satisfied, grateful table.
The staff's etiquette was commendable. It feels good to know that I can always come back, maybe with a bunch of first time steamboaters (maybe vegetarians!) and be confident that the host restaurant and its food will be warm enough to guide them to yet another great experience!

* Photos taken from JPOT website

Monday, 8 October 2012

It's not always about the money, honey......

Now, now, Amy Cheong, not sure if the whole thing was rigged in your head! I would like to think it’s just an immature, insensitive (and clearly and unacceptably racial) outburst.

Racist comments have become the latest trend to cheap ‘stardom’. People can stoop so unbelievably low to get noticed.  Last year, it was an American from a known University doing this to Asians especially the Chinese. Now it’s one of us Asians doing it to ourselves!

With NTUC being so multiracial and neutral, the big body had to do what it had to do.  I assume her life got a bit like a void deck so she wanted some attention from the world and voila! The insensitive (and so so so immature) side of her got no one to make fun of but the Malays for making happiness out of 50 dollars!

In the same tone, it’s wrong to blame the parents, hubby or all Chinese for what Amy Cheong said. Don’t stoop to the level she momentarily did! I have some really wonderful Chinese friends, so it will be racially offensive, if you start judging them on the basis of Amy Cheong. She was, at that moment, just a "not so good" (that's being polite!) apple wanting to infest the world with these worms like thoughts (no offence to worms!). Awaken your worm repellents, be gracious and move on.

Cheers to the Malays who got so much with "50 dollars"; a lovely wedding and a jealous woman!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Parenting in Singapore : Kancheong style!

Why are Singaporean parents so kancheong about their kids?

I see a picture in today’s Strait Times celebrating children’s day with a caption that made me smirnk (that’s a cross between a smirk and a wink). It’s this innocent word that had me study the space between the photograph and the caption. Kancheong! Clever spoof on the parenting ways of Singaporeans. I won’t comment on the picture though. I think it’s cute.

Whoever did it, did it well to top the word search on Google. The result said,
Kancheong- To be hurried, flustered, uptight. The MRT door heaven open yet, you so kan-cheong for whaaaat! {Heaven= Haven’t}

Super cute take on "Kancheong"!

So dear dear parents, your kids’ future is not the MRT. You’ve got to wait and not hassle the poor things to chase your dreams so hurriedly. School is already one big headache, so leave them alone. Parents! Leave them kids alone! All in all, you don't want them to be just another brick in the wall!

I hear mothers complaining about their toddlers not being able to speak well, that they cry a lot and are not able to concentrate or pay attention. Hello! Go ask your mother how articulate you were at 18 months and if she missed complaining about her angel’s ‘terrible 2’ phase in small talk with other parents.

Sometime back, I came across this article on the latest parenting trend in Singapore - kids attending two sessions of different schools every day. My daughter’s former classmate is one guinea pig to this experiment. It’s absurdly wrong and has led me to form an antonym for parental guidance. Parental Crime. Why is the Ministry of Education even allowing this? In Scandinavia, you would have probably lost your child to fostering.

The worst hit are those entering the primaries. Their childhood is tiresome, expensive and so so so so soooooooooo not worth it. I know two sisters, aged about six and nine, who were regulars at the playground. At one point, they suddenly disappeared. I asked their helper about them and she very sympathetically said, ''Too may classes lah. Swimming, then painting, then maths. After that, tiiiired.’’ I didn’t miss her long tired. She didn’t fail to add that the parents were too busy, so she has to transport the kids from one class to another and eventually take them to McDonald’s, bathe them and put them to sleep. What a waste of two wonderful, precious lives. Sometimes, I see the two come off from the school bus, allowing a couple of minutes of their busy schedule to gaze at the pool and playground, as if bidding goodbye to another day of their childhood.

After all the prescriptions you’ve made for your kids and their lives, it’ll be amazing if one day you ask them what they want to be. Don’t be surprise if they come up with, “You tell me Mummy, Daddy”. Or maybe, just maybe, the precocious and daring ones would come up with something that will stop us in our tracks..... “definitely not kancheong like you, Mummy Daddy”

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Gandhi Jayanti and Shillong...Love thy neighbourhood


A Khasi neigbourhood in Shillong

When I was in Shillong, all through the 90s, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday had a unique significance in my neighbourhood.
We had a compulsory cleaning drive, organized by the Rangbah shnong or locality head. This annual ritual was a must do for all the families residing in the locality.  

