Chapter 2

On a fine warm morning he took the flight of the Singapore Airlines and the airhostess who greeted him in the plane said that Singapore is a nice place for young people and he will have many surprises there. He smiled at her and wondered what those surprises would be. It will be entirely different from Tamil Nadu, much cleaner with lot of discipline and with almost everything being decided by the government. He thought of Singlish, the special English the Singaporeans have developed.

The flight was good; there were different kinds of passengers, children, adolescents, adults, old people and he enjoyed the flight. The beautiful airhostesses were friendlier when they served him or talked to him. But his mind was in Singapore; some strange thoughts went in his head, what could happen or what might happen there? He has decided to see the City and State of Singapore alone. He wanted to spend more time at places that he liked or skip places that might not be interesting to him. He was too young at 21 to decide about his life, he thought. But he was sure that he wanted to work in India, that also particularly in Tamil Nadu. His uncle’s words were always ringing in his ears, you could earn more money in North America or in Europe but for that money the price that you had to pay was always too high - that is your social life in India. When they celebrated Deepavali in India, you are working in Europe; you could not fulfil your social duties by way of visiting relatives – to celebrate births, marriages or even to deaths. When you are young you think less about these things but as you become old you would miss these and suffer more. These discussions were the main reasons that made him decide to plan his life in India. He wanted to work only for one year to gain experience and after that wanted to do his masters and doctorate. These were the important thoughts during his flight to Singapore.

The Singapore Airport was busy. Raman was a very handsome young man. All were friendly to him and he finished his immigration formalities and got a taxi to go to his hotel. It was a comfortable hotel and the young hotel receptionist smiled at him very attractively. He could expect from her any help – she said and he nodded with a smile. After his bath and some rest he wanted to go and see Little India.

Little India was exactly like Tamil Nadu but very clean and colourful everywhere. He had read a lot about the cleanliness in Singapore but to experience this personally was wonderful. He hesitated to walk and thought that could make the road or the floors dirty. It was a different world he thought but it was warm compared to Northern Europe. He walked in the Race Course Road and wanted to eat something. He went inside Banana Leaf Jaggi’s and had some snacks and tea. He took a side street and reached the Serangoon Road. He saw the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple and had the feeling that he was standing somewhere in Tamil Nadu. It was sultry and he decided to go inside the temple next day.

It was around 4:30 p.m. and he decided to go back to his hotel. People were moving in all directions and he could see the people from different ethnic origins - Chinese, Malay or Indians. Their faces were bright and they were happy he thought. For a moment he thought of his future and a colourful picture came before his eyes. There were only different colours but he could not see any contour. He laughed to himself and a passing young Chinese woman looked at him curiously. He took the train and came back to his hotel. In the lounge there were many persons. But he was not in a mood to stay there and went to his room. He could feel homely here because the television had many Indian as well as Tamil channels. Tomorrow he would see more and talk to people also he thought. After a short telephone talk to his parents he put off the lights and went to sleep.

Raman had a nice dream, it was full of colours and in the midst he thought he saw some face, but it was not clear, he could not remember anything. Finally he had a sound sleep and when he got up the sun was shining brightly as if it was inviting him for a wonderful adventure. What would be waiting for this young man? Nobody could know that and it could make his life very interesting. He got up and went to the balcony and could enjoy the fresh air of the sunny morning. He thought about Singapore and the different races living there peacefully and it was a dreamland compared to India with all its advantages as well as disadvantages. Even the persons from one state in India consider the persons from the other states like enemies and the quarrel for water and other natural resources made him sick, he thought. Why was it not possible to have a Singapore in India? His head was full of thoughts as he was very much interested in our culture and politics in India.

The young receptionist greeted him with a good morning and a broad smile and asked him what he would be going to look today? He answered that he would like to see the temple in Little India.
“It’s good”, she said, “but visit the Mariamman Temple in China town first and that must be the starting point because it is the oldest temple in Singapore”. She gave him some booklets which contained the history of Singapore which he wanted to read. It was 9:30 a.m. when he left his hotel.

As he stepped into Little India he was greeted by the strong scent of spices and jasmine garlands. The treasure of gold jewelleries, silverware, brassware, wooden carvings and the colourful silk saris reminded him the heart of T. Nagar Chennai. He started to see the things and the persons around him with much interest. Little India was the focal point of Singapore’s Indian community. From the large Tekka Centre and Little India Arcade to the small provision shops, it was packed with colourful interesting things and one could discover things and spend here several hours without realising.

He has seen here the co-existence of colourful temples side by side with mosques and churches. This was a true secular state he thought and his mind compared the situation automatically with India. With all these thoughts he reached the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple.