I had no inkling that a simple but heartfelt post about how we Singaporeans are slowly eroding in our manners could garner so much excitement and argument in our midst! For the first time, I had over 500 likes in FB! Thanks to Jean Lim, a good friend whom I had met on G+, who had reposted my post in her FB account. My main objective was to create awareness and boy didn't I just accomplished that?!!
I was still appalled when I read about the old lady who was abused by her own daughter and her neighbors didn't inform the authorities for fear of 'meddling in other people's domestic affairs'. And again when I saw the YouTube video of a rude Caucasian man who was barraging a young man in the MRT train and everyone pretended not to care until a young Malay man stepped in! Video link :
But I am writing again because over the last few weeks, I have also witnessed so many acts of kindness and friendliness which I would like to share as well... which proves that there are always two sides to a coin. Where do I begin ? From a total stranger who helped an elderly lady get into a taxi and the taxi driver who helped load her groceries into the boot to a bus driver who looked at his watch instinctively when I greeted him Good Morning and corrected me with Good Afternoon which brought about a burst of spontaneous laughter from both of us! And who can ever forget the incident of the passersby who rushed to help the South Korean man who was pinned under a trailer truck at the junction of Bendemeer and Boon Keng Rd (See Picture Below)?
All these incidents prove one thing - there is hope for us Singaporeans. My faith in our humanity which took a beating when I had first arrived in Singapore is slowly being restored....Quoting my friend Sunita Danani 'We may be rough round the edges but our heart is in the right place. '
I have flown into Singapore from New York for a short break and have lived here for 2 and half weeks now. Within this short period, I have experienced so many acts of rude and callous behaviors among our fellow men and women. I am a proud Singaporean and just can't stand by on the sidelines and watch our basic sense of civility eroding in our society...
Let me walk you through my experiences step by step...
My first experience was in a public bus when the bus driver who was obviously not a Singaporean but a mainland Chinese. He was quite impatient when I had asked him how much fare do I have to pay to go to a certain destination. The situation was further worsened by the fact that his Math wasn't too strong and he couldn't add the fare for 2 adults and 2 school going children quickly.., he was always looking at the roads to check if he could start moving. Probably he had a schedule to meet and we were slowing him down...but shouldn't those in the service cum transport industry display a basic sense of courtesy?
2nd experience - at a taxi stand in front of Paya Lebar Square. We were standing in queue - my husband Anand and I - like dutiful Singaporeans. A cab came along that said Bedok in its rooftop sign. In Singapore - cab drivers share cabs and work shifts. During the shift change, they prominently display where they are heading to, enroute to pass the cab to the next driver - thus the sign on their rooftop. Bedok is a housing estate in Eastern Singapore close to where we live.
Upon noticing that sign, we jumped and immediately asked the driver if he could drive us to Upper East Coast Rd. The fact that there are others in the queue ahead of us had completely evaded us. The cab driver asked us ' Are you in the queue?' I looked up and I saw an old man shaking his head and complaining about us to two school girls and a young man - that we had jumped the queue and had snatched the cab from them.
Upon realizing that I had made a mistake, I asked them ' Sorry but does anyone want to take this cab? Is anyone heading in Bedok direction?' All I got was blank accusing stares. Couldn't the situation have been dealt better if one them had advised us politely that there are others in the queue and that we should give them a chance first?
3rd Experience - this just happened yesterday. I was at a popular grocery store in Marine Parade - another housing estate in eastern Singapore. A packet of prune powder ( used to sprinkle over cut guava slices to give sourness to the fruit) caught my eye. I parked my trolley for a few secs ( prob only 2) along the main way to bend down to pick up that packet when I heard a middle aged Chinese lady shouting at me ' Hello Hello - please ah!' I stood up and looked at her angrily and said ' I AM moving !!' Couldn't she have waited for that 2 secs??!! ( Someone pointed out in the comments that it's rude to block the way and that I contributed to the situation - I agree I did contribute to the situation but couldn't the lady have exercised a little bit more patience? Shouldn't we treat people the way we would like to be treated?)
I got kind of pissed off at her very rude behavior and just couldn't believe how uncivil how our society has become. I asked myself and my friends these questions ... Have we become so short of time, so rushed and thus so stressed out to lose our basic manners? Should our manners be dictated by our moods? What has happened to being polite, forgiving and being a little bit more patient? My sister pointed out it is the stress of city living while a friend said it is an Asian mentality to always be ahead of others and to ensure you get the carrot first even at the expense of others. Apparently the situation is a lot more worse in other Asian cities like Mumbai and Beijing (Another reader pointed out that Paris and London has its share of rude and impatient people too).
Yet another friend said too much of wrong is happening everywhere all around the world and we can't do much about it. I pointed out to her if everyone thought like that, what would our children and their children face in 50 years time? We shouldn't give up and think that one person can't make any difference but we must make a honest attempt to make that difference...
