I came across this old school shop on the edge of Little India in Singapore. Beautiful old dark stained wood with glass and ceramic containers and the old money pail with bell attached. Strange how sparse it was, compared to the visual noise of modern day neighborhood shops like this. There also seemed to be an eclectic choice of items - beautiful as they were to look at, for example the three box trays on the side counter that had tree fungus, lily buds and red dates. Why was the flour in an open ceramic container? It looked like a set from a play.
On the plane home to Malaysia, I asked the (high school) kid sat next to me going home for vacation, what was going on here that I should know about. He said a lot of people were into DSLR cameras and fish spas. Check and check. Fish Spas- why would you do this? It looks like its not terribly hygenic and guess what- its not. "It's a place where germs are spread" No Kidding. Photo is of a tourist at Pasar Seni in Kuala Lumpur .
My childhood home, the wooden colonial government quarters on Jalan Skudai facing the Straits of Johor is to be demolished. It has been left uninhabited for quite a while and this was probably inevitable. Whatever charm it might have had continues to erode not just with its disintegration but also the building of the motorway in front of it - who would want to live in its shadow?
Moving on to more pleasant thoughts, a visit to the Penang House at Rimbun Dahan just outside Kuala Lumpur last weekend fittingly brought back powerful memories of being inside that old house. The furniture here is different from ours which was not so ornate but nevertheless share the same character of heavy wooden sturdiness, the chairs usually with cane panels.
The 'feeling' however of the space was the same, high ceilings with the diamond trellis venting, the grid pattern of contrast trim color, contrasting light and deep shadowed spaces. The further back in time I go, I remember the sheets never being anything other than white- which over time would include blues and faint candy stripes and florals. The windows started out as wooden shutters, later replaced with louvered glass.
Walking along a stall with paper products intended to be burnt as offerings for the departed I see first the traditional sheets of 'money', then clothes (shirts in boxes) and then, whoa cigarettes and cell phones. Apparently you don't have to give up smoking and texting in the big beyond.
There's a small but evocative exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum of the ephemera of Singapore artist Lim Cheng Hoe. Diaries, sketchbooks and letters conjure up the era and life of this Singapore artist. A letter from his art teacher and friend is particularly touching - he has a premonition of his death when he doesn't receive birthday or christmas greetings for the first time in forty years.