As I stretched myself or rather parts of me out of the window to get a better view of the surrounding outside, I ended up with my body hanging oddly on either sides of the window and my abdomen on the window-sill of the NUS hostel room. While I was staring right downwards towards the ground, the rain suddenly started. It caught me unawared, unprepared.
I have been a mover throughout my life. The list of cities of which I have been an inhabitant is pretty long–Bhuj, Chandigarh, Tezpur, Gwalior, Bokaro Steel City, Mohanpur/Kolkata, Ghaziabad/Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and now Singapore. (Yes, I know Singapore is not a city, it’s a nation. But it doesn’t feel like one.) These places offered distinct aroma as I passed by them at different points in my life, and they influenced me variedly. Each one of them had its own unique character. But somehow they all seem to unite when it rains. As if the rain washes down all the peripherals–location, language, buildings, trees and birds around. And each one of them, I have found, stands naked.
During my stay in Singapore, countless times I was asked, “How is Singapore? Do you like it?” In response, I usually just mumbled some words.
The very first glimpse of Singapore I got was when I peered through the airplane window. It must be three in the morning according to local time. As the captain maneuvered the flight to get it in the right position for landing, I saw the peninsula’s extended arms and legs fighting with the extent of the nightly water. Just one mistake from the captain, and the sea waited for us. Amid the dark, ghostly sea, the living city held the beacon of assurance. The civilization dazzled with bright lights of varied hues. I have not witnessed a better testimony of mankind’s skills and abilities. Stargazers complain cities produce light pollution. Allow me to tell you otherwise. They stare into the wrong direction. They should look for stars on the earth, not above.
Changi airport didn’t attract me much. No, don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t fail to rise to the expectation of an airport belonging to a developed country. However, Delhi T-3 airport is also fantastic. So, Changi had its own glamour but I was more curious to see outside, lest it was just an illusion like the one at T-3. As soon as one leaves T-3, one finds the Bharat waiting for you. The first feeling that hit me as I came out of it at dawn was of amazement. Tip-top roads with ultra-sensual and courteous cars (They wait patiently for the pedestrian to cross the road first. On many a occasion, I felt not much comfortable in making luxurious cars wait for me and I waved my hand asking them to pass by. But they insisted on me crossing the road first.) zooming past. Skyscrapers which gives you neck-ache if you try to see its highest level. All structures oozed out efficiency and decorum. I found Singapore exactly as foreign countries are shown in the Bollywood.
Singapore is a place where you can get anything you want. They don’t produce much but they have the money to import anything you wish. (I bought imported Indian red onions there. ) Not only goods, it looks like they imported even the famous tourist spots of the world. There you can emulate the experience of visiting places all over the world. You just name any place, and they would definitely have a place that looks like that. If you want to just sit around and chat in the European eateries which have their tables placed outside on the cobble-street, go to Holland Village (The streets are not cobbled, but you won’t miss it much.). If you want to dine in the restaurants facing sea, just like Venice, then Riverside and Boat Quay would cater to your needs. If you want to enjoy American amusement parks, go to any of the numerous parks of Sentosa Island. If you want to soak in the ambiance of the Hawaiian beach, go to the beaches of Sentosa Island. If you want to experience what it feels like to be in the corporate area of the Wall Street, Raffles is the place for you. Since, Singapore has a sizable Chinese population, you can’t miss China Town, which attracts souvenir-hunters looking for not-so-costly gifts for their distant relatives. And if you start feeling nostalgic amidst all these explorations, go to Little India and have some Indian food. You would find flowers being sold outside temple (yes, there is one) with Tamil devotional songs playing in the background. That was the only place there where I found scant regards was being given to hygiene. It did look like Bharat-effect.
The downside is I didn’t find many things which were uniquely Singaporean; unless you say that trait is Singaporean.
So, how do you define the identity of a Singaporean citizen? For me, Singaporean culture is defined as something that evolves in a place where you put together Tamil, Malay and Chinese. (The official languages are Tamil, Mandarin, Malay and English). This does give a cosmopolitan face to it. I think the unique feature is perhaps it is the only English-speaking Asian developed country. (Yes, they don’t need to give TOEFL exam). Moreover, you would find them to be friendly if they are not busy with their smart phones, which is rare. (Okay, now there was this man who appeared too-friendly. His sole occupation seems to chat with Indian students at the Indian eatery whoever came within his range. He seemed quite good at befriending them and making them comfortable in a short span of time. I heard many a students pouring out their life’s goal and ambition while they chatted with him.)
The downpour had stopped by the time, I came out of the stupor. I didn’t realise I had got myself completely drenched by then. That was my last day in Singapore. And I had a lot of packing to be done. I hurried through my to-do list and I went for the lunch.
By evening, more or less I was done with most of my things. But there was a growing sense of dread within me. Wasn’t I suppose to feel elated at the prospect of going back to home? I double checked my to-do list. I didn’t find anything I was missing. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling quite uneasy. This increased to its peak with the jolt I received at the moment when my flight’s wheels left the Singapore ground. Then I understood. More than forgetting my stuff, I was afraid that I might have missed out some place there. Or I might have missed exploring some facet of Singapore. Idiot me! Of course, no matter what I would miss the whole place.