A few things India can learn from Singapore…!!!

Posted: September 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

On a short trip to Singapore for holidays got to see the modern beauty of Singapore. Has only heard how advanced Singapore is, and the experience was even better. This makes me think where India should take lessons from Singapore. The suggestions are not on the economic,strategy or governance issues or hard facts but on the more lighter/softer side.

By the way, the purpose of this list does not imply India is lame.  In fact, it just means that if Singapore can go from a third world country to a developed and modern nation, then, well, why can’t we hope/expect/wish/demand the same for India?  Anyway, read on… and if you find yourself heading to Singapore, feel free to get in touch for some reccos!

 8.  Smile.  I’ve never seen so many helpful, kind and happy people in one place.  If it wasn’t the kind lady who taught me how to break through the fancy lids on plastic cups or the hawker stall owner who gave Mal a free drink when hers fell on the floor, people were so nice and always smiling.  India, don’t be afraid to smile… it’s contagious!

7.  Language equality.  In Singapore, or the Lion City as it is commonly referred to, all students must learn English in addition to one “mother-tongue” language.  For instance, if you are Malay, you must learn English and Malay.  This means everyone in Singapore speaks awesome English and all the sign boards have at least two languages on them, most had four (English, Tamil, Malay and Cantonese/Mandarin).  India, on the other hand, does not have a national language and while the primary official language is Hindi and secondary primary language is English, Tamilians still love their Tamil. Okay, I get it Tamil Nadu.  You do not want to speak Hindi, but for God’s sake, learn English!  India, pick a language medium!
 6.  Ownership + Pride is cool.  Singaporeans seem to take responsibility of themselves and their surroundings.  No one leaves trash around, no one spits, and no one needs to be constantly chastised, either.  Take the MRT train for instance…it’s nice to offer your seat to an old lady, it’s nice to let people get off before you get on the train, and it’s nice to stand on the left of the walkway so people can pass you on the right.  Singapore works because Singaporeans have a lot of pride… and some of the cute signs help, too.  India, love your country!
 5.  Escalators that operate…faster. The escalators in Singapore are actually faster than the average escalator…seriously…like they just operate at a faster speed to get you where you need to go. I mean, if you gotta use them, it might as well be as fast as possible right? Oh, and of course they always are functional and even have escalators that take you from the ground floor straight to the 4th floor of the Iluma mall so you can proceed directly to the food court.  Ingenious.  India, use some technology!

4.  A new national “flower.  As I headed towards the Singapore Changi airport, I noticed that there was nothing more ubiquitous than the site of construction cranes dotting the skyline.  In fact, more than any flower or bird, I noticed cranes everywhere.  While the Indian lotus (thank you, Wikipedia) is quite a pretty sight, there are other ways to beautify muddy water. Also, using construction cranes is actually faster, more efficient, and just plain more humane than making old men and women lug stones on their head any day.  India, don’t be afraid of moving beyond manual labour!
3.  Toilets toilets everywhere.  A recent study done by the Transparent Chennai team at Centre for Development Finance found that there are 715 public toilets in Chennai, a city with a population of over 4.6 million people.  I think I saw more than that in my short, jam-packed 4-day visit to Singapore, a country with a similar population.  I’m not only talking quantity here, the quality of the toilets was amazing.  Regardless of the time of day (Clarke Quay’s toilets at 4:30 am outside the delicious late night Mexican food joint were better than most of the movie theatre toilets I’ve been to in Chennai) they were usually immaculately clean.  They also had so many different options – the squatter for indos, the child seat for little children and special handicapped toilets – to accommodate the diverse melting pot of cultures.  India, build more toilets!
2.  Play more Hindi music.  After a night at The Butter Factory, a club near the famous Merlion (yes, as mer-lion) statue, Mal and I decided we needed some Bhangra music in our lives.  We found ourselves at the Rupee Room at midnight on Saturday trying to bargain with the bouncer to let us in.  When Mal nudged me and reminded me I was in Singapore, I sadly acknowledged that my bargaining was useless here.  We walked in and immediately ran to the dance floor, where we remained for the next 4 hours, dancing to every Bhangra hit from the last 15 years, every Bollywood hit from the last 5 years played at least twice and the ever-popular Black Eyed Peas…every Punjabi’s dream.  All of a sudden I realized that no night in Chennai was complete without my favorite Tamil song so I pleaded with the DJ to play it to which he replied, “Sorry M’am, only Hindi music.”  While I sulked and pouted for the next two minutes, I realized that even in India I could not go to a club and hear this amazing music since normally it would be mixed with house, electronic, or even worse, it would only be on “Desi Night” on a random weekday (mind you, while I don’t mind, my boss probably does).  India, “Desi Nights” are cool!
1.  Hygienic and incredibly delicious street food.  When I first heard the term “hawker centre” I was totally uninterested.  Now, if you mention it to me, I’d probably freak out and hop on the next 4 hour and 5 minute flight to Singapore.  Hawker centres, which are everywhere in Singapore, are the best way to eat.  Still owned by individual families, the feeling is of an old-school mall food court where all types of cuisine are cooked fresh with unique home-cooked tastes.  The food is romba delicious, romba cheap and romba sanitary.  As in, I never feared for my small intestine when I drank fresh dragon fruit juice, ate heaps of malaysian food off of a banana leaf or stuffed my face with the ever famous chicken rice dish all for usually less than 120 Rs ($2-3).  The hawker stalls were given a health code rating and many were improved by the Hawker Centre Upgrading Programme which promotes sanitation, modernization and well, eye-pleasing goodness.  Imagine if all India’s delicious street food was under a clean roof with toilets and sans fear of giardia, typhoid, random disgusting bacteria and mosquitos… ah!  (Romba = super in Tamil, the official language of Tamil Nadu).  India, build hawker centers!


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