Books India Singapore

Indians in Singapore

Once upon a time, there were more Indian than Chinese voters in Singapore. Hard to believe but true.

Indians outnumbered the Chinese when the first general election to the Legislative Council was held in 1948. Only British subjects were eligible to vote. Out of a potential electorate of more than 200,000, only 23,000 registered to vote, and more than 10,000 of them were Indians, recalled CM Turnbull in A History of Modern Singapore, 1819-2005.

Books India Media Singapore

Raffles, Singapore, Calcutta and Bengal

When a young man came to Singapore from Calcutta many years ago, he didn’t know he was following in the footsteps of Sir Stamford Raffles. The one difference: He came by air. Raffles came by sea — on the ship Indiana, with his deputy, Major William Farquhar, on board another vessel, the Ganges.


Even the heavens wept for Lee Kuan Yew

Even the heavens wept, with the rain coming down on Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral. That couldn’t prevent people from pouring out on the streets to pay their respects to the departed leader.  “Lee Kuan Yew! Lew Kuan Yew!” the crowd chanted in thunderous ovation to the founder of the nation. Vindication or nostalgia, it had to be one or the other that surged forth in this vast outpouring of affection.


The legacy of Lee Kuan Yew

It’s the end of an era in Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew died at 3.18 am today at the Singapore General Hospital, where he had been warded for severe pneumonia for more than a month. He was 91.


Big Island, great show

Singapore sure knows how to party. The spectacular National Day parade at Marina Bay yesterday dazzled the eyes, warmed the heart and unfolded like a Hollywood blockbuster that had elements of Disney, Star Wars and Broadway musicals spliced together to lay on the mother of all shows.


Beautiful Singapore

Back in Singapore after a long time, I have been humming The Green, Green Grass of Home. The difference is the song is about a man in a prison who is dreaming of home while here I am in my beloved Singapore. And just in time for National Day, a celebration I didn’t want to miss. It feels so good watching the red-and-white flags draped on buildings and fluttering on roadsides.

India Singapore

North Indian temples in Kolkata and Singapore

A temple in Kolkata

I loved this temple in Kolkata. Quiet, well-maintained, it’s a welcome refuge from the world outside. Located on busy Diamond Harbour Road in Kidderpore, it’s an island of tranquillity. There is complete peace as you walk up the long flight of steps from the gate to the interior of the temple.

I was reminded of the Shree Lakshminarayan Temple at Chander Road in Singapore. It is bigger than the Lakshminarayan Temple and the architecture is different too. While the Lakshminarayan Temple is an ordinary-looking house standing on a quiet lane, this temple with its long flight of steps and high dome is clearly a Hindu religious building.

So why did it remind me of the Singapore temple?


A handshake with Josephine Teo

We saw Singapore’s senior minister of state for transport and finance, Josephine Teo, today. She came and shook hands with us.

My wife and I were sitting at the Bishan Park this evening. We watched families gather outside the McDonald’s restaurant. Little children held colourful lanterns in the dark.

Media Singapore

Straits Times began with call for press freedom

The Straits Times is marking its 168th anniversary today with a cornucopia of gifts. Lucky readers stand to win among other things a trip for two to London while another lucky pair will go to Munich to test-drive the latest BMW. The birthday bash behoves a golden goose of a newspaper which as the only English-language daily newspaper of record in Singapore commands an average daily circulation of 389,700, according to its parent, Singapore Press Holdings. The big fat newspaper now, often running to more than 100 pages, is very different from the slim inaugural issue which had only advertisements on the front page (see below).

Front page of the Straits Times' inaugural issue, July 15, 1845
Front page of the Straits Times’ inaugural issue, July 15, 1845

The Straits Times launched with a clarion call for freedom of the press. This is what the historian CM Turnbull wrote in Dateline Singapore, the Straits Times’ official history published to mark the newspaper’s 150th anniversary:

The first issue of the Straits Times and Singapore Journal of Commerce appeared on the morning of  July 15, 1845, published from No 7 Commercial Square. It was a weekly paper of eight folio pages, printed with new type and on “fine English paper”.

However obscure the origins of the paper might be, (Robert Carr) Woods was clear about his aims. The print run comprised only a few dozen copies, but he wanted to impress on his readers the grand design and lofty principles behind his publication. As his first editorial explained:

“Good morning to you kind reader… We proceed to declare our sentiments whilst we aver the honourableness of our intentions…

“We need not seek out arguments in support of the unfettered liberty which the Press should possess, because there are few in whose breast a doubt is entertained respecting the benefits derived and derivable from Public Journalism. The Press is allowed to be ‘the fourth estate’ and ought never to be wanting in an unequivocal and zealous maintenance of its object, since it embraces a defence of the immunities and privileges of a free people. A knowledge of the fact that the Press is free serves to deepen the conviction that its end is fulfilled so long only as it upholds fearlessly the integrity of national institutions, laying bare to the eye whatever abuses spring up or exist , and by its faithful advocacy of public rights secure to the governed protection against the innovations or misrule of the governing. These are the primary uses of the Press, to which the communication of intelligence and miscellaneous information are merely secondary… “

You can read the whole editorial online on NewspaperSG maintained by the National Library.

Editorial in the Straits Times' inaugural issue, July 15, 1845
Editorial in the Straits Times’ inaugural issue, July 15, 1845
Books Poetry Singapore

Blogs, Whitman, Singapore

Bloggers, feel free to write on about Singapore on your blogs and personal websites, the Media Development Authority has said on Facebook, clarifying the new rules that apply only to news sites.

So words will continue to pour into cyberspace documenting everything on this island until blogging becomes passé and people find other forms of expression.