Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Foreigner in Singapore

Life works in incredulous ways, or so I thought, when I found myself miles away from home in a country I'd never dreamed I would be in. Just a few weeks after I'd been wondering if I'd ever have a chance to go abroad, I found myself bang in the middle (not quite literally) of Singapore, especially when the first-ever F1 night race, the Singapore GP, was around the corner. Contrary to popular belief, I didn't attend the race- did not even catch it on television, thanks to work. I did, however, catch the briefest glimpse of a Ferrari and what I assumed to be a BMW zooming by during qualifying, as our taxi passed by a section of the track. I was thrilled about it, about having got to hear the whine of the engines of F1 cars, having actually spotted a Ferrari- I raved about the 'event' to anybody who cared to listen (never mind that the number of such people was fewer than I'd have liked).

I never meant to disappear without notice, but everything happened pretty fast and with astonishing suddenness, so I couldn't write a decent hiatus blog. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't- one month and a half isn't really a hiatus, is it?

I first realised I really was in another country when I applied for a library membership and was asked,"You are a foreigner, right?" With hundreds of South Asian faces popping up in the sea of spotless creamy-complexioned ones, you don't really feel out of place. So what is Singapore like? Indescribably clean, organised, glittering with the lights of malls and skyscrapers. I stay with five other girls in an eighteenth-storey flat, and I like looking out at the sky, uninhibited and vast, spreading out in the distance, puffy clouds splayed across the smooth blue. As darkness falls, the lights come twinkling on, and there comes my only grudge- I can hardly see any stars, for the glow of neon obscures everything that is pure and natural. One spectacular sight I remember, though, is of a yellow oval moon suspended in the sky a few nights ago, dark clouds swirling about it.

There is much I need to explore here in Singapore, and I made a start with the National Library. It is Paradise. I have no other word for it. Every author I ever wanted to read adorns the vast shelves of the library, and you could just go in and get lost and never ever want to come out. Bliss of the highest order. (More raving later.) By the way, these are the books I have finished over the last few weeks: E M Forster's The Longest Journey, which I cannot claim to have thoroughly understood, but nevertheless liked; Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, exquisitely written, but a little jarring and discordant (as I felt) in its use of tenses as it wavered back and forth between past and present; Muriel Maufroy's book Rumi's Daughter, a breezy little book, but a bit too heavily inspired by The Alchemist, sometimes to the point of rephrasing ideas mentioned by Paulo Coelho. Currently, I'm reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Warton.

Office is by the ocean, quite close to Sentosa. You can see the head of the Merlion poking into the sky, often hidden by one of the cruise ships that float in. Some of the ships are admirable- long, sleek, sailing in slowly and gracefully. The waters of the Indian Ocean change colour every hour, sometimes green, at other times grey, never still, rippling in the moonlight or catching the shimmer of the sun. They conspire with the elements and send up sudden clouds which spread out across the sky imperceptibly, opening up as light, soft showers of rain. What I miss here is the fragrance of moist soil, for it is mostly cement and concrete all over, and you never really hear the water gurgling through drains or your feet go squelching through the mud.

There is much I want to talk about, but as I am in a tearing hurry, I don't think I'll do enough justice to any of it. I spent the whole afternoon in anticipation of this single hour of blogging, and that should explain how much I've missed it. This post is incoherent and disorganised, more so than usual, but I know I shall sleep easy for a few nights.