Ladies in the Gents

24 07 2013

I’ve often wondered what would happen when little girls are confronted by a specific fitting only found in the little boys room. Well, I do now have an answer from a group of curious bloggers from a recent tour of a resort in Boracay in the Philippines …

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A dance of clouds

13 07 2013

Clouds in the sky over Singapore, illuminated by the rising of the sun at 7.04 am on 11 July 2013.

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The road immediately after marriage

14 06 2013

One reason why it may not be a very good idea to get married at the Registry of Marriages at Fort Canning Hill in Singapore … the path we take goes immediately downhill and the signs at the start of the journey certainly do not look very promising …

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After dinner conversations

4 05 2013

And yes, nobody really talks to each other anymore …

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Off a little street in Singapore

19 04 2013

Off the busy and lively streets and as much an ubiquitous part of Singapore’s urban landscape as shophouses were, the back lane often took on a life of its own in that Singapore seem almost to have forgotten about. The back lane, besides being a hangout for hoodlums and a centre for undesirable activities, as is often depicted in popular culture, were also where children played and where honest tradesmen conducted their businesses. Unsanitary as they may have appeared to be, the best makan (food) around could often be found from makeshift food stalls set up in the back lane – the back lanes close to Rex Cinema with nasi padang, chendol and Indian rojak to die for, comes immediately to mind.

A reminder of back lanes past? A charcoal stove sits silently in a back lane.

A reminder of back lanes past? A charcoal stove sits silently in a back lane.

Back lanes would once have been the centre of life off the streets.

Back lanes would once have been the centre of life off the streets.

Despite being associated with the shophouses that characterised urban Singapore, back lanes came into being after many of the shop houses were already up. Shophouses were initially built back-to-back and it was only following an amendment to the Municipal Ordinance in 1909 that back lanes came into being and back lanes had to be retrofitted at the back of existing shophouses in a massive scheme starting from 1910 which went on well past the end of the war. The scheme to part of the backs of  shophouses was seen as a necessity not just to provide much needed access for fire-fighting between the tinderboxes of the overpopulated shophouses, but also to allow for basic sanitation to be provided .

Bicycles parked along a back lane. Back lanes were added after many of the shophouses were already built following the passing of the Municipal Ordinance of 1909.

Bicycles parked along a back lane. Back lanes were added after many of the shophouses were already built following the passing of the Municipal Ordinance of 1909.

The back lanes which were to eventually allow space for water to be piped and sewer lines to be run, initially made it easier to conduct  the unpleasant business of nightsoil collection (which actually went on right up until 1987). As compensation for land lost due to the back lanes, the Municipality reconstructed the backs of the affected shophouses and the spiral staircases which served as secondary exits and fire escapes we see at the backs of shophouses today were added in as part of the reconstruction.

A (sealed-up) night soil port - would once have been covered with a flap through which night soil buckets were collected and replaced by nightsoil workers.

A remnant of a forgotten past: a (sealed-up) night soil port. It would once have been fitted with a flap through which night soil buckets were collected and replaced.

Back lanes offer a doorway into the past.

A back door – back lanes are more recent than the shophouses the backs of which now open into them, Many were fitted after the shophouses were built.

Back lanes do exist today, in the many places where shophouses have survived – over 6000 shophouses have been conserved on the island with large clusters of them found in areas such as Tanjong Pagar, Chinatown, Katong/Joo Chiat, Jalan Besar and Geylang. While there are a few that still are alive in one way or another, most are silent and devoid of the life we would once have seen in them. The back lane however is still a place I often find myself wandering in – many have a lot of character as well a sense of mystery about them, and they are often where, despite the air of silence which now hangs over them, much colour, texture and a few little surprises, missing on the overly sanitised streets of Singapore, can still be found.

The back lane is where much colour and texture can still be found.

The back lane is where much colour and texture can still be found.

An abandoned motorcycle.

An abandoned motorcycle.

Plastic basins left to be drained.

Plastic basins left to be drained.

A signs warning against the mistreatment of cats in the back lane. The alley cat is still very much a part of the back lane scene.

A signs warning against the mistreatment of cats in the back lane. The alley cat is still very much a part of the back lane scene.

Back lanes these days serve as storage spaces more than anything else.

