Category: Uncategorized

Singapore’s circuit breaker suspects by Age, Gender, Race & Nationality

Source: MSN

Disclaimer: The following data was compiled by collecting news reports of suspects who were arrested or charged in court for breaching rules under COVID-19 legislation from 28 Feb 2020 to 2 Jun 2020. It is not intended to be a 100% accurate database of all cases. This is a personal project that is not endorsed by or affiliated with my employer in any way.

When photos surfaced on social media about crowds at Robertson Quay allegedly breaching safe distancing requirements, some people expressed outrage that certain groups such as expats escaped scrutiny while locals got penalised.

There were also rumblings about suspects from certain nationalities or races being disproportionately represented, especially after the “sovereign” woman incident at Shunfu.

As a minor academic exercise, I gathered every news report I could find from 28 Feb 2020 to 2 Jun 2020 that was about a suspect who had been arrested or charged in court for breaching COVID-19 related legislation.

I then classified them according to Age, Gender, Race, and Nationality. Suspects whose details were not stated or unclear are listed under “unknown”. The total number of suspects is 142.

About 75 percent of suspects whose age is known are 50 and below.

Over 80 percent of suspects whose gender is stated in news reports are male.

Of the suspects whose race is known (based on the news reports), most are ethnic Chinese (46%) and Indian (32%). This is regardless of nationality.

Over 60 percent of suspects whose nationality is known are Singaporeans.

The full Google Sheet with sources for every case is available HERE.

Navigating the Future Together as a Rugged Singaporean Citizenry

By Dhevarajan Devadas

In a recent Parliamentary speech, Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong warned of the dangers of foreign interference in local politics and elections. He noted the “curious spike” in anonymous online comments critical of Singapore during the disputes with Malaysia late last year, and referred to the SingHealth hacking incident which experts commonly attribute to state-linked actors.

Mr Tong stressed that Singaporeans are the first line of defence and therefore should be discerning enough to guard against such attempts to divide our society and soften our faith in ourselves and our governance system.

To anchor this effort, we can draw on a concept from our history that emphasises how internal cohesion is a critical condition for our resilience as a country.

In his 1966 National Day Address, on the eve of the first anniversary of Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, founding Prime Minister (PM) Lee Kuan Yew said he hoped to build a “rugged society” where Singaporeans accepted the sacrifices needed to become a well-educated and productive workforce to generate critical economic growth.

At the time, the rugged society prized physical and mental discipline, as well as a strong commitment to collective action directed from above. Mr Lee later added that this rugged society would enable Singapore to stand on its own feet, deter those who sought to subdue it, and produce a generation of leaders who had the “brains, the guts and the industry” to steer the nation.

Ruggedness has manifested itself since modern Singapore’s earliest days. As we commemorate the bicentennial of its founding by the British, it is important to recognise the tenacity and grit of the pioneer and Merdeka generations who toiled in factories, plantations and the docks to build a better future for their families.

However, as we transition beyond the first fifty years of independence, we face growing strains in the governance system as society becomes more diverse, the geopolitical environment more fluid, and the electorate more demanding. Questions have arisen on whether the current governance model and political leaders are robust enough to deal with this complexity and uncertainty.

In his 2015 National Day Rally speech, PM Lee Hsien Loong referred to the founding PM’s call for a rugged society, adding: “We don’t use that term quite so often anymore. But our people must still be robust and tough, able to take hard knocks, always striving to be better.”

However, the top-down approach of the past in directing a rugged society has its drawbacks. Former head of civil service Peter Ho has argued that a complex and fast-changing world means that trade-offs in public policy decisions are harder to make due to unintended consequences that may arise.

Gathering more input from the citizens’ perspective will help the government design better calibrated policies. Moreover, the current generation of Singaporeans who grew up in relative affluence desire greater involvement in shaping public policies that will affect them.

We should inculcate a sense of ruggedness and collective consciousness of the nation’s interests in each citizen that enables them to co-create effective solutions with the state. This bottom-up approach in the social compact between Singaporeans and the government should preserve what has worked well in terms of strategic coherence, and equip individual citizens to decisively respond to rapidly evolving situations in their spheres. We will progress from being a rugged society to a rugged citizenry.

We will need to take practical steps to make this happen. Singaporeans need greater access to and interest in information about how policies are designed, debated and implemented. Conversely, leaders and civil servants need to explain policy decisions clearly and minimise jargon.

Proceedings of our most important institution of public policymaking, Parliament, could be live-streamed online to allow Singaporeans to observe the dynamics of how issues are debated and legislation passed. Researchers will also benefit from greater access to archives and statistics. This is because knowledge gaps that are not duly addressed will allow rumours and conspiracies to fester.

Beyond greater awareness about policymaking, Singaporeans must also be able to see that senior management and political leaders are held accountable to the same standards as the rank and file when there is a failure. Our leaders should not only speak hard truths plainly, but also withstand the same from the ground.

The perception that only lower-level staff are punished for mistakes will corrode morale, and instill an attitude of “every man for himself”. This will undermine that collective consciousness and trust we need to maintain our governance system’s integrity.

The government could also draw upon a greater diversity of opinion and feedback when formulating policies. While existing organisations such as REACH and the grassroots network continue to play a role in gauging ground sentiment, the increasing complexity of Singapore’s challenges means that the government will not have all the answers, as Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat acknowledged in Parliament last year.

Feedback should not be treated as a bureaucratic exercise, but as a clarion call for citizens to give constructive input and for leaders to take those views in good faith. We need to encourage the so-called silent majority to make themselves heard, so that vocal fringe groups do not end up dominating any discourse.

In a 1966 speech at a community centre, founding PM Lee said, “Slowly, we must educate a generation able to stand up, able to identify its collective interests, able to defend it to the end. And when people know we are prepared to defend it, then we will live in peace.”

As Singapore’s fourth-generation leadership prepares to take the helm it must see itself as being embedded within a rugged citizenry that is strategic and savvy in confronting challenges and robustly defending Singapore at every turn.

This article was originally published on IPS Commons.

Labour Day Special: A Call For Change

Credit: News Live Time

By Isaac Leong

The COVID-19 pandemic, beyond being a tangible danger to human life, is also a disrupting force, upsetting societal and economic norms, and forcing deep and long seated issues in society, Singapore included, into the fore. I believe that it is time that we address these issues in the open, and deal with them accordingly.

The first issue to be addressed would be local wages. When COVID-19 first hit our shores in late  January, much attention was given to frontline workers, who were given public ovations, free meals, discounts, and one-off bonuses to thank them for their sacrifices and efforts.

While that is a nice gesture, I believe that a more permanent measure is needed to recognize the risks and discomforts that they face in their line of work. A tangible way to do so would be to grant higher wages. The government can lead by example when tendering contracts, with greater  emphasis on quality over costs, and including employee remuneration as an assessment rubric under quality factors, so that companies that pay their employees fairly would be rewarded for doing so via government contracts.

The second issue to be addressed, is the lack of a strong Singaporean core workforce, and a lack of next generation work practices. In recent  years, the government has been calling upon Singapore-based companies to reduce their reliance on foreign manpower, and to instead build up a strong core of local workers, and to use innovation and automation to improve work efficiency. 

Unfortunately, many firms still choose to rely on cheaper foreign labour to make up for headcount shortfalls, and this weakness has been exposed by the COVID-19 crisis, when the inflow of fresh foreign manpower was tightly restricted in the name of containment.

I believe that locally-based companies have had plenty of opportunities to voluntarily build up a local labour core and use innovation and automation to cope with smaller workforces, and that the government should use this COVID-19 pandemic to push firms to adopt such practices. It could do so by tightening the issuing of foreign labour permits, and maintaining or increasing related levies to discourage hiring of foreign labour. The government could also use its linked statutory boards and corporations, like the EDB, or Temasek, to incubate local companies to rise up with local-friendly work policies and innovative work practices. 

Companies themselves should also learn to adapt to the rapidly changing global environment, by being willing to challenge industry norms when it comes to work practices, be willing to pay and treat their employees better, be willing to train local employees, instead of expecting ready-made workers straight out of the education institutes.

