10 | Like a diamond in the sky.

Unearthed diamonds lie in their slumber, unfazed by the relentless passage of time. They wait patiently in the darkest depths, and in their first light, they blinds us to the blood and sweat that taint them so. Yet we are not drawn most to their shine; we are not magpies. It is their elusiveness that lay their unyielding grip on our hearts and minds.

Being elusive is what makes this coffee shop charming, like a diamond on a ring. Tucked in a residential street, Omotesando Koffee stays hidden from plain view. You will walk past it twice, only to uncover its camouflage on the third try. Step into its entrance, and the surreal greenery isolates you from the outside world, while the furnishing transports you into a timeless dimension. Designed like a traditional Japanese tea-house, its modern coffee bar stands out-of-place within its wooden interior, like a passing dream.

OMO

Style without substance also makes a passing dream, but the place has survived the test of time with great coffee and even greater dedication. The sweltering sun was the only thing that didn’t go well with the hot drink. If I did away with my persistence for hot coffee, and opted for an iced latte instead, it would have been perfect. Fortunately, the shade and the kashi – a kind of coffee custard pastry, saved the day. A few sips of my Dad’s iced coffee helped too.

It’s difficult to conclude that the coffee is ‘to-die-for’, because it is frivolous to die for any kind of coffee. Nevertheless, Omotesando Koffee is a diamond, and it will always warrant a visit, whenever I get the chance to return to Tokyo. Perhaps, in cooler seasons, this place would make a perfect sanctuary, from the blood and sweat of reality.

Sanctuary

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Monday’s the start of the week. A new start, after a hard-earned break over the weekends. Not necessarily so, because many people do work on weekends to keep the world spinning.

My reader feeds me with inspiring short films from various blogs, and I always get new feelings watching the different films made by different people, telling their stories. Film is not the only way of telling stories, but it can be the most captivating.

So here I have, three films to share on this particular Monday. I play the classical guitar myself, and that interest resonates with the first film. Sometimes I aspire to play music like that, but it is apparent that my lack of discipline will never bring me that far. The second film’s pretty breathtaking. Lots of cliches, nevertheless you can take away a deal of feelings from it. And while I don’t quite agree with the biology behind the third film, it is certainly one of my favorites. Wicked.

So take some time off and enjoy these films in full-screen, for they are so much better than what we have on television. And you’ll be all set for the week ahead.

This is, truly, beautiful.

We are always in search of something. Today, I have found, for myself, peace.

It has been a tiring week; I was coordinating a training camp for some students in preparation for the International Biology Olympiad, here this year in Singapore. You can find out more about the competition here. I was once a participant, so this year I had the privilege of helping out with the training of the Singapore team. Going through the camp once more, even as an alumnus, brings back a lot of memories. Three years ago, I was once a student like them, putting my heart and mind into everything about Biology. I won myself an honour, but my greatest takeaway was how it has opened my eyes to the living world.

The living world is so full of wonders, but living in a mostly urbanized country makes it difficult to appreciate all that. Nevertheless, wonders still exist; you’ll just have to look and listen hard enough. Most recently, I have taken to visiting the Botanic Gardens every now and then, partly because I work there in a restaurant as a barista/waiter. (Among my discoveries, I was most deeply enthralled once by the sight of a Crimson Sunbird feeding on a Heliconia plant. I will never forget that red sheen flickering about in the leaves and flowers!)

I was on the verge of a mental burn-out today (because it was indeed a tiring week, and I had much on my thoughts), and so I decided to make a trip down to the Gardens, 8pm in the night. I suppose some would find that ridiculous, but I say it never hurts to see things from a different perspective. And that’s where and when I found that precious something.

It started out as a frightening proposition, to take a night walk in a huge park, alone. Will I get mugged by the sinister waiting in ambush for the innocent and never to see the light of day again? Will I run into something supernatural and get the shock of my life? Will I lose my way and trespass into forbidden grounds and never to return again? But of course fear doesn’t stop me, and I went ahead with my daring idea.

I think NParks has done a fantastic job in their light installations in the Gardens, making it an intriguing place to visit in the dark of the night. Some parts were a little too bright, but there were sufficient paths dimly lit for some quiet reflection. Artfully lit trees were aplenty, superimposing the eerie and the mysterious. Unlit trees gave spectacular silhouettes, especially the tall bamboo clusters. I really did enjoy the walk, and at one instance I stopped to listen to the insects. When I made my exit, I felt so peaceful, the fatigue washed away, the worrisome thoughts vaporized. Feeling anew might have to do with a decent cup of coffee I had on the way too; maybe it was a synergistic combination of the coffee and the night walk that made my day night!

Anyway, the point is, never dismiss the importance of such natural wonders. They are beautiful in their own rights, and we often blind ourselves with pragmatism, neglecting the part of us that is innately inclined to the natural world. A friend once mentioned how the absence of such wonders in my country is what makes the people here so materialistic. There is little else to value, so money, assets, status and wealth form the bulk of our moral/cultural framework. But as I’ve said, we just need to make that extra effort to observe our surroundings. Visit a zoo, a natural reserve, or make a trip down to the Gardens.

“It is only when we understand something that we begin to respect it. And what we respect, we love.. and what we love we protect and conserve.” – Mike Pandey.

This is why schools or the Ministry of Education need to rethink what we’re teaching our students in Biology these days. Molecular and cell biology are indispensable disciplines, but missing out on studying the natural world misses the whole point of Biology – essentially, the study of the living.

This may seem like an article written by a naturalist or an environmental activist (I am neither), but really, put yourself in experiences like this and you’ll understand why people are protecting the vanishing environment. For a start, take a look at the video above, “TimeScapes” by Rapture 4K. Check out Mike Pandey’s documentaries like The Last Migration and Broken Wings. After that, tear yourself away from your computers and get some fresh air.