Back lanes these days serve as storage spaces more than anything else.





Perhaps tradition needs a smartphone app

15 02 2013

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Singapore’s gods of fortune, old and new …

9 02 2013

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Staring into the abyss

5 02 2013

Sharing a scene seen along our northern shoreline one that may soon be changed in a way many of us don’t want it to be.

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An uncoloured exploration of an unfamiliar place

2 09 2012

I found myself in a place I had previously not ventured to, the area centered around Sukhumvit Road where it passes through Chonburi, at the end of last week. As with any new place I was glad to have the opportunity to wander around unfamiliar streets with a camera, spending an hour or so I had before having dinner, in an uncoloured exploration that I felt would best capture the essence of what certainly are very colourful streets.





The view out the window this morning

31 08 2012

It is always a wonderful thing to be able to wake up to a magical sunrise as the one I got up to this morning in a world other than one I am familiar with …





Calm in the face of danger

27 08 2012





Confusion

27 07 2012

A view through a gap in the buildings along Hill Street that I thought very well represents the cultural and architectural confusion that modern Singapore has become …





A new morning, a new joy

24 07 2012

Another morning, another celebration … the sun rising over southern Johor at 7.17am this morning …





The joy of the morning

25 06 2012

Dawn is a time that never fails to bring much pleasure to me. It is a time when the day is fresh, calm and free from anger … a time to pause and reflect before the rush of the day begins. It is also a time which always surprises, sometimes with that quiet celebration that can accompany the break of day, one that is expressed in a show of joy that paints the canvas that is the sky in a way that only the dawn is able to.

The celebration of the new day, 6.50 am, 24 June 2012.

A different day, a different celebration, 6.57 am, 22 June 2012.





A face in the cloud

22 06 2012

A face that, if you look closely, can be seen in the clouds during sunrise on 18 June 2012.





Vertically unchallenged

20 06 2012

Trying to find a world I once knew in one that I can no longer recognise, I stumbled on a scene at the end of Cuppage Terrace I could not resist taking a snapshot of that could well describe the nonchalance with which we in Singapore have allowed a vertically unchallenged and two-dimensional world to bury the multi-dimensional world which made us who we are …





Changing moods of a changing face

1 06 2012

Marina Bay is where the most dramatic of changes that the city of Singapore has seen over the last 30 years has probably taken place. It is now a showcase of the new Singapore – one that reflects how the mood of a nation that emerged out of uncertain times to where it finds itself now, proudly standing on its own. The bay as it is referred to now, was once the harbour – the harbour on which modern Singapore was founded on and from which much of its people and its wealth came in from. Cut off from the sea that brought it life by the reclamation of land and the construction of the Marina Barrage, the old harbour is now part of a large body of fresh water – an important reserve of the important resource that Singapore has always struggled with. Beyond that, it has also become the showcase of Singapore’s transformation with several rather iconic developments rising around the bay that has given the area a ‘wow’ factor. Even as I struggle to come to grips with this new world that has replaced much of what I loved of the Singapore that I grew up in, I must admit that I find myself in celebration of this new world. The new world in reflecting the changed mood of the nation is probably also where it is best to capture the changing mood of each day at daybreak – which I have tried to do on four out of five working days this week … the photographs that follow are taken at about the same time on each of the four days, each capturing a very different mood.

The calm after the storm

28 May 2012, 6.37 am.

A clear day

30 May 2012, 6.36 am.

The calm before the storm

31 May 2012, 6.38 am.

In the midst of a storm

1 June 2012, 6.39 am.





At the end of the storm is a golden sky

9 05 2012

The words of the first lines of a famous song (especially for supporters of a famous football club), “You’ll Never Walk Alone” rang true this morning for at the end of the early morning storm that I took a walk through, a golden sky was there to greet me as the darkness lifted and as day broke – a sign perhaps for the long suffering supporters of the football club?

This morning’s golden sunrise over Marina Bay at the end of the storm.

When you walk through the storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone





The drama last evening

12 02 2012

The Year of the Dragon seems to have brought a fire in the sky with it. We in Singapore have been treated to some stunning shows of colours during the sunrise and the sunset, including a particularly dramatic one that came on during last evening’s sunset.





