Little India is undeniably a place with a collection of historical and cultural richness. Walking around Little India, one would feel surrounded and blended into their rich culture. This kind of experience is different from that of many places in Singapore, in which the surroundings are fast-changing and adapting to human’s lifestyle.
Through numerous personal experiences and deriving around the area, I feel that there are a lot of amazing sounds, smells, interactions and gossips that could be found from this little dot of Singapore. Interviews are also a critical source for Little India’s remapping. Interviews with the Indian Jewellery and Chinese coffee-shop owners and Desker road’s gambling guard have given me unique insights of the beauty of Little India. The beauty of Little India lies beyond the tourism make-out of the area.
What is everyone’s first impression of Little India? Yes, it’s the 24-hour operating Mustafa Centre. Mustafa Centre sells the most affordable and variable commodities that caters mainly to the lowly-paid foreign workers that lived around the area. These foreign workers are frequently depicted as the unwelcomed and discriminated population in this city; hence they are usually out of place in most shopper malls. To them, Mustafa serves as a recreation haven that gives them the most assurance in this city. It is depicted as the shining jewel in Little India that seeks to bring together all Indians in Singapore.
The Lembu Road’s Open space is another essence in Little India that serves as a gathering corner for Indian community and foreign workers. However, this Open space that is initially built for the welfare of foreign workers is even guarded against by the authority. There is an obvious signboard around the area that stated ‘Police Camera in Operation’. What freedom is there in reality when privacy is invaded? The place name and its surveillance seem to be an irony.
From my first experience of walking around the streets, I can already feel the heavy religious background of Little India. That can be illustrated from their heavy jasmine flowers, Indian religious songs, bird fortune telling and even huge crowds gathering for temple worshipping. The temple and religious aspect seems to create an indescribable honor among the Indian community. Among many talks are the gossips about Desker road. Many people may know about Desker road, but the insider-info of the area is vague. Many people choose to avoid talking about the area, and some may even fake ignorance of the activities going on in the area. We were even told that the female and male would avoid going pass the area, to avoid mistaken cases by their known friends. The alley of Desker road seems to evoke such eerie and negative emotions that repel others away. This serves to bring out the mystery part of Little India.
Therefore in this project, I wish to create a tour that could illustrate out the life within Little India through its four energy sources, namely its honor, mystery, recreation and even liberty. A lot of ideas had come through my mind, such as exploring Little India’s life through on-site visiting of the four areas, flash movie, narrative story and etc. After many discussions, my group decided to create a mythical narrative tour based on a mixture of our personal experiences, historical facts and mythical legends. The mythical tour will be based on Little India’s highly-regarded Sri Ruthra Kaliamman Temple (honor), the avoided alleys of Desker Road (mystery), Mustafa Centre (recreation) and also the Lembu Road’s open space (liberty).
By relating parts of little India to mythical legends, my group is trying to create an interesting story plot so that the audiences can be easily led into the remapped Little India. Through this electronic book we named ‘Chronicles of Little India’, I hope my audience can examine Little India from a different perspective, which is a shift away from the factual knowledge we obtain from existing guidebooks. To us, History is subjective and there can be many versions to it. In a bid for the user to have a fresh new experience, we have defamiliarised the four chosen places in Little India, followed by analysing the stereotypes and perceptions people have of Little India, then invert them and try to fill in the gaps with our imagination and own experience.
Through the virtual tour, I hope that my audiences can gain new insights of culturally rich Little India. The book will be written from the first person perspective, so that the audiences can personally experience the circumstances and the feelings Little India have evoked in my group. Hopefully, the virtual tour will allow the audiences to view Little India from another angle.
The virtual tour “Chronicles of Little India”:
I was basically pleased with my group’s final virtual presentation of “Chronicles of Little India”. At first thought, the idea is to present the virtual tour by projecting the electronic book in front of the whole class. However taking note that each person’s time specificity may be different, it is understood that each person’s pace and speed of reading a text is relatively different. In order not to deprive each audience of the emotions evoked from reading the narration, I decided that the presentation is best efficiently carried out when the audience gains control of the book, and hence allowing them to develop personal and direct experience through the whole concept. However, we know that there may be limitations of allowing personal laptops to each of the 7 group members. Eventually, we resolved this small limitation by assigning 2 persons to each laptop.
Even though the decision had been made that we are allowing our audiences to have their personal experience on the virtual tour, we oversee the silence and awkwardness that may arise when each individual is carrying on their virtual tour. I felt that the silence should be exchanged for by the sound and audio system. I should have added in the temple praying sound for the temple pages, the eerie and wind-howling sound to create the tense feeling the Pontianak exert upon the Desker Road and finally the magical music ‘A whole new world’ from Aladdin movie soundtrack to celebrate Aladdin’s transformation story from-rags-to-riches. However, I feel very well-applauded for the combination of narrative and visual drawings within the book. I feel that without any of the either, the visual tour experience of the audience will not be met fully. The self-felt flick pages concept of the book is also great, given that it really seem to create a flicking-the-book feeling for the audiences. Nevertheless, I have forgotten that the self-felt flick pages need a mouse to direct the cursor in a better way. Using the laptop own self-touch mouse, it will require 2 fingers to move the cursor, hence I should have arranged mouse for everyone to attach to their computers. Moreover due to restrictive resources, the screen may be too small for the audience to make out the text and the photos. The electronic book should have set to 900 x 600 pixels. The settings of the atmosphere of the electronic book are cleverly organized with a foreword to describe the purpose and agenda of the user’s movement and slowly lead them into the remapped Little India storyline. The credits section of the story is well-fitted into the book, to provide an overall ending and conclusion of the remapping. The well-organized presentation of the book with its classification (foreword, story, credits) has abandoned any needs for our group’s verbal presentation and replaces it with the self-felt experience of the user.
