Sunday, May 10, 2009
These last few months have been a sort of a walk down the memory lane for me, literally! I have traveled a lot, and mostly to places where I had been as a kid, with my parents. And last week, I decided suddenly to take off to Singapore: my first international trip as an adult, and I first trip abroad ALONE! Usha Aunty (who remains the sole grown up and sensible reader of my blog) had suggested it a few times, and I assumed she was serious about it and invited myself to her house (there are rumours that Aditya didn’t much like my company but I of course, refuse to believe it… who in his right mind, will NOT enjoy my company?)
The last time I went there some nine years back I did the usual “tourist” spots: Sentosa Island, Night Safari, Zurong Bird Park and actually tried shopping at Orchard Road (and got super depressed). But this time, I am older, more matured and grown up, and therefore I didn’t want to follow the beaten path and tried something different (read, Aditya refused to go shopping with me) and made me walk seven hours a day, but I am not complaining! So yes, we actually explored unheard of places like the Sungei Buloh rainforest, trekked through Changi beach park, got a bit of the local flavour at Chinatown and instead of burning money at the much touted river cruise through Clarke Quay, we decided to explore it on foot, and get up, close and personal to the famous Merlion, pose for pics at the lit-up CBD and Fullerton Hotel. Besides of course, the usual visit to the Singapore Zoo, the Botanical Gardens, the Sun Tek mall and Mustafa were done.
The public transport (the buses and the MRT) ensures that even strangers to the city will feel completely at home and after five days of traveling up and down the country, hopping from one route to another across three different lines, I was as much at home as I am with the Mumbai local trains. As far as I could see, in spite of being an expensive place, the people there were a pampered lot, and yet I was told that they ranked very low on the happiness index! I suddenly felt a stab of anger at our political set up, at our leaders and the government, for not doing enough for the country as I experienced the fruits of labour by a small country which had virtually no natural resources, no industries and which had to depend on other countries for even basic necessities. But I also felt “country sick” as I missed India, in all its miseries, dirt and dust…
However the high point of my trip was definitely being with Aditya’s family, the warmth with which they made me a part of their family, the enthusiasm with which they showed me around the city even though they had seen those places so many times before, and the way it felt like home even though I was thousands of miles away from home. Usha Aunty’s idlis, uncle’s cheerful anecdotes, Aditya’s smart alec sarcastic comments and the choice of dessert every night (yoghurt, pure chocolate ice cream, crunchy chocolate ice cream fruit and nut chocolate and bitter chocolate) ensured that I was spoilt to the core!
Some interesting observations:
1. Tamil is one of the official languages there
2. It has the most number of IIM grads after Delhi
3. The custom is that if you are invited to a wedding in Singapore, you are expected to pay money (per head basis) for attending the wedding
4. Grandmothers are paid for baby sitting children when both parents are working (my grandmother would have been a millionaire there)
5. The localites do not have the concept of cooking: so kids have breakfast at Subway, lunch at KFC, coffee at Starbucks and dinner at the foodcourts
I can go on and on about how grateful I am to Usha Aunty and how much I enjoyed my stay there, but nothing I say will do justice to it. Besides I promised that I wouldn’t belittle it with words like “thanks”, “obliged, “indebted” and I am going to stick by it. But yeah, it was a memorable trip for sure…
And for all those losers who are alarmed that I would just land up at their place with no warning and are determined that they would never ever extend an invitation to me for the sake of politeness because I accept it, you guys need not worry. (Aashay you esp)…