I’m several days too late in posting this- but better late than never!
9th August was the Singapore National Day. 48 years of being a nation.
15th August was India’s 66th year of freedom.
Two countries, vastly different from one another; two countries I love.
At first glance, the two countries could not be more dissimilar. India is a huge, sprawling, disorganised giant of a nation. Singapore is so tiny that many people don’t realise that it’s a country; and what Singapore epitomises is, efficiency and discipline.
India’s struggle for independence was bloody and long drawn. Singapore was summarily cast out of an alliance with Malaysia.
But scratch the surface, and you see the similarity. Multi cultural and multi lingual. With a deeply engrained racial and religious harmony.
Where but in Singapore and in India, would you find a church, a temple and a mosque cheek by jowl.
My love for India runs too deep to articulate. My love for Singapore is more recent. It stems from a million encounters and courtesies over the past 5 years.
Here is one such story, that moved me to tears…It has taken me a year to put this down on paper, but here goes.
On the 9th of August, last year, I was waiting for my bus at Clarke Quay. Bus 54 drew up and there was a surge of people waiting to board it. The driver didn’t open the door, but instead got up and walked towards the exit door of the bus. Annoyed, people turned their heads, wondering why the doors were not open.
Then we saw what was keeping him. There was a man on a wheelchair waiting to board the bus. The driver opened the exit door and pushed down a ramp for the wheelchair to come onto the bus. As he wheeled the man toward the ramp, the slippers on the feet of the seated man, fell off. Seconds later, a young 20 something, rushed up, retrieved the slippers and slid them onto the invalid’s feet.
Once the driver of the bus had his passenger ensconced in the slot for a wheelchair, he rushed to open the front door of the bus, apologising to the throng that had waited patiently through the whole encounter. The entire event must have taken 8-10 minutes. The driver was fully justified for taking his time…..but the apology was heartening. And the crowd wonderfully gracious.
But for me, what was completely unexpected and therefore very moving was that, the driver was of Chinese origin. The man on the wheelchair of impoverished Indian origin and the young boy, of Malay origin. Three men of different ethnicities, different ages. An encounter that could not have been orchestrated better.
A Singapore that I’ve come to love!