My mom was always our keen representative, with generous moral support from her kids. This annual spree made me realize how much easier cleaning just your house is. You can imagine the enormous effort involved in cleaning one whole locality, through its drains, roads and turns. Though challenging, the event had its fun part too.
When the spades and brooms were done with their cleaning march, the whole locality divided itself into comfort zones (neighbours, close friends). The participating members got treated to delicious snacks and drinks. The innocent treats were mostly prepared by families, who couldn't really go out and take on the roads and drains. No alcohol, thanks to the auspicious date being a dry day, but lots of loud music. It may sound like mundane fun, but in those days, community living and sharing was pretty special.
I vividly remember how green and clean the locality looked and felt towards the end of that day. What better way, to celebrate such an important event. The more I think about it, the more respect I have for all my neighbours and friends, who restrained themselves from a holiday picnic and happily plunged into a community cleaning mood.

Like most things in life, I look back with happy but anxious thoughts of what really happened in that one corner of Shillong yesterday. I’m sure a lot has changed, but sappy me would like to place the spades, the brooms, my mom, the neighbours and my friends in one comfort zone, just the way I saw them last, a decade ago. I can't say much about the drains and roads. A little bird told me, they just got beyond cleaning, with too many filthy rich doing the traffic filth!

Monday, 1 October 2012

 Mid-Autumn Festival 2012: A merry time under the full moon sky.......

The Sky Garden and the Moon : Birth of a new Legend?

We triumphed against all odds that squashed our attempts to experience the beautiful mid Autumn Festival in the previous years. Thanks to our ever gracious Singaporean couple friends, we finally made it! With its traditional nuances and funfair, it filled our Sunday cup of joy to the brim!

We were probably among a thousand people who thronged the stores at the festival to get a view and taste of the authentic Chinese culture - Singapore style! Smart organizers of the Marina Sands made sure we bought vouchers for everything under the full moon sky. This opportunity was grabbed by our generous friends. From the delicacies to Chinese calligraphy, the whole experience was so worthy. And I shamelessly declare that we enjoyed every bit of it sans a penny - thanks to our friends!

Dough Figurines : Many Yummy Shapes!

Beauty of (Chinese) words : Calligraphy

Li'l ones and the faces they wanna don : Mask painting!

The festival has many legends. This one particularly works well with me....

Houyi was an immortal, living and working with his wife Chang'e, in the palace of the Jade Emperor (Emperor of heaven). Jealousy of the other immortals managed to slander and eventually banish the couple from heaven. They were forced to live on earth. Houyi had to hunt for a living and became a skilled and known archer.

Playing Legendary parts : Houyi and Chang'e

During the same time, the ten suns in the form of a three legged birds were residing in a mulberry tree in the eastern sea. Each day, one of the sun birds had to travel round the world in a carriage, driven by Xihe, 'mother’ of the suns. One day, all the suns circled together causing the earth to burn. Emperor of China, Emperor Yao ordered the famous archer, Houyi to shoot down all the suns but one. Houyi successfully did so and the Emperor rewarded him with a pill that granted eternal life. Like all rewards, this one too had one condition. Houyi had to prepare himself by praying and fasting before he swallowed the pill. Houyi took the pill and hid it under the rafter. While he was away, His wife Chang'e discovered and swallowed it. She immediately realized her power to fly. When Houyi found out what happened, he reprimanded his wife. This made her fly out of the window and into the sky. Houyi pursued her halfway but strong winds got him back to earth. On reaching the moon, Chang'e coughed out part of the pill. She ordered the hare living on the moon to make another pill that would get her back to her beloved husband on Earth.

The legend says that the hare is still pounding herbs for the pill. In the meantime, Houyi built himself a palace in the sun representing "Yang" (the male principle), contrasting Chang’e’s home on the moon which represents "Yin" (the female principle). Now comes the happy part. Every year, during the mid-autumn, on a beautiful, full moon night, Houyi visits his wife... and that, my friends, makes one romantic story behind the Mid-Autumn festival.


Mid-Autumn Festival 2012 was one fantastic discovery of the intricacies of a 'so near yet so far' culture. The festive unearthing of a speck of China on Sunday makes feel so ignorant, all over again. Its culture is as big and rich as its geography and demography. And, worth mentioning, are its people’s manners that were so pleasing - opposed to the curt of some customer service men and women, in a particular coffee shop, at the ground level of the very posh Marina Sands.

Mid-Autumn Sweethearts

Cultural Harmony :)

I won’t be missing next year’s celebrations for sure, come what may. Till then, hope the hare on the moon is good company to Chang’e.