Varnam - An exhibition by Kaledio Arts club

If I am asked to describe “Varnam 2013” in a single statement, I would choose to say that it was an astonishing play of colors! It was an art exhibition conducted by Kaleido, an arts club led by the Singapore Malayalee Association Youth wing. Kaleido was set-up with a goal to nurture the artistic talents within our community – may it be photography, paintings, videography or 3d modelling. With the energetic forerunners and organizers, Kaleido has sprung into action in the very early days of formation itself.

Varnam 2013 (henceforth referred to as Varnam), was the first attempt by the Malayali community here in Singapore to organize an exhibition of this nature. As the plans were being hatched for Varnam, entries started pouring in from our various artists. Judging by the quality and intensity of the works, it was hard to believe that most of our artists were amateurs. Eventually we decided that the theme for Varnam 2013 as “diversity”. We ended up short listing around 85 artworks from 11 artists. The collection displayed at the SMA building on 26-27th Jan 2013, were the most comprehensive and varied collection I have ever seen in such a proximity.
Our artists had boldly ventured into most of the creative styles that could be represented in paper and canvas - acrylics, water colors, pastels, oil paintings, charcoal art and pencil sketches. You name it, we had it on display! The result was an astounding and vibrant collection of landscapes, portraits, mural influences, still life and abstracts.

A sample of 10 pictures from Varnam!

Our creativity wasn’t limited to two dimensions. The 3D figurines and animations on display ensured that we held the interest of our young visitors.
           The famous "Jarawa" - Clay model 

Shazabi- Scaled model of Japanese Anime

            And this was my favorite moment from the whole exhibition :-)

If it was in my capacity, I would start a Mexican wave each for Nikhil, Lijesh and others who dedicated a lot of time, energy and thought process to make Varnam a huge success! Well, I believe that a Mexican wave is the highest honor a person can get from an enthusiastic crowd :-)

My role was to be a volunteer at Varnam. What I did the whole weekend was hanging out with my friends and family who came to the venue, make new friends and majorly, have loads of fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and am looking forward to the next event by Kaleido.


A Rainy Weekend

Like most people from Kerala, Rain is an integral part of my life.

The rainy school days, the upside down umbrellas, splashing in the muddy waters, rubbery wrinkled toes, paper boats and much more all are part of our lives .
I can't express how much I used to miss the heavy downpour when I was living in Japan. To make up for that loss, we have enough rain in Singapore. Though the showers here aren't decent enough to get organized into a monsoon season, it scatters throughout the year. The rains don't last longer also.

There have been only two instances where I got troubled by the rain. Come to think of it, both were during bike rides.
Once in India, when I went for a movie with Dad & Anup, I had conveniently forgotten that I had my passport in my handbag. While we were riding back home, I had the handbag slung over my shoulders. I didn't realize the consequences until the passport officer got quite angry when I filed a reapplication &, to my utmost regret, told him the true reason. He made me read out the declaration by the President of India, in front of the whole office and waiting crowd! He made me promise that I would never neglect my responsibility towards the passport & the President! To this day, I keep my passport very safe. Am not bothered much about the President part after APJ's term ended.

Second is a more recent bike accident. As always, I was talking to Manu oblivious of what was happening on the roads. When the bike started moving horizontal on the road rather than the usual perpendicular stand, and I was thrown to the middle of the road, I imagined a big trailer at full speed had knocked us out and is coming to run over my head. Why else would the bike fall? Can you give me one good reason? In reality, it was just a tiny skid on the wet roads that started the slide. Results were patchwork on my knees and losing my precious linen trousers. The momentum finally stopped and when I finally sat up on the road, I saw that the bike was lying there in one piece, Manu was up and about & I still had my full head.
To Manu's intense horror, I was laughing when I saw my knees bleeding badly. It did hurt when the doctor cleaned up the bits of tar from my wound & I couldn't bend my knees for a week. But, my joyous mood of escaping from the (imaginary) trailer was more than enough to distract me from the pain.
// If you are curious, send me emails and I will share with you the pictures of Red Africa on my knees. Manu found it too irresistible to take a photograph of it.

Anyways, back to the good stuff about the rain. I still love the rain and can't resist playing in the rain. If am headed home from work or anywhere and it starts raining, I never use the umbrella.
Last Friday evening, when we were riding home, it started raining. After the accident, I get a bit freaked out when it starts raining while we are on this bike. But then, this was Friday evening (only very few things can make my Friday evenings dull) and the rain wasn't that strong. The best part is, it steadily increased through the night, and continued raining. We left the windows open and slept to the music of the rain. When I wake up in the midst of the night I could still hear the rain. And the most beautiful way to wake up on a Saturday morning(when you have no specific plans) is to the sound of the rain. It beautifully rained throughout the day. Later, around six, when the rain was lighter, we went out for a walk. We scouted around a reservoir and the rainy muddy tiny forest alongside it. The following cloudy Sunday kept up the feeling of the monsoon season.

