Chulia Kampong, 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 […]

Poems Singapore

I saw this book and loved it at first sight. How could I not with its poems about Singapore? It is called Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond and edited by Edwin Thumboo. As luck would have it, the very first page I opened had a poem by him about the transformation of Singapore. The poem, […]

Indira Gandhi and Lee Kuan Yew

  Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is compared to Indira Gandhi by the Indian journalist, Sunanda Datta-Ray, who once worked for The Straits Times. In his book, Looking East to Look West, exploring India-Singapore relations, based on his interviews with MM Lee, he writes: Lee and Indira Gandhi shared a brutal commitment to power, […]

Two poems about Singapore

One poem leads to another. Reading Reflecting on the Merlion: An Anthology of Poems edited by Edwin Thumboo and Yeow Kai Chai, and co-edited by Enoch Ng, Isa Kamari, and Seetha Lakshmi at the public library, I wanted to read more poems about Singapore. And, as luck would have it, I came across another anthology, […]

Free because we blog, tweet, in an attention economy

Singapore's Straits Times and Hong Kong's South China Morning Post are the only English language newspapers I know that do not allow their stories to be read online for free. Even the Financial Times allows some of its stories to be read for free. Not the Straits Times. All you can read for free on […]

Anthony Burgess on Malaysia

Malaysia celebrated its 52nd independence anniversary recently. So how much has it changed since Anthony Burgess wrote about it in The Malayan Trilogy? The book is based on his experiences as an education officer in Malaysia in the 1950s. In his introduction to The Malayan Trilogy, he writes: “The Malays resented Chinese wealth and were […]

The Singapore Grip

The Singapore Grip by JG Farrell Anyone who loves Singapore should read The Singapore Grip by JG Farrell. He won the Booker Prize in 1973 for The Siege of Krishnapur about the 1857 War of Indian Independence. The Singapore Grip is also a historical novel, describing Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion during […]

Paul Theroux revisits Asia

Ghost Train To The Eastern Star by Paul Theroux Paul Theroux has written an immensely readable sequel to The Great Railway Bazaar, repeating that railway journey from Europe to Asia and back which earned him fame and fortune more than 30 years ago. It is bursting with people and places, rich in indelible portraits. I […]