Posted in Flash fiction, Singapore

The Iron Box

The feeble, frail and old diamond merchants’ gaze was fixed on the old and rusted Iron box in the attic as he lay dying on the bed surrounded by his remorseful son Stephen, crying daughters and surprised grand children.

‘Grandpa wants his old box’ said the five year old, Stephen’s only son.
‘Shut up’ Stephen said, ‘grandpa is not well. Don’t talk about anything else. There is nothing in the box now except for some rusted iron tubes from his old bicycle’ he said with the appearance of a know all.

The old man opened his mouth twice and then lay still with his eyes fixed on the attic.

Three days after the funeral, the attic and its contents were dumped into the yard for John the ragpicker to collect.

For sure, the old iron box contained worn out iron tubes.

Stephen was pleasantly surprised when John moved in to the next bungalow later that month.

‘Bought it, Sir’, said John, increasing Stephen’s surprise.

‘Doing lots of business, I believe’, said John.

‘Yes Sir, left the rag picking. Became a diamond merchant last week’.

For sure, the old iron box contained worn out iron tubes, as well.

Posted in Flash fiction, Singapore

Taxi gyaan, yet again

Clearing immigration at Changi at 4 in the morning was a breeze, as usual, though my head was throbbing due to the highly turbulent air over the Bay of Bengal.
I quickly drew cash from the ATM and was at the fag end of the taxi queue when I noticed the rather peaceful looking but fragile chinese gentleman near an SMRT taxi.
‘Clementi, uncle,’ I said

‘Vacation a,’ uncle asked.

That was when I noticed that he was straining to see ahead of him. He had to lean forward to see the road ahead. I felt acid secretion in my stomach.

‘Does he have an eye problem?’ I said inwardly while I actually said,’ Uncle, everything alright?’ He never answered. So were he hard of hearing as well ? What a way to start my day,’ I thought.

That was when the lorry came too close. We were already in AYE and there was no one in sight.

‘Oh my God, Uncle, please be careful,’ when the lorry came close once again.

After two minutes, the lorry came to an abrupt halt in front of us and the yound chinese driver jumped out.

He came menacingly towards the taxi gestured uncle to lower the glass window. And started his abuse at uncle. He spoke extremely fast in what I assumed to be Hokkein. His middle finger was raised al through.

Uncle never uttered a word. He kept looking patiently at the abuser.

The abuser left but only after hurling, what I assumed to be, the choicest expletives and combined that with different bodily signs.

I took a photo of the lorry’s number plate and started dialing 999 when Uncle stopped me.

‘Never mind. Leave him. It should have been my mistake. He was probably halving a bad day and found a vent in me.’

‘But, he could have hit you. I suggest you call the police,’ I said.

No, young man, I call the police and he goes to jail. Looks like he is from mainland China. He might have a family there. What will happen to them?’ said uncle.

‘No Uncle, he might have caused an accident, don’t you think so?’

‘See, accident needs two parties. I normally am not party to accidents. So relax.’

I was spell bound and never opened my mouth until I arrived at my destination.

‘Take care and have a nice day, young man’, said uncle and off he drove.

Posted in syrian crisis

Syrian crisis – what ?

Do you know about the middle east problem ? Here is how simple it is :
  1. Syria is Iran’s friend.
  2. Saudi Arabia is Iran’s enemy.
  3. So, Syria is Saudi’s enemy.
  4. Hence Saudi supported Syrian rebels.
  5. US was Saudi’s friend.
  6. Hence Iran was US’s enemy.
  7. But Iran became US’s friend recently.
  8. Even then Iran is Saudi’s enemy.
  9. Hence Saudi supported Syrian rebels.
  10. But Syrian rebels became ISIS.
  11. US didn’t want to fight ISIS.
  12. Because Saudi would be angry.
  13. Hence Saudi attacked ISIS.
  14. But they didn’t want to destroy ISIS in full- brothers, you see.
  15. ISIS exists.
  16. The Syrian people became stateless.
  17. And so they went to Europe.
Still if you didn’t get what the problem is, start from Point 1.
Who bothers if people are killed?  As long as oil flows, all is well.
Did anybody mention ‘Syrian crisis’ ?
Posted in Singapore

Tamil Digital Heritage Fund – Donate generously

Tamil Digital Heritage (TDH) Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is the TDH Fund about?

