Like so many people who grew up with the Internet, there have been many incarnations of my online self. To some, I will forever be the queer blogger who started writing about the lesbian experience as a teenager in Singapore in the early 2000s. Some find that courageous; I found it much more difficult to change pronouns than to pretend to be someone I was not. To others, I am a travel blogger who enjoys hiking across Asia on trains, bikes and boats. That is made possible by a blend of courage and stupidity, and it has served me well.
What’s it like to be on the spectrum?
If this looks bare to you, it’s supposed to be.
Wonderful but sometimes a downer.
I’ve started writing articles for Brink, a new media publication by the same people behind the Atlantic. My first piece is on Tech’s Role in Reaching Indonesia’s Rising Middle Class.
Gay clubs were for flowers.
12 years ago in Kolkata. At the time still much referred to as Calcutta. Now less so.
Not for the first time, I found myself in a tiny room on a hot day, the youngest among old women. Each with a different thing to say to me, also the only person not from around these parts.
I’m seated now by the side of an old vending machine in Jakarta airport, with power sockets so dirty and old I had to think twice about plugging my cables in. Yet in all of Terminal 1, one of the oldest airport terminals in a country not known for modern aviation facilities, there was only this one socket free. Confined to my fate of temporarily sharing power with a giant Teh Botol (not Coke!) machine with no seat within range of my Macbook charger, I am, obviously, on the floor yet again.
Fuck Medium. Seriously.
When I came home (to Singapore) a couple of days ago, I instructed the taxi driver to go to the Caltex station at East Coast. Most cabbies know this place, but he didn’t. He’s 74 years old, so he only knew this spot as “Tan Boon Chye & Co” (brain GPS never update firmware). Tan Boon Chye & Co was the 3rd Caltex station in Singapore, and that was its original name — in 1961.
- I’ve moved to Jakarta to take part in Ideabox with my startup, WoBe
- I’m writing more on Medium these days. The blog format is unsatisfactory to me at the moment
- Over there, I’ve started two collections which may be interesting to some of you. In “The Java Diaries“, I obsessively track my time in Jakarta in the name of learning. In “Myanmar’s Second Wind“, I write about my year in Yangon and the people I’ve met there, from the tech entrepreneur’s point of view
- Know someone fun or interesting in Jakarta? I would love to meet them
- What does one do with a blog these days?
I’m finally going to check off on one of the things I’ve told myself I want to do.
Ten years ago the Internet was a different place. Singapore was a different place. While it wasn’t exactly the sort of pitchfork-wielding, gay-vilifying environment you would imagine, you certainly did not feel like people understood. You felt, at that time, at odds with large swathes of society, as though it would never accept you. Worst of all, you felt doomed to forever be avoiding the marriage question at Chinese New Year. It did not seem like your Asian relations would ever stop asking you intrusive questions about your personal life, when there was none to share because your chosen pronoun would cause you to be thrown out of the house, ostracised, prayed for, or otherwise politely ignored.
I turn 29 in a couple of months. T-W-E-N-T-Y-N-I-NE. This is doubly a shock because in my head I feel forever young, partly as a function of always having been the youngest person in every single circle I have run in, from friends to career to everything else really. I started blogging when I was 15 — nearly 15 years ago! — at a time when Tripod.com was a hosting provider, content management systems transmitted your passwords in plain text, and leaving a message on a ShoutBox was a valid way of engaging on the Internet.
As you may know, I set up The Gyanada Foundation last year. We’ve spent the past year building the organisation and learning as much as we can.
Two years ago I found out I have an autoimmune disease. I will always have it. It changed everything about my life from what I do for money to where I live. It prompted a reinvention of myself which was at turns painful, but ultimately necessary. This is what I learned.
If you are anything like me, you’ve walked by Peninsula Plaza all the time and perhaps even entered it when you’ve needed to buy cameras and stuff. You’ve probably also wondered about all the wondrous things there. What is the paste they are mixing, what is this delicious-looking food and how can I have some of it, if only I knew what to order?
