As an Indian professional working in Singapore and having a largely Indian friends’ circle, I often hear rants about the sterile life in Singapore. The ‘kiasu’ attitude of people and the stark contrast between life here and back in India. I usually jump to the defense of the city-state that in most ways has become home to me.
Undoubtedly Singapore has its fallacies. Most people you come across at a bus stop/MRT are immersed in their smartphones, rarely glancing up at you. Another popular complaint is the lack of empathy projected by the citizens. Accidents don’t cause mass panic, a crowd doesn’t congregate around the mishap site and after a moment of shock, people go on with their lives. As a young state (just 50 years old), the culture is an assimilation rather than indigeneous.
Yet none of this bothers me. As a place where I can get out of the airport well after midnight and hop into a cab, I never worry about reaching home safely. The apparently emotionless young mother melts as soon as she sees you smiling at her 2 year old daughter. The old aunty on the bus flashes a big smile at you when you offer her your seat (never mind that sitting on a reserved seat, you were obliged to do so anyway). The cabbie excitedly suggests great cafes you should visit when you ask for advice.
My first hostel experience, my first experience alone was in this city. I lived in the most scenic of campuses for a year, experiencing ‘uni’ life for the first time. I grew up, made mistakes and learnt to feel gratitude. I set up my own home here.
Don’t get me wrong, being Indian matters to me hugely. Culturally I’m still very Indian. I feel most comfortable talking in Hindi or Indian English to someone from Mumbai. Yet, it is here that I learnt to talk to people from backgrounds different from my own. It was in this neutral environment that my Chinese best friend told me what life is like in her hometown. Singapore offered me the comfort of my own background, yet gave me a plethora of opportunities to discover new cultures. The beauty lies in the fact that so many different cultures flourish so beautifully and independently of one another.
The next time another one of my friends complains about life here, I will refuse to get drawn into an argument and stay content with shaking my head in disbelief.