I didn’t watch Out of Africa as planned. Instead I watched three dhishoom-dhishoom movies, a movie adaptation of a Broadway musical and a smartly-written independent film.
Watching Die Hard, Blue Thunder and Banlieue 13 made me realize how CGI has completely ruined action films. Ok, maybe ruined is a harsh word. Watered down, maybe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love what CGI can do; LOTR is one of my all-time favorites. But the thrill of watching real, unfooled-around-with action sequences (think Bruce Willis running around bare feet) is beyond the thrill of watching Orlando Bloom’s Olyphant sequence in the Return of the King. And what about Parkour? If you saw Casino Royale and loved the opening action sequence you will love Banlieue 13, a showcase for Parkour in the guise of a futuristic French movie.
Anyway, enough about action movies. Rent was very enjoyable and I might actually go watch the Broadway show and/or the opera La Boheme while I’m still in NYC. And Thank you for Smoking was delicious from start to finish. Kudos, Mr. Eckhart! I look forward to seeing you in No Reservations (which is the Hollywood remake of the lovely German film Mostly Martha).

What is the film scene in Singapore? Do they have an international film festival? Is there a Netflix-type service? Where can I get my supply of foreign films? Maybe I can start a movie club, kind of like a book club with sound and light effects!

….I was in the Ngorongoro or were we already at Sayari Camp in the Serengetti? Such a happy place. Such a happy time.

I think I will watch Out of Africa this evening.

Thank you Joanne, Niraj and Rahul for taking the time to provide answers. These are only the first of many questions that I have about Singapore. Come to think of it, I didn’t ask Milind as many questions when he proposed marriage and a move to NYC.

Anyway, this is what you told me –

Joanne
Will I be able to talk philosophy with my S’pore cabbie?
– Unlikely, but you can try 🙂 Some are extremely chatty. Most of them will complain to you about the government. When I tell them I work for the government, the complaints get louder. Many of them are more conversant in Chinese than in English, which may limit their conversation somewhat.

Will he help me with my luggage (NYC cabbies are infamous for never helping with luggage)?
– Usually, especially if you are female and look helpless beside a large suitcase(s). That’s the tactic I use.

Will he give me correct change?
– Absolutely, although of course count your change to be sure. Note: NO NEED to tip taxis (or anybody else, for that matter) when you’re in Singapore. However, I was well trained in NYC and now tip cabbies here a small amount of change – they are inordinately grateful, out of all proportion to the actual size of the tip.

Will he take the most crowded streets at rush-hour (Ever lost your temper when the taxi driver took you through Times Square at 7pm on a Friday?)?
– Perhaps. You will soon learn to direct which route to take.

Will I be able to ‘hail’ a taxi by raising my arm and pretending to be the Statue of Liberty?- Yes, but cabbies in Singapore are extremely annoying. In the main shopping and business districts (Orchard Road areas, Shenton Way), they do not respond when flagged on the street, because they prefer to wait for phone bookings. That gets them an extra $2 or so. It pisses me off mightily, but the dollar incentive is too strong. So, before you come, I can give you a list of taxi phone numbers for you to call. You need a mobile phone, not your arm, to get a cab in Singapore. Note, this does not apply to the more residential areas of Singapore, where your Statue of Liberty pose will get you the cab.

Niraj
Taxi guys here will give you exact change – sometime ask u to keep change here as well as help u with luggage. Welcome to the unreal world…

Rahul
If not anything else, I can ally your fears about Singapore cabbies, they are super professional and return your exact change but may not be so good at philosophy.

Milind, I don’t think I’m going to get a driver’s license. (Aah! Just uncovered material for another post!).

Last evening I went for a Summertime Classics concert at the Lincoln Centre. According to the NY Times, the series is “the nearest you suppose that the Philharmonic will openly venture in the direction of the pops concert”. For me it was a perfect way to end a busy, topsy-turvy week. The music was light and cheerful, Bramwell Tovey the conductor was very entertaining and the Philharmonic, well it was the NY Philharmonic.