However, we as individuals should also step up to the challenge of strengthening our professional skill sets, of taking on the less glamorous yet honest or essential careers, so that we can become that strong local labour core. We need to adjust our expectations, that sometimes, we would need to put in the extra effort, to endure the occasional discomfort, so that our skills can be honed, and our work can be done.

The last issue that has to be addressed, is how we treat our foreign workers. The explosion of COVID-19 infections among foreign workers has been attributed to the cramped, and sometimes unhygienic, living spaces that they have been provided. And this is not a new issue, for migrant advocacy groups have been talking about it for years, but they were conveniently ignored until it became a national health crisis.

All Singaporeans, whether they are the government, corporations, or even individuals, cannot claim innocence from this issue. We have enjoyed the fruits of their labour cheaply, yet give them dirty looks, or simply chosen to blissfully ignore their plight. This has to change, for they are humans like us, and they are doing their very best to earn an honest living by supporting our society.

The government and its agencies can start by reviewing current laws governing living spaces for foreign workers housed in dormitories. Currently, the formula for calculating the living space per individual includes shared spaces. But this should be modified so that the space per individual is solely occupied by that individual alone. This would give workers more space to comfortably live in.

Enforcement of hygiene standards in dormitories should be ramped up, to ensure that beyond giving our foreign workers the dignity of clean living spaces, that our national healthcare is safeguarded.

We as individuals should also begin to start asking the corporations, and even the government, hard questions, like “during the process of coming to our country to work, were these workers exploited in any way, such as being made to pay ridiculous sums to come to work here?” We should start ensuring that they are paid fairly, and on time, for the work that they do, and that if anyone is injured in the line of work, that they are given fair compensation. We need to pressure our government not to use contractors that are known to exploit their workers, or hire subcontractors that do so, and we need to be willing to accept the higher costs for doing so.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come, but the question is: will these lasting changes be viewed solely in a negative light, or can we see some positivity out of this crisis?

Isaac Leong is a casual current affairs follower, gamer, questionable meme lord, and professional (micro)biologist.

Exclusive interview with Jalan Singapura author Eisen Teo

1. What prompted you to explore this aspect of Singapore history and write a book?

I started on Jalan Singapura eight years ago because I wanted to contribute something to the discipline of History even after I had graduated from university (in 2009). And Jalan Singapura was a great way of combining my interests together in one project. 

Firstly, I have always been interested in transport, especially public transport. I don’t have a driving licence, and I don’t aspire to own a private car. I like the MRT and the bus as modes of transport, and I love taking long double-decker bus rides, sitting at the top of the bus, right at the front, where I can either enjoy the scenery or imagine I’m driving the bus myself. 

Secondly, I’ve always been interested in how cities evolve over time, perhaps because I’ve lived in Singapore for almost all of my 35 years; over this short period, I’ve seen so many changes. 

Thirdly, as a Singaporean, I feel it is my duty to lay claim to my country’s rich heritage, research on and write stories about it, and live a legacy for future generations. 

2. How was the research process like? Where did you find sources?

Admittedly, this being my first full-length book, the process began messy and disorganised. I was looking everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I realised working on a book is very different from working on a university honours thesis or term paper! 

Eventually, after much fumbling, a process I was comfortable with – which I could manage without being overwhelmed – fell into place. I also learned how to juggle the book with my full-time work and family commitments – here, I’ll like to thank my wife Tiak Hui for supporting me all this while, and bearing with my “absence” for long periods. 

Through working on Jalan Singapura, I learned important lessons which I will definitely put to use for my second book (yes, I’ve started work on it!). 

Sources: Jalan Singapura covers the longue durée, so it’s very broad in scope. Hence, sources came from everywhere. Primary sources, secondary sources. Books, maps, archival records, municipal records, oral interviews, websites, I ran the gamut. I even drew on my own experiences as a daily user of public transport.  

Walking and feeling the ground was also crucial – I travelled to many of the places I mentioned in my book. Alas, I didn’t have the time to visit every place – if I have done so, I would’ve published the book in 2029, not 2019! 

3. What was the most fascinating thing you uncovered during your research?

So many things fascinated me! But I’ll pick two examples. 

