Views on Singapore


 

 In the novel - Behind a Cultural Cage - by Pranav S Joshi, there is a description of Singapore in late 1990s, written from the point of view of an Indian student or a visitor who has recently arrived in Singapore. It may as well serve as a description by an Indian expatriate or Indian expat, viewing Singapore through the - eyes of an Indian.

Enjoy it without prejudice!

 

The Praise by the Chinese Indian Protagonist

(Kenneth Lai)

 

"Gradually, he began to appreciate life in the clean, green, near crime-free and technology-loving Singapore."

"While the city was not overall glamorous or enterprising by Hollywood standards, and did not hide rabbits of surprises in its hat, it still carried its own class due to a modern, polished and smartly dressed image that it portrayed on a domestic scale.

"The cultural cages did exist among the communities but they were drawn by the primal differences between the human ecosystems, rather than cancerous mutations in the society."

"A conscious and resolute system prevailed to keep things in a hygienic state, including the political arena."

"At the core, the public service worked on the principle of vision and efficiency, pushing away, very successfully, the pathological sicknesses of a regular Asian country — something that fascinated Kenneth."

"...imagine Ministers or top-notch civil servants of Singapore and India, swapping their places for one or two years, backed by the full political support. How much contribution would they be able to make to the host countries?"

 

And the unplesant!

 

 

"Kenneth felt that the social fun was grossly missing in Singapore, marred by the broad dryness (or was it sadness?) carried by the individuals who displayed common courtesies, but failed to add an element of warmth and comic relief."

"Nobody sang, laughed, joked or shed emotions in the way his gregarious friends did in Calcutta and created happy riots in his personal space."

"The variety of human life was limited. Descending towards synthetic, superficial shades due to reasons of materialism; denying the sweetness in human relationships..."

"Not having enough tissue papers caused crises in life."

"Almost everything ultimately revolved around dollars and cents, celebrating the science of moneymaking and compulsion of money spending, STEG — shop, travel overseas, eat out, go movies."

"The yardstick of success measured in terms of the famous 5Cs — cash, car, condominium, country club membership and credit card."

"Perhaps many people were born with full-blown adulthood, ignoring rather willingly, the joy of being a simple human kid in the playground of the society."

 "Being poor was more painful here than being poor in India where somebody would always be more miserable than you, thus offering solace to the disturbed mind."

"His tanned complexion and Chinese features stirred some interest among his classmates, but the issue remained on the border of confusion as nobody pressed him to clarify. He liked it that way."

"To become a random face in the local crowd, he shaved his moustache and bought a pair of casual shorts and T-shirts from a neighbourhood shop, after observing how the locals dressed in plain, bland clothes that announced, “We are scared of colours.”

"Gradually, he learned to speak Singlish (Singaporean English), issue cosmetic smiles, eat durian fruit without complaining about the armpit smell, queue up in the public places, and most importantly, shake hands with girls spiffed up with Western dresses. Yes, handshakes — soft, brief and with tacit hesitation."

"The drinks like teh (tea), kopi (coffee) and kopi-o (black coffee) added some misery to his taste bud. He wondered why some drinks should taste more bitter than a medicine, and whether there was a need for the local vendors to undergo courses in India on how to make decent, aromatic, heavenly cups of tea and coffee. Drinking the cheap kopi-o was however healthy to his physical and financial health."

"For him, every dollar was valuable and every cent was precious. “Lean and mean, that’s my fiscal policy..."

"His condition was however better than that of some Indian students who had to forage for decent vegetarian food. Upon looking at some local vegetarian dishes, which were deliberately cooked in such a way as to make them appear like non-vegetarian food, their appetite would decline. It would decline further after knowing that the dishes were still named as mock chicken, mutton or meat. “Don’t tell us their names,” they would request the food stall owners, restraining inner waves of disgust, destroying the image of the tasty Chinese vegetarian food that they would have enjoyed back in India. Kenneth even saw a girl vomiting after being told that she was eating mutton curry, of course, containing mock mutton. “At least, I don’t have such a problem,” his omnivorous tongue would console himself, remembering a saying — I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet."

 

NOTE

 

Singapore is a great city-state to live in. Clean, green, decent infrastructure, and forward looking. Those who want to seek more recent information about this city-state should visit the website of the Singapore Tourism Board (www.stb.gov.sg) and the website of the "Uniquely Singapore".

 

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