I have seldom stayed long in a place ever since I left my hometown. Every few years, I pack some stuff into a Suitcase, reach a new place and hope to begin a new life. When it is time to leave (inevitable), I realize my suitcase has grown several folds, and I have to disperse this excess baggage. What follow are Garage sales, throwaways, gifts to friends/college juniors/housemaids, and eventually the last resort – packing away tons of stuff to my parents, who have mercifully, been less mobile, and who always welcome the stuff piled up over the years.
So it was this time too, when I chose to finally leave Mumbai, and move to Singapore. This time, the amount of stuff to be moved was massive – I had stayed, without knowing, 5 long years in Mumbai. These were years in which I had money to spend (unlike student days), had got married, and taken up much bigger houses than single rooms of earlier times. So even after days of selling and disposing stuff, I sent 47 packets home with Agarwal Packers & Movers! When they arrived at home in Jaipur (I was there to witness the catastrophe!), I was aghast at the mess. The movers kept bringing the boxes, and soon I thought Mom and I would get engulfed in brown boxes, never to be found again. Well somehow we managed (rather mom did as I watched from my sickbed, occasionally lifting a finger), and by the time my father arrived in the evening, there was no trace of the boxes and the chaos of the afternoon.
So I arrived here, in Singapore, with yet another suitcase. A few clothes, a few shoes, a few books and a few DVDs – essential moving stuff. (Leaving my collection of books behind at home was the hardest part, and the pain hit me anew when I entered the grand bookstore of Singapore: Kinokuniya at Takashimaya mall, and looked at the book prices. ).
In Singapore, the acceptable trend is to let out well-furnished apartments – it is often difficult to find an unfurnished place. Suits me in my current transient state, though it does impose quite a few restrictions. For instance, the microwave, the oven and the Wine cellar are all knitted together in a fixed space. To buy a new microwave which suits my needs better, will require a series of approvals – from the owner, followed by the apartment contractor, followed by the building committee (and I am sure followed by a Govt authority somewhere, which seems to involve itself on a macro level with public life)
Whatever I have seen of this city/country, the one defining feature that leaps out is Consumerism. I have rarely seen people who would be caught dead with a simple phone (which is any phone other than iphone), or without an LVMH/Channel/Prada bag on their shoulders. In the MRT (metro rail), the madness to consume is most prominent. Faces are buried in ipads, iphones, and the air is heavy with an amalgamation of perfume. The ugly LVMH logo stares out from all directions. As you walk through Orchard Road, the main shopping district, you see people queuing up outside the Channel store, or waiting patiently to get their Louis Vitton. In a coffee shop, sitting on a table which does not have an ipad or a mac is almost embarrassing. Heaven save you if you have some other brand of laptop/tablet. And anywhere in the city, if you are clicking pictures using a point-and-shoot, you will be forced to wonder if it is an unwritten rule to use ‘DSLR only’,
So when they say life in Singapore is easy, it is true to a good extent. There are some standard formats you can adopt for your life and live happily. You don’t have to exert yourself in making choices – you know which phone to buy and what purse to carry. If I ask two people, I will also know the approved shoes and dresses. As a vegetarian I do not even need to exert myself in choosing food, simply have to pick out of the 2-3 options on the menu. Commuting is easy – the MRT is convenient, and safe. Located amidst many beautiful countries, Singapore is also a great place to travel from. I am told Bintan and Batam (Indonesian islands) are less than 40 minutes away by ferry, Malaysia is an hour’s drive away.
It is also a place friendly to walkers, and I simply love that. No matter where you are, you will find a walkway. Despite the warm weather, it is lovely to take evening/night walks near the river, with the city twinkling in many lights, all of them playfully reflected in the river. My favorite spot, which I have recently discovered is the walkway at Stadium (Singapore Indoor stadium).
So I think I can very much get used to staying here. And also that it is early for impressions.