I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

humansofsg (5)

I was out on assignment in bugis and feeling exhausted, decided to plop down on a bench on the fourth storey of bras basah complex. A nice, cool wind happened to be blowing and I just sat there for a few moments breathing, taking it in. After a while, an old man hobbled by and looked at me and the filled bench. I quickly put my bags on the floor and made space for him. The first thing he told me was his age: 85 years. And for the next half and hour or so, he proceeded to tell me his life story in chinese.

Everything happens for a reason seems to be one of the most cliche sayings. Yet, I believe it more and more firmly each time. This old man had left his walking stick behind and had come back to try and find it, but to no avail. He said that he wasn’t too steady on his feet and when he had tried to sit down previously, he spun 2 rounds before plonking down on the seat. People thought he was drunk but he wasn’t. He told me about his 5 children and how having children is hard (to which I answered that I wouldn’t know), his previous job in a bank (there used to be many small banks rather than the few banking giants now), ridiculous old customs in which you had to wait for your older siblings to be married before your own turn came.

He said that love is just a part of life; impossible to make up our whole existence, told me about how people, no matter how rich and powerful, will still go whenever their time comes. These elderly people are overflowing with wisdom and they know it not. It’s heartening that they are so willing to share their life experiences.


This man carries a trendy red bag and wears super funky floral slip-ons (which he bought from hong kong). He goes to bras basah complex to read up on current affairs and the diplomatic relationships between countries- he thinks it’s important to know about these things. He made his way there himself by public transport even though he lives a considerable distance away. I told him that I enjoy photography and before he left, he told me that he hopes that I’ll set up a photography studio in the future- I told him I’ll put this picture up if I do. He probably doesn’t know the impact he made on me that day but I’m filled to the brim with gratitude.



stepping art-side my comfort zone

when i was young, i harboured fantasies of becoming a fashion designer or some sort of a cartoon artist. as dreams go though, and as phases proceed, that dream faded away and after that i never considered myself an artist in the slightest manner- maybe just someone who doodled for fun or on birthday cards when the situation arose. in fact, i never really did art art after secondary 2 when art lessons were removed from our curriculum, so i wasn’t given many opportunities to draw or play with paint beyond that. besides, drawing wasn’t something i considered myself good enough at or was interested enough in to freely choose to practise it in my spare time.

yet, on my india trip, i was given a sketchbook, and obviously, considering the circumstances i.e. i was travelling with a bunch of architects, i was expected to sketch. i did feel self-conscious definitely, afraid that my amateur reproductions/ interpretations of certain landmarks or patterns would be judged by these artistically superior beings. at first, i even came to a sort of silent consensus with myself that i would use this sketchbook for writing down my thoughts and feelings- probably not what it was intended for, but hey, we all have different modes of expression we are most comfortable with.

but despite my brain’s prior decisions, when i was standing right in front of the places in the moment, absorbing the scenes in their majesty, it just felt so natural to pick up my pen and imitate the beautiful curves and lines, trace the arches and connect the pillars. it wasn’t that words completely eluded me; i did jot down some thoughts as well, but sketching the sight in front of me sort of cemented my experiences and feelings in a different way, as if through my drawing you could understand my  personal interpretation of the scene. my own sketches felt intimate to me; silent moments of concentration and commitment trying to produce something. and it was a good feeling… sort of like i was spending time with the place, making acquaintances and bridging connections.

there was one morning after waking up early to catch the sunrise, that i sat atop a sand dune and just sketched the whole view before me. i think i was there about an hour, until the sun was high up in the sky and i was running late for breakfast. it’s a lovely way to be alone and spend time with yourself and your surroundings- that’s what i’ve realised. it was like i brought away a little part of the scene with me and that made me really happy.

what i’ve learnt and am trying to express is that it pays to step outside your comfort zone. the me before india would have scoffed and dismissed the idea of sketching, because i would have dismissed any form of artistic ability i might possess; it’s easier to give up and just not try than to take a leap of faith. i’m still not Picasso’s descendant but my sketches definitely surpassed the lowly expectations i previously had. don’t discount yourself and deprive yourself of experiences just because you don’t want to fail/ embarrass yourself/ believe that you are bad at something. you never know that the you you truly are is bigger than the you you think you are!

they’re not masterpieces but they’re little pieces of my vision, and i’m proud. now i think it would be nice to bring along a sketchbook when i travel, to capture a scene quietly and patiently, stroke by stroke.:-)08042016094154-000108042016094211-000108042016094227-0001


everyday life (more from india)



it never really occurred to me that happiness could be a state rather than an emotion. but i guess, for now at least, it truly is possible. and it’s where we’d all like to be, i’m sure.

