Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Singapore.... sad to leave

Singapore is like a second home. For one, my son lives and works here. He declared somewhat emotionally that Singapore IS home!! He has been here under six months, and is entirely integrated ( calling all cabbies 'uncle', regardless of age). He knows all there is to know about this charming island state, including the best kept secrets - hiking and trekking weekends in the semi rain forests close by. I have to agree with him when he talks about the exceptional quality of life here - starting with the super food. One can eat out every single day for two years, and not repeat a place. Last night he took us to a Belgian Bar serving over 200 premium beers, some of them pricier than champagne. Appropriately called Brussels' Sprout, it is located in Robertson Quay, on the edge of the waterway and serves the best moules and pommes frittes in town. By the time our group was done with the beer (I don't touch the stuff), it was pretty late. We headed to Chinatown looking for a much recommended place simply known as The Chinese Restaurant. It is on New Bridge road, between the Pagoda and the Mosque, right opposite the Majestic theatre. What a feast!! Let me not spoil it for you by going into raptures....but let me add it was Allan Po, the young 24- year- old waiter from mainland China, who made our evening special. Cheerful and efficient, he jumped around guaranteeing each fresh dish in 'exactly 3 minutes.' Allan earns 900 dollars per month, works 14 hours a day, no holidays or time off, and sends most of his salary back home to his family in China. As a room boy at the Mandarin, serving on the VIP floor, he used to make 500 dollars in tips. But the job was monotonous and he quit, after brushing up his english  while chatting with foreign guests there. Hard working , upbeat and efficient, I was tempted to kidnap him.
  I was equally tempted to kidnap Mia, the sultry dancer at Moshe Moshe Bollywood. Mia is French, earns 5000 dollars a month for grooving to Kaajra Re and other item numbers. She's a university graduate, a trained belly dancer, and exquisite enough to be in movies. So, what's a nice girl like her doing in a joint like this? Her parents have recently relocated to Taiwan, where her father is the general manager of Carre Four. Mia obviously loves her job, and has several besotted admirers showering notes on her each time she appears. The other dancers aren't bad.... but Mia is the undisputed star. How global is this story - a French girl, dancing to Indian music at a nightclub in Singapore, with Japanese men ogling her, as waitresses from Malaysia serve drinks to Chinese patrons. Don't you just love it?? 
 Most of the taxi drivers are real characters  - some sing arias from Chinese  opera. Others joke, "Do you know what ERP actually stands for - Everyday Rob People!" ERP is the much hated 1 dollar  road toll. As we passed the gigantic construction site of the Singapore Casino ( of course, it isn't called a casino here - officials refer to it as an Integrated Resort, if you please!), our cabbie commented it this was THE  place to come to if you want to become a beggar overnight. This was before dropping us to the Cricket Club of Singapore - charming and colonial - just like the one in Mumbai. With one big difference - members can buy and sell their membership!! Which means, it is a trading zone, and anybody with lolly can get in. This is just one quirky aspect of Surprising Singapore.The just concluded Chinese New Year has left a few attractive traces behind - like the lucky mandarin orange trees heavy with fruit, and the brilliantly coloured pussy willows in glorious bloom. Shopping at Orchard Road remains a treat - I got the most attractive metallic flip flops for 10 dollars!
 Well.... it's adieu Singapore and hello Mumbai. An avalanche of work awaits. But tomorrow is another De.... 


Piper .. said...

wow!what a splendid holiday you`ve had! welcome back though.. :)

Anonymous said...

Have you guys noticed that, of late, it is the people encouraging Shobhaa De who are anonymous and those who want to expose her as a hypocrite who are disclosing their names?!?!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha ha!
Good observation!
But it's not surprising, really.
I mean: which intelligent person would like to admit publicly that he/she admires Shobhaa De?

Anonymous said...

In that Devils' Advocate interview (
why did you chicken out in replying to Karan Thapar's question: "Bombay or Mumbai?"

Anonymous said...

send some photos of singapore

Vee said...

So, did you settle for less pricier 'Champagne'?

Mia yahan bollywood me nahi hai toh hi achha hai. At least she has some dignity there. You know what I mean!

Akum said...

Love your blog! Its super cool!

Anonymous said...

Welcome ! Welcome ! Welcome !

Ray said...

What a lovely post. Brings back memories of my holiday to singapore last may. :) I especially enjoyed "the waterfront" at the esplanade , the singapore zoo, shopping at chinatown and sentosa :)

gaurav said...


Anonymous said...

Seriously Shobhaa (or is it Shobhaaa?), an ellipsis has three dots, not four.

With the number of ellipses you use, you should know that!

Seriously, your writing is awesome for a budding writer--to show him how not to write!

Anonymous said...

shobhaa de your blog rocks !

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, the ERP has been raised a lot recently..mostly like 3 bucks..which is why the "robbing" !! No longer 1 dollar!!!