I haven't had such a beautiful perfect rainy weekend for such a long time.
I can see the nostalgic faces of my Malayali friends while reading this, coz that’s what I feel now while writing this.
Honestly, it did not feel like we were in Singapore. The weekend was as refreshing as a short trip to Kerala. In a way, this rain saved Manu a lot of money on air-fares ;) Now, he can spend that on the earrings which I wanted!


Singapore's finest Sling ?

Lately, December is becoming my fave month. Yes, the holidays officially makes it the month for family get togethers.

We planned to spend this Decemeber and New year at Singapore and invited my dad and brother to be with us. During their last visit, we had exhausted all the touristy spots. So, the relaoded version of the tour involves the places which they wished to re-visit & few additional ones we have 'discovered' through the years.
Since we don't have many high risers back home, it still thrills me to be high up in a tower and get the city view. The trend runs in the family. After a few successful high-floor views, we decided to pay a visit to the ever-famed Swissotel Stamford. My photographer companion declares the sunset/twilight as The most beautiful time of the day. So, we decided to get there for sunset and soak in the city below while itz glowing in the golden sunlight.

Readers, just becase we were on a tight schedule, we(as in I) scheduled to hit just the bar, spend an hour there and fast track to the next spot for dinner appointment. Genuinely, there is no other reason for me choose going to a star-rated bar. The swissotel has always been a happy and 'high'ly satisfactory experience. We have had our fair share of 'cheers' there. Happy moments ranging from crazy dancing when I was a tourist in SG, celebrating a friend's engagement, to late night rounds of drinks with our most-special Japanese friends. Most thrilling one for me was hitting the helipad for Manu's Birthday [Courtesy - Mr.Jha]

The rule at City-space bar is, each person should order a drink. I swear, I did not see anything non-alchoholic. I have been wanting to taste a Singapore Sling, for quite a while. Being in SG for 3 years and having a blog tag named after the drink, does it seem over-rated ? No.
When I saw "Singapore's finest sling" in the drinks menu, I did not hesitate. I shrugged away, when Dad wisely said that Cucumber and Rum doesn't seem nice together. If they ain't good together, would it be world-famous ? Famous enough for me to be charmed by it, without even seeing it, to name my precious scribblings as Singapore Sling ? But, when I saw the pale frothy drink in a tall glass tumbler, I realized, this is not what I wanted! Sigh!
Expensive Lesson learnt - Singapore sling and Singapore's finest Sling, are totally different!

Anyways, from the 70th floor the view was amazing, sunset was stunning, clings were heard and hearts were content.
When I saw the 'Am impressed' look lingering over my favourite faces, even when the ears popped in the escalator on our way down, I thought - Mission accomplished!


Kite Runners

Flying kite is an image which I always associated with visiting my mum's house during summer vacations. Back then, I ddn't own a kite and I never knew how to make one. So, I just enjoyed clapping and running behind the people who maneuvered the kites.
Manu knows to fly kites and we usually go for kite flying sessions. I did not deviate from my policy - "Do not attempt anything more than my old skills."
This weekend, we went to Marina Barrage with T.J. and my dad. Oh, Teena and Jai are the T.J., so named to respect Teena's extreme knowledge and love for abbreviations.
Thanks to the excellent navigation skills of our shotgun and driver, we reached the destination in just 50 minutes (usual drive time is 20 minutes)

Consequences - sky was getting ready for sunset colors, wind was dying out and the place was crowded enough. Our skillset dramatically shrinked, with a man-down situation. Manu gets easily distracted with the sunset, impending blue hour and his new camera. I know him well enough to walk away when that glazed look comes over his face and he starts talking sentences which have filters, shooting modes and cloud patterns.

Jai has enough knowledge on how to fly kites, from watching movies. Dad has seen the it live in Rajasthan. With the solid theory backing, we started. It was fun, not for us, but for our on-lookers. They circled around us and started giving suggestions on what step to take next. The kite somehow had an affinity to the ground and never wanted to defy gravity. How much ever we ran with the kite and released to the sky and envisioned it to soar high, the kite did not understand the concept. It just insisted on falling nose first to the ground.

Photos (almost always) never lie !

(ഇത് ഇപ്പോ എങ്ങിനെയാ ആകാശത്ത് എത്തിക്കുക? പണ്ടാരം  ! ഞാന്‍ പുലി ആണെന്ന് പറഞും പൊയി ) 
Being an expert, How do I make this thing fly ? 

അവന് അറിഞ്ഞൂടാ , ഞാന്‍  ദിപ്പൊ ശരി ആക്കി തരാം ! 
I will fly this kite in a minute!

Jai decided that the kite ain't good and went to buy another kite. Feel free to imagine my un-surprised face when he came back with cola & chips and a flying rubber band with lights. He named it "Shashi"! (പേര് ശശി)
Dad said that the wind has died and suddenly cultivated an immense interest in functioning of a reservoir and water purification!

