the simple indian life (mon)

Sorry for the lack of updates. But been quite busy.

Passed by Regal Cinema, a famous landmark in Bombay. It was showing Basic Instinct and Fahrenheit 9/11.

What an interesting combination.

Personally, I think both films are showing too much bush.

I dined with Bollywood last night.

And it was none other than Mrs Jaya Bachchan, herself an actress but also known as the wife of Amitabh Bachchan, the God of Indian cinema.

Unfortunately, she was at the next table.

We were at Indigo in Bombay, voted one of the best 60 restaurants in the world.

And deservedly so, because the food was truly amazing.

Over in the adjoining room, there were flashbulbs going off every couple of seconds and ENG cameramen furiously shooting away.

That was some serious flesh parade.

Apparently, I got some of the action too when someone aimed the camera right at me.

Obviously, they cannot resist my charming good looks and beautiful skin.

Bollywood, here I come.

the simple indian life (sun)

Blame it on Indira Gandhi.

That’s the message I got after reading today’s Sunday Times article.

On the plane to India.

According to the writer, it was Gandhi’s dishonest dealings that “stymied a huge country of great human capital and vast natural resources from becoming a genuine economic superpower.”

Gandhi’s corrupt ways started a cycle in which:

“every official – from the lowliest of peons to Cabinet ministers – began demanding their share. To submit a file to a ministry in order to set up, say, a shoe factory, you had to give baksheesh to the peon so that he could relay it to the clerk who registered that file. The clerk had to be paid to move the file to his supervisor and so on”

I will not comment on this until I do more research but here’s something interesting.

After I touched down, we went to rent some camera and lights. And so we found this guy who had a camera available for rental.

But he doesn’t have a tripod.

Apparently, he’s got to get it from his brother.

And he doesn’t have a lighting kit, so we went somewhere to see some friends of his.

We liked what we saw but he couldn’t get us the price because those friends of his needed to check with their brother.

Or brothers.

I heard another story of a cameraman who wanted to rent a light in India. But the guy who owned the light didn’t have the barndoor that usually comes with it.

Guess what?

He had to get the barndoor from his brother.

And that’s not the punch line.

The barndoor didn’t even fit the light.

(If you don’t know how this is like, imagine this. You want to rent a computer. The guy who owns the CPU needs to get the monitor from a brother. The mouse from another brother. And the keyboard from another brother. And to top it off, the mouse is the wrong sort that doesn’t connect to this CPU)

How all this relates to the Sunday Times article, I don’t know.

I just know that the sisters here are missing all the action.

I’m off

Dear Faithful Readers,

Sorry for the lack of update on Friday, since I try to write every weekday. Been a busy week.

I’m off to India. I will try to have mini-updates everyday, so stay tuned.

Have a great week ahead!

– Isaiah

Live a little

I saw Diane Keaton naked last night.

The rest of Something’s Gotta Give was equally lovely.

Diane Keaton plays Erica Barry, an uptight, divorced writer who falls in love with Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson).

In the following scene, Erica tells Harry she loves him. Harry likes her too but being a man, is afraid to commit.

HARRY: Can you cut me a little slack? My life’s been turned upside down.
ERICA: Yeah. Mine too.
HARRY: Then let’s each get our bearings.
ERICA: I don’t want my bearings. I’ve had my bearings my whole fucking life.

This Sunday, I’m flying off to Mumbai for work.

My boss encouraged me to extend my stay for a few more days. Keenly aware of its Bollywood connections, he chose to describe my trip there as a “homecoming”.

Curious choice of words.

The last time I was there, I had an entourage. If I extend my stay, I will be unchaperoned.

I am used to traveling alone and exploring strange, new worlds. Oddly enough, this time, I am not too sure whether I am ready for the clutter and chaos that is India.

My little excursion to the Indian embassy did nothing to subdue the niggling fear.

I took queue number 278 and waited to collect my visa. The collection counter was supposed to be in business at 4:15.

Alas, it wasn’t the case yesterday and you can smell the tension in the air.

It was close to 5 when the doors opened. That brought some measure of happiness for some.

It was short-lived.

Sometime between 5:15 and 5:30, the queue counter stopped working.

And Man became animals.

The whole jungle swamped in front of the counter. The cheetahs and the hares at the forefront. The tortoises and the snails, who looked like they had too much curry, were far behind.

I was in the mediocre middle.

Someone shouted, “They are still stuck in the 40s”. Another waved his ticket angrily, “I paid for express”. Others suffered silently.

