The Unexpected Cuba

Every city has its own music. Havana’s is best characterised by the cacophony of beeps and honks (emitted from decades-old Fords, Buicks, and Moskvitchs/Москвич alike) that – strangely enough – melds into a fascinating symphony when paired with the salsa/samba/rumba music reverberating on every street and plaza corner. Havana’s music reflects its vibrancy: its vibrancy…

Top 3 Must-Reads of 2016 (even if they aren’t all published in 2016)

Scroll down for a list of all the books I’ve read this past year! Shamefully, with a tinge of expected wryness, I admit that this past summer wasn’t incredibly fruitful on the novel-writing front (with bits and pieces jotted down here and there, but little spun into a coherent plot). But at least my love for a…

On Movement and Trains (and College)

I’m not quite sure what time it was when the train started to move (ten, fifteen, maybe 20 minutes after it was due to leave the station? Czech trains sadly lack the timeliness and efficiency of its German and Austrian neighbours), but its departure was signalled by a familiar musical refrain – a buildup of…

From SFO to LHR

“Mr. Møller’s message to us is a call to action. As citizens of the world and leaders of the future, we have a collective responsibility to address the issues of peace, sustainable development, and human rights facing our world today.” – Read my latest article for the Stanford Political Journal, on UN Director-General Michael Møller’s call…

Third-Party Taxi Apps: A Sustainable Industry, or a Fleeting Trend?

“The rise of the ride-sharing app has no doubt redefined the taxi and car service business, but with investors eagerly throwing money at companies like Uber, it is important to ask: just how sustainable is the existing ride-sharing model?” Wrote another article for the Stanford Political Journal a couple weeks back but forgot to post…

Understanding Xi Jinping’s US Visit

“The aversion to Chinese power is more than just mere sentiment; the belief in the value of antagonism in the form of checking Chinese expansion and anti-free market practices is widely held, especially in the West. But, Americans should be wary of the knee-jerk reaction to oppose China; it is far more beneficial to work…

Published in the ST: The Future of Singapore’s Education System

I was glancing through the papers this morning and got a little bit of a shock when I saw that my letter to the Forum editor had been published – “Students with different abilities make for a class act” ! (*Disclaimer: I did not come up with the title, I promise. Trust the Straits Times to try (and…

The Struggle for Recognition

It’s 7:30 am, and my alarm rings. The first thing I do is blindly feel my bedside table for my phone (knocking half a dozen books off the table in the process), slide to unlock, and then graze through my Facebook notifications to see how many people “liked” the photo I posted the previous night….

Stanford Essay!

After much deliberation and a deluge of requests, I’ve decided to post my favorite of the three essays I wrote for my Stanford application! (Yay.) Stanford students possess an intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development. (100 to 250 words) I’ve always seen myself as a…

Oxford Shenanigans

“Oh, so you blog?” “Yeah, I do! Well, kind of.” That murky wave of guilt laps at my conscience and I remember that it’s literally been months since I last posted. Sitting across a new friend at a beautiful coffee shop in Oxford, I begin to recall why I started blogging in the first place….

To Marguerite – Continued

By Matthew Arnold Yes! In the sea of life enisled, With echoing straits between us thrown, Dotting the shoreless watery wild, We mortal millions live alone. The islands feel the enclasping flow, And then their endless bounds they know. But when the moon their hollows light, And they are swept by balms of spring, And…

The Lesser Seen

It’s been a long time since I last posted on my blog; I’ve been quite busy with university applications, scholarships, exam preparation, meet-ups with friends (before they head off to college this September!) and the works. But this holiday I’ve found the time to return to the weekly Wednesday Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS) at my local constituency…

The Middle Kingdom

[First published in my school editorial, One Voice] The Middle Kingdom has, for the last few decades, dominated the center of many budding and puzzled minds, enshrouded in an amalgamation of mystery, awe, and fear. Fledging teenagers (like myself) struggle to comprehend and keep up with the workings of the economic giant, for it has certainly…

I Am Macbeth, and IB is my Lady.

Forget the small issue of conflicting gender roles; we are all Macbeths, and IB is our Lady Macbeth. Admit it. We started off this journey fresh-faced, seduced by the allure of being inquiring, knowledgeable students of the future, compelled by the thought of being challenged intellectually… But over time, we’ve struggled to catch the false…

Hector and the Search for Happiness, by Francois Lelord

By now you’d be familiar with my frequent laments about not having enough time to read the books I want to read, do the things I want to do, travel the places I want to travel – but I decided to indulge myself a little this holiday. Having won $150 worth of Kinokuniya Bookstore vouchers from an…

