Pasir Ris Passion

Every day I see Pulau Ubin.

I don’t mean from within, but from without, two-and-a-half kilometres away, from the public balcony of our condo in Pasir Ris, which offers a grand view of Ubin in all its greeny, islandy, stuck-in-the-nineteen-fifties glory.

Between the Pasir Ris beach on the mainland and Pulau Ubin is a narrow bit of the Johor Strait, which separates Singapore from Malaysia. If I look to the right, eastwards, I can see it opening into the South China Sea. If I look to the left, I see it leading to Pasir Gudang, Johor, an industrialised port and petrochemicals hub, from where palm oil and other biofuels are shipped around the world, and whose containers and cranes and chimneys with nighttime flares offer a stark, Mordor-like contrast to the serenity around.

From the Pasir Ris beach, in other words, with a little turn of the head one is presented with two visions of planet earth. Pulau Ubin is the pre-industrial, bucolic paradise that our hearts pine for; Pasir Gudang the post-industrial ugliness that our lifestyles demand. The world that we miss, and the world that is.

Continue reading “Pasir Ris Passion”

Ups and Downs of writing in the pandemic year

Note: Amid this flight from the Facebook/WhatsApp empire, a quick note that I also have a Telegram channel: SudhirTV.

It has been a fun, fulfilling, rewarding year being a writer and commentator in Singapore. Thanks so much for following my work. I’m feeling more enthusiastic about Singapore’s social, political and literary climate than I ever have. It’s a terribly exciting time to be living and working here.

Nevertheless, I thought it might be good to spend some time going over some of the hurdles independent writers here face, something that I’m regularly asked about.

So, treat this for what it is, a reflective, end-of-year piece for the benefit of readers and young writers in Singapore interested not only in the product but the process.

Continue reading “Ups and Downs of writing in the pandemic year”

Singapore’s leadership crisis: Lawrence and Pritam

This is the last of five in a series on Singapore’s prospective next prime minister. If you have enjoyed this series, please consider making a donation here to support my future work.

The pandemic has been tragic. Yet the assorted losses and disruptions to ordinary life have also prodded many Singaporeans to think about better ways of doing things, of living the good life. 

Some are enjoying more time with old friends and family; others have opened their hearts (and wallets) to migrant workers they hitherto ignored.

Continue reading “Singapore’s leadership crisis: Lawrence and Pritam”

Singapore’s leadership crisis: Shan, the phenom

This is the fourth of five in a series on Singapore’s prospective next prime minister. See here for the third, on Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, 61, minister for law & minister for home affairs

It may seem odd to include Shanmugam, never touted as a potential leader of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), in this series. Yet he is clearly a, if not the, power behind the throne. And observers do wonder if he harbours even greater ambitions.

Continue reading “Singapore’s leadership crisis: Shan, the phenom”

Singapore’s leadership crisis: why not Tharman?

This is the third of five in a series on Singapore’s prospective next prime minister. See here for the second, on Ong Ye Kung and Chan Chun Sing.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 63, senior minister

May 7th 2015 is a day that will live long in the memory of many Singaporeans. At the forty-fifth St Gallen Symposium in Switzerland, the BBC’s Stephen Sackur, whose piercing questions on HARDtalk have left many guests floundering, took on then deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. 

In a broad conversation about the Singapore model, Sackur critiqued, among other things, our form of democracy, the lack of press freedoms and our relatively weak social protections.

It would be a bit unfair to say that Sackur left with a bloody nose—unfair to Tharman, who never once engaged in the viciousness, the defensive moralising or the whataboutisms that one associates with many in the Singapore establishment. 

Continue reading “Singapore’s leadership crisis: why not Tharman?”

Singapore’s leadership crisis: Ong Ye Kung and Chan Chun Sing

This is the second of five in a series on Singapore’s prospective next prime minister. See here for the first, on Heng Swee Keat.

Ong Ye Kung, 51, minister for transport

To his fans, Ong Ye Kung (centre) is precisely the sort of leader Singapore needs in these uncertain times. Somebody who is affable and politically savvy; and who is able to listen to diverse views and then act quickly and decisively, with a conviction steely enough to fend off naysayers.

Continue reading “Singapore’s leadership crisis: Ong Ye Kung and Chan Chun Sing”

Singapore’s leadership crisis: will Heng Swee Keat be our next PM?

If you think the pandemic has left your own plans in tatters, spare a thought for poor Lee Hsien Loong (middle), Singapore’s sixty-eight-year-old prime minister.

Recently on the verge of stepping down after sixteen years at the helm, he now does not know when he can.

Continue reading “Singapore’s leadership crisis: will Heng Swee Keat be our next PM?”

Why are there so many Champagne (Panettone) Socialists in Singapore?

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Bernie Sanders, US politicians and self-described Democrat Socialists, have in recent years been lampooned as Champagne Socialists. 

Among AOC’s sins include her fourteen-thousand dollar ensemble for a recent Vanity Fair cover, one merely borrowed for the shoot. (Did she dance in those Louboutins?) 

Continue reading “Why are there so many Champagne (Panettone) Socialists in Singapore?”