Friday Night

The night was still young.  On impulse, I asked if we could have a quick drink at Long Play.

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It’s my first time.  Long Play is relaxed, masculine sophistication, with an adult crowd.  The music (yay, Beatles!) spun on vinyl, put all patrons in a very good mood.

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I really like dating Dr Chan.

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***

On impulse, we explored the surrounding streets.  The last time I’ve walked this stretch of Singapore was more than 20 years ago, with an American visitor.

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I think the area is called, Kampong Glam.  It’s main artery is Arab Street, and a wonderful grand mosque sits at its heart.

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Many of the shops were closed as it was near midnight.

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And yet, if one cared enough to listen, there was a sense of a murmured past and a frenzied present, from behind the shuttered facades.

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***

I was surprised to find myself hesitating, wondering aloud about safety.

This is Singapore, said Dr Chan.  It’s pretty safe.

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Besides, I have an umbrella…  

You’re going to use it as a weapon if we get attacked?

Er, Baby, maybe you should carry the umbrella then…. Hey look, Baby!  A shop selling peranakan slippers!

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Look!  Noah’s ark!

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***

Is Singapore really safe?

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I personally don’t believe any city is safe.  Crap happens all the time; our shared world seems to get stranger and stranger.

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***

Once upon a time, we had Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian neighbours and friends.   The last names I learnt in childhood were not just Chan, Wong, Tan, Lee, Ong, Yeo, but also Santa Maria, De Suza, binti Amin, bin Suleiman, Alkaff, Singh, Setty, Naidu, Pearce.  We celebrated each other’s festivities- Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Christmas.  Because Peranakan is a hybrid Chinese-Malay/Straits culture, Malay apart from English, was the other language heard in my grandmother’s house.  Satu, dua, tigga– one, two three.  Makan sini– eat here.  Sleep- tidur.  Mandi– bathe. Pergi– go.  Panas– hot.  Ayam– chicken.  Roti-bread.  Pain- sakit.  Anjing– dog.  Anak– child.  Baik– good.  Baruk– bad.  Tidak– no.  Sekolah– school.  Ya– yes.  Nenek– grandmother.

None of us were brought up to fear Islam, nor our Muslim friends.

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At school, we recited the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Singapore Pledge.  Regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation. Strolling through the historic quarters of Singapore, in the unflinching silhouettes of soaring skyscrapers, I wondered- at what price, “progress”?  Singapore, we have far, far to go.

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  •  Long Play, 4 Haji Lane  (Thank you, Spice for such a generous pour.  My head is still spinning.)

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