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kampong

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An Indian migrant brings his wife to Singapore in the late 19th century to watch the island’s horse races. As the couple travel around the British colony, the husband,N. V. Rengasamy Dasan, describes each building and street they pass to his wife, painting a verbal picture of turn-of-the century Singapore. The travelogue, written in the form of a poem, is the first non-religious Tamil book to be printed in Singapore and notable for breaking new ground in the Tamil literature scene – using colloquialisms such as kampong (village), pasar (market) and kopi (coffee) at a time when most Tamil literature was written in classical Tamil. Published in 1893, Athivinotha Kuthirai Panthaiya Lavani (which translates into English as An Anthology on Horse Racing), the title of the book is misleading as only a small section of its contents is devoted to the sport of horseracing. For the most part the book reads like a travelogue of Singapore. Penned by the husband, N. V. Rengasamy Dasan, the anthology is divided into two broad sections.…

The Sejarah Melayu is considered by scholars as an important literary work on the history and genealogy of the Malay kings of the Malacca Sultanate (1400–1511). Partially composed in the 17th century in Jawi – the modified Arabic script used to express the Malay language – the title is derived from its original Arabic name, Sulalat al-Salatin (Genealogy of Kings). But few are aware that its first English translation in the early 19th century, the Malay Annals, was actually undertaken by a Scotsman. His name was John Leyden, a close friend of the founder of modern Singapore, Stamford Raffles, and a prominent figure of the Scottish Enlightenment movement of the late 18th century. The book, published in 1821, is the earliest English translation of the epic work, and opened up the world of Malay history and literature to 19th century colonial scholars. In some ways, the book was so revolutionary that it overshadowed the handwritten Jawi manuscript, as well as the printed Jawi version by the learned scholar Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir (also known as Munshi…