Sunday, December 28, 2008

By the River

Moral 1: Never forget to charge the battery of your camera before you go traipsing through the city.

Moral 2: Things might not always be what they promise to be, so be prepared for disappointments (but don't give them more importance than they deserve, for they'll most likely be followed by something spectacular as an alleviation).

Moral 3: Even if you binge at a restaurant at midnight, you are bound to get hungry (or have an appetite- however you choose to look at it) early in the morning, before you go to bed.

Moral 4, and the most important one: Never ever go out with a slightly sprained neck to admire a beautiful place, especially one where the structures rise straight into the sky without inhibition or hesitance.

Whew! Moralising done, Miss Preachy Goody-Goody can now revert to her true evil self and get down to the actual business of story-telling.

It started out as any other day. I woke up at my normal time (which would probably be called tea-time in more respectable parts of the world), lamented that another Saturday was going to go waste without a chance to understand better the culture of the city I'm living in, when my roommate suggested we go to the museum. We did set out with that intention, but not at the right time. When you leave home at 8 in the evening, no curator would really be willing to entertain you, so we decided to go to the Esplanade- no difficulty making decisions here- and headed for the sparkling domes that house theatres, a mall (naturally) and a library. An open-air concert was on, people were lounging around, talking, taking pictures, laughing, celebrating birthdays, waiting for a concert to begin, or simply walking around aimlessly, and you would know by now which category we belonged to.

We stopped at a cafe with a German-sounding name for some ice cream. After a sporting struggle with the near-frozen ice cream, the friendly (seemingly Indian) man at the counter gave us our generous scoops of rum-raisin and strawberry ice-cream in crisp cones. The rum-raisin was near-heaven. Absolutely delectable.

We peeped into a toy-shop, not realising that it was for expectant mothers, making a somewhat sheepish exit when the salesgirl asked us in rather unintelligible English if we'd come in to do some shopping for a baby or were expecting one or something to that effect. We wandered into a gift shop, looked through the windows of a darkened store that sold musical instruments- violins in finished and half-finished states, guitars, and other silhouettes catching some light from the brightly-lit passages of the Esplanade. It reminded me of the Old Curiosity Shop (please do not embarrass me by asking me about my progress with the book- that is a taboo topic for the moment).

Our next stop was Marina Bay. We walked half a circle to the spot where the emblem of Singapore, the lion with a mouth that spouts water endlessly, stands looking dispassionately at the massive lighted buildings all around, at the slowly rotating, colourfully blinking Singapore Flyer, undaunted by the numerous tourists making a celebrity out of it and taking pictures enthusiastically. The lights shone down on the thick, black ripples, casting a haze all around. Surprising, isn't it then, that we were actually able to see the stars in the sky? A slight, imperceptible breeze blew the spray in our direction, lion's saliva on my glasses and my arm. The Fullerton Hotel ( loomed majestically in the background, a lovely structure boasting a colonial past and great wealth, bedecked for Christmas and the New Year.

The area around is strewn with such marvels of British architecture- the Cavenagh Bridge, for instance- a brilliantly lit structure, built sometime in 1869, arching over the sparkling waters of the Singapore River. It is named after a Governor of the Straits, and conjured up some fascinating images in my head. Take away the tourists and tourists, strip the bridge of its lights, and you can hear the clash of metal, armies on either side preparing for war, a battle between the Covenanters and the Episcopalians, straight out of Old Mortality. (I know I went overboard with my imagining there, but I just couldn't help it.) The notice at the entrance to the bridge prohibiting cavalry had me confused, until I searched it out ( We walked up the bridge to the opposite side, round to where diners sat at candle-lit tables outside the Museum of Asian Culture. Unfortunately for us, the museum was already closed, and we weren't exactly the tux-black dress type, dressed in jeans as we were, to even pretend to be invitees at whatever distinguished, classy gathering that was.

Nothing quite beats the pleasure of walking in an unknown city. Though the tall, umpteen-storeyed towers with the names of well-known international banks (learnt through distant advertisements, as sponsors of F1 teams or names in the financial sections of the newspaper) have now become familiar, there is still enough scope for discovery and wandering. I can do so in this city without getting lost- for how can I get lost in a city I barely know?

The water reflected the slew of colours thrown by the lights from buildings near and far; every conceivable colour, a rainbow of sorts trembling restlessly even in the still air, a boat quietly slicing through its deep restfulness. For once, I didn't complain about light pollution or man's wickedness in destroying nature and rip it of its beauty to prove his own illegitimate, borrowed supremacy. The architecture in Singapore is indeed marvellous. How concrete can mould and twist itself into such ambitious, domineering or graceful structures is inconceivable to my awed senses. It is a treat in every way, though, walking through unknown streets, not knowing what you are to be surprised by at the next bend in the road. Nights here are vibrant and exciting. You don't have to be a regular club-hopper or party-goer to appreciate the splendour and the thrill of being out in the city at night. (If, of all people, I am talking about going out at night, it has to be true.)

Need I say it another time? Well, I will. I love this city.

PS: The few pictures that I did manage to take before my camera's battery played foul are at


Arun said...

loved this piece!

//"The rum-raisin was near-heaven. Absolutely delectable." ya hadta plug that in didntcha?!

//"...for how can I get lost in a city I barely know?" :)

The pics were awesome !

Jaya S said...

Arun: Come on, it wasn't aimed at anyone in particular ;-). Thanks. I could have done better with the pics, maybe next time.

Sunshine said...

Somehow this city sounds soo much more prettier when I read what you are writing! You have a lovely way with words! :)

As someone who has been living here for quite some time now - welcome to Spore! :)

Jaya S said...

Sunshine: Thank you so much! I do think it is a lovely city, and I've pretty much liked most of what I've seen over the past few months :-).

airborne said...

Hey give wordpress a shot yaar.It would do justice to your pics that way! :P

Jaya S said...

airborne: Thanks for the suggestion :-). Maybe I'll try it this weekend (if I can stay awake, that is :-P).

Writing for Crows said...

Me too Me too!! Makes me want to go to Singapura now. You have a lovely way with words. I'm a huge fan!

Jaya S said...

Writing: Thank you. Honoured. You should come here sometime, you know, I'm sure you'd like it (and take many pics, too).