At 18 I certainly believed I knew everything. I did not know just how much it’d hurt this boy’s heart if I told him the inevitable: that I was in love with someone he could never be—a woman. We went to our favourite bar and sat glumly while he tried to drink away his pain and anger.
In peninsular Southeast Asia there is a word of Malay origin, bastardized by Chinese pronunciation that perhaps best describes the prevalent mindset of the middle class in everything from career to politics: lugi.
As a wee child in Varanasi before I threw away my backpacker wardrobe.
I have become one of those people.
I believe an urban renewal and community reorganization of the Little India precinct can achieve the following: (a) the creation of public spaces to be shared by Singaporeans, residents, tourists and transient workers alike (b) the improvement of law and order without the draconian hand of law (c) lead to an increase in utility and happiness among the residents and voters who live there and the workers who make it their home every Sunday.
A year and a half ago, my friends sent me to a local emergency ward in Singapore when I moved in and out of delirium in the middle of dinner. I had been unwell for a long time, but there had been no suitable diagnosis or treatment. I lost nearly 20 kilograms, had the shakes, became insomniac, and most of all, emotionally and mentally unstable. Once diagnosed, it isn’t a terribly awful disease; but the number of adjustments one has to make is astounding. Friends and loved ones too, struggle with dealing with the external impact of your disease, and will have to do so for a very long time.
As Ashley Madison, the world’s leading extramarital dating website, announced its plans to expand to Singapore, our minister for social and family development Chan Chun Sing was roused into making the following proclamation on Facebook:
Recently, a friend from Bangalore messaged me on Facebook and asked me for some help. Her family friend, who was not very educated, had paid a lot of money to an agent in Bangalore to get work in Singapore. He had his work permit issued, and was told to leave for Singapore as soon as possible. There was a gap of a week: he had to leave immediately, they told him. She found this a little dubious, and asked me to help verify if the work permit was real, if he was being taken for a ride.
The donation drive for last week’s #downtownlinetragedy victims will close tonight, Friday, 27 July, at 2359hrs.
- I must watch too many scifi movies. I’d rarely been convinced of the malleability of time, but these days I measure out everything in two-week units. Time seems to race ahead of me. It always has, now more than before.
Those of you with elephant memories will remember what this site was 7 years ago. The web was a very different place. This blog was a different blog, I was a different kind of kid (19 years old! Yowch), and the ecosystem was other sites like this with no Facebook, Twitter, not in the ways we now have them anyway. The only external outlet we all plugged out to was Flickr, and we know how that went down. It’s hard to believe we once lived in a world when Yahoo! was still important.
I’m home now of course, whatever home means, and I’ve been retelling a couple of stories. The same ones, but many of them, just because I’ve had such a crazy time in the Nordics.
Or how I am not dealing with hyperthyroidism
A note from New Delhi
White cabbage is death. If there is a Creator, it is one of his less glorious moments. The only thing worse than white cabbage is white cabbage soup. I am a soup maniac, but white cabbage soup I do not touch with a ten foot pole. I cannot even sit at the same table when it is being drunk. The sight and smell of it makes me want to throw up. Because of these vile leaves, I am unreasonably opposed to all food that is white in colour but is not a carbohydrate or dairy product.
Here I start a series of my best answers on Quora, starting with this one. It still has the highest numbers of upvotes!
My father was having a conversation with one of the students at the university where he works. Apparently one of them was a frequent visitor to this site. He told my dad as much and said I don’t write anymore, that this site is pretty much defunct.
A friend says, “you just need an excuse to get another blog”.
It’s no secret I’ve lost interest in writing a blog — I’m not sure when that happened. It just did. Uni came and went. Life and love took me places. I got caught up in my projects, and soon the fun that blogging once was paled in comparison with real life.
