Rambles

I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

16 july- one day to closing

sitting in the turmoil of the cardboard playground alone and feeling strangely at peace. around me workers are drilling a deafening melody, egg cartons messy with painted hollows, recycled materials strewn all about. it has always been my most hated place but i see it was a blessing i was put here today, to find the quiet I haven’t known in a long while. steadying my mind for the many unknowns and the immensely different life that lies ahead without explicitly entertaining those thoughts, letting my inner child run free with this spread of art materials and questioning the existence of adult creativity- do i still have it in me? I find it again when I pick up my brush and the bottles of paint and get my hands dirty once more; it is therapeutic and the most silent my mind has been in a while.

bugis figures

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hoi an snapshots

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My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An

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There is something special about old structures because in some ways, it seems that time hasn’t touched them at all. Centuries have passed and the surrounding landscape has changed drastically but even so, we are seeing this holy place in the same light, with the same wonder in our eyes as people of the past. If the photo is captured just like this, without an interfering human figure, I can almost imagine people a thousand years ago going about their daily lives in this setting.

Our guide speaks to us and points out parts of the structure that were built in the past, and these bricks standing at over a thousand years old are clean and adhere strongly to each other. They are firm and sturdy and look good as new. Yet, the modern reinforcements around them are twenty-odd years young and eroded, stained with a brackish black and crumbly-looking. We are still trying to figure out how people of the past built, but to no avail.

It’s a pity that we’ve lost the ways of the past, but there’s also a strange beauty in it. It is this very ignorance which allows us to fully understand the worth of ancient methods and marvel at their minds; we always try harder and appreciate more of something we cannot easily attain. It is precisely because the information eludes us that we now appreciate these structures as true works of art and continue to be intrigued by it. Technology in all its might is somehow unable to replicate or decode the work of the past; it is powerful that rudimentary problem-solving skills and ways have somehow beaten the complex formulas and equations that we have created.

hoi an impressions

The town slowly trickles to life even before 5am, early risers making their way about the pre-dawn blue glow. A lone figure traipses through quiet padi fields waiting to be worked upon; on the tranquil river surface a single boat rests, fishermen collecting their catch from nets left overnight, a scene still and undisturbed as a painting. True early birds make up the scene of bustling seafood markets which open past 3am, complete with shrimps wriggling and jumping in baskets, huge stingrays splayed and locals buzzing in Vietnamese, casting curious looks at out-of-place tourists. An atmosphere of peace as we hurtle past fields cast in shadow, the potential of a new day not yet dawning on them; the sun blooms in the sky like a flaming red flower as pale orange streaks tail our motorbikes. There’s a feeling of waking up with the town as the cool breeze graces our skin and masks our conversations. Tall fields shroud farmers who work relentlessly amidst them, conical straw hats like floating sails in a sea of green. People stroll and dust the streets in fervent sweeps- housework their form of morning exercise; they station themselves at their gates like watchmen, unabashed to stare outrightly at anyone unfamiliar. Dense red carpets of chillies dry in the sun; through the open doors of homes televisions still resemble boxes. Nature is their largest playground and against the setting sun, the beach is a mass gathering of silhouettes. Strong waves ride atop each other like terraces in rice fields as people wait to dunk themselves into the surging currents.

inanimate: kallang

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inanimate: bugis

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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.

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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)

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