October 26, 2011

From stingrays to cabbies

The other day, it just occurred to me that our last trip to Singapore did not include a supper trip to Newton Circus for our annual pilgrimage of devouring some Sambal Stingrays and Chilli Crabs.

We not only forgot about the whole Newton thing, we both did not even THINK about it…and that, my friends, is such a cardinal sin, for there has never been a time when we did not eat at Newton Circus whenever we are back in Singapore.

Image from Google

So then…I’m bummed. How and why I started thinking of Sambal Stingrays out of the blue though, was beyond me. I actually wanted to smack myself for even thinking it, knowing that I’ll never get it here in Bangkok. Funny how the image of Sambal stingray sort of randomly popped in my head. And very unfortunately, I think this thought for Sambal Stingray is going to stay in my head for a while longer…Damn.

Talking about Singapore, I am also reminded how the entire atmosphere felt a little different to me. The entire vibe was quite a contrast as to what I seemed to remember from my previous visits. This time, I truly felt that people around us were not too friendly. There were no smiles, no excuse me-s, no thank you-s, no please, not even a friendly acknowledgement to parents carrying small babies, let alone pregnant ladies while standing in the MRT.

Perhaps I am just generalizing or maybe this is just me, but what I saw was really that the general population of people seemed so absorbed into their own little world…so much so that their actions were bordering on rudeness.

I am also quite surprised that at almost every single place I called up to make an appointment or clarifying something from a bank, I was greeted by a heavily accented Filipino accent. Not that I am being biased or anything, but having to ask the other person on the other line to keep repeating what she said because I did not understand what she was trying to tell me is quite annoying! While she was quite patient repeating it for countless time, I was losing mine as instead of making just a minute phone call, I ended up staying on the line for another 10 minutes to understand that 1 sentence she was trying to tell me! Hardly productive, in my opinion.

Recently, a colleague of mine who just got back from Singapore told me that she was quite surprised to discover that of all the cabs she took in Singapore, only 2 cabs were driven by a born-and-bred Singaporean. (She enjoys talking to taxi drivers, and so they told her their life stories).I found it hard to believe at first, but I see no reason for her to lie to me. And because it was for work, I can imagine that she did cab it out quite a bit in Singapore for her entire 2 weeks there, taking at least 2 cab-rides a day.

She said she even had a Thai-Chinese cabbie who has been living in Singapore for a few years now, and said that life is Singapore is good for him. And because he lives simply in Singapore, he can contribute more to his family back in Thailand. And he tried speaking Thai to her, too. While the non-Singaporean cab drivers were all telling her about their decent lives, the Singaporean cab drivers were all lamenting about their plights.

I was also quite surprised to find that there are 2 money changers in and around my neighbourhood…and if you know where my parents live, it’s like one of the most “ulu” places in Singapore. An area (used to be) populated by mostly, and if not only heartlanders.

We had an interesting discussion, my friends and I when I told them of my observations all around in my few days back home when they came over for Hari Raya. It seems that the sentiments were pretty similar and listening to what they have to say gave me more enlightenment as to what the society has morphed into.

Suddenly, Singapore is no longer the Singapore I used to know…

What will happen in the near future is anybody’s guess. Or maybe, nothing at all.

*Ulu: far flung in Malay


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