Happy Diwali!


My Diwali greeting is a little early this year, as I’m using this New Year to say goodbye to this blog (and to start a new online project). Over the past year, this space on the internet has been somewhat neglected as I’ve been concentrating on my own writing and other paid work. Just the other day, mom.me published my latest reflection about parenting on this holiday. An excerpt:

My 4-year-old daughter, as is to be expected, has given much more thought to her Halloween costume (a caped pink rabbit) and the treats she will accumulate, than her snazzy new Diwali lengha and her grandmother’s homemade laddoos and barfis, her favorite South Asian desserts.

This year, Halloween is the day after Lakshmi Puja, the third day of Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil. My family considers this day the most auspicious of the year. We believe that Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, visits our home. On this night of a new moon—the last night of the Hindu year—total darkness sets in the night sky.

As my daughter tries on her costume yet again, I reach for picture books and search Pinterest for age-appropriate Diwali crafts and recipes. I jot down recipes for salt dough to shape diyas, or tiny lamps. I find instructions on turning reams of construction paper into paper garlands. I Google rangoli, traditional floor art, and buy food coloring on Amazon. The irony that I turn to the tools of modern, privileged-class American parenting to explain my own religious holiday to my child is not lost on me.

As always: may the season illuminate new dreams, fresh hopes, uncharted paths, and different perspectives. See you around!

Onam Village


We celebrated Onam*, Kerala’s rice harvest festival, on Sunday at Singapore Malayalee Association‘s annual Onam Village at Naval Base Secondary School. The function featured sports activities for children and families and a cultural program, which featured everything from women dancing a Thiruvathirakali, a traditional folk dance, to young children romping to the latest Malayalam film tunes.

The highlight of the Onam Village in Yishun is the Onam sadya, or banquet of vegetarian dishes, served on a banana leaf. As in years past, the meal featured aviyal (steamed vegetables in a coconut and yogurt sauce); erissery (pumpkin in a roasted coconut sauce); kalan (plantains and yams cooked in yogurt); and three varieties of payasam (pudding made by boiling rice, green gram, or vermicelli with milk and sugar and flavored with cardamom, raisins, and nuts). It is a slow and sumptuous meal, meant to be savoured with friends.

o o o o o

* Thiru Onam, the most important day of the four-day festival, is actually on Wednesday, September 14.


5400602322_b692ef4ab7We recently added one more entry in our nature journal!

The other afternoon, I saw an egret-like bird in Geylang, perched near a canal. I immediately emailed a friend (an expert in Singapore’s biodiversity IMO) who told me that it was a cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis).

The cattle egret is a species of heron, and this particular bird was sporting its breeding plumage, according to my friend. During the breeding season, adults develop yellowish plumes on the back, breast and crown, and the bill, legs and irises become bright red for a brief period prior to pairing.

According to A Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, free-flying resident egrets from Jurong Bird Park are often seen in Western Singapore, where they are indistinguishable from migratory populations (which frequent Serangoon Sewage Works).

Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beazley

29d6916d33a41211950f6a706700a9f9Over the long weekend, I read a breezy and entertaining novel, Keep Me Posted, by Lisa Beazley, a fellow American writer in Singapore. In it, Singapore-based luddite Sid challenges her New York City-living, social media-obsessed sister Cassie to write real, old-fashioned letters to one another, rather than use email or Facebook to stay in touch. But hijinks ensue and their heartfelt and confessional letters become an internet sensation. Keep me Posted was a quick read (admittedly, I read fast) and I appreciated Beazley’s witty observations on motherhood.

But despite the flap copy, Singapore isn’t a character in the book, but only serves as the exotic backdrop to this lighthearted novel about sisterhood and marriage. And after a slew of reading expat novels, I’ve come to realize that this seems to be par for the course. These foreign locations are insignificant to the plot, and merely serve as color for our, in this case, white protagonists. Beasley also relies on stock characters of the genre: philandering husbands, Bali-jaunting wives, must-be-saved foreign domestic workers (“helpers”).

Keep Me Posted makes no claim of being literary, and was exactly the sort of candy floss novel I needed this weekend.

Read this informative interview with Lisa on Wall Street Journal‘s Expat blog, a hub for expatriates and global nomads with stories about expat living (housing, education, healthcare), expat jobs, and managing finances abroad.


Please Don’t Call My Child a Third Culture Kid at Wall Street Journal Expat

I’m over at the Wall Street Journal‘s Expat blog, a hub for expatriates and global nomads with stories about expat living (housing, education, healthcare), expat jobs, and managing finances abroad, with my reflections on the term “third culture kid.”

An excerpt:

On her preschool’s international day, my four-year-old daughter wears a colorful cotton kurta—a long, South Asian tunic—and waves the Stars and Stripes. My American partner and I moved to Singapore for his job in 2010; our child is a South-Asian-American “Third Culture Kid” born and growing up in Southeast Asia.

I bristle at this label—TCK—to describe her. In the book “Third Culture Kids: Growing Amongst Worlds,” sociologist David Pollock defines a TCK as “a person who has spent a significant part of his developmental years outside the parents’ culture(s).” A TCK may incorporate elements from each culture, but he also feels the closest sense of belonging with others like him, he writes.

I grew up outside my parents’ culture. They migrated to the U.S. from India in the early 1970s and I was born in New York City at the end that of that decade. However, they, and I, were plain ol’ “immigrants,” first- and second-generation respectively. While, of course, migrants who plan on repatriating are usually called “expats,” and those who consider their move permanent are usually called “immigrants,” it is undeniable that these various words within the language of migration carry various connotations of race, place and class.

Continue reading “Please Don’t Call My Child a Third Culture Kid.”

The Hive Singapore [UPDATED]


Earlier today, I swung by The Hive Singapore, a brand new co-working space located on Hong Kong Street, for “Try Out Tuesday,” wherein non-members can work at the space for free from 8AM to 8PM.

The Hive was founded in Hong Kong by Constant Tedder and now has five locations in that city, including MakerHive, a space for makers and designers, and The Hive Studios, a space for photographers, and in Bangkok, as well as locations soon opening in the Philippines and China (or so I was told by The Hive’s staff).

The Hive Singapore is huge; it occupies four floors of three combined shophouses and is much larger than any of the other co-working spaces that I’ve visited (Woolf Works, Trehaus, Work Lor). It is a beautiful, light-filled space with functional furniture and a hipster techie vibe in a great location (near an MRT and walking distance to the CBD). The Hive Singapore also has a lot more offices and meeting rooms than I’ve seen in smaller co-working spaces; these are likely to attract small businesses looking for space, rather than independent freelancers (like me).

Its membership costs are competitive, IMO. At The Hive Singapore, hotdesk and rooftop cafe access for five full or ten half days per month (12 hours per day) is SG$120 and ten full or 20 half days per month is SG$260. Full time, dedicated, and office memberships are also available, but were of less interest to me, so I didn’t note the prices! The Hive Singapore members can also visit/work from any of the company’s other locations in Asia.

UPDATE: The Hive Singapore offer full-time writers special reduced rates, up to 20% off various memberships in exchange for mentions of the Hive on social media platforms, etc. Let them know which membership plan that you’re most keen on!