At one point in our history, one in every 11 persons in Singapore worked as a rickshaw puller. That was testament to how popular the rickshaw was as an occupation and as a mode of transport. 

Also, the public bus – so essential to public transport in Singapore today, with 4 million trips made every day – began in the early 20th century as an irritant to the authorities. Enterprising taxi drivers began picking up multiple passengers in a single trip to earn higher fares; these were soon labelled “mosquito buses”. Two possible reasons: They dangerously zipped in and out of traffic like mosquitoes, and it was difficult to eradicate them completely! 

4. What was your greatest challenge during the research process and how did you overcome it?

As mentioned earlier, Jalan Singapura is very broad in scope. As I’m a new author, I couldn’t get 800 pages to cover both breadth and depth. (My book has 336 pages.) Instead, I had to be very selective with which areas I could go in depth and elaborate with examples, accounts, stories, etc. From my initial manuscript, I worked with my capable and patient editor to cut 20,000 words. It was very painful, but it had to be done. I constantly had to tell myself, it’s ok if you don’t cover everything you’ve unearthed in the course of your research! 

5. Why should people buy Jalan Singapura?

Many reasons! (Haha)

To learn something new about Singapore! I promise there’s interesting trivia on every page. 

To read an alternative story about how modern Singapore came to be what it is today – while touching on topics very close to everyday life. After all, most people have to move from place to place for work, play, etc. 
To find out how history can offer solutions to present-day (transport) problems. 

The History of Movement can be applied to any urban area on the planet, so Jalan Singapura shows how that can be accomplished. 

6. Describe in one sentence what it means to be a historian in Singapore.

While it can be frustrating – because so much has been lost – being a historian in Singapore is also very exciting, because there’s still so much to be discovered, and we are at a point in Singapore’s history where interest in the discipline is at its keenest.

Jalan Singapura is now on sale at Kinokuniya and other major bookshops.

You can also check out Eisen’s website.

India 2019

India. A land of rich history and culture but also home to terrible poverty and squalor. I had hesitated for years to visit the land of my ancestors, repulsed by shocking headlines of sexual assault, poor infrastructure and crime.

But in early 2019, as I pondered where next to go on holiday, I remembered about my primary school friend Aalok, who had returned to India in 2004. We had lost touch for a few years until reconnecting on Facebook in 2008. He had invited me to his wedding in 2017 but I had to miss it due to exams in Australia. Perhaps now was the time to finally meet him?

I dropped Aalok a message on Instagram and found him quite enthusiastic about a meet-up. Although I had only intended to visit Bangalore (where he lived) and Mysore (a royal capital 130km away), Aalok suggested that I visit the ruins of Hampi, once the seat of the Vijayanagara Empire and offered to accompany me there. I gladly accepted.

Day One

My Silkair flight landed at Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport at 11am local time. Immigration formalities were quickly completed and I found myself at the arrival area. I went straight to the SIM card shop and got myself one. For 900 rupees, you get unlimited local calls and 1.4GB of data per day. All you need is your passport, a local address and a passport photo.

Kempegowda Airport is modern, clean and efficient.

Uber is highly recommended for travelling in Bangalore and I quickly got a car to the city which was 40km away. As I was taking the overnight train to Hampi that night, I decided to drop off at UB City, a luxury mall that had nice restaurants and cafes. A place called Rasovara looked promising so I chose to have a late lunch there. Imagine my shock when the waiter started bringing the first course even before I had browsed the menu! Turns out the restaurant had a single fixed course for lunch. It consisted of numerous dishes in small plates and bowls. The desserts were particularly good.

After a relaxing lunch, I took another Uber to the main railway station to stow my luggage in the cloak room before exploring the city. The station, popularly known as “KSR” was swamped with people sleeping on the floors and spilling out of offices. The luggage counter was easy to find and it cost just 30 rupees to store my luggage for up to 24 hours.

With that done, I made my way to Lalbagh Gardens, a colonial-era patch of greenery smack in the middle of the city. It was relatively clean by local standards and the lakes were particularly pleasant to hang around.

As dusk approached, I decided to take a slow walk to the Toscano restaurant where I was supposed to meet Aalok for dinner. Along the way, I bumped into many cows milling by the roadside. Crossing the chaotic roads were a challenge but I managed by shadowing locals.

