Going West by Mark Powers

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Musings from Singapore....

Bollywood is the nickname for India's movie industry. Singapore's Indian TV stations play many Bollywood movies throughout the day. Since I only get a few channels on my TV, I can often catch a Bollywood show.

In Indian movies, the pace is fast, and no holds barred. No one dimensional leading men in these movies. The leading man might be telling jokes and charming a lady in one scene, then avenging a relative's death using acrobatic Indian style kong-fu on the bad guys, then start singing and dancing with 50 extras like right out of a Broadway musical. During a fight scene a wild cow is seen walking in the background. Its like what the heck is that cow doing in the picture. Totally hilarious and unique. Most of the movies are in Tamil, the common language of southern India.

I also find Singaporeans of Malaysian heritage to be very interesting. I often see young students who go to private schools, the young Muslim students (people of Malaysian heritage are commonly Muslim) wear white beanies or headdresses and light-colored uniforms. But its funny, these young cosmopolitan Singaporeans still wear bright pink Swatch watches with a giant watch faces, Channel pins to hold the headdress in place, and eat at McDonald's, which offers Halal (Arabic term meaning "permissible) hamburgers, which is food that is permissible according to Islamic law.

I was invited out by some new Singaporean friends recently to go rock climbing. We went to a practice facility near Little India (next to Farrer Park MRT station). I was ready to go a couple trips up the wall. The first problem was the largest climbing shoes the place had was a size 12, and I am easily a size 13. So I had to try climbing in my sneakers or socks.

My new friends were very friendly and showed me how to climb, use the equipment and how to be safe. After a few slow and exhaustive climbs up the wall, I found myself sore and tired. You can imagine I was already sweating buckets with only big fans to keep the place cool. But my new friends kept encouraging me, "Now its your turn". "You wanna try this one?"... And how could I refuse, I kept going and going. I think I made at least 10 or more climbs.

How would you like your Crocodile burger?After the climbing and the showers, everyone went out for dinner. We walked over to a outdoor dinning place in Little India. Actually there are many outdoor dinning places in Singapore, its cooler outside. There are lots of little food shops and you pick one or more and buy what you like. Just tell the staff where you will sit and they will bring your food to you, no tips. The food here is not like what you would find in a US mall. No pizza, hamburgers, or Panda Express. You can buy fried chicken wings on a stick, stir-fry seafood and noodles, Roti Prata Indian bread and curry, and you can even try Crocodile meat!

Little IndiaChatting with my new friends, which included Singaporeans of Chinese and Malay heritage, I was impressed by how accommodating they are for each others customs and religion. Its obvious they understand they have to be in order to live and play together in this cultural melting pot. I even caught my Malay friend use a "Ai-yo" a Chinese word for "Oh man" or "Oh no". I said, "Hey that's Chinese, why did you say that?" He said, "No, that's Singlish!" Singlish referring to the mix of English, Chinese, Indian, and Malay that is used by Singaporeans.



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