It was the most informal concert I’ve ever been to at the Lincoln Center. Mr. Tovey introduced each piece with tidbits about the composer, the music and the period. I’ve never seen conductors explain the music. He was full of one-liners which made me think that he could have a decent second career in comedy. In his introduction to Franz Liszt’s Les Preludes he explained that Liszt was considered an icon of Hungary though he spoke no Hungarian. Then quickly added it was like if George Bush or Paris Hilton spoke no English. And while describing celebrities in 19th century Europe he stated that they were pretty much like celebrities today except they didn’t go to prison.

I owe my interest in western classical music to my maternal grandfather. He had a habit of listening to western classical music on the radio while he took his afternoon nap. I was a passive listener then, now I actively seek it. While in college, Nisu-bisu and I attended a workshop on classical music appreciation by Parag Trivedi. He used to host a show on Radio Mid-Day back in the early/mid-90s. I attended an enhanced version of the same workshop several years later at b-school. Then during my EY years, a colleague and I would attend all the free concerts during Bbay’s western classical music season each winter. And in NYC I have been very lucky to live so close to Lincoln Center (and to discover a source for discounted Orchestra section tickets).

What is the music scene in S’pore? Milind told me they have a national orchestra. True? What about other types of music? Would S’pore be on U2’s tour itinerary? What about dance and theatre? When we were in NYC, Milind promised me he’d take Salsa lessons. Will we find an instructor with a will strong enough to make Milind dance?

Thank you Rabindranth!

Give Me Strength

This is my prayer to thee, my lord—strike,
strike at the root of penury in my heart.
Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.
Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.
Give me the strength never to disown the poor
or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love

This poem by Rabindranath Tagore (from the Gitanjali collection) has been a source of strength and peace these last few months.

This morning I rode to NY Penn Station in Fernando Batista’s taxi. No, I don’t remember every taxi driver’s name. There is a only-in-New-York story here. This taxi had neatly written pieces of paper taped all over the partition that divides the front and back seats. Based on his observations of people and (the beauty of) life, Fernando writes these really smart, easy-to-understand axioms. You know most of these things instinctively but it still feels good to read them in black and white. Things like – you won’t have a problem if you choose not to make it a problem. Or my favorite one, our perception and awareness of reality is always incomplete; thus we will always be partially right and partially wrong. Anyway, Fernando has almost finished compiling a book of his thoughts and ideas and is ready to take them to a publisher. He wrote – today you will do four things (I can remember three) – solve a problem, create a problem, do something special. Thank you Fernando for sharing your thoughts and making my Monday morning commute special.

On a different yet related note, will I be able to talk philosophy with my S’pore cabbie? Will he help me with my luggage (NYC cabbies are infamous for never helping with luggage)? Will he give me correct change? Will he take the most crowded streets at rush-hour (Ever lost your temper when the taxi driver took you through Times Square at 7pm on a Friday?)? Will I be able to ‘hail’ a taxi by raising my arm and pretending to be the Statue of Liberty?

Summer brings a different charm to the city. Yesterday I walked down to the farmer’s market on 57th street and bought tomatoes ripened on the vine (their fragrance, their fragrance….!), radishes, swiss chard, scallions, boston lettuce, asparagus and sugar snap peas. All very fresh, straight from the farms near NYC. It felt good to know I was buying fresh produce and also supporting local farmers. I made Braised Spring Vegetables based on a recipe I found in the New York Times. The vegetables turned out very well but the dumplings were a big disaster. Fortunately, I’d picked up a very tasty multi-grain roll from Whole Foods as back-up. Poured myself a glass of Pinot Grigio and feasted on a simple yet extremely satisfying dish. Will definitely be going back to the market for more produce next Saturday.

So, the decision has been made. After 4 glorious years in NYC we are moving to Singapore. Do I want to move? Who in their right minds would want to leave NYC? Trade the Upper West Side for River Valley Road? Central Park for Botanical Garden? Whole Foods for Cold Storage? MTA for MRT? Sido’s falafel for Carrot Cake? Deep breath, Vaishali, deep breath!
Well, in less than a month I will be in S’pore to check out our new apartment, new neighbourhood, new friends. Can’t say I’m not excited. But leaving NYC seems like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. As Milind says, we were made for each other…NYC and me. 🙂
So let’s see how this new adventure goes.

%d bloggers like this: