2/21/2011

Slow ride to Mumbai

The train was crowded as usual in the morning. I closed my eyes after finding a spot to rest my feet and to enjoy a quiet morning ride. The air was scented by a little bit of jasmine and other flowers, and a heavy dosage of coconut oil. Then came the beat of Bollywood that filled the whole cabin to complete the experience. My fingers started tapping, and slowly my head and shoulder too responded uncontrollably to the catchy beat. My memory slided back to the 1950s. Three blocks of 4 storey flats bounded by Nelson Road and Borneo Road facing Gate 5 of the then Singapore Harbour Board were the quarters for its workers. I don’t remember that they had to pay for rent. The centre block was occupied by the Chinese coolies working as stevedores and riggers or just plain labourers. The other two blocks were homes to the Indian labourers in the same trades. Traffic was sparse and the air was quiet in the early morning hours. And sound travelled far and loud. And there was music in the air from radio in full blast. The older version beat before the times of modern Bollywood greeted everyone, and every morning, in the neighbourhood. And there was some incense too, curry and prata delighted the taste buds of morning workers. Then the speaker came on, ‘Next station, Raffles Place.’ Immediately I was brought back to the 21st Century city state. For a brief moment I thought I was heading to Mumbai. Thanks for the memory, SMRT.

4 comments:

Kaffein said...

Good one... I like the nostalgic feel of the article. And then suddenly waking up to reality.

Took the MRT train yesterday. My wife remarked that the transport minister and the CEO ought to ride with us and feel the squeeze. But I told her probably one carriage will be cleaned up and cleared so that their experiences will be pleasant and smooth. All these talk from politicians who hardly take the MRT.

Talk is easy. Even so when sitting on a high chair.

Kaffein

Wally Buffet said...

Mumbai huh?

How about doing a piece about like you're in a third tier city of China's North East.

Male workers with crew cuts and shifty eyes speaking with an accent so unSinkapoorean that it's almost nauseating.

Previously, it's our local girls going to the office. Now, these "secretaries" and "clerks" are omnipresent speaking in Beijing or Shanghainese dialect, probably calling long distance back home to berate how backward we are!

Fuck them.

I don't take the train much, thank god but when I do, I'm cursing all the guilty parties that make me an alien in my own country each time I leave the stinking carriages.

I remembered a time long long ago when taking the train from East to West. Hardly ever as crammed as now. The carriages smelt fresh and life was leisurely and pleasant. The ding dong chime of door closing really lulled one to sleep.

Those days are gone!

Welcome to the shithole where nobody can call it their own country.

Anonymous said...

That is the problem with politicians not understanding the unpleasant experience of the man on the street.

Each time they go on a arranged ride on a bus or MRT everything is breezy and clean. They probably even make sure the route is jam-free.

Of course they cannot see the problem. They only see the 'good stuff'.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Be thankful farting in the trains has not caught on as a cultural habit.

So you have crowded trains, so what? Better a dynamic society with lots going on than some shit-basket economy in some Turd Wurld Cuntry where you Mass Rapid Transit is in the back of a pick-up shared with chickens and indentured labour.

Not so bad lah!