Sunday, October 08, 2006

Singapore Diary - Part 2

The second week starts and my office work increases. I do not perform anything earth shaking except a lot of Control C- Control V job in the last few days, mostly not even aware of what is happening but hey, my targets are achieved by this simple movement of my two hands. That’s all work life has become – a monotonous drole which pays you, to show off to your peers. Stop cribbing I tell myself but then Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin and so I log in and decide to do a bit of my blogging work again – a necessary outlet for my incessantly wavering mind.

We plan to go to a place called Sentossa but the rain gods play spoil sport and we reschedule our tour itinerary to travel to a couple of museums in Jurong East. It’s all child’s play out there and we get bored pretty quickly though I manage to capture an IMAX viewing of “Mars Travel”. But the good thing is that I see industries in this part of the world and travel by the bus for the first time. The railway pass I had bought can be used in the bus (called LRT here) also. That’s nice; I had heard of plans of a similar integrated multi-transport system in India(useful info available in the Indian Economy Blog) also but wonder what happened to it.

I am not the most active temple goer while in India but I decide to check out a temple in this island city. And so here, I am in front of Sri VeeramaKaliamman Temple, next to Veerasamy Road in Little India. It’s a busy Saturday evening and lots of people around but it feels reasonably good. I have doubts if I can use my camera inside but I see a few Europeans taking photos, so I enter. Seeing me, a Japanese tourist (he reminds me of the tourist in Munnabhai MBBS) asks me in gestures if I can get his snap taken in front of the temple. I oblige hoping to get the favour returned .He's, however, not too pleased with my photography skills in my first two shots but settles on my third attempt . He’s satisfied and leaves but I forget to get my photo taken.

As I step out of the temple, I hear "Apadi Poddu Poddu" from one of the hotels. I take a walk around and realize that there’s not a single non-Indian store in the place (99% Tamil). You’d think I may as well be in Coimbatore as I see Ananda Bhavan, Komalas, Meenas and many other such hotels. A North Indian could be equally bewildered as a Westerner seeing Tamil sprayed around in such quantity.

I am allowed taxi travel as per company norms but I decide to hitch train rides daily rather than go by the cab. One reason is my nostalgia associated with Mumbai and its train travel, though they are not comparable in the actual sense. Secondly, I feel that one of the best ways to know the people of a place is to travel in the most common mode of transport there. Not that I make a great job at it (which I realize later) as I stand in the train staring at the people while most of them are hooked to ipods and lost in their own world.

(View inside the Singapore MRT-Local Train)

Nevertheless, I buy a pass (an EZ-Link Magnetic Card) and load it with 30 Singapore dollars and proceed. You swipe the ticket at a fare gate while entering a station and swipe out at another at the place you get out and the fare is deducted for the distance covered. The amount of travel inside the stations is much more than the actual journey which is a dampener at times but then since some exercise has also to be factored in, I’m ok with that option.

One first hand observation I have is of the work culture prevalent here. It is something similar to India in terms of people working for long hours. The few Europeans I see here are more inclined to visit the evening pubs or maybe dash home unlike our hardworking Singaporean. I guess it’s not just an Indian mentality; an Asian work style though not as difficult as the Japanese culture of workaholism. With no girlfriends in store and no inclination towards bars, I decide I may as well be a part of this brigade which sits late (not necessarily office work though). The MBA in me of course makes me think - Good market for stress counselors, gyms, alternative lifestyles etc.???

I am told by one of my colleagues that the Maruti Swift which is modestly priced (ok, not modest for most of us) in India at about Rs 4-5 lakh is available at about Rs 18 lakhs here and that’s the Maruti 800 equivalent gaadi here. I am shocked at this apparently huge price difference but apparently, this is part of Government policy to curb the number of private vehicles on the roads to avoid traffic congestion. Interesting, isn’t it?

It brings to focus the larger question at stake – the role of governments in Free markets. Should governments allow markets to dictate terms by following a policy of laissez faire or be an interventionist keeping the larger picture in mind? Are free markets truly free or do they breed crony capitalism? I’ll not debate that at least in this post but would like to discuss this in detail later in some other post.

Even at the risk of being dismissed as a cliche, I’d like to reiterate that you can take the Mallu out of politics but not the politics out of a Mallu. So, I look around the place scanning for some political banners, forums or any other symbols of politics in Singapore. But I struggle to find any such demonstrative political paraphernalia around unlike in India, where we are all members (active or passive) of a larger political act.

I must confess that I do not ask Singaporeans themselves about it but go by what I see around which is not a very scientific way of drawing conclusions. But then the politics of a place can be felt in the air and the remarkable absence of it is a discerning factor (at least to me). So, I turn to my old faithful Google to find out more and realise that this is a one party democracy (???).Time to revisit my understanding of democracy???

I'm running out of time;I better stop.Will continue the discussion on the economic and political style in the next post……………


  1. Hey,
    excellent one man...superb... fluent... witty... informative...
    Lage Raho Pradeep bhai... (since u 2 quoted Munnabhai MBBS) ... :-)

  2. Hi Pradeep,

    You might like this site.

  3. Pinne pradeep I did read ur blog on singapore, and ur exprience on singapore railways. It is the same here in Japan, but the thing which u forgot to mention is that of the train timings and how they maintain it.

    Here one will be surprised to see timings written like 16:17, 10:29 etc and the train r never late (except in times of natural disaters like earthquakes, typhoons or some suicides). I hope they maintain the same system in singapore.

    Then did u notice the wasteage disposal system, or manner of people towards their city cleaniness etc. Iam sure those area will also interest u. just give it a hit.

  4. Wow ,

    This is interesting . I hppen to read it today . Maruti Swaift costing 18laks ,

    Shucks man , I am happy in India

  5. Don't try to act as if india is the best alright. n the ctual fact, INDIA CAN KISS MY ASS!! especially when they hav ppl like you.