May 27, 2017
Towering skyscrapers dominate the skyline and loom over six-lane highways with their streams of traffic. The streets have nary a pothole and the drivers exhibit a politeness rarely seen in any large city. Glitzy shopping malls pepper each street, seemingly identical to each other, the shops with counters displaying arrays of goods that run the gamut from designer labels to ordinary everyday goods. The underground subway stations are meticulously clean and run with a frightening efficiency. The streets, parks, shopping malls, traffic and no doubt the offices in this city are all sparklingly clean and efficient to a fault. Not even members of the avian species dare sully the streets it seems. Singapore has being scrubbed to within an inch of its life. Along with the dirt and dust, are swept away all traces of vibrancy, leaving a strangely empty shell behind.
The hustle and bustle that characterizes big cities is curiously absent. Perhaps it is banned, along with a long and ever-growing list of other things. Commandments masquerading as well-intentioned advice are posted on billboards and buildings along with the approved fines for each infraction. The signs come in all shapes and sizes are prominently displayed at every turn and run the gamut of the spectrum. Signage makers must have a thriving business here. The plethora of signs strikes one as largely superfluous, since Singaporeans appear to be exemplary citizens. I sincerely doubt it would occur to the average Singaporean to disobey any rule or even bend it, however slightly.
The areas of Chinatown, Little India and nearby Arab street and vicinity seem to be slightly more alive. The walkways between shops are thronged with crowds on weekends as the vendors vie for custom. There is a stream of worshippers lining the steps of the temple in Chinatown and older men sit playing checkers in a square. Colorful garlands of flowers drape the carts selling flowers in Little India and the rows of fabric shops try to entice customers in Arab street. The funky art on cafes in Haji street exhibit a brave new trend. But it is all in a low-key, straitlaced way and somehow doesn’t quite ring true. Even the murals on the walls of walkways adhere to strict regimentation. What are colorful, intriguing and vibrant in other parts of the world, are a pale parody here. Conformity is a way of life in Singapore and regimentation is king.