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

Beautiful, quirky, and utterly engaging. Admittedly, the book title’s typography and design is not great – it literally screams ostentatious ‘teenage hipster literature’ all over the front cover (although that may be the point, if teenagers are the target audience). Teenage hipster literature? A slight fidget, an inward cringe, a heavy sigh. Is that even a genre??? Yep —…

Fat Pig, Pangdemonium Productions

I have to admit, I watched this play twice. Twice? Forget the outraged (and at the same time rather smug) voice in your head going: “Twice? Such a luxury! What a spoilt thing!”, and listen up for a moment. Watch this play. (Well, it’s over now – but do catch it elsewhere!) You won’t regret…

MOE Cuts Funding to Independent Schools

The funding cuts for the top independent schools in Singapore have recently raised quite a furore over the fairness of such a move. Six top independent schools in Singapore have had their funding cut and, along with other mission schools, have been told to moderate fund-raising activities for campus upgrading. In addition, they will have to…

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all. Beautiful, reflective, and charmingly nostalgic, Brideshead Revisited paints a captivating picture of the British aristocracy in the prosperous age before the Second World War. This is a novel that speaks of religion, love, art,…

London: Singular Sunlit Solstice

London. There is something inherently exhilarating about megacities that compel us to marvel at the achievements of human existence – the skyscrapers that seem to stretch for eternity into the sky; the varied architecture that hints at periods of intense demolishing and then robust development; the multitude of people that crowd the streets, each with…

Italy: Vibrant Hues

The psychedelic colours that saturate this film absolutely stun me; the vibrant hues of foamy blue and blood orange coalesce into some sort of dreamy, eternal-sunset-splashed heaven. Italy is indeed a beautiful place: elderly centenarians (perhaps not quite; but the Dumbledore-esque wispy white beards seem to make them decades wiser) stroll along the cobbled streets;…

New Year, Old Concept, Same Life

At the debut of every new year, the vast majority of the 7 billion (and steadily increasing) human inhabitants of this earth sit down at their desks (or stand in their showers, take a run in their parks, do handstands in their rooms for all I know) and mull over the past 365 days with…

Household Gods, by Philip Hobsbaum

Household Gods “I mirrored their breaking lives,I saw their pale Distraught coming and going, lined despair, His shaken bulk, her calm pose in the doorway— I saw them. I was there.” “I have so long been silent, even now Hardly at all remember how her slim Long fingers once caressed me—was that how At one…

There but for the, by Ali Smith

It was one of those rare december break mornings; one where I actually woke up with the burning sensation (rather, a pounding heart attack) to get a start on my holiday homework because oh lord why is there always so much work. Knowing that staying at home would eventually lead to languorous inactivity, I wiggled…

While the Light Lasts, by Agatha Christie

I spotted this gem amidst the rustic bookshelves of Sister Srey café, a charming little nook along the riverside of Siem Reap’s bustling Old Market area serving good ol’ Aussie nosh tosh. The amazing food aside, this petite café had a charming shelf-load of books on its second floor free for anyone to take. Having…

Siem Reap: Savong’s School

I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy. – Kahlil Gibran The rickety drive up the bumpy, pot-holed path to Savong’s School was always one of suppressed excitement; the pit of my stomach would…

Siem Reap: Colorful Characters

The most exhilarating part of traveling is chancing across an intriguing, colorful array of people along the way. This trip to Siem Reap not only led us on a journey of self-discovery and service, but brought us on an adventure to meet a myriad of different characters, each with their own riveting stories. Often taxi drivers…

Siem Reap: Epicurean Explorations

Food is the language we all speak. Food is also the door to another culture; the physical manifestation of complex undertones of emotion, complicated webs of history, and ineffable human connections and individual refinements that all coalesce in a beautiful explosion of flavors. One mouthful is all it takes to taste the rich Cambodian history,…

Siem Reap: Culinary Creations

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude. – Julia Child The kaleidoscopic array of colors arranged so stunningly in an amalgamation of lettuce leaves, carrot strips, cucumber bunches, crisp basil and petite onions sat alluringly in the center of the table. Dinner plates from…

The Outsider, by Albert Camus

Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee? It is this strange  insouciant detachment that characterizes ‘The Outsider’; that makes it such an unsettling and yet morbidly compelling read. It is a story that leaves you with an aching sense of gaping vacuity, a feeling that perhaps life has no meaning, and no…

It’s All in the Mind.

It’s that time of the year when work starts piling up- multiple IAs and assignments lie in a stack of unkempt, disheveled papers at the corner of your desk- constantly reminding you, beseeching you to pay some thought to your neglected duties. But all you can think about is how to avoid studying for your…

Why Teachers Matter.