It was another 15 minutes before I left that piece of India.

I am thankful that I live in an orderly and efficient society. But there are many times I feel that I am missing out on some of the fun, some of the life, some of the vitality.

I think Erica Barry must have felt the same way. Enough of bearings, enough of structure, enough of order, enough of comfort, enough of the same old boring lifestyle.

I haven’t made up my mind yet about staying longer in India. But I probably will.

It’s time to introduce a little mess, a little chaos, a little unpredictability, a little disorder into my life.

It’s time to live a little.

John Peel

John Peel died Monday evening, aged 65.

I must confess I was a bigger fan of Dave Lee Travis than John Peel. Nevertheless, in the long lonely days of my latchkey existence, the John Peel Show was often in the background.

Robert Hanks describes perfectly what I remembered of this man:

“People who spent their adolescence tuned into Peel’s Radio 1 show received an extensive education in modesty, kindness and gentle sarcasm, and learned that an appreciation of the music of rebellion and hate doesn’t necessarily preclude grace of manner and tolerance: that being nice was kind of cool.”

“But over at least three decades he mattered to his listeners not only because of the records he played, but because of the way he talked between the records (it is important that for Peel it always was between records: it would have struck him as a gross discourtesy, to band and listener, to talk over the music).”

John Peel was a man who loved music, stayed out of the way, and played his records. He’d rather let the music speak for itself.

In the same way, I will stop writing and let you hear him yourself.

I leave you with this:

“The Monday evening show the weekend after the Hillsborough tragedy was a piece of broadcasting I’ll never forget.

He said nothing at the start of his show. He just played a record. A long slow record. It was Aretha Franklin’s heart breaking gospel version of You’ll Never Walk Alone.

I looked through the glass from my adjacent studio and John was just weeping. Silently. So were all of us – his listeners.

Nothing more needed to be said. ”

Satan Speaks

Satan speaks.

Not only that, he blogs too. And since he is the only one who answered my cry for topics (see comments on previous post), I will entertain this Faithless Reader.

I asked for 1 topic and in typical Singaporean fashion, he gave me 7, and asked me to choose 1. So I thought I will please this Foul Fiend and include ALL the topics in 1 fictitious blog:

1) Write a story beginning with the words, “Never would I imagine that he could say such a preposterous thing.”
2) Write a story ending with the words, “The train sped away, taking my heart with it.”
3) Write an entry about anything as long as it contains the sentence, “Wah, damm jia lat you know. Confirm.”
4) Describe 2 or 3 strange people which you have encountered in your life.
5) If you were given one million dollars, what would you do with it?
6) Imagine that the CEO of Media Corp is your brother-in-law. He has just given you a call the other day to inform you that he is interested in starting a radical newspaper to compete with Streats and Today. He wants to hire you to pioneer this, and would pump in any amount of money you require to get this going. Describe what this paper would be like.
7) Write about the complexity of simplicity. Richard Foster wrote about this before, no kidding. Don’t know how he pulled this one off.

Hee hee.How’s that sir? Hee 🙂 Mr S Tan


Never would I imagine that he could say such a preposterous thing.

Ni hao (literally “You’re good!”).

The Chinese tourist said it with such gusto that I’ll make sure he’ll burn in hell when he gets there.

How dare you greet me with goodness? I am Satan. Tremble and Fear, from Toa Payoh to Tanah Merah. I am the absence of goodness, the abundance of badness. I am…

Comrade, where is St. Andrew’s Cathedral?

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

I regained my composure in time to point this Confused Chinese Communist Psycho (CCCP) to Chijmes instead, charming him with tales of sweet convent girls and religious devotion. Formerly a religious institution, this is the place where people go to get high, get laid and get broke.

My kind of place.

I rarely leave Hell but once in a while, I’ll have a break and I’ll make it a point to come to this country to visit the Old Man.

Even I need a mentor.

So here I was, at City Hall MRT, waiting for the train. And the train was late.

Now apparently, the MRT has been the fashionable way for many Singaporeans to jump queue (a revered local custom, I was told) to see me. True enough, I overheard a MRT staff mumbling into his walkie, “Confirm train delay is it? Another jumper at Bishan. Confirm dead already is it? Wah, damm jia lat (terrible) you know. Confirm.”

I used to celebrate wildly when things like that happen. Now, it takes the special and strange people for me to sit up and notice.