One concerning factor for the visual images is the copyright issues of the photos of Aladdin and Kali. However considering that this is just our school project, I believe the copyright issue shouldn’t be too restrictive in my project. To make the pictures more lively, our group members divide our work and carry out speed painting to make the pictures illustrate the forceful elements we wanted in each storyboarding pictures.
The connection of the characters in the narrative story and the real places is based on intensive research of the characters’ characteristics. For example, the connection of Kali’s ferocity and Sri Ruthra Kaliamman Temple is based upon the real story. I have added emphasis to bring in as much truth to the story so that the history will not be distorted so much that the project’s objective is undermined.
Compiling the feedbacks taken by the class and Lucy, I feel that my group’s virtual tour is a fair success. However, there are some areas of improvements that should have being noted.
Lucy had pointed out that the Kali’s story will be well-narrated if the story also explains the characters of the other gods and demons, such as Raktabija, Shiva and Skanda. When I try to put myself in the layman position and experience the electronic book myself, I finally understand the users’ confusion of who is Raktabija, Shiva and Skanda. Even though I did add in some basic understanding of Raktabija being a demonized character, the development of each of their roles is not clearly developed yet. I found loopholes in this area and I should have added in some elaboration of the dramatic war between Kali and Raktabija in order to heighten the climax of the story.
As the story slowly proceeds to the Desker Road story, it serves to be a confusing path for the user to undertake. The other group has commented that they have not known that the eerie place in the story is actually the inverted Desker Road until the history part was told. The graphics of the story should have being done more closely to the real alleys of Desker Road. I should have allowed the real Desker Road alleys as the background and place the forestly atmosphere inside the visual arts. However due to restriction of the heavily guarded Desker alleys, my group only manage to capture one photo of the Desker alley while touring the area. Still, the photo is not well-fitted into the story. To find the most familiarization to Desker Road, we decide to reframe Desker alley as an eerie and ‘out-of-bound’ forest that people may choose to avoid.
However, my group may have dragged the story a bit too far that it has lost the realism of Desker Road. Through many interviews, we had gained understanding that Desker Road is the avoided place of Little India and that there are a number of secret activities (gambling and prostitution) going on there. We had tried to depict the sex workers there as poor victims using the sad story of Pontianak. In this way, we thought that we are removing the common stereotypes people have for those sex workers. However, we have not observed that we may have been stereotyping them in another form. When we try to relate them to the victim role, we are stereotyping that all the sex workers there are doing it not of their will and they are being forced into the situation. We are sympathizing with them from our perspective, without noting that sometimes they are prostituting out of their own will and they do not wish for any sympathy. In relation, Lucy commented that we should have realism to the real myth that Pontianaks are vengeful spirits instead of them being soft. More scary elements of the place should have been positioned in the Desker Road graphics and narration. We can add in the celebration of the Pontianaks who are actually an army of prostitutes. We can relate the similarity of the Pontianaks trying to attract man to their side to slaughter them for their revenge to the prostitutes trying to attract customers for their livelihood. We should also be using more cosntemporary images of Desker road, such as including and blending in the pictures of prostitutes if possible.
The Aladdin part is the most celebrated part of all the comments given by the class. There is a parallel similarity of Aladdin’s rags-to-riches story and the real Mustafa story of creating a small stall business to today’s multi-millions complex business. However, more richness of Mustafa should have been focused on, such as the simple tour of the Mustafa Centre. The narration part should have been more developed. Being a place which sells everything that can be found in India, Mustafa serves as a great connection of the Indians back to their memory times in India. Stepping into Mustafa is a rich experience of the culture of Little India. Hence, the in-depth development of story inside Mustafa centre should have been more built up.
The next scene of the beach has been a shock to the audiences as the stimulation and expectation of the Mustafa story has not yet being met. The narration seems to flow a bit too fast from the Mustafa centre to the Open space. Lucy had commented that she enjoyed the ambience created in the Open space, relaxing as heard from the name (as depict from the beach scene) but yet tensing from the surveillance cameras located around the area (as depict from the glaring eyes of high above). The good use of the beach has created the impression every individual seeks for, an open space where their desires are free to roam. That reveals the wish for the mass public to escape from the stone pavements in every malls, house and walking paths and explore what is beneath the city. However, the freedom of one is always restricted by the surveillance of the authority. The police surveillance of Lembu Road’s Open space in Little India has arisen from the discrimination and mistrust of the foreign workers in this city. It seems to depict the slight curtailment of personal liberty and freedom of expression suppressed by the authority in this city.
Overall, the story plot is commented to be interesting, yet there should be better transition between the narration of each hotspots, or even having a connection between them. The last two scenes at the Open space should involve a conclusion of all the stories and it may have been interesting to have the characters reacting to one another. One of such idea is arrange for a plot to have all the characters Kali, Aladdin and Pontianak seated together on the beach.