Anonymous said...

You have put "Shobhaaaa......" in a quandary now! Will she admit that she doesn't know the basics of writing by rectifying her ellipses henceforth? Or will she carry on with her mistake brazenly pretending to ignore you :o)?
Of course, her "fans" (themselves not being much better at writing English) won't care either way!

Anonymous said...

Stop making fun of her name, you guys.
She changed her name from Shobha to Shobhaa because numerology (which is the "in" science in her high-society party circles!) says that it will bring her luck.

Anonymous said...

Yup Singapore sounds like the role model one used to hope mumbai shaped up as..

May I draw your attention to the state of a certain south mumbai area...

The stretch of the road between Taj Mahal Hotel / Gateway of India and Radio Club (Prem Ramchandani Marg), which is one of the most pristine promenades in the country with the view of the Arabian Sea, that is rich in both, character and beauty – has, over the past few months degraded and degenerated to a state of apathy and is virtually unrecognisable, due to the following factors:

1) The unbelievable increase in the number of private vehicles that are now allowed to park (angular) against the pedestrian footpath lining the water front, due to a number of new restaurants that have cropped up in and around this area (which is now a gourment precinct), such as Bascilico, Koyla, Prive/Tetsuma as well as the new high-end retail showrooms at the Taj, The Courtyard, Tarun Tahiliani Showroom, etc.

2) The hitherto unseen number of large tourist coaches that offer out-of-towners a “Mumbai Darshan”

3) Unregulated and un licensed large number of horse carriages (over 18) a reminder of our colonial past , now marred by the omnipotent commercialization catering to a few select Arab clientele of the hotels facing the water front

4) A posse of horses (8 to 10) that appear every evening to attract rich Arab children, who “gallop” along this stretch throwing caution to the wind and displaying complete apathy towards the poor animals. Wonder how “PETA” would react.

And all this inconvenience and risk to the life of various pedestrians, car drivers, horseback riders and the horses themselves, only for the income of these 18-odd horse carriage and horse owners??

Is it logical to allow such monstrosities to exist so that these 18 people earn their livelihood??

Any resident of this area, such as me, who has lived here since birth 42 years ago, is subjected to gut-churning, upon viewing this sad spectacle.

Getting rid of them is something that can be achieved so easily and yet go such a long way in resurrecting the past glory of this wonderful and culturally rich precinct.

Further, the road perpendicular to Prem Ramchandani Marg, stretching from Radio Club to Shahid Bhagatsingh Road called Haji Niyad Ahmed Azmi Road, where restaurants like Koyla & Basilico are located, has suddenly witnessed the cropping up of a Juice Stall that is located bang next to a new unlicensed, unauthorized Police Chowki and causes such a major nuisance in the form of pedestrians who stand and even get seated on plastic chairs around the stall on the pavement, as well as Cars that come and double park to get served. It results in a wild cacophony of cops, patrons, passers-by, horses, horse carriages, cabs, cabbies, tourists, shop-keepers wooing those tourists not to mention drug peddlers, touts, pimps and the like. Let us not forget the arrogant cabbies who have taken the term ‘double park’ to a whole new level by conjuring up ‘triple parking’. All this mayhem thrives under the closed eyes of a political party’s office located on this very road.

All the above on a narrow but arterial road!! Unimaginable, right??

That’s not all.. About 6 months ago, a Doner Kabab stall also cropped up on Justice Vyas road, which is perpendicular to Haji Niyad Ahmed Azmi Road has slowly and quietly encroached NOT ON THE PAVEMENT ALONE BUT ALSO THE ROAD!! They have started putting out plastic chairs for their patrons to use, on the road!! This has also led to several 2 wheelers riding up this road in the reverse direction (it’s a one-way street), endangering the safety of residents of this area, specifically several senior citizens and far the worst result of the existence of the stall!

The very next parallel lane is a one-way street, but has to suffer the audacity of the cabbies who have converted this area into their fiefdom, driving in the opposite direction!!

What the #$@%

In light of the events of 26/11, this matter has assumed colossal proportions, which now, more than ever before, is something that the collective citizenry has decided to speak up against, in a bid to BE the change it seeks, as the aforementioned ground reality potentially endangers the security of the area to a large degree, due to the chaos it creates, which breeds elements that can contribute to unlawful activities adversely affecting the lives of many many innocents.

How can you help clean up this mess??

Anonymous said...

"is entirely integrated"

So can Singlish or not?

Sidhusaaheb said...

A number of people from South East Asia take on English names, I've noticed, when they move out of their native lands in search of employment or even otherwise, when their work requires them to interact with foreigners.

BTW, I suppose we could learn how to put systems into place and to keep them functioning efficiently and effectively, from countries like Singapore.

Sidhusaaheb said...

I meant "English first-names..." of course.