A year in review
Some friends from Turkey came to visit this past weekend. I had a great time hanging out with Melissa and Emirhan in Antalya when I stopped by en route to Istanbul (from Damascus), so I naturally returned the favour and put them up at my place. After three dinners (not at the same time, albeit the same night), Emirhan gave up at the sight of three relatively small Asian girls chomping away at their 20th meal of the day and said it must be that we all have two stomachs, the other one being the one that leads straight to refuse.
Weddings, funerals and fortune tellers depress me.
Let’s just say I don’t do death.
I came to the Middle East to do just one thing: see a part of the world that I felt I needed to learn more about. Its language was alien, but familiar – many Malay and Hindi words have roots in Arabic. Its customs and food strange, but not dissimilar – much of the Indian subcontinent that I love and call home was influenced, for the better and the worse, by centuries of Mughal rule. Dubai and Singapore had many things in common, and then not at all.
I don’t have to tell you what happened in Mumbai. You already know it. I wasn’t there that day, and although I may at some point in the future, I have never lived here. Not in the real sense of ‘living’ somewhere, with bank accounts and rented residences, or jobs. But Mumbai is my city, my friends are Mumbaikars, and I feel every bit one myself: I still call it Bombay, because Bombay is romantic and real and Mumbai isn’t; I love the city, have my favourite haunts in Bombay, both north and south, and know the city well.
postcard from Banten
My city is often made out to be a boring business city, sterile and lifeless. Not entirely. No amount of protestation at how we’re really unique, though, is effective in driving home the truth about (some parts of) my city — how there are bits you can really love, if you look hard enough.
Where I dig through my archives and repost the stuff I like. This is from 2007.
Reposting stuff I like from the archives. This is from 2007.
Reposting stuff from the past. This one’s from 2007.
Reposting stuff I like from my archives. This is from 2006.
Whether it’s a long-haul transatlantic flight or a regional short hop, or even just a trip out on a local bus, the process of meeting and eventually talking to strangers, can lead one to use quick heuristics in sizing them up. Perhaps it’s our automatic mechanism to do so in order to pass the time, while travelling and moving, or that in the restricted space of train carriages, cars and buses, the lack of activity means we entertain ourselves by making up stories about other people, knowing we will never meet them again after you shared space and shared experience has passed. The woman across looking down — maybe she’s broken up with her boyfriend, lost her job, or is having a bad week, you begin. Before long you find yourself elaborating stories about these people, in your head, and these random strangers: soon you start to believe the girl in the school uniform at 11 am, when she should, by all accounts, be in school, is a truant. The inconsistency that is her presence in a school uniform, in public place which is not a school or school-related venue, leads you to draw upon what you already know, what you’re already familiar with, the joy of truancy. It develops further; she becomes a truant perhaps because she has problems at home, or maybe she’s just come from a doctor and found out she was pregnant, and perhaps the person who made her pregnant is a junkie and soon you ponder upon the incongruence of her presence at a place unrelated to what she is supposed to be. Then you catch yourself thinking this whole enterprise going on in your head is ridiculous.
Where I dig into my archives and repost stuff I like. This one’s from August 2006, when I’d spent some time in both sides of Bengal.
What I have noticed about being away, and still can’t shake off, is how mornings in each foreign place are so strikingly different from what one is used to; how different they are from each other — how foreign the word foreign sounds after a while. I like to believe it never hits you you are away until you wake up feeling displaced. Or that you haven’t really made a place your home until waking up comes so naturally and matter-of-factly there is nothing to it; until what was not your bed now feels like yours, and is even adorned with your peculiar smell.
Reposting stuff I like from the archives. This one’s from 2006.
Reposting stuff from the past. This one from 2005.
Where I post stuff from the archives, the stuff I like. This is from 2005.
Where I dig into my archives and repost stuff I like. This one’s from April 2005.
Some weird poetry from 2003, when I was a wee child.
Reposting stuff from my archive. This one from 2003, when I was a wee child.
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