Moo Moos by the road.

Dinnertime came and Aalok soon arrived. It was a real treat to finally meet him in person after 15 years. We caught up on years of news over some good pasta. Glad to know that he was doing well both professionally and personally.

Meeting after 15 years.

After dinner, Aalok suggested we take the Bangalore Metro (also called Namma Metro) to the KSR railway station. The system is modern and reminded me of KL’s LRT network. Upon reaching KSR, I retrieved my luggage from the cloak room and we waited at the platform for the Hampi Express to arrive.

The congested KSR station.

By a stroke of luck we managed to get the first class two-bed compartment all to ourselves. While they cost much more than the regular non-air conditioned sleeper coaches used by most Indians, they were still cheap by international standards. We quickly set up our beds and fell asleep. The gentle rocking of the train was quite helpful.

Cosy compartment for the night.

Day Two

As the sun rose the next day, I was up early and admired the scenery while Aalok snoozed abit longer. The train was about 2 hours behind schedule by this point, a relatively common situation. The Hampi Express finally pulled into Hospet station just after 9am. Hospet is a large town that has the closest railway station to Hampi. We quickly walked to our hotel which was nearby, declining the offers of numerous touts to take us there.

After a quick shower and storing our luggage, we headed out to this vegetarian restaurant recommended by one of the hotel staff. Named, Naivedyam (or offering to God), the restaurant offered an enormous selection of local favourites. I decided to have the masala dosa and it was excellent.

Naivedyam’s food was simply out of this world.

After that hearty meal, Aalok suggested that we take the local bus to Hampi since the bus station was nearby. We quickly found the right bus, a large red vehicle filling fast with passengers. The conductor came up and pressed some buttons on his small handheld device, which printed out a combined ticket. Our fares were just 15 rupees each, a huge saving compared to price-gouging auto drivers.

The government bus to Hampi

The bus ride was fast albeit bumpy, but we soon found ourselves at the entrance to Hampi. We began with the enormous Virupaksha Temple, which was still in active use, before hiring an auto to zip us around to the ruins scattered across the rocky landscape. As the weather was extremely scorching, I wore my sunglasses and cap, and had my sunscreen lotion on. At Aalok’s suggestion, we also stopped by vendors selling fresh young coconuts to cool ourselves down. I finished off six of these water-filled fruits.

The gopuram of the Virupaksha Temple.
The temple elephant.
The monolith of Lakshmi Narasimha, a fierce avatar of Vishnu.
The Islamic-inspired Lotus Mahal.
The royal Elephant Stables.
The Stepped Water Tank used for sacred ceremonies.
The massive stone chariot of Vittala Temple.
One of the ornate ceremonial halls.
Note the intricate carvings on the pillars.
These carvings represent the Yali, a mythical bird-like creature.
A dark underground chamber below the main shrine which contains well-preserved carvings and a large drain to channel water.

As night approached, we made our way along the river back to the bazaar near Virupaksha Temple. Dinner was at Mango Tree, a well-reviewed vegetarian place with decor that just screamed “oriental hippie”. I had a really good naan with spicy egg curry.

The egg curry was really spicy.

After dinner, we found out that the last bus was late, and after half an hour of waiting, Aalok and another man (who was heading to Hospet railway station) decided to take up an auto driver’s offer to take us back to the town. Unfortunately, the auto sputtered to a halt along the way and refused to start again.

While we fretted over how to continue our journey, the last bus we had originally waited for came around behind us. The auto driver flagged down the bus and we promptly hopped onto it, as I said a silent prayer of thanks for the stroke of luck. The bus dropped us off at the railway station and it was a quick walk back to the hotel to wash up before bed.

Day Three

It was Ugadi today, a New Year festival celebrated primarily in the states of Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, we decided to chill the morning away at the hotel (and also recover from the gruelling heat from the previous day). The hotel was surprisingly reluctant to give us a free late check out despite there being hardly any crowds and Aalok had to kick up a fuss before they relented a little. We got to check out at 1pm instead of 11am.

Aalok enjoying a