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there were flowers everywhere. from holland, from australia, from taiwan, and who knows where else, many i am sure from singapore too, like those orchids. i didn’t have to fly somewhere far to see them. nor was that splendid array there only at a certain time of the year. no need to plan a time to go view, nothing.

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on a hot sunny morning i went walking along macritchie reservoir and thomson road and there on a bend in the road, just a little before the play of many flyovers begin, we stepped off the main avenue and strolled into far east flora’s “cold room”.

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there’s no fancy entrance or announcement outside. these days the most ordinary of things gets so much hype. here was a vast room, maintained at 8 degrees celsius (i think) filled to the brim and beyond with the most stunning variety of flowers from everywhere. yet no publicity, no sell. only a wild forest of colours. pristine freshness. and beauty you can get completely lost in despite the pinks 300cellophane wraps and hideous plastic buckets in not pretty colours and some boring posters on not so painted walls. all you see is miles of blooms and forget everything.

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or remember some things.

like the first time i heard of this place. it was my first boss in singapore. not a tall man, had a great sense of style, his hair always reminded me of the seventies’ cool, longish and layered and flyaway, like david cassidy’s. i’d invited him home for dinner. when i opened the door, he stood there with a wry grin and a bunch of gladioli “standing” next to him, they were about as tall as him. it’s a picture in the head that stays.

he was not known to splurge and of course he told me about this great place to buy flowers… cheap, at wholesale prices. the cold room at far east flora.

i also remembered my mother. she loved flowers and always frowned at my too green garden patches. she’d have loved this, took her to the orchid garden at the botanic but never here.

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i recalled too botany classes in school. parts of a flower… sepals, pollen, stamen, corolla. long before that last one became a toyota car, and singapore has several plying as taxis, it simply meant petals, but in a text book sort of way. you looked a little wise saying it.

reds 300aj, my walking companion, was running around checking the prices. his mother had just come home after an operation. a bunch of beautiful roses was bought for her. and another for his wife. flowers can cause wars if not gifted judiciously.

i stared at the blues, pinks, yellows, oranges, mauves, reds, whites, purples of roses, lilies, hydrangea, iris, orchid, gladioli, gerbera, and flowers whose names i hadn’t a clue of.

how big is this room, i thought, i who never ever know or want to know the square foot of things called “property.” but this was heaven and i needed to know its exact size.

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that morning, we’d first gone to macritchie reservoir, singapore’s oldest fresh water reservoir, built back in 1868. the waters were serene, i could see the sky and clouds reflected in it as if no separation existed between the two planes. the trees all around were old and full of character. that a city whizzed by just a few hundred metres away you’d never imagine.

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and now in an unpretentious shed, this assault of colour and loveliness. i saw a tuberose and stopped right there. you don’t see many of these in singapore, a staple of all bengali functions back in calcutta. wedding, funeral, birthday, worship, for anything and everything, we love tuberose or rajanigandha… night time fragrance (bad translation).

i asked the helpful lady packing flowers, where they were from. taiwan, she said. i said, we have a lot of these in india. what is it called in mandarin i asked. she smiled faintly as she replied, ye lai xiang… night come fragrance.

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road to singapore, thomson road, macritchie reservoir, 28/05/15 #SG50

end of 1997, we moved to singapore from india. in 2015, the country celebrated fifty years of independence. singapore has given me much and i am fascinated by the spirit of this gutsy city state with hardly any land or resources, but oh what dreams and chutzpah (the finest interpretation of the word), the ability to reach big, hunker down and hold and strategise and act and grow. despite my many years here, i haven’t seen a lot of the island, which started out at only 28 miles by 18. now of course it’s bigger, thanks to that spirit i spoke of. so anthony john or aj as i call him, my walking partner, and i decided to do fifty walks in the island to celebrate #SG50. well, we didn’t stop at fifty; couldn’t. there was still so much to see and feel and also how not to let the hot, merciless, climate-change sun not have its way with us. so the walks continue, as does the walk talk. hope you enjoy, try to bring an umbrella.

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