A Ramadan trail at the Sultan’s Mosque

28 08 2011

I had the privilege of participating in a Ramadan trail at the Sultan’s Mosque or Masjid Sultan recently during which I was able to not just learn more about Islam, but also appreciate the observance of Ramadan and the significance of the practices involved a lot better. Islam I guess for me is somthing that I have understood only on the surface, having lived and worked amongst people of the faith all my life, but nothing more, and the short but informative programme at Singapore’s main mosque and one that traces its history to the early days of modern Singapore.

The Sultan's Mosque lighted up during Ramadan. The mosque traces its history to the early days of modern Singapore.

Ramadan as most of us in Singapore know, is a month during which Muslims observe a strict fast or Puasa from sunrise to sunset, an observance that culminates in the celebration of what is known locally as Hari Raya Puasa or Eid-ul-Fitr. I was to learn that the month is a lot more than just the observation of a fast, but a special month, the significance of which is that Ramandan is the month during which the Angel Gabriel revealed the Holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammed. Besides the fast, the month is also one of repentance, increased prayer, and increased charity for Muslims, and a month which Muslims believe every good and beneficial action is spiritually multiplied.

Ramadan is a special month in the Islamic calendar during which the Angel Gabriel revealed the Holy Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammed. Besides the observation of a fast, the month is also one of reflection, repentance, increased prayer, and increased charity for Muslims.

For Muslims, the motivation for fasting, is to attain Taqwa or “God consciousness“ through self-discipline, the word “Taqwa” is in Arabic and comes from the root word “wiqaya” which means prevention or protection. Fasting brings with it spiritual benefits and helps Muslims to be drawn closer to God through the increased recitation and reflection of the Qur’an and additional prayers, aiding with the increase of iman (faith) and ihsan (sincerity and righteousness) as well as humility and in the purification of the heart and soul. And it is in the practice of Ramadan and fasting that a believer is trained to act with charity, kindness, generosity, patience and forgiveness. One of the beautiful things about Ramadan that was brought to attention is that it is in fasting that a person experiences some of the hardships of the less fortunate in the world, those especially in the context of Singapore where food is in abundance, we often forget.

A lamp in the Masjid Sultan.

The main prayer hall of the Masjid Sultan.

Fasting for a Muslim begins at the break of dawn and ends at sunset and depending on where it is practiced in the world, can vary from 12 to 17 hours. It is not just food that one denies oneself in the observation of a fast, but also from drink and intimacy during fasting hours, and from blameworthy thoughts and acts at all times. Fasting is applicable to all Muslims with the exception of children, unhealthy adults (mentally or physically), adults travelling long distances, and women who are menstruating, in post-childbirth care, pregnant or breast-feeding.

Islam is about a relationship with God and one of peace through surrender to the will of God.

A typical day during Ramadan for a Muslim begins before dawn with the Sahoor, during which one has a meal and says the first prayer of the day. The breaking of the fast Iftar is at sunset and coincides with the fourth daily prayer (a Muslim says a minimum of five prayers daily). Other activities after the Iftar, includes Ziarat – social gatherings during which visits are made to relatives, food is shared with neighbours, friends, and the poor; and also the Tarawih (optional Prayers in early night), Qiraat; the reading of the Qur’ãn during free time; Qiyam (optional late-night prayers during the last 10 days).

Ramadan is an observance that revolves around prayer and fasting.

The trail, which is held during Ramadan every year, also offers the participant an opportunity to participate in the breaking of fast, during which food is eaten from a common plate using the hands, a practice that symbolises brotherhood, and is run by a team of docents at the mosque, one of whom, Brother Ibrahim or Jason, who hails from the state of Indiana in the U.S. was kind enough to share the information contained in this post with me. Besides Ramadan trails, the mosque also allows visits from tourists and members of the public who may enter the mosque daily from 10 am to Noon and from 2 pm to 4 pm (except on Friday afternoons) and docents like Jason would be on hand to take questions, provide guidance and share a little history of the mosque. More information on the Sultan’s Mosque is also available at the Masjid Sultan’s website.

Jason Wilson whose Muslim name is Ibrahim is a docent at the mosque and guides visitors on mosque tours and Ramadan trails.








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