Pride, traditional values, integrity, honesty, friendliness and a genuine sense of tolerance manifest in an inherent respect for cultural and religious differences are some of the traits what smack one in the face when in Singapore. There is much to learn from this self-contained, confident and proud city state which has a population that comprises a myriad faiths and communities that live in harmony with one another. Where there is a church, there is a mosque and temple, much like a sacred space that absorbs and celebrates the Almighty in all its manifestations. Here, one can experience what being human means in the best definition of the term: to be kind, generous and caring. The land is a veritable garden with tropical plants and trees, flowers and orchids, that drape the comparatively small land mass,
The other evils that our planet and its people have consciously embraced — selfishness and materialism, for instance — are shunned in Singapore. People of all ages, children, their parents and elders, remain within the folds of family and community, celebrating the idea of belonging as well as asserting personal confidence. This city state showcases how people can co-exist with dignity. We have much to learn from this intrinsic way of life and living. Once a fishing village on the ancient trade route that linked the East with the West, this former colony is now an independent city state. Singapore is a successful example of how cities can restructure and reinvent their entire domain, turning themselves into inclusive spaces for their citizens.
Joint ventures between Singapore and India could teach the latter many lessons, especially in the area of ‘city management’. Singapore works smoothly without rage of any description, making the environment stress-free and calm. There is equality on the streets. It was a joy to spend a week without encountering that ghastly lal batti that has polluted Delhi with its arrogance. It was a relief to see that none broke road rules. Pedestrians are given right of way, and no person walking down the street is seen trying to jump over a hedge in an effort to cut a corner. Common sense is held in high esteem here. For that reason alone, the public services that are in place work effortlessly.
Singapore is spotless. Strangely, the only time I saw a trace of litter was at the Bird Park where a loud, spoilt child, who belonged to a visiting Indian family, threw a chocolate wrapper on the ground, as if it were the correct and normal thing to do. It was an embarrassing sight.
Child-friendly Singapore celebrates the spirit of the family with gusto. It also has perfected the art of creating open-air, happy spaces to impart education and provide entertainment. The Bird Park, the Marine Park, Gardens at the Bay, Songs of the Sea, each of these spaces emphatically emphasize the desperate need to conserve natural habitats, our greatest and most valuable inheritance that greed and power have destroyed mercilessly.
Children in Singapore are taught these values from day one. Secular Singapore has a truly wonderful museum that is dedicated to the strands of Asian cultures that form the rich tapestry of this city state. Simple and sophisticated, the museum boasts of treasures that are kept in large glass cases set against steel grey. Ochre painted walls and ceilings help create the perception of entering a mysterious treasure trove. The spotlights enhance the nuances and special features of each object.
This museum needs to be the prototype for similar institutions in India that are languishing as a result of the neglect of babus. An Asian cultural partnership between Singapore and India is surely an imperative.