Me and Teena decided to learn from scratch. In practical terms, it means to watch how others are launching the kites & duplicate it. Close inspection revealed that our experts had assembled the kite wrongly! So, we re-assembled it and started running around. The draft was stronger now and the kite started soaring high :) We got too excited and forgot to thread it. It came back at double speed! Once we had mastered the technique we were ok to fly it again.
Workers Me & Teena with Senior PM

After a while we noticed that our kite ain't flying higher even though when we were threading it quite generously. We tried to bring back the thread and realized that our kite was in a love triangle - A Donald duck kite and another rainbow beauty. How much ever I hate to interfere in an entangled relationship, this was a must do. We rescued the kites and relocated to another space in the park. When the sky was getting darker, we gave up the air space to kites with lights and retired to enjoy the beautiful skyline and the light show at the Super tree groves in Gardens by the Bay(Google for 'Garden Rhapsody' until I write about it one day and link it here).

It was a great evening peeps. We should do this more often with more kites and friends. Hereby, I officially declare Marina Barrage to enlisted be in my "Fave Five Spots in Singapore" list.

Note :
How to reach Marina Barrage, if you are taking public transport - Board the North South(Red) Line, go to Marina Bay and take Exit A. You will see MBS on the left side. Don't get distracted. Walk straight to the bus stop and board SBS 400.You will see the Barrage right after the Gardens by the Bay.


Power failure @ SG

For the first time ever, we experienced power failure at SG. This happened on 2nd Jan evening at my block. Owing , I was opting for a quick fix dinner. I had convinced Manu, Mahesh (Bro) and Appa that I make restaurant quality creamy Pasta. Even though I suspect that the tipping point in my favor was the excuse to open the Shiraz bottle which Mahesh had brought :)

As I was draining the al-dente pasta & finishing up the sauce, the music and lights went off! It took us a few seconds to realize that it is power failure. Being from the state with scheduled & unscheduled power failures, we know the protocol. First step was to check the fuse status. Second, but the most important step, is to check if the neighbors have power cut. Last step is to call PUB, the Singaporean version of KSEB and inform.
The truth is that, it was a relief when we saw the neighbors rushing out and panicking being unsure of how to handle this situation. Kind of a NUTS (No U Turn Syndrome) by fellow Singaporeans. But then, we decided to skip the informing part and enjoy the first power outage.
Glorious moment dawned when the men of the house agreed how useful my candle collection is. We lighted all of it and set around the dining counter, refilled the wine glasses and had a beautiful candle light dinner.
The timing was excellent.The power was back when we were getting ready for the pudding.

Only set back is I won't be allowed anymore to quote 'power-failure-free-Singapura' as a plus point.


Making a memory

Friends and family are clearly bored with how proud I am of Singapore.
They disowned me when I wanted to by ‘I Love SG’ Christmas ornaments for the tree. They make fun of me when I refer to LHL quotes. Manu knows to look for me in the "Singapore section" if I went missing in the library, even though he accuses me of being an extremist and a brand switcher. Back in 2010, I hated the idea of spending the rest of my life in Singapore. I disliked Singapore even during the transits. In my defense, How can the Singaporean attitude fair positive against the humble Japanese or ever tolerant ever best chaotic Indians ?
The exact moment when the idea of loving Singapore first struck me was on the beautiful twilight of Aug 9 2011. That is when I heard 'Majullah Singapura' for the very first time. Well, it ain't just the anthem, but the collective force of Red & white clad people assembled at the Marina Bay area, the NDP, the anthem & the grand fireworks! The emotional results were complicated and I can see your perplexed face as I am trying to put the feeling into a single sentence. I had goose bumps, I missed the Independence Day celebrations back home, I felt patriotic and missed India, but somehow that was exactly the moment I started wanting to live in Singapore. But then, the hour which sealed the deal occurred a year later, when I watched the telecast of PM Lee’s speech, which he delivered at the NDP rally at the NUS campus in 2012. I remember wishing I could run to NUS from Ghim Moh right then, and be right there at the auditorim. It is the most impressive, thought provoking speech which I have ever heard. I felt leadership, vision, sincerity, true concern for the public, integrity towards the nation.
Now that I think back about it, one of the major reasons why I continue to choose to live in this city is that touching speech & his focus on Hope, Heart and Home. Another reason is the friends who have made Singapore a ‘Happy’ place to be.
The biggest beating Singapore gave me came after this speech. If I hadn’t heard that speech, we might not be living in SG right now, I wouldn’t have decided to apply for Permanent Residency, we wouldn’t have decided to achieve what we want in SG itself. The very fact that I follow LHL on FB, walk dismissively past the Indian stalls at food courts to queue for Char Kway Teow, be extremely defensive abt SG policies, being a strong believer of IRIS, know the bus numbers and transits even in semi-sleep state, devour incredible amount of local news, politics, history and SG events is described by Manu as Singaporean traits.

So, you can imagine how privileged I felt when NLB invited to me to pledge my blog as part of a Singapore memory project. Thanks, is what I would say, to motivate the lazy bones in me to restart writing.