The TDH Fund has been set up to receive donations towards the Tamil Digital Heritage Project.  The Fund will be used to support the various community efforts relating to different aspects of the project: e.g. the community will assist in annotating the collected books, conducting quality checks on digitised materials and clearing rights with the authors and collecting original manuscripts. The TDH Group has approved the setting up of the Fund under the aegis of the National Library Board (NLB).

What is the National Library Board’s (NLB) role in the Fund?

As stated in Q1, the NLB has assisted the TDH Group to set up the Fund.  The NLB will also administer the Fund on behalf of the TDH Group.  Disbursement of payments is to be in accordance with instructions provided by the authorised members of the TDH Group.

How can I donate to the TDH Fund?

You can donate to the TDH Fund either by cheque or credit card. [If you are a volunteer in the TDH Project or an author whose works will be part of the digital collection, you need not make any more contributions. We thank you for your already generous support of the TDHP.]

How can I donate by cheque?

All cheques should be made payable to “National Library Board”.   Please also download and complete the donation form.

Please indicate “Tamil Digital Heritage Project” at the back of the cheque.   Mail the completed form and cheque to:

National Library Board 100 Victoria Street #14-01 National Library Building Singapore 188064 Attn: Catherine Lim/ Fion Fan, NLB Finance

How can I make a donation using my credit card?

Only Visa/Mastercard credit card donations are accepted.  Please download and sign the donation form. As a hardcopy form is required, please note that scanned copies will not be accepted. Mail completed forms to:

National Library Board 100 Victoria Street #14-01 National Library Building Singapore 188064 Attn: Catherine Lim/ Fion Fan, NLB Finance

Can I claim a tax deduction for my donation?

Donations to the TDH Fund are not tax deductible.

Can I donate cash to the Fund?

Only donations by cheque or credit card (Visa/Mastercard) are accepted.

Will I be able to know how donations received by the Fund are utilised?

All donations will be used only for activities related to the setting up of the Tamil digital collection.

How will I know my donation has been received?

You will receive an official receipt once your donation has been processed.

How will my donation be acknowledged?

    1. TDH Group will write you directly to thank you for the donation.  In addition, your name will be added to the list of donors which will appear in the TDH Project website
  • Is there a minimum sum required for my donation to be accepted?
  1. In order to make the donation meaningful and to make the collection effort worthwhile, we have set a minimum sum of $50 per adult and $2 per student.

Contribution Amount:


o $50      o $100      o Other $__________

Students (18 years of age & below)

o $2      o $5     o $10     o Other $ __________

Whom do I contact for further enquiries?

Please contact Mrs Mahadevi Balasundram at for further enquiries.

Posted in General

‘Kakkaa Muttai – my review of a Tamil film

‘Is this a Tamil film?’ I found myself asking this question when I was watching ‘Kakka Muttai’ (crow’s egg ). I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I don’t watch movies, leave alone tamil movies. But Baradwaj Rangan of The Hindu and Kashayam with Bosskey influenced me to watch the film. And what an experience it was!

The story line is very simple – two slum kids desire a pizza. Do they get to eat or not is what the movie is all about.

The director, M.Manikandan, doesn’t seem to be a newbie to direction. There are subtle messages but no preaching is involved. The way the story has been filmed , the likes of Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth should cringe in shame. The two kids, Ramesh and Vignesh, have lived their roles – they are apparently from a slum it seems.

Let me narrate some scenes where I was completely floored.

‘Oru kilo Three rupees’  – the younger child says this when trying to sell the spilled over coal from the goods wagons. The sense of triumph on the child’s face when he utters the English words ‘three rupees’ is sure to bring tears to the viewer. The aspiration of the child is to speak in English and hence he often says ‘My name is Chinna Kaka Muttai’ ( my name is Crow’s Egg Jr) while he calls his elder brother ‘Periya Kaka Muttai’ (Crow’s Egg Sr ). In a land still obsessed with the belief that speaking in English means a higher strata in society, this triumphant expression of the child of ‘having arrived’ is a stark reminder about the distance that the slum dwellers need to travel to actually ‘arrive’ and be accepted into the urban mainstream.

