March 29, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Literary News: Book event with Writing the City by Pallavi Narayan and Iman Fahim Hameed

4 min read

A glimpse of the happenings at the book event with Writing the City organised by Writing the City and led by Pallavi Narayan and Iman Fahim Hameed.

Singapore at Home: A Writing Meditation

வீடு | 𝘳𝘶𝘮𝘢𝘩 | 家 | နေအိမ် | 𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦

As the editors of Singapore at Home: Life Across Lines, an anthology of short stories published in 2021 by Kitaab, it was rewarding for us to spend the afternoon of 25 September (2-4 pm SGT) at Singapore at Home: A Writing Meditation, an event organised by Writing the City* and inspired by the ideas behind our collection. We hosted the book discussion and writing meditation with Benedict Lim from WTC and were delighted at the warm reception of our carefully designed workshop by the attendees, with 55 signups. Participants attended from Singapore, the Philippines, China, India, Pakistan and a few other countries. While the programme was timed for two hours, the attendees enjoyed their time exploring “home” with us so much that the workshop spilled over into an extra half hour.

The event was a great way for us and our contributing writers to bond with readers and, more importantly, potential readers and writers. Both of us presented our book to the public and conversed about some of the pertinent themes that frame it—home and homelessness, gender, migration, placemaking, transience, identity negotiation and boundaries. Benedict moderated the session in tandem with us. Cecilia Mahendran, Rolinda Onates Española, Audrey Tay and Anjali Patil, whose stories are in the book, read excerpts from their narratives, the varied themes of which connected deeply with the audience. There was pin-drop silence as each writer read, the stories displaying the heartache and trauma of transitioning homes in terms of physical spaces as well as entire geographies, the challenges faced by migrants as they become local, and the never-ending search for belonging.

            Pallavi kicked off the workshop segment by giving out writing prompts for the audience to respond to. As an icebreaker, she asked the guests to name the word for “home” in their language, following it up with a short prompt on what home meant to each to them. The images thus produced ranged from fuzzy to imaginative to surprising, with some lovely illustrations of moments sketched in words. Benedict read from a story he had published on another platform.s The discussion that followed was an effort to help participants uncover the complexities and nuances of home. This segued into the longer writing exercise which centred around a point of conflict in the physical space of the home. It resulted in endearing anecdotes peppered with uniquely juxtaposed metaphors. Particularly entertaining was how a large family sitting together at dinner was likened to a presidential table.

             Making new meanings around the conceptualisation of home and contending with well-worn ones, we engaged in a stimulating dialogue with the participants, who shared their own difficult as well as charming narratives in the safe space that the workshop offered to all of us. Contributors Clara Mok, Surinder Kaur, Phyllis Wong, Anna Onni, Payal Morankar and Ranjani Rao enthusiastically took part in the conversation. Writing, reflecting upon and listening to the stories from the anthology, the event concluded with a meditation on the most taken-for-granted place in our lives. The afternoon was a fulfilling session of exchange between migrants and locals alike, all contemplating on interrelations in the frequently overlooked spaces of the home.

Please join our forthcoming virtual event in November, which will be organised by the National Library Board, and treat yourself to readings from a selection of stories in Singapore at Home: Life Across Lines. You can register here.

* Writing the City (WTC) is supported by the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM).

s Published on thenational.api