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Singapore May Have Designed the World’s Best Bus Stop

By Mimi Kirk

While the U.S. is known for its sorry bus stops—despite creative grassroots efforts to improve them—Singapore’s bus stops are already pretty decent. In the year and a half I lived there, I never came across one without seating and a roof—vital in a tropical climate prone to downpours. Still, they’re pretty humdrum affairs, and not places you’d want to spend much time in.

What if the humble bus stop could be a place you actually looked forward to frequenting? That’s the question the Singaporean firm DP Architects aimed to answer. “We wanted to redesign a commonplace thing we take for granted,” says Seah Chee Huang, the firm’s director.

Now, thanks to DP Architects in collaboration with various agencies of the Singaporean government, there’s a bus stop in Jurong, an area in the southwest of the island city state, that has elements you might find in a café, park, or your living room—all places you’d probably prefer over a bus stop.

The stop features ample seating, a rack of books geared for all ages, from Enid Blyton to Ray Bradbury, bicycle parking, a swing, artwork by the local illustrator Lee Xin Li, and a rooftop garden, complete with a small tree.

The space is also hyperconnected. In addition to the print books, users can scan a QR code to download e-books from the National Library, charge their phones, and peruse interactive digital boards that provide arrival times and a journey planner to find the fastest route. Read more

Source: Citylab.com

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Singapore: The Poetry Festival invites entries for National Poetry Competition 2017

The Poetry Festival (Singapore), formerly called the National Poetry Festival (NPF), is calling for entries for the National Poetry Competition 2017.

Each participant is encouraged to submit his or her best poem, which should be unpublished and not submitted simultaneously to another competition, by midnight on March 31, 2017. Chinese, Malay and Tamil entries will be judged in the original mother tongues. English translations are required for readers in other languages.

The winning entries and merit awardees may be featured in the Poetry Festival (Singapore) in July and published in the Sg Poems 2017-2018 anthology. Winners will receive trophies, certificates and book vouchers.

The competition details are below:   

Categories: Junior (below 18 years old) and Senior (18 years old and above)
Length: Up to 40 lines
Language: English, Chinese, Malay or Tamil
Theme: Regardless of Race

The violence and mayhem caused by race riots in the nation’s formative years highlight the need for harmony and cohesion in this multiracial society. But more can be done to address biases and to realize a vision in which all are brothers and sisters under the skin. Poetry can provide a space for everyone on this island to seek respect and to realize dreams regardless of race.

You can send entries to nationalpoetryfestival@gmail.com in Word and pdf formats.

See the National Poetry Competition rules and entry form at http://www.nationalpoetryfestival.sg/poetry-competition.

The Poetry Festival (Singapore) offers a programme of lectures, panel discussions, readings, displays of poetry and interpretations in the other arts and workshops by both established as well as emerging poets. Among the NPF’s directors are Cultural Medallion winner Edwin Thumboo, critically acclaimed poets and academics Tan Chee Lay, Azhar Ibrahim, as well as educators from LASALLE College of the Arts, Republic Polytechnic and the National University of Singapore Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.


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People in Singapore don’t read much literature. Can these tiny books change that?

By Amanda Erickson

When it comes to literacy, Singapore is no slouch. The country boosts a 98 percent literacy rate, and its reading curriculum is the best in the world, according to the Program for International Student Assessment.

That doesn’t mean, though, that Singapore is a country of bookworms. A 2015 survey found that just 40 percent of the population had read a work of literature in the past year. (In America, that number is about 70 percent.) Just a quarter had picked up something by a Singaporean author.

Now, leaders have come up with a solution: tiny books. Starting this month, public transportation riders will be able to buy pocket-size tomes for about $10. The “ticket books” are part of a broader campaign to get people reading again. Their launch will coincide with a weekend of book fairs, author meet-and-greets and literature seminars across the city-state. Read more

Source: The Washington Post

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Book Review: Three Days of Catharsis by Atrayee Bhattacharya

By Manisha Lakhe

three-days-of-catharsis-front-coverThere is only one thing wrong with the book Three Days of Catharsis by Atrayee Bhattacharya — there is no editing at all. By the author or by the publisher. Everything else collapses around this one fault.

It’s 2017, and there’s no point whining about a life lived between different cities across the world: Singapore, Kolkata and Chennai. The obsession that Indian authors have about balancing culture and upbringing across borders should be celebrated. Instead, this book is a 241-page-long whine about how “no one understands me” and how difficult it is being a TamBong (a Tamilian and a Bengali) who lives abroad. If only the protagonist/author (it is autobiographical) had cared to read multi-cultural authors like Jhumpa Lahiri (one passing mention) and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni instead of Chetan Bhagat (his Two States is mentioned as a mirror to her own life)! Had someone, like a reliable editor, asked the author to put this book away as the first draft of an idea, it would have helped.

Alas, everything that happens in the book is banal. Let’s list the events:

Kutu goes to IIM Kolkata to submit her admission papers. Gets into an argument with the office clerk and the admin officer Gurunathan about what her mother tongue is. If such an innocuous question becomes an existential debate that lasts for 12 pages for the protagonist, then you’d want the argument to have more logic than just froth. How does she expect an office clerk and the admissions officer to know all about every student? Gurunathan explains that it is his job to make students feel at home. He tells her in Tamil, because her name is “Krishnan”, not because he wishes to insult her “Bengali” part.

She then misunderstands her grandmother’s concern about being out and about alone, and asks the grandma if she’s becoming a burden.

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Have you written a children’s story inspired by Asia?

The Scholastic Asian Book Award (Saba) is a joint initiative between the National Book Development Council of Singapore and publishers Scholastic Asia that “will recognise children’s writers of Asian origin who are taking the experiences of life, spirit, and thinking in different parts of Asia to the world at large”.

Since its inception in 2011, the biennial award has been responsible for publishing English language works by authors from all over Asia, including India, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The best manuscript wins S$10,000 (RM31,000) and will be considered by Scholastic Asia for publication; the authors of the first and second runners-up manuscripts will be offered advice by Scholastic Asia on editing and submitting their works for publication. Read more

Source: Star2.com

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New Release: Dreamagination by Rishav Gupta


When Srinanda Gupta was reading stories to her 6-month-old son, little did she know then that this boy would be an author at the age of eight.

Srinanda fondly recalls the day Rishav walked up to her with his drawings and said he wanted a “real” book.

“I clearly remember how happy and confused I was at the same time because I did not quite understand what he meant. After a conversation, Rishav made it clear that he actually wanted to be an author,” says the mother who also teaches at Chatsworth International School in Singapore.  She decided to nurture his passion and give him time to become responsible for his own initiative. Rishav named the book The Lion’s Walk. Each page focused on a place and some detail that he observed of that particular place.

“He narrated the story while I documented it. What was unique was how Rishav read books, made connections with his personal experiences and applied his knowledge in his writing. I got the pages printed and stitched together,” shares Srinanda. That was Rishav’s first book!

Now this Grade 2 student of Chatsworth International School, Singapore, has a book to his credit Dreamagination, published by Kitaab International.


The book is a collection of 10 stories written by Rishav between the age of 3 and 7. Dreamagination is more than a book. It is a writing journey of a young boy from doodling, to drawing and then consolidating his ideas in writing.

“This is a big wish come true! You must dream and when the dream becomes bigger, bigger and bigger, it comes true. I want to encourage everyone around the world to write because it helps people to communicate and you can express your heart full of stories. You need dreamagination to live,” says Rishav.

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Nilanjana Sengupta’s rebuttal to P N Balji’s review of ‘Singapore, My Country: Biography of M Bala Subramanion’

singapore-my-countryOn 8 November 2016, P N Balji had reviewed “Singapore, My Country: Biography of M Bala Subramanion” by Nilanjana Sengupta right here on kitaab.org.

On 24 November 2016, Ms Sengupta sent the following rebuttal to Balji’s review:

“I found the review to be very perceptive, particularly his points about further contemporizing the book as well as Mr Bala’s voice taking a bit of a back seat. I will take careful note of this and ensure that I don’t fall into the same trap while I write about Mr J Y Pillay. But regarding the title of the book, I would beg to differ. It is not anchored in a wish to gain out of the SG50 celebrations but actually emerged organically while I wrote the book. If you read the book it actually traces Mr Bala’s journey in discovering his own identity – the British, Japanese, Indian, Malay, Tamil influences which were at work and then the final confluence of all these cultures and his alighting on what was his own or the Singaporean identity. To explain this further I give below a poem I had written on the occasion of the book launch and which I hope to include in the 2nd edition of the book:

An Indian in Singapore

He heard the word first when they had their backs to each other
His mother was intent on her spices
Grinding into dull submission
Frisky corns of pepper
Fiery red chilli, a genteel nutmeg
While he faced the door
Angsana trees beckoned
Balding patches of the football field in Racecourse Road

A whittled sun filtered in through the attap roof
He saw the word dance around him in little coins of light
Noticed the achromic floor, a split toe nail
You are Indian, you have to be decent
His mother said

Images of little boys in little coattails
Airing dogs at the promenade
Proud as the fat queen
In a country as distant as Naples or Batavia
Calm, dignified, of unfailing good taste

February 1942
Ghostly shadows rose from the yellow loam
Tonsured, skinned, horrible
A cloud of fine bone dust hung low
Over a land pitted and pared
As the waters of Blakan Mati keened its dead

In their house a new picture was put up
Just where the family gods used to be
The Samurai’s sword cut through the indolence of Indian deities
Industriousness was their new god

So by the early dawn light
He marched to the orders of the rising sun
And in the afternoon tilled neat plots
Growing tapioca from bleached bones and human remains
A bit of white loin cloth replaced the coattails
All for the cause of peace

And then came the moment of genesis
Parting darkness from light, the trite from the truth
Footfall of a stranger in the crescent*
And patriotism spread like a forest fire
Burning down undergrowth and small desires
While survivors stood tall
Pulsating, victorious, irascible
The fire had entered their veins

It came visiting their kampong as well
Snaking in through lorongs, shooing away cattle and poultry
And smouldering, waited – fearsome and fascinating
Licking at the edges of their home

India was suddenly in their line of vision
As close as the waters of the Straits
The spinning wheel fluttered on the flag
A crouching tiger hid in their hearts instead

The drum-roll receded, the kings were back
But so were the men
Lice crawled under their skin as they sang songs of freedom
Their eyes burnt with a fever, they were unable to sleep
He wondered if it was the lice or the song
And knew the kings would never be king again

He was sailing the seven seas with a new intent
He faced his mother as the sun set over the wharf
Looked at her as if for the first time
The silver twine in her hair
The five stars of her nosepin like fireflies
He bent low and whispered into her ear,
Singaporean, Mother
Singaporean is what we will be

Nilanjana Sengupta* The reference here is to Subhas Chandra Bose’s arrival to SEA in 1943

I do hope this will suffice to clarify my stance. Once again, I would like to put on record my gratitude to Mr Baljyi for taking time out to do the review.”

Best regards,

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New Release: INSPIRE Beyond SG50 published by Kitaab


Conceived by CIO Academy Asia and published by Kitaab, “INSPIRE Beyond SG50” collects behind-the-scene stories of CIOs from a wide range of private and public sector organisations in the Asia-Pacific region. It captures their insights, perspectives and real experiences through seven core themes: Integrity, New (Innovation), Strategy, People, Implementation, Relationship and Excellence.

This book consists of contributions by more than 50 CIOs based in Singapore. This book was conceived with the hope to inspire the new generation of IT leaders to hone their leadership skills that are essential for their career in the ever-changing business landscape.

A CIO core team came together with the idea to publish a commemorative Beyond SG50 CIO book. The book is centred around the theme INSPIRE with the letters forming the 7 Pillars of IT leadership:

Integrity, New, Strategy, People, Implementation, Relationship, Excellence.

To buy: INSPIRE Beyond SG50


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Book Review: Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam

By Pallavi Narayan


The cover of Kappa Quartet is striking. It’s simple — a subway car opening onto a station platform, with Japanese signs hung up, a man in a hat reading a newspaper on the left, a woman in a dress with a closed book on her lap. The man and woman are faceless, and the person entering is incomplete —  a faceless individual with a pair of red glasses perched on (in?) air. Indeed, waiting is the trope the novel appears to be premised on. Water is the element kappas are most comfortable in and around, and it too plays a vital role in moving the narrative forward.

The novel plunges right into the action by taking as self-evident the presence of the mythological figure of the kappa, a river demon of Japanese folklore, in the everyday life of humans and cities. Kappas enjoy a solitary existence and distance themselves from even their families, yet they are integrated into fast-paced society: they drink at izakayas, consume nabe at restaurants, play instruments in orchestras, relax at cafes and hotels, marry other kappas and procreate, marry humans and don’t, get adopted as children, go to school, in short, do everything that humans do. How they are differentiated is through a hole in the head (while bathing, it is apparently a custom for them to have another individual present scoop up some water and pour it into the hole). In some kappas like Takao the hole is very small, say, “no larger than a five-hundred-yen coin”, while his nephew “Goro’s was probably three or four times bigger” (p. 145), because of which he is picked on by his classmates.

Kappas can also take away human souls. It is specialists or senmon-ka such as Ms Neo, Haruhito Daisuke and Ahab who are able to see who is without a soul, and which kappa is prone to turn dangerous. It is not elaborated as to how they gain their powers, and how they protect their souls from being sucked away by kappas. The senmon-ka appear throughout the novel, putting forth the question of what is fabricated and what the actual happenings are.

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New Release: Tweet by Isa Kamari


Published by Kitaab International, Tweet is Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari’s new novella. Tweet, is a high-quality work of imaginative fiction that marries traditional storytelling with a modern theme. The novel is set in Singapore’s bird park, an international tourist destination and an iconic bird sanctuary. Isa Kamari, through a dialogue between a Singaporean grandfather and his grandchild, ponders over the stress and demands of our modern human existence. Through the grandchild’s innocent questions, the author exposes us to the frailties of our modern life. Intermixed in the narrative is the famous fable of Simurg, the legendary bird, that some of the birds of the bird park are deliriously desirous of meeting. They embark upon a journey that brings them face-to-face with a reality that they had not imagined even in their dreams. In his first ever English language work, Isa Kamari shows us a new facet of his storytelling abilities, which is part philosophical and part imaginative.

About the author: 

Isa Kamari has written in Malay, 9 novels, 2 collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, a book of essays on Singapore Malay poetry, a collection of theatre scripts and lyrics of 2 song albums. His novels have been translated into English, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian and Mandarin. His collections of essays and selected poems have been translated into English. Isa was conferred the S.E.A Write Award in 2006, Singapore Cultural Medallion in 2007 and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang in 2009.

To buy: Tweet