Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sing-ing praises

This is a week of milestones.

Today marks my 15th year in Singapore. On this very day, a clueless 18-year-old me (okay fine, you know my age now, hmmmph!) landed on the shores at the airport of Singapore, not knowing what life had in store for her. And now, I have lived here 15 years. That is more than twice as long as any city in India I've lived in. My dad's an ex-banker so we moved around a lot and I kind of grew up all over the place. And that is why I don't really identify any Indian city as my 'hometown'. Of course, I have a huge soft corner for Jharkhand where I spent most of my teens (if you want to know more about my hilarious Jharkhand days, you have to read my Jai Jharkhand series), but I still can't call it my hometown. If there's a city that seems effortlessly 'homely' now, it is Singapore. You know how we all crib about India but if any outsider does it, we jump to defend it? I feel like that very very strongly about Singapore too, and I think that's the greatest sign of me being a Singaporean. Sure, it has its issues, but then which country doesn't?

It was not an easy decision taking up Singapore citizenship. We were emotional about giving up Indian citizenship, and it took many many years before we realised that if we're going to be here for good, it just makes sense to exchange our dark blue passports for red ones. A passport is just a piece of paper that enables international travel; it does not make us any more Indian or Singaporean than we ourselves feel from within. It took a while for this thought to sink in, but eventually it did and I'm glad. Because I love Singapore and I'm proud to call it home. Of course I miss India and my family (and roadside pani puris... and winter!), but I also miss Singapore a lot when I am elsewhere. I can't choose one and I don't want to choose one. So until India starts handing out dual citizenship, I shall be a Singaporean with an OCI card.

So here, in no particular order, are five things I love about Singapore:

Food - We say that eating, shopping and complaining form the national pastime here. I don't do a lot of the second and the third, but I sure do a lot of the first. Though virtually every cuisine you can think of is available here, that's not the cool part. The cool part is the local food. The wonderful, delicious, amazing local food. Think chilli crab, chicken rice, rendang chicken, laksa, ayam penyet, yum, yum and more yum!

The little red dot - It is amazing what the country has done in less than 50 years. It is a tiny dot, measuring 49 km from east to west and 25 km from north to south. And yet, it is highly urbanised without compromising on greenery. Things are hair-raisingly efficient. Stuff actually works. The public transport is great. (I mean buses and trains. Not cabs. Definitely not cabs. I don't believe they really exist. Cabs are just an urban myth.) It is really clean, yes, even public toilets. And yes, while the rest of the world laughs at our chewing gum ban, when I compare the streets of London and Singapore, I prefer the ban. If you love travel, it's a nice central hub to explore the region from. Another nice thing is that people from all kinds of cultures and races live in harmony. They may not fully understand one another's cultures, but the basic respect is there.

Distance to India - You can skype, call, sms, or email, but whatever said and done, physical distance matters. My parents, in-laws and other family are in India, but because Singapore is just four hours away by flight, sometimes I don't feel like I live in a different country. For all I know, if I were in India in a different city from them, it would take me longer to reach them than it would now. This is also one of the big reasons why we chose to settle here rather than the US.

Safety - I know I should not take safety for granted anywhere in the world, but Singapore's safety levels amazed me from day 1. During my university days, I'd go jogging on the roads at 1 am. After orientation (that's just a fancy term for ragging), I'd walk back to my hostel by myself at 3 am. And it was fine. I never felt scared. That is something I, coming from India, appreciate very very much.

Viv - "Huh?? Viv??" You ask. Well, Viv and I came to Singapore from very different parts of India on the same scholarship. If either (or even both) of us had turned it down, we'd have never met. And though my life in that parallel universe might not be too bad, I just can't imagine this one without him and Xena. So yes, it was Singapore that brought us together, and I'm grateful and thankful.

So there, that's my list. Of course, there are things about Singapore that annoy me, and some day if I'm in a ranting kind of mood, I might list those. But today, I am celebrating my 15 years here, and reminding myself of all the good stuff.

But... there is a hidden agenda too. Through this post, I am also attempting to yank back old friends I miss who have moved to Dubai, New York and India. You know who you are.

Move back pronto. 


Arun said...

Is Singapore a she, a he or a it?

Kanan said...

Makes me want to visit the place at leisure. I've traveled through it, just never toured it. Hopefully someday :)

Kanan said...

PS. Gold!

Sayesha said...

LOL, is there any country that's a 'he'? :P

Come. Pronto. :D

Arun said...

Should have asked Google devata. Also there is a long list of fatherlands on Wiki. Surprising, actually!

Varsha said...

In one other post maybe around 3 or 4 years back, you had said that you will not withdraw your Indian citizenship, since you did not want to take a visa to travel to India. :). Though I am convinced about your decision, wondering how much life actually changes us (I speak for myself also here).

shub said...


Sayesha said...

Wow, that's a long list! But they base it on stuff like Pakistan being referred to us 'watan' (male)? Then Bhaarat is also MERA desh, isn't it?

Yes, I was an emotional fool. :) I always knew I was going to settle here, and yet just the thought of a visa to India deterred me. Well, at least with the OCI I don't have to apply for a visa for each visit.

What ahem and all? Just come back. :P

dearbharat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dearbharat said...

I was following your blog long back - way back in 2005 - 06. I relocated to Kuala Lumpur in May this year. Today, I was listing out people whom I know in Singapore. Your "identity" popped up in my mind but I was not able to recollect your name. But somewhere I have had your identity of an engineer who edits a children magazine "Banana Pen". I reached Banana Pen blog and found you in the first comment of May 2005 blog.

Distances do matter. Had I not relocated to KL, I probably would not have searched for you.

Good to be back on your blog again.


Ruminating Optimist said...

Congrats Sayesha!

Like you, I have also gone around a particular Indian state because of my Dad's bank job. Could so so relate to your "no hometown" statement. Am having similar feelings about an Indian city for last few days, but for professional reasons may be moving out of the "current hometown for 8 years" soon.

Have been a silent visitor of your blog for a long time now. Keep up the good work :)

Alice said...

And I am visiting the lil red dot over the Aug long weekend. Whoppeee!

Sayesha said...

Bharat Bhushan,
Welcome back! :)
PS: The magazine is not called Banana Pen. My colleague who worked on the magazine with me has a blog called Banana Pen. :)

Ruminating Optimist,
Thanks! :)

YEAYYY!!! Will you have time to catch up? Email me! :D

Vidya Hemraj said...

Oye dont you dare entice Shub into returning to Singapore ok??!! If you are the Bhai, I'm the Behen :P (guess a Bollywood fanatic like you doesnt need the reference but I'm referring to the song "Mumbhai" by Javed Jaffrey). Take Sumanth if you must, but not Shub! *Runs for cover from Sumanth*

Alice said...

Done!! Check your mail :D