Day 175: Little India

Singapore is incredibly easy to get around by public transport.

The metro has a very similar set up to China, doors on the platforms that don’t open until the train arrives.

And with a tourist pass at 20SGD for three days, you can use it for unlimited travel across the bus and metro system. It makes getting around the city in the heat very comfortable… although it has been nowhere near as hot and humid as Darwin.

The three day pass is not the same as 72 hours, so buying it late afternoon on Friday assuming it would last until Monday afternoon meant I was a a little surprised to find it expired on Sunday. The Moscow approach would work well here.

This morning, I was joining a Monster Day Walking Tour around Little India, led by Bus – a person, not a vehicle.

Pub quiz fans should enjoy this one… if the special topic is Singapore.

Chinese majority 75%, Malay 13%, Indian 9%. These figures have been largely unchanged since the 1800s.

There are four main languages spoken here.

The official language is English. The second language is the Malay language, despite the numbers of Chinese because it acknowledges the history and the geography of Singapore – as part of Malay. Tamil is the Indian language and Mandarin the Chinese language.

The biggest Indian temples are actually in Chinatown as the initial building, after European settlement in Singapore focused on around Marina Bay. As the population expanded, Little India was created, further away.

The temples, obviously, remained where they were.

There is street art in Singapore but it is very firmly regulated.

Street art or graffiti without a permit or authorisation can result in a prison sentence or six strokes of the cane.

Every mural in Singapore tells a story of the history that the area.

The land that Little India stands on was originally swampy. This area was good for keeping cattle which were essential for transport in the city.

Bus also used this time to tell us a couple of stories about life in Singapore.

Mass weddings were common between the 1950s and 1980s and, if you were part of a mass wedding, you all went on a mass honeymoon together.

There was also a very high birthrate and that resulted in huge numbers of babies being given to the wrong parents.

One of his team had very personal experience of this and disagreements with his mum usually close with: “I knew the nurse gave me the wrong baby”.

To make the area of Little India more attractive to new residents, a race track was built. It created job opportunities and encouraged house buying in the area.

The first race was held in 1843.

The Indian community in Singapore are mostly from South India. The British brought many here as general labourers. The official language here is Tamil.

We stopped at a building which is an example of social housing. 85% of the Singapore population live in government provided accommodation.

Housing is subsidised and it’s not rented. People buy their apartments which are leasehold properties so payments are still made.

Single people cannot buy before they are 35… so the way around this is to get married. Bus told us that the usual marriage proposal is the question: “Do you want to buy an apartment?”

The overall demographics of Singapore are also applied to the individual districts to maintain matching population quotas.

And these apply not only to housing, but schools, jobs and the parliamentary process.

The South Indian Hindu Temple just off Belilios Street was built as a result of funding by the man who started the cattle market.

Mr Belilios was Jewish and recognised the importance of being able to practice faith for his workers, who were Hindu. The nearby street was named after him in thanks for his donation.

The temple was busy today and photography was permitted, hence the following pictures.

It was a very colourful place, demonstrating very obviously the importance of stimulating all of the five senses as a means of worship – the decoration for sight, food offerings were made (taste), oil lamps were burning (smell), music was played (hearing) and people invited to touch the shrines.

For tourists, coronavirus control were definitely coming into play.

And why the peacock mural across the street? The peacock is an important bird in India and in Hindu beliefs.

After a stop for dosa was the most Instagramworthy building in Little India – one of the last Chinese villas in Singapore. This is actually an example of a fusion of Chinese and Malay culture.

In the early days of Little India, there were a lot of Chinese small businesses running in the area.

It wasn’t a solely Indian enclave.

The house fuses Chinese and Malay materials and designs. The original building was white but the local Indian community, when the area became a conservation area, requested that it was painted to be more in keeping with the local area.

After a walk through the market, I was ready for lunch at the hawker centre where the smells were warming up my appetite but we had another stop to do.

We were visiting a small centre where Bus explained the mural outside the cafe where we had a dosa. The mural acknowledged the jobs that earlier Indian settlers had done when they moved to Singapore – laundry workers, money lenders, fortune tellers.

And one final stop… sweeties. A great way to end a thoroughly entertaining tour, before my return to the hawker centre where I picked this lot up for 8SGD.

Categories: Public Health, Singapore, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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