Singapore O.K. Lah!
The smallest state in Southeast Asia can teach us how to keep cities clean
‘The Little Red Dot’ was a patronising name given by the bigger nations of the world to Singapore for the teeny space it occupied on the world map. The country has turned that dismissive handle on its head and told the world to go handle it.
Size does not matter lah, as the quaint Singlish suffix goes. As one traverses the fabulously efficient Changi airport one sees a logo of the little red dot displayed on the wall. Go take that world!
From a somnolent archipelago of fishing villages it has become a country that has turned this tag on its head and shown the world how the little red dot can not be scoffed at. It is a pulsating ‘multi-culti’ city state, squeaky clean and litter free.
It is a huge culture shock to us Swachh Bharatis, used to throwing kachra and worse on the roads without any qualms, to see this level of cleanliness and order. Perhaps a little boring to us folks used to the perpetual high voltage drama on the roads, milling crowds, rallies, road rage and the unbelievable mix of vehicles.
Perhaps Little India on Serangoon road with its mosques and temples, cheek by jowl eateries and the Mustafa Centre comes closest to the Indian flavour.
This smallest state in Southeast Asia with a population of six million plus can teach us a lesson or two in keeping our cities clean. For one suffering from more than a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder syndrome,(shouldn’t it be called a compulsive order syndrome?) I fully endorse this profile of the bustling city along the Strait of Malacca.
The severe penalties for littering are an excellent deterrent. Gum giants like Wriggley’s must grind their teeth in anger and wriggle in disgust over the ban on the sale of gum and the loss of a good market alas!
Founded by British politician and empire builder Stamford Raffles in 1819, this former British colonial trading post has become an achiever even though it joined the club of independent nations in 1965. It is a global financial hub, amongst the top ten least corrupt countries in the world and a truly diverse country with Malays, Chinese, Peranakans (with mixed Chinese and Malay descent), Javanese, Singapore Tamils et al living in total harmony and celebrating each other’s festivals with joy.
The cuisine with these dollops of varied ethnic food inputs is heavenly, from street food to posh restaurants to beachfront cafes. As the SQ inflight menu for business class says--- “Designed to delight you”--- the same can be said about Singaporean cuisine.
Singapura has an awesome blend of futuristic architecture and charming traditional shop houses. Marina Bay Sands is a three tiered hotel and casino with a horizontal sky garden that looks like a stranded spaceship.
Gardens by the Bay are spectacular parks and the star attraction there are the towering metal trees where a son et lumiere is held daily on different themes. These gardens had a stellar role in the movie, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’.
Lee Kuan Yew with his visionary leadership and firm resolve put Singapore on a fast track and the traction continues. His scions carry on the legacy and there is great pride in being technologically ultra modern along with reclaiming their traditional heritage.
Old 19th Century shop houses with bright candy colours are being restored in some areas though most of the old city was demolished under the juggernaut of modernity. These are architectural gems that show the varied influences of the traders from all over the world at this entrypoint.
The Peranakan Museum is the only museum and gallery exhibiting the history of Peranakan culture in Singapore and in other Southeast Asian regions.
Apart from the four official languages, Singlish is the fifth. It is Singapore creole with a flavour all its own like the eponymous alliterative drink called Singapore Sling.
Sentences are bereft of verbal excess. A simple word ‘can’ does a can-can dance in Singlish. It can double as almost any part of speech from a question to an assent to a denial in ‘No can!’ Barack Obama’s catchy campaign slogan , ‘Yes You Can’ would’ve had great resonance in this tiny island lah!