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.

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

Holi 2015


Last year, we celebrated Holi, a Hindu spring festival, at Kampong Kembangan Community Club. This year, we opted not to return to the CC, but check out a number of other celebrations around town.

On Saturday, we celebrated Holi with water canons and gulal, on East Coast Park’s Angsana Green. The event was sponsored by the Singapore Gujarati Society, the Singapore Sindhi Association, and the Marwari Mitra Mandal, and I found it much more family-friendly than Kampong Kembangan Community Club’s annual celebration (no obnoxious DJ, more young children, more families, non-toxic gulal).

Later that evening, we celebrated again with gulal, at “Holi: Colours of Spring” at the Esplanade’s first annual (?) weekend-long (!) Holi celebration. We played Holi on the lawn and watched a sampling of traditional and contemporary South Asian dance (Bhangra, lavani, Bollywood) by Shere Punjab Bhangra, Maharahstra Mandal, and Bollybeatz Singapore. Shere Punjab Bhangra, a professional troupe, dazzled.

We also saw a raas leela, a devotional dance and theatre tradition in praise of Lord Krishna, performed by the young students of Global Indian Cultural Centre. This raas leela combined both traditional and folk dances, from Kathak, Kuchipudi, and Odissi to dandiya and kollattam.

Today, we returned to “Holi: Colours of Spring” for a Hindustani vocal semi-classical medley, performed by Kalyani Puranik and her students at the Temple of Fine Arts, and a Rabindra Sangeet medley, performed by Chandankana Sarkar and her ensemble of musicians. The former performance presented various traditional Holi songs, such a rasiya and thumri. Of note was an incredible hori sung in 14 beats. The latter presented music usually sung during the Bengali and Oriya festival of Dol Purnima or Basanta Utsav, which also heralds the coming of spring. I hadn’t heard Rabindra Sangeet in a while, so it was a treat to revel in it tonight.


Uttarayan 2015


Sankranti, the spring harvest festival, is celebrated by Hindus worldwide, though the rituals and stories that are associated with the holiday are different in different parts of India. It is known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu (and Singapore lol), Bhogali Bihu in Assam, and Uttarayan in Gujarat, for example.

Earlier today, we flew kites (sort of) in West Coast Park to celebrate Uttarayan. Singapore Gujarati Society’s annual celebration featured food, music and—of course—kites (SG$10 for five delicate tissue-paper and bamboo patangs).

Traditionally, kites are steered using manja, kite strings covered in rice and ground glass which enables flyers to “fight” and bring down others’ kites. Singapore Gujarati Society’s celebration did not, as far as I noticed, and was incredibly toddler-friendly.

We weren’t very successful in getting our kites airborne. We’ve never celebrated Uttarayan! Can you imagine doing so in January in the Northeastern United States? Still, it was such joy watching more skilled flyers’ kites climb, dip, and veer.

Epigram Books Christmas Pop-Up Store

10687480_761678180536013_6348579867881950473_oEpigram Books sends me tons of books, so the least I can do is help publicize their annual pop-up store!

Get your holiday shopping done the Epigram Books way this December—great Singapore stories, massive bargains, hearty conversations, and free prosecco!

My recommended buys: A Certain Exposure by Jolene Tan; Blanket Travel by Kim Da-Jeong (Translated from the Korean); Girl Overboard!: A Rose Among the Thorns and Girl Overboard!: A Rose Grows in the Jungle by Sheri Tan and Fernando Hierro; The Epigram Books Collection of Best New Singaporean Short Stories: Volume One Edited by Jason Erik Lundberg; The Goddess in the Living Room by Latha, Translated by Palaniappan Arumugum, Sulosana Karthigasu, Kavitha Karumbayeeram, Yamuna Murthi Raju, Ravi Shanker, and Kokilavani Silvarathi; and The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza by Cyril Wong.

The sale runs runs from Friday, December 12 to Sunday, December 14 at 1008 Toa Payoh North, #03-08. Happy shopping!

Holiday Gift Guide 2014


So, I thought I’d take a hand at creating, with my rudimentary Photoshop skills, a Singapore-inspired holiday gift guide for you! I’ve tried to find things for every budget and personality, and I very much hope you enjoy it.

1. Spotted Nyonya: Vessels with Covers (S and L), SG$1380.00 and SG$1580.00, respectively. 

2. A donation in the name of a loved one to AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre, Singapore’s only specialised service for women who face sexual assault.

3. Blue Botanica Flat Notes by Kala Pata, SG$30.00.

4. Almost Perfect Coconut Gula Melaka Granola by The Edible Co., SG$14.00.

5. Phoenix Sonata by bamboo bee, US$1499.00.

6. “Islands Of Singapore” set of stamps, SG$2.92.

7. Hibiscus Exploded 01. by Fong Qi Wei, price on request.

8. Inheritance: A Novel by Balli Kaur Jaswal, SG$26.88 at BooksActually.

9. Leyden Camera Bag by Aide de Camp, SG$369.00.

Happy Diwali!

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Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, although the deities, rituals, and stories that are associated with the holiday are different in different parts of India. My family considers the third day of the five-day festival most auspicious*; we believe on this day 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.

This year, our toddler painted diyas, tiny clay lamps, to place in our doorway for Lakshmi can find her way.

* Lakshmi Puja is on Thursday, October 23.

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A Diwali greeting from me to you: May this year bring light to your spirit, warmth to your home, and joy to your heart!