Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Twilight in Little India


I like Singapore's Little India.  A lot.

In fact, I think it's one of the island state's coolest boroughs and best tourist attraction.  Much of that has to do with the (slightly more) hands-off approach by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Singapore Tourism Board, both entities that have shamefully destroyed the core essence of their Chinatown and have reduced that district to a hollow shell now synonymous with kitschy (that is, fake) aesthetics.

But for some reason, and I do fervently want to believe this, perhaps lessons were learned from the Chinatown saga and therefore Little India is, for the moment, spared from most of the government's relentless march towards gross gentrification and meaningless, unnecessary "upgrades."  The area, with Serangoon Road still as its main thoroughfare, is an organic combustion of riotous colours, blaring music, emphatic chatter, religious chants, distinct aromas, megawatt-ed stores, rose-lit brothels, colonial architecture, and a glorious plethora of street food and restaurants serving authentic comfort cuisine from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and all their respective regions.
 
Here are some of the sights from a recent evening's walk along Chander Road, topped off with a fantastic dinner at Swaadhisht Restaurant, renowned for its Kerala-based dishes.









Swaadhisht Restaurant - 47 Chander Road,Little India,Singapore. Telephone +65 6392 0513

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Big Yellow Duck vs Big Wet Darcy

Woke up this morning to memes and Facebook posts by friends randomly referring to the Austen men and ridiculously gargantuan art installations, so I thought it'd be a good time to put together my favourite subjects combining these topical themes.  Too bad, the Chinese won't be able to search for Big Yellow Duck for the time being, but no such restrictions exist yet for the Big Wet Darcy currently looming over swans at Hyde Park's Serpentine Lake.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Johnny Cash Was Right All Along

After nearly 30 years of squinting at not-that-far-off fuzzy images, more than 20 pairs of prescription glasses and thousands of dollars spent on contact lenses, I finally took the plunge and went under the proverbial knife to get my faulty vision corrected.

Future's so bright, I gotta wear shades.  Make that, non-prescription shades.
Yes, that's right.....I finally signed up for laser in-situ keratomileusis, otherwise popularly known as Lasik.  And why did I wait so long to get my eyes zapped?  Well, partly because I didn't want to be the equivalent of a lab rat and get it done during the experimental phases; then when it got into the mainstream, I wanted to wait until the costs came down from its stratospheric levels; and finally, it was just plain, old-fashioned fear that made me procrastinate. 

Until 4 July, 2013.

The thing is, I had been feeling my usual zen self ever since I decided to do this procedure a few months back.  Zen all throughout the three-hour pre-screening process that had taken place a month prior; zen during my declarations and discussions with friends and relatives who eagerly told me about the pros and cons (luckily, more of the former than the latter;) and zen when the nurses led me into the room to put on the smock and shower cap in the minutes leading up to the surgery. 

It was only when I was getting my final briefing from yet another nurse that the sliver of self doubt and fear started creeping in.  Hearing her recite for the umpteenth time that long list of warnings, admonishments and post-op not-to-do's about swimming, shampooing my hair, exercising, blinking too much, going for steam or sauna, rubbing my eyes, using face cream, and having blood-clotted eyeballs for a month almost made me want to reconsider Lasik.  Almost, but not quite.

No, the actual zen-dissapating, freak out started to avalanche the moment I was gingerly led to the Lasik theatre, and laid carefully down in the first of two beds for the procedure.  Now, the good news is that all the briefings at the Guy Hugh Chan Refractive Surgery at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital had prepared me super well for every little thing that was going to happen.  I mean, these people are nothing if not thorough.  I was fully informed about the mechanical sounds that I will hear, the fuzzy green lights that I will see, the somewhat uncomfortable pressure on my eyes that I will feel, and, this is the best part, the burning corneas that I will smell.

So yes, the bad news then is that I was super aware of every little thing that was going to happen.  Which as any good suspense-genre director can tell you, is part of the formula for a good old-fashioned brain implosion brought on by the collapse of the central nervous system due to the limbic freakanosis anticipatorium.

And here's the funny thing about the eye.  It's connected directly to the brain.  That means it tells the brain about every damn thing that's in front of it.  I'm not a moron - it's not like I was just made aware of all this yesterday....it's just that I never really thought much about it.  And as a squeamish person who can't even handle blood oozing from a paper cut, my first, second and last line of defense has always been to look away whenever there's a hint of bodily fluids seeping out from anywhere.  Even in dental surgeries, I don't see the attraction in gazing up at the mirror to see what my dentist is hacking away at in my mouth.  And gore in movies?  Fuhgeddaboudit.

But when I was lying there, and the Eye Gang had clamped my eye open, it struck me with full terrifying force that I can't move, I can't look away, I can't even pretend I'm someplace else.  I was going to see and process every horrific second of the procedure.  And yes, that awful scorching smell was truly something else altogether.  But at least, I could hold my breath and not inhale that unmistakable smell of my corneas being grilled, George Foreman-style, by a high tech laser.  No such luck whatsoever with the visual bits though.

The upside to all this is the incredible speed it all takes (well, duh, they don't call it laser surgery for nothin'.)  So all that shrill silent screaming in my head didn't last long, thank goodness. And after all that precision sizzling, everything happened just as rapidly.....getting my post-op check ups (side note: remember my usual zen nature I was bragging about earlier? Well, for the first time in my life, my blood pressure, when it was taken minutes after the surgery, was through the roof - heh) and then plopping down eye drops, antibiotics and steroids on my peepers seemingly every hour for the next few days to prevent dry eye, infection and inflammation, respectively.

And finally, after enduring all those agonizing mind-bombs, I received my reward.....the prize in the pinata.....the Powerball payback of this procedure.......

My new 20/20 vision.

After three decades of short-sightedness and as Johnny Cash so lyrically nailed it,

I can see clearly now.

It's going to be a bright, bright, sunshiney day indeed.
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