about the romantic idea of children as pure, innocent, good:

they skip by and break into wide, carefree smiles, simple sincere talk, nudging each other with playful good intention. clear bright warm eyes like brand new camera lenses that haven’t yet been tainted by the dust of judgment, accepting each individual equally regardless of all the unnecessary factors that crowd our complicated adult world. minds and hearts like uncluttered storerooms, bearing no true grudges or grievances. hopeful, trustable, a state that we can never revert to- I know this surely. I know this as I know my wonder-filled gaze that trails behind their unseeing footsteps, heedlessly trudging on.


monochrome in a land of colour

when i was in india i particularly loved light and shadow.



i feel the joy virtually pulsing through my body as we walk down the jodhpur streets: finally, finally we are in the real india where real people live and breathe and go about their daily lives. the streets are packed, likely because tomorrow is the holi festival. already the vividness and vibrance is upon everyone, men and children bathed in pink and yellow, coloured trails on the floor and sandstone walls. shop owners lounge in store fronts flanked by metal wares, open white bags of spices, sweets in time-blurred plastic containers and colourful snacks suspended in long strips watching the world move by. the honking is a song that has no start and end, in small streets we cannot move, sucked into the traffic and pollution, the visible white smog that envelops us all. wheelbarrows and cows, motorcycles and pedestrians crowd the lanes and we are all suspended in time together.

luxury is enjoyable but such settings are also what the soul craves- a mouthful of reality, not knowing when to cross roads and grabbing each other, squealing and leaping across. people unexpectedly receptive to the camera, families waving from windows posing for a picture, children jostling each other to fit into the frame. boys boldly saying ‘hello’ and waving (seemingly proud of their english vocabulary), a young girl in a tuk-tuk looking at me and hesitantly raising her hand before shyly dropping it, giving me the sense that some feelings transcend the barriers of language, how a wave is so universal and a smile so welcoming. happiness so open and simple: a game of badminton glimpsed in the back alley, sharing a packet of sweets excitedly and later seeing grape flavoured candy wrappers strewn across the floor, gathering to watch brave souls make the dive into the unbelievable step well like it was a football game, good-natured strangers exclaiming ‘happy holi!’ and giving us purple smears across our cheeks to remember the festivity by. pastel façades not postcard perfect but lovely in a worn, warm sort of way, cracks creeping up walls and discoloured structures, rugged and natural, not artificially conserved. a beautiful water body behind all the buildings like a hidden gem, an unexpected break from the sandstone sights, sitting there a moment to take it in. what strikes me is how time slows down and how everyone is completely alright with the gradual moments- no rush here. the locals are spectators with the day off and they watch us play our game, scurrying around, perpetually pressed for time. people leave their doors and gather outside, revel in each others’ company in noise and in silence. nobody is using their cell phone and there is no hurry at all.




India is so incredibly stunning, a land of warmth and vibrance.


on streams, people and friendships

I’m lucky enough to have met so many kind people and wonderful friends in my life that I think I begin to expect a sort of permanence in every close relationship. If we clicked so easily and were so attached for those few days, sharing our pasts and bearing each others’ secrets, shouldn’t we have remained friends longer, extended the veins of our affinity further?

Yet, thinking about it now, I’m convinced that not every friendship is meant to be like that. Not every friendship you encounter and person you meet is destined to be a lifelong friend and pillar of support, people you go back to and want to meet through the best and worst days. And I’m not saying that impermanence is bad; rather, there is a beauty in temporality, moments you cherish by the seconds like sand falling through your fingers. Just because you couldn’t keep everything doesn’t mean you weren’t happy then, doesn’t mean that all your memories are not worth it. Thinking back now, our time together shines in a golden light, those moments we lost ourselves too much in to ever consider a future past them. Carefree, happy, worry-free, laughing for the sake of it. The people you meet along the way, the people you remember, the times you spent together: all these coalesce and crystallise into memories you hold dear to you, experiences that never would have been as perfect had the characters been altered. I still believe that every human you encounter along your path was placed there for a reason; fate carefully considers its every orchestration.

The perennial streams are lovely. They are always filled, always reliable. You can whisper your secrets into a bottle and set them afloat on these waters, cry tears that will be washed away by the constant currents, let the coolness of the waters rejuvenate you and remind you what it feels like to be alive. These waters will always envelop and surround you like a velvet blanket, they will always be waiting for you to come back- calming and enduring rivers.

The ephemeral streams don’t stay… they disappear after a while. And though you can’t hold on to their fading waters, they too are beautiful. The moments may have been fleeting but they too have washed your skin and heard your deepest fears and thoughts through the bubbles. Long after they’re gone you’ll remember them there in their most beautiful frame, gleaming and flowing through the rocks, with you. Long after they have dispersed into the air and infiltrated the grassy earth, the memories remain, interspersed with your own.


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