Monday, April 22, 2013
The bustling city nation of Singapore marks the southernmost part of continental Asia, as was mentioned on the plaque reading out the way to the beach on Sentosa Island resort. Singapore is a name all of us have heard of. But, to visit this place meant culmination of a series of figments that my mind had engendered using the bits from the aggressive tourism advertisement campaign that this tiny hub of a nation has unleashed on the world. Singapore, a tiny fishing town of 1950’s is today the region’s most enterprising centre, which headquarters almost all major MNCs. Its strategic positioning in the major Air routes and sea lanes has been the secret to its success. The urbanscape of the Singapore is almost flawless in its methodology and precise in its execution. The planning of roads, walkways, flyover, underpasses and over bridges with neatly landscaped garden almost make the experience surreal to my Indian eyes. The perfection of town planning, aided with electronic surveillance, digital monitoring of citizenry make it the perfect modern town. Some of the first that I saw here was the door bell style Zebra crossing, wherein one had to operate a button to ‘demand’ for a red light, digital updates on the number of parking slots vacant in the town via an electronic board in several place in the town, neatly cordoned off areas around construction sites to prevent mishaps, malls integrated with Subway stations among others. It needs no iteration that one needs a large sum of money to survive in this business centre. Having been invited across town by a friend of mine, I got a glimpse into what it means to live in this city. The rent of his house was equivalent of Rs 80000/- for a salary of about Rs 2 lakh. The cell phone and Cable TV bills run into almost 5-6 thousand INR. Car is an unaffordable luxury here as govt charges a huge tax to dissuade people from congesting the limited road ares. Volkswagon Polo, which costs about 7 lakh in india comes to about 18 lakh in Singapore. Buying a house in Singapore would set you back by several crores. I visited the well advertised Sentosa Island with its underwater world. For the first time in my life did see the trained dolphins dance to the tunes of the instructor. Needless to say that all this comes for a relatively steep ticket and one is forced to admire the value people of Singapore attach to packaging and presentation. With almost no natural resources that originate here, this country has learnt to sell things that are simple, only better packaged. The ‘Night safari’ was a treat as well, as again, the animals though few were well fed and seemed interested in showing off to the spectators. Every time the toy train passed by from the same tract of land, the beast was miraculously replaced by another species of animal. Clockwork precision, good presentation and cleanliness scored for the owners. The local cuisine is a mix of Chinese, Indian and other SE Asian flavours. A significant number of Tamil people who originate in India comprise one of the minority communities there. They confine themselves to an area called ‘Little India’. The perfection in planning of Singapore is almost unsettling and the strict rules might stifle a free spirited Indian. The city evoked words such as ‘quarantined’ and ‘anti-septic’ with its perfect model of city life. In retrospect, I feel we Indians have a lot more bestowed by Nature and a dazzling History as well to showcase.