The child’s facial expression when the tree, where the crow had its nest, is cut is bound to remain in one’s conscience for a long time. The child is sad due to two reasons.

  1. The crow has lost its abode
  2. No more crow eggs for them to get their nutrition from

The child innocently asks the elder brother where would the crow go for the night. The child has lost his only source of nourishment, the crow’s egg. However he is concerned about the safety of the crow now that the tree has been cut. Just the one line that the child speaks moves you beyond anything else any other character in the film says.

The film is also a stark reminder to the Tamil Nadu government. There are two TVs provided by the PDS ration shop while there is no stock of rice. The slum dwellers need rice more than anything else. But they are given two TV sets, free of cost, by the government. A timely message for those who want to hear.

The children want pizza more than even getting their father out of jail.  And they are introduced to pizza when their favorite haunting ground is bought over by a pizza outlet. The practice of inviting film stars to open such outlets draws small children from nearby slums. But the irony is those children are not able to afford an entry into such shops.

The children’s mother, another actor with great potential, expresses her anger and agony at the pain caused by opening such not-affordable shops in the vicinity of slums – all with meager words. She is not against the shop but expresses her despair. Kudos to the female actor.

The two brothers strike a friendship with a well to do child who lives in a gated community. And every time they interact, there do so across the steel gate barrier. The steel gate signifies the class divide and that part has been brilliantly conceptualized. I was just amazed at this.

There is a drunkard who deals in stolen goods. And once he is drunk, he speaks about class divide, the rule of the Maratha warrior Sivaji and the like. But when he is sober, he becomes a practical person who does his daily chore of dealing in stolen goods. A fantastic portrayal of the futility of such rhetorical speeches of the communist kind.

kakkaa muttai picture

I am not sure if the depiction of DBS Bank in the background when the children think of entering the ‘City Center Mall’ was intentional. Even if it was not, I feel the logo of the Singaporean bank in Chennai where two slum children contemplate to enter a mall speaks volumes about the rich-poor divide. Kudos again.

There is a sarcastic depiction of the media as well. The lady reporter is talking about the two slum children in front of the camera ( with the slum as the background ). The two children walk by and are shooed away from the scene. Nothing portrays the insensitive attitude of the media than this one scene. Yet another is when a TV debate on the children is interrupted midway twice once for a commercial break and another for relaying the scene when the children are hit by the pizza shop employee.

Finally, when the younger child says that the shop is cold, referring to the air-conditioning in the shop, serves as a hammer strike on our conscience. The child has never experienced air-conditioning in his life.

The ending where the child compares the pizza with his late grand mother’s dosai and delivers his judgement – if you would have watched the movie thus far, chances are, you would not be able to see the child’s expression as your eyes would have been flooded with tears- is a master piece.

Tamil cinema is not dead, yet.

Posted in Writers

Weekend Edition – Just Be Yourself. Yeah, Right. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

A fantastic write-up for aspiring writers. I recommend a close reading until the end. The essence is just 2 words – be yourself. In this extremely minute attention span, devote some 10 mins of your time and read through this.

Live to Write - Write to Live

The not-so-easy art of being yourself

pin who you wereBeing yourself is hard. Maybe you’re more evolved than I am, but I’m pretty sure that when it comes to who I am, I’m still figuring it out. I know I’m supposed to be a grown-up, but I still feel like an awkward kid half the time. I still have so many questions and doubts. I still feel like an unfinished story.

People say “just be yourself” as if it’s a simple matter. They mean well. They intend their words as reassurance or encouragement, but whenever I hear that bit of advice, it’s as if someone opened a trap door beneath my feet.  As I hurtle down into who-knows-what, my head echoes with the question, “But … who am I?”

··• )o( •··

When I was in high school, I was what you might call a “floater.” I did not belong to any of the usual…

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