When Billy Ray first came to Hell, he was very upset. He kept saying, “I’ve been a good man all my life. I went to church every Sunday. I was a perfect gentlemen. I raised my kids well. I took good care of my horses. Why is this happening to me?”

And I kept telling him the same thing.

“You invented line-dancing”.

Billy Ray’s settled in now and leads the monthly mass dancing, just to take the edge off.

I made sure I was around when Woody Porty first arrived.

“Thanks for creating Teletubbies. I am a big fan.”

To this day, she stills mutters “Damm” four times in a row.

Time flies when you’re having fun. Before I knew it, I was at the Old Man’s place.

He welcomed me with a cheque for one million dollars.

“Take it. Thanks for helping me with the successful handover.”

I told him to take half and dedicate it to Feminist Research. The other half should go to the Republican party.

We talked about old times. He wanted advice from me and that took me by surprise.

Maybe he’s getting senile.

He asked:

Imagine that the CEO of Media Corp is your brother-in-law. He has just given you a call the other day to inform you that he is interested in starting a radical newspaper to compete with Streats and Today. He wants to hire you to pioneer this, and would pump in any amount of money you require to get this going. Describe what this paper would be like.

I told him:

“Let’s have an award-winning newspaper that should only win the sexy awards like design and graphics. Let’s have a newspaper that meddles in the affairs of our neighbors but not meddle in our own affairs. Then, give control of the newspaper over to yes-men and security folks.”

Apparently, I was told, such a newspaper already exists.

I told him I would look into it.

“What’s the matter? You losing your touch?”

“Just a bit tired. It’s not easy running Hell.”

“Yes and no. The simple part is the fear. Manage the fear and all will be well. How to get the fear going is the complex part. For me, I have my yes-men, my woody-men, my security folks and my large extended family to thank.”

He paused and smiled. I knew what was going on.

He was about to make a deal with the Devil.

“Why don’t we switch places, for a while, who knows, it might do you some good?”


From the nether world to the first world. The procedure took less than a minute; a simple spell to switch our hearts.

I did not feel any different. It was almost like my old heart.

The absence of goodness. The abundance of badness. The…

“See you in 2 months.”

He wished me luck and bade me goodbye.

I stood at the Platform of Purgatory and waved hesitantly.

The train sped away, taking my heart with it.

How are you?

I hate tough questions.

Like the other day, someone asked me:

How are you?

How do you answer a question like that?

In the past, I have reduced the state of my being to “Fine”, Busy”, “Ok” and definitely too many “Not so good”.

But I am not going to lie anymore.

How can I reduce the complexities, richness and the wonderful chaos of my so-called life to a few words?

Like right now, I am feeling disappointed, angry, grateful, tired, alive. At the same time. Plus, a couple of emotions I can’t put my finger to.

Ok, maybe I’m screwed up.

I especially hate this question when people ask in their “auto-roaming” mode. Like you know, when you walking about in the office, and you see a familiar face, and automatically, those 3 detestable words come out.

Many people don’t even stop when they ask this. Some might slow down but they don’t give you enough time to process that question and say ” I’m disappointed, angry, grateful, tired, feel alive and I feel a whole lot of emotions I don’t even know myself”.

I have a feeling many people who ask this question aren’t really interested in the answers. And those who give simple answers aren’t really listening to the question.

How are you is a question that has lost its meaning. It is a question that demands brevity, not truth. It is a question of custom, not concern. It is a question that asks too much and gives too little.

But there is hope.

My Mahjong Maniac Mother called me on Saturday and the first thing she asked me was:

Have you eaten?

It is an ancient Chinese question that has stood the test of time.

(Before another faithful reader accused me of bigotry, I must say that in exalting my own culture, I have not done this at others’ expense. I am really proud of my heritage except those dark, unfashionable days of the Chinese pigtail)

Have you eaten is a superior alternative to How are you. It is a question that goes straight to the engine of human life – the stomach. Yet, it is non-invasive, unlike the other question, which on a bad day, can reduce one to tears. It is a question suited to rapid movement since the answers are always short. It is a question that is almost, in every instance, followed by a truthful answer.

Let’s banish How are you to the higher realms of intellectual discourse. Let it be uttered over lingering sips of ulong tea, over long dinners in the presence of wine and butlers, in private libraries and even in the sanctuary of the bedroom.

But only after and never before fornication.

Have no doubts. How are you is a intimate and intense question. Give it respect, give it time and give it intellectual and spiritual commitment.

