The Irish of Asia

They are the Irish of Asia. The Rohingyas and the Bangladeshis leaving their homes remind me of the Irish, and to a less extent the Scots, who emigrated to England and the English-speaking colonies to escape poverty.

The Irish and the Scots, who also settled in Northern Ireland, rebuilt their lives in their new homes.

A question mark hangs over the Rohingyas and the Bangladeshis.

Nobody wants the wanna-be emigrants.

Bangladesh, Burma and the region
Bangladesh, Burma and the region

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Lee Kuan Yew Chair at Calcutta University? Mamata wants it

Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee

Will there be a Lee Kuan Yew Chair at Calcutta University? I am delighted.

Mamata Banerjee herself wants it. The West Bengal chief minister said so after a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

It’s only fitting that Singapore is the first country she chose to visit since coming to power in 2011, ending 34 years of communist rule in West Bengal. Continue Reading

North Indian temples in Kolkata and Singapore

A temple in Kolkata

I loved this temple in Kolkata. Quiet, well-maintained, it’s a welcome refuge from the world outside. Located on busy Diamond Harbour Road in Kidderpore, it’s an island of tranquillity. There is complete peace as you walk up the long flight of steps from the gate to the interior of the temple.

I was reminded of the Shree Lakshminarayan Temple at Chander Road in Singapore. It is bigger than the Lakshminarayan Temple and the architecture is different too. While the Lakshminarayan Temple is an ordinary-looking house standing on a quiet lane, this temple with its long flight of steps and high dome is clearly a Hindu religious building.

So why did it remind me of the Singapore temple?Continue Reading

The oldest school in Kolkata

St Thomas' School at Kidderpore in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta)

St Thomas’ School is the oldest in Kolkata, says the school website. The school was founded in 1789, just three decades after the British East India Company conquered Muslim-ruled Bengal. The British built the city of Calcutta (now called Kolkata), made it their capital, and extended their rule all across India. It was from Calcutta that Sir Stamford Raffles sailed to Singapore, reaching the island on January 29, 1819. The ship was an East Indiaman named Indiana.Continue Reading

New Year greetings from Kolkata

A lane in Kolkata

Here’s wishing everyone a happy New Year from Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta). Kolkata is a world removed from Singapore though only four and a half hours away by plane. There are still plenty of old buildings in the lanes and streets of Kolkata. Public buses and trains are overcrowded. So people want their own cars. And that adds to the congestion. Home to nearly five million people, Kolkata is almost as populous as Singapore, but with very little greenery, narrow, congested roads, it seems even more overcrowded.Continue Reading