This post is dedicated to all the teachers out there. To the teachers that have touched my life, and the lives of many others, from tottering toddlers to angsty adolescents – this is for you. I simply cannot express how much my teachers have influenced my life – every single one of them. You get…

Taking a Nap: A Break from the World

I never really believed in the power of naps – quite frankly, I considered them a waste of precious time that could be put to use productively. It pained me to think of wasting thirty minutes on pure lazing around: there was simply too much to do to take a break just for the sake…

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, by Charles Seife.

Nothingness is being and being nothingness… Our limited mind cannot grasp or fathom this, for it joins infinity. – Azrael of Gerona Connections, connections, connections. There are many things in life that have inconsequential beginnings: things that are only discovered by chance (and on curious whim). When nonchalantly sweeping past the library bookshelf and fingering…

Lost Horizon, by James Hilton

There are books that, after an intense and exhilarating read, leave you perturbed and agitated; there are books, incidentally, that, after a calm, mildly thought-provoking rumination, leave you calm and collected. Then there are books that coax the life out of these two worlds; long, undulating colorful strands, plucked from the most delicate of glowing…

Mr & Mrs Bund

A long line up of half-hearted, half-written drafts of abandoned and (not) forgotten blog posts await my attendance – and it doesn’t help that all I seem to want to do of late is curl up in my blissful little cocoon of a rocking chair and immerse myself in a world of literature. But shush….

To: Me.

Dear future-ruru-to-be: There tends to be a cycle of blissful happiness and terrible melancholy that repeats itself over and over again: no matter how much you try to change, or rectify your problems and mistakes, it happens again anyways. The wheel turns, nothing ever changes. An undulating sinusoidal curve. Perhaps it’s a testament to how…

Home

Home is where the heart is. A brief spell back in Shanghai more than confirmed this typically-brushed-aside adage. Driving through the familiar roads, gazing at the brick-red buildings that was once my haven of learning – even gawping at the sprawled compound that Concordia since transformed into – I realized they meant next to nothing….

Sri Lanka: Rustic charm amidst quirky delight

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. -Gustave Flaubert I’ve always loved elephants, so I was delighted that we were going to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage this trip. Baby elephants are always objects of wonder for children and adults ‘ooh’ and ‘awwwh’ over, but a small pat…

Sri Lankan Escapades: Ambrosial Delight

Breakfast, lunch, dinner – have you ever wondered who determined that there was to be 3 meals a day? Three meals a day? Such devastatingly few moments of relish, such undeviating devotion to rigidity! Perhaps just another ritual, another precautionary control set up against the gluttons (like myself) who would otherwise drown in a sea…

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

I am a feminist. Abashedly, such a declaration makes me cringe. A voice in my head adamantly screams fury and repulsion, refusing to let me associate myself with the characteristically outspoken, obstinate, and vehemently bitter female advocates of feminist rights. But I am a feminist. I believe in social, political and economic equality of the…

Ceylon Tea Plantations: Gastronomical Wonders

Once a colony of the British empire, Sri Lanka (formerly known as British Ceylon) is very much dotted with quaint colonial buildings and sprawling bungalows set atop tea plantations. We had the privilege to stay in Norwood bungalow for two nights and our experience there was simply astounding. From sipping tea in the plush living…

Perfume, by Patrick Süskind (Translated by John E. Woods)

If no one asks me about it, then I know what it is; but if someone asks me about it and I try to explain it to him, then I do not know what it is. ~ St. Augustine, quoted by Patrick Süskind in On Love and Death A quote intended to describe time, but aptly adapted…

Why I Love Maths

Why; I Love Math Yes, you heard correctly- Why I Love Math. A question people ask frequently It never ceases to puzzle me How could you not love math? It is wonderfully adept with many possibilities in fact Infinity to be exact. It is much like a lover. A lover, you say? Yes, a lover…

Hair for Hope and Beautiful Lengths

Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else. June 4th, 2013. It was our first major event as a council, but perhaps represented much more. Hair for Hope is a tradition in our school – an amazing cause that never fails to raise donations and…

Busy.

I like the pace of my world. It’s busy, but for me, the less I do the lazier I get. Another incredibly hectic week. After a frenzied week of missing school intermittently for Tobacco Summits, Director General of Education visits, etc.- I was greeted by a week of tests (that abashedly I only studied for the day…

A New Chapter: Council Retreat & Investiture

5 a.m. on the beachfront. Perching precariously on the edge of a jagged rock, I look out across the deep, humming waters and marvel at my own swelling wonderment as it rises and ebbs with the tides. What is it that allows the iridescent turquoise waters to evoke such reverential devotion in us? What is it…

Hidden Hideaways: The Lemontree Bistro

Culinary Appreciation Society. A mention of the club brings amused chuckles and knowing glances- everyone takes it as a barely concealed excuse for spoilt kids with a buck to spend to rack up the CAS points whilst spending time with friends. Oui… Mais non. Finally some bona fide food enclave searching; purveyors of unbeknownst cafés and bistros…