I love walking in this city. At any time of the day, when I get out of my condo building and walk alongside the river, I always feel a wave of positive energy flowing into me. May be it is a good many number of runners or kids on their scooters/skateboards, or a myriad of happy tourists; the atmosphere is always festive and refreshing. As a consequence, a distance up to 2 km is always covered on foot by me. In the last one year, there has never been a single occurrence when I have not been treated by a sight of something fascinating on the street.
First of all, the names of roads in Singapore are exceptionally secular. Though I haven’t lived in a great many places around the globe, I would be surprised to find a similar multitude of secular assortment of street names anywhere else. There is a Hindu road, Temple Road, Pagoda road, Muslim Road, Arab Road, Synagogue road, Church road to name a few. Interestingly, the first three in this list are adjacent to each other.
There is often an interesting story behind the names of the street. This description of Pagoda street pictures a very different Singapore of 1800s for us. Whenever I am in this part of the town, I get enchanted by the plethora of Chinese herbs, old Chinese music, color ‘red’, beautiful tea-pots and vases with Chinese prints and get my desire to be in crowded streets full of smells and sights, satisfied. For a few moments, I get lost in the glamour and madness as if I was in one of the streets in India. Chinatown of Singapore is like Chandi-chowk of Delhi (alas, without dahi bhalla and jalebi :P).
One of the key defining aspects of a city are the sounds associated with it. One day, when I was stepping out of the house, I heard drum beats just like we hear in the wedding procession in India. My steps got quicker, my heart was paced up, “could there actually be an Indian wedding procession here”? There was no way I would miss one, if there actually was. Well, when I reached the road, I saw a belly dancer dancing to the beats in a restaurant across the river. I was kind of disappointed, but was pleased with the realization that our Indian drum beats are so similar to the Arabic ones.
Usually in developed nations, the homes are very quiet. The apartments are noise-proof. You do not hear anything the entire day. Only an occasional violin or piano practice from neighbor homes. It is only when you go out that you get to hear anything. In Singapore, I love to hear the street music. I often pay these street artists and sometimes talk to them too. More often than not, they are beggars and like beggars anywhere in the world, always ready with a sad story to be shared. Nevertheless, living in a city with so little human contact, any contact is welcome.
Whenever I walk across these parts, I always hope to find these artists singing, playing their instruments, and whenever I do, I feel happy and content that all is well. These artists are essential part of the city as I know it, filling it with beautiful music and a sense of belonging. It is time to change our house and move to a different location. I hope to find new artists and build new associations there! Hope it is as lively and homely as this area has been!