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Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew and Margaret Thatcher

An amazing parallel runs through the political careers of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of the Republic of Singapore, and Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister. Both began their political career at the same time and stepped down as prime minister on the same day.

Both laid down their office on November 28, 1990. Both were succeeded by their deputies: Goh Chok Tong became prime minister of Singapore, and John Major of Britain.

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Books Media Singapore

Cheong Yip Seng: Inside The Straits Times

Cheong Yip Seng
Cheong Yip Seng

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

Those lines from Julius Caesar certainly apply to Cheung Yip Seng, who loves Shakespeare. His musician father brought the family over on a ship from Penang to Singapore, where in 1963 Cheung, then 20 years old, got a job with The Straits Times.

Twenty-three years later, in December 1986, on a flight back to Singapore from Burma, the then deputy prime minister Goh Chok Tong asked him to become editor-in-chief of the English and Malay Newspapers Division of Singapore Press Holdings, The Straits Times’ owner and one of the most profitable media groups in Asia.

He might not have got the job, though, unless recommended by the man who later became  president of Singapore.

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Books Media Singapore

Joseph Conrad and Singapore newspapers

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Straits Times mentioned in Joseph Conrad’s first novel, Almayer’s Folly. It’s at the beginning of Chapter 4:

That year, towards the breaking up of the south-west monsoon, disquieting rumours reached Sambir. Captain Ford, coming up to Almayer’s house for an evening’s chat, brought late numbers of the Straits Times giving the news of Acheen war and of the unsuccessful Dutch expedition.

It’s interesting because Conrad was writing in the late 19th century about a Dutch trader living deep in the jungles of Borneo.

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Books Singapore

Chulia Kampong, Singapore

Chulia Street, Singapore
Chulia Street, Singapore

Looking at Chulia Street off Raffles Place and Boat Quay now, no one would know what it was like before. Chulia Kampong, unlike Kampong Glam, has vanished from the map of Singapore. So I was intrigued by the description given by the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh in his novel, River of Smoke. The book, set in the 1830s, is about the opium trade between India and China which used to pass through Singapore.

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Singapore

Lost and found at Changi airport

changi airport

After landing at Changi airport, I got into a taxi and was on my way home when I realized my laptop wasn’t with me. I asked the driver to pull over and opened the boot, but the computer wasn’t there.

With a sinking feeling, I then remembered I had put the computer bag down on a chair in the arrival lounge while rearranging my luggage on a trolley.

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Poetry Singapore

Two lovely poems and a Singapore state of mind

People talk of a New York state of mind (below are the lyrics of the song by Billy Joel). Surely, there’s a Singapore state of mind, too.

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Poetry Singapore

Gong xi fa cai! And a poem on Singapore

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his Chinese New Year message says:

Ultimately we all want to make Singapore the best home in the world for ourselves, our families and our children. We all want ours to remain an inclusive, meritocratic society where every child has the chance to realise his dreams and aspirations. We all want our children and grandchildren to enjoy many opportunities in Singa­pore and beyond, even as they remain rooted by a deep sense of belonging in Singapore.

He could have been speaking for everyone in Singapore — and for everyone who loves Singapore.

Gong xi fa cai! It’s the Year of the Dragon from tomorrow.

“The Year of the Dragon is likely to see more uncertainty in the global economy,” said PM Lee. So, here’s wishing everyone good luck.

To sign off, what could be better than a poem on Singapore?

Categories
Books Singapore

Flash floods, Paul Theroux and loving Singapore

Waterlogging at Liat Towers
Waterlogging at Liat Towers

Flash floods hit Liat Towers and other parts of Orchard Road, reported AsiaOne, but PUB, whose tasks include flood prevention, begged to differ. No floods in Orchard Road, just “ponding”: Pub, said the headline in Today. “Flooding” did occur in a section of Cambridge Road/Owen Road, according to the PUB website, but not in the Orchard Road shopping district, where there was only “ponding”.”The affected areas are mainly low-lying areas,” Today reported, quoting the PUB, as if that explained everything.

I loved this quibble over words, it’s so like Singapore. I haven’t seen anything on the latest “flooding”/”ponding” yet on The Online Citizen or Singapore Daily, which takes a break on weekends, if I am not mistaken.

There were no blogs, of course, in the Singapore described by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazar (published in 1975) which I happened to be reading again yesterday.

Theroux, who taught at the university, had mixed feelings about Singapore. “The North Star Night Express to Singapore”, the chapter on Singapore, ends with the words, “Like me — like everyone I knew in Singapore — he had just been waiting for his chance to go.” “I had felt trapped in Singapore,” he says, complaining about government control and press censorship. But he also admits: “I felt kindly towards Singapore.”

It’s impossible not to love Singapore.

Categories
Poetry Singapore

A Singlish poem

I just came across this Singlish poem in an article that appeared in Salon way back in 2007.

Wah! I heard we all now got big big debate.
They said future of proper English is at stake.

All because stupid Singlish spoil the market,
want to change now donno whether too late.

Aiyoh! Ang mo hear us talk like that also want to faint.
Even our “U” graduates speak like Ah Beng, Ah Seng.

Singlish is like rojak, everything throw inside anyhow mix.
Got Malay, Indian, Chinese and English, can give and take.

Categories
Books Singapore

Melvyn Bragg on Singlish

Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg

This may be my last post for about a month. I hope to be blogging again from the middle of November. So, before the hiatus, one last post about Singapore. Here is Melvyn Bragg writing about Singapore English. He is an eminent British journalist, who edited the recent issue of The New Statesman magazine, which included a poem by Ted Hughes about Sylvia Plath.

This is from The Adventure of English, Bragg’s history of the English language and its continuing evolution, published in 2003. He discusses Singlish in one of the later chapters and seems to quite like it. Here is what he says: