BECOMING A VETERAN WAFFLER

I had stumbled on Waffles - the best backpacker’s in Singapore – and after a few weeks graduated to a room with a scenic view of Bugis Mall. The place was a comfort zone after a hot day’s work, and the long-stay inmates became my family. They belonged to one of two clans: teachers or deep-sea divers. Each night teachers swapped stories of classroom mayhem, while divers weighed in with near escapes from the deep; always with their early-model mobiles close by, waiting for the call out, to some distant oil rig.

REPUBLIC DAY IN INDIA

So here I sit, not long after the crack of dawn, astride an old wooden chair, positioned dead-centre, with a microphone on a tall metal stand in front of me. To my left, with jet-black hair and dressed like a queen in a beautiful azure and white, sequined saree, sits the school’s director and principal, Dr Mabel Aranha; a somewhat formidable figure, attending her final Republic Day parade, before retirement. To my right a considerably more jovial character, the white-mustachioed Mister Mirchandani .....

TRAVELS WITH A TALKATIVE LADY

My first wife was a fantastic lady. She talked a lot! Not quite sure why we parted, though talking may have tipped the scales. Other people were often amazed, not only by the number of words that could be aired in one or two minutes, but also the variety of topics that would often be tackled. As years went by, she honed her ability for both speed and subject range: delivered together, mixed all in one pot. I grew used to it, but newcomers would quite often stagger away, in a head-spinning aura of dizziness!

BANGLADESH: SHEFALI, THE DOCTOR FROM DHAKA!

I was seated on a slim wooden bench inside a hot, sweaty, bamboo shed, with what seemed like 100 eyes gazing at me: this strange-looking creature from the West! Once things settled back to what I judged might be almost normal, I uncased my camera and began to photograph proceedings, which in turn set of another round of bubbling interchange. After things settled again, my eye – and my camera lens - were drawn to a particularly attentive young girl, seated towards the rear ...

A MINI IN PIAZZA SAN MARCO

I remember sitting near the Rialto Bridge, with my younger daughter, eating calzone and quaffing numerous glasses of red wine. The month was January - middle of winter - yet we managed to find a sun-blessed spot on the South side of the Grand Canal; placing alternate orders for food, with the sole purpose of retaining the best table in town. They were magical hours: vibrant, yet relaxed, with ferries docking then powering away and gondolas gliding by. We stayed until we ran out of sun and the month became January again.

GATEWAY TO THE WONDERS OF INDIA

Country of customs, colours and contrasts, India is a place that reaches out to test all our senses, at times to their limits; love it or loath it some people say. In a chaotic marketplace with cows, cars and humankind jostling for coveted space, the sights, the sounds, the smells of India can sometimes overwhelm. But immerse yourself in all this: ask questions about the vividly coloured dyes, listen to the strange looking gadgets on Juhu Beach and taste the sweet sugarcane offered in friendship, then you can begin to love India …like no place on Earth!

TRAVERSING ROME AND LANDING IN UMBRIA

I guess there could be a hundred other places I haven’t seen, which I might prefer, but when I’m too long away from Italy, I start thinking I should be making plans to re-visit. It gets to me when I see tablecloths spread under a street-side veranda, or people quaffing wine during their lunchtime break; in whatever nondescript place I happen to be, my mind floats back to a piazza setting in Rome, or Umbria, or an untold number of glorious Italian localities.
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