If you happen to fall short, there’s always Have you eaten?

I hope this finds you well-fed and satisfied.

An Invitation

Nothing today…

But a simple invitation for you to tell me what you want me to write.

Things that you care about.

Things that keep you awake at night.


I don’t have answers. Instead I offer you time, empathy and friendship.

Let’s start with your words on the comments page.

Let’s end with hope on every page.

4 Draycott Park

Once upon a time, Tuesdays were perfect.

But not before enduring a nauseating cocktail of Keynesian economics, tortuous trigonometry and the amorous leanings of the wif of bath.

A Levels was hell.

And if you don’t believe in Hell, you haven’t met Anal Agnes, who spoke Chaucer and broke spirits.

Tough. Uncompromising. Unyielding.

And we’re only talking about her substantial posterior.

But come face to face with the Breaker of Balls, the Harbinger of Horror and the Tyrant of Terror, let’s just say…

It’s not a pretty sight.

But not even this Beast of Boredom, this Leecher of Life can stop Tuesdays from being perfect.

(My body may be hers, but never my Spirit)

No matter how bad the day was, a most enchanting evening would begin at 7pm.

I would make my way to 4 Draycott Park, usually with classmate Curator Cheong, who like me, scorned academia but loved cinema.

Those were times unlike today. No Internet, no DVDs, no glut of film festivals and almost no foreign films from Cathay or Shaw.

(For some reason, I have never considered Hong Kong films foreign)

And we were 2 teenage cineasts, with little money to spare.

Ok, maybe things haven’t changed that much.

The French were kind enough to offer us a little projection room for 2 hours of pure cinematic magic.

It didn’t matter that the room was a little dingy. Or if you were late, you would be seated at the back and missing the subtitles. Or if the print was old and dirty.

Or the motley crew of oddballs that graced the screenings.

What mattered was on the screen.

Over the course of 2 years, I was mesmerized by tales of sordid affairs, crimes of passion, duels and fights, criminals on the run and detectives on a trail.

In these foreign lands, peopled by strange tongues, it was ok to be different, ok to be flawed, ok to be estranged.

Redemption was always within reach, provided you were willing to pay the price.

These were films, unlike any I have ever seen. The cinema was ambiguous, subtle and sublime.

And it helped me make sense of a world of Anal Agnes, stuffy peers and a punishing environment.

When the going got tough, there was always Tuesdays.


Once upon a time, Tuesdays were perfect.

In the morning, I read Economics, Math and Literature.

In the evenings, I had an education.


My friends are crazy.

This Sunday, Ravishing Rox is gearing herself to run a half-marathon for women in San Francisco.

Last month, Athletic Al tried persuading me to participate in the Sheares Bridge Run & Army Half Marathon.

They are all nuts.

Do you know the origin of the marathon?

“The name “marathon” comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who, according to legend, ran from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon.”

And do you know what happened to this Mr P. Dippy – Mr. Just-Do-It-and-No-Horsing-Around Greek Hero?

He ran the 26 miles, “announced the Greek victory with the words ‘Nike’ , or ‘Victory’ and died on the spot.”

Now you understand why I am not dying to run.

Yesterday, Tantalizing Tams sent me a link to the upcoming French Film Festival Movie Marathon.

Has the whole world gone mad?

Why would anyone subject themselves to the torture of watching a series of disparate films in one sitting?

For a good deal? For the novelty? For bragging rights? (I survived Wicker Park and Mona Lisa Smile in 1 night)

I never had a problem with the film franchise marathons (Spiderman, X-Men, Lord of the Rings). Let’s face it: You don’t need that much intellectual commitment to get by those films.

But when an institution that promotes language, culture and the arts starts to pander to the kinky tastes of a whimsical audience, I think there’s something really wrong.

I see French films the way I see French cuisine. It has to be studied, critiqued and consumed slowly.

“The French… have surrounded food with so much commentary, learning and connoisseurship as to clothe it in the vestments of civilization itself… Cooking is viewed as a major art form: innovations are celebrated and talked about as though they were phrases in the development of a style of painting or poetry… A meal at a truly great restaurant is a sort of theatre you can eat.” Richard Bernstein

I would never imagine going to a French buffet. In the same way, the idea of a French Film Marathon revolts me.

Are we going to be helpless corroborators as this Monster of a Marathon disparages the French Film?


Boycott the Film Marathon!

Boycott the Cultural Assassins!

For Renoir! For Truffaut! For Goddard!