Saturday, June 21, 2008

There's a lot more to Singapore than shopping

Obviously most Singaporians don’t spent most of their time shopping, though it might seem so from walking the length of Orchard Road in the early evening In fact, I would assume that most cannot afford the high fashion items on sale, nor take a $50 plus meal in one of the upscale restaurants on a shopping mall’s upper floor or along the canal in the fashionable Clark Quay neighborhood. As in every city, they are servers in the restaurants, clerks in the shopping malls, small proprietors in little India storefront boutiques or Chinatown hawkers stands, taxi drivers, students and street sweepers. I have taken particular note of the street sweepers. As in most countries, including the US, they are shorter that the average population and have darker skins. In Singapore, they wear iridescent vests to alert drivers to their presence. When I see them, the “epsilons” described by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World come to mind, though their lowly status is dictated by circumstance, not genetic conditioning.

One thing Singapore’s epsilons apparently do not do is live in slums, though perhaps some of the low end high rise complexes may have slum like qualities. Only after crossing the border into Malaysia did slum shanties appear, nestled along the rail track as in Sri Lanka and India. In KL, I was told, there were high-rise slum communities.

On a first visit to Singapore - to any area where one travels as a tourist - one mostly sees the Alphas and Betas. One may come in contact with the Deltas and Epsilons, but even then they are almost invisible amidst the bustle and glitter. On my next visit, seeking them out will be a priority.

In reading this over later I felt a qualification was needed. Singapore's Little India, where I stayed was a much more diverse community, not unlike one that would be found in Colombo, Delhi or Mumbai. And at the Sunday morning (Anglican) Church services, the congregation was diverse, large, not overtly wealthy, and very hospitable.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home