Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Different Sky, A Different Era

I have just finished reading Meira Chand's "A Different Sky".  A tale of Singapore in the tumultuous years prior to Independence, the story starts in the mid 1920s, takes us through the Japanese Occupation to the early years of self-government.  Told through the stories of three main protagonists - a Chinese girl of good family, a Eurasian boy and a young Indian businessman - we read how each person is shaped by the events they live through even as each, in their way contributes to the Singapore story.

In the same way, the book tells the story not only of Singapore during these critical years, but of the larger events in the world beyond.  Indeed, what I like best about this book was the way it portrayed how the nationalistic movement of the pre-Colonial period, and the growing threat of communism, influenced politics and society here in Singapore.

Of the three protagonists, I found Raj, the pragmatic but warm hearted Indian capitalist, rather endearing.  His self-serving actions (including collaborating with the Japanese during the war) contrast with his many acts of kindness to those around him.  The other two were less interesting and I felt that they were created to fit a certain "mould" -   Howard, the Eurasian civil servant, who grew up with a chip on his shoulder; Mei Lan, the war heroine who became a lawyer fighting and protecting abused women.  But a number of the minor characters, I felt, played an important role in livening up the tale.  Rose, Howard's mother, a widow making a living for herself and two young children.  Mei Lan's second grandmother, tyranising her slave girls, smoking her opium and dabbing on her Schiaparelli perfume.  Raj's brother-in-law Krishna, freedom fighter and rabble rouser.  Their stories, too, formed part of the rich tapestry of "A Different Sky".

But overall, the story was indeed that of Pre-Independence Singapore.  A tale of life under the British, and then under the Japanese.  A tale of political awakening, of a nation beginning to arise.  A tale of individuals and families passing through tragedy and terror, to live again and love again. 

In the broad sweep of history, 50 years ago is not a long time at all.  Yet for many of us, it is indeed a totally different era - a time and place totally outside our experience of life in Singapore today.  This book gives us an insight into these days gone by, and leave us the wiser for it.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

My Favourite Kasut Manek Photos

Kasut Manek - Peacock 02Stepping out in styleNyonya Beaded ShoeBeading Shoes | The Peranakan Way | SingaporeBeaded ShoesKasut Manek
Antique peranakan beaded slipper(kasut manek manek)Peranakan beaded shoeNonya Beaded ShoeMy Grandmother's Shoesbeaded001Peranankan Beaded shoes
Kasut Manek (i) (Phoenixes)'Kasut Manek'Beaded slippers

Kasut Manek, a gallery on Flickr.
Well, I did promise that I had a few new posts in the pipeline. And so I do, except of course that this particular one may not be particularly exciting to anyone as it is really an excuse to update on the status of my Kasut Manek project, of which nothing has been heard for months.

But first, let me share a number of lovely kasut manek photos which I've found on Flickr. These are a mixture of old shoes, new shoes, and shoes in progress.  More information can be found in the gallery itself (and more updated photos, as and when I find them).

Now back to my own personal kasut manek.  Indeed, it has been slow going. I am now at the widest part of the shoe, so the rows progress slowly. But there has indeed been some discernable movement (after all these months there had better be!) as the little pink beads move further down the canvas, light pink shading down to medium and then to dark metallic pink.

For those who have requested for my pattern, I ask you for your patience. I don't really have a scanner and will need to photograph the existing pattern, clean it up etc etc. Am rather busy (as the slow progress on my shoes also indicates) and will need to find time to do this as well.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Growing up in Katong

I was surfing on the Perankan Association website and was immensely pleased to find a rather charming article by Cynthia Wee-Hoefer on Katong in the 1950s and 60s!

Just my kind of thing, and a very nice article to link to from this blog. 

But there is also a link from this article to this blog.  Cynthia mentions that she used to live in an obscure little lane off East Coast Road ‘after the Joo Chiat traffic lights, the small lane on the right, opposite the Shell station.’ Well, am pleased to say that  I have in fact written an earlier short post about the very same street!  She describes it also much better than I did, with her description of
"...neat rows of raised terrace houses with curlicue frescoed fronts, patterned mosaic steps and a narrow veranda. The houses were pretty and deep to accommodate three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen covered by a zinc roof. There was a toilet (originally of the bucket system but modernised years later), a bathroom, and an airy basement that worked as an additional storage space, sleeping quarter and hide-and-seek playground."
For more on Cynthia's story, do read her article on Growing up in Katong.


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