I just can't fathom our Singapore getting more and more ill mannered and lacking basic manners. For overseas Singaporeans, it would never make returning to this beautiful island worthwhile. A country is marked by its government and its people. Not by the number of tall buildings we have built or the number of luxury cars we own.
I was comparing where I had just come from - Bluebell, Pennsylvania. There, people are so so polite. They give way to us when crossing the roads and no honking when changing lanes at a traffic light even when the light is green! One particular incident is etched in my mind - my husband was driving while I sat next to him on the passenger seat when we saw a goose attempting to cross the road following its partner (?) which had successfully made its way across. Upon seeing this, all traffic stopped to let that one goose cross successfully. While it waddled across the road, I was very pleased to notice that all drivers waited patiently without honking. Probably it is the suburban living that brings about such patience and understanding.
Anand says that we shouldn't compare two different lifestyles and that we should be a little less sensitive here in Singapore. Yes, I do agree with him but don't you think Singapore will become a very sorry state if each and everyone of us starts accepting bad behavior as part and parcel of city living. Being nonchalant is not the way but being aware, addressing and finding remedies.
Having said all this, what can we do as ordinary citizens? Simple solutions that works wonders - show a little kindness, politeness and exercise a little bit more patience the next time someone seems to get in your way. Above all, please set a good example to your children as educating our young is the very first step to ensuring a more gracious living society.
We all share the same planet and every single person is of value to everyone else. We all should keep an eye out for each other like our own family. Compassion, kindness and empathy should be ingrained in us. It's never too late to mend our ways should we be lacking in basic courtesy. We have been recognized as the best city to live in Asia recently but what is the point if we all behave ill mannered and uncultured?
Creating awareness (my main objective of this blog post) is the next step to halt and hopefully remedy this sorry state in Singapore...Remember a simple golden rule - treat others like how you would want to be treated. I am positive and hopefully we will see more civil Singaporeans among us in the near future.
Before I moved to my current place along Upper East Coast Rd in Singapore in 2008, I used to live in a housing estate called Pasir Ris within northeast Singapore. I lived there between 2002 to 2007 and it was my very first house my husband and I owned after our marriage.
This house is close to my heart and holds many special memories - this is where my darling daughters Ranya and Riya took their first baby steps, this where I first started my home jewelry business Fine Regalia and significantly this is where I made close bonds with 4 special ladies - Yew Hong, Malar, Debbie and Kris.
When my girls were very young they would often play in the playground just below our apartment block. It was a hangout for us ladies too - we will exchange so many juicy gossips and recipes. I will get tips on bringing up my girls from these friends because their kids were much older and they had so many experiences to share. My friends were constant fixtures at my girls' birthday parties held annually at my place and they would often help out too. Remember 'Tatoo lady' Malar? :))
When Kris found out that I was pregnant with my second baby Riya, she willingly brought dinner for me one night when my husband was travelling and I was all alone with my 1 year old daughter Ranya... It was a simple dish of lentils and dosa batter but it made a world of difference to me. I had something to eat. You might not remember this - thank you dear Kris.
One night my 1 year old Ranya was ill and tearing and refused to get off my hips because of fear and discomfort. Again my husband was travelling and my mom lived quite far away to make a trip down. I was lost as to how I can wash the milk bottles so that I can make milk for Ranya. I called my neighbor Malar who lived just across the floor. It was rather late - around 9pm and a weekday. Her son had to go to sleep to wake up fresh for school the next day. In a minute, she was at my doorstep and she immediately started washing the bottles while her son Ruban sat in the kitchen eating a slice of cheese trying very hard to keep awake. I remember the night so clearly like it just happened yesterday. Truly a selfless gesture. Thank you Malar.
And Yew Hong -I can relate a lot to her. She is born in the same Chinese Zodiac year. We are 12 years apart but we connect so well. Yew Hong is always so down to earth and very practical. Her words of wisdom are priceless. When she is out having breakfast with her husband, she never fails to get me somethings I had requested. I had planted a Jackfruit tree right outside our block and Yew Hong tended to it so gently when we moved to our current place. When the tree bore fruits, she drove over to pass the jackfruits to us. Amazing. Thank you Yew Hong.
Last but not least - Debbie. Hmmm what can I say about Debbie? She lives a little further away and I didn't see her that often but her humor never fails to brighten up our days...thank you Debbie. You are truly a good hearted person. I'll always remember that garlic is an aphrodisiac and that it works very well because of you 😜😜.
I am the youngest among the 5 of us and a few years ago, I had a fallout with these special ladies. But it took me some growing up and a move to America to come to my senses. Yesterday, after more than 2 years, we all reconnected again over a meal. It was wonderful - we chatted as if time had stood still and nothing had changed between us.
Thank you my special 'Pasir Ris Babes' for everything you have done for me and for welcoming me back into your lives again. I appreciate our friendship and love all of you with my heart. I am going to miss all of you all over again when I leave for America next month.
My home is
usually in a mess and has dust settled on almost everything. But I believe laughter and love will win the day. In 20 years, my girls won't remember how messy the house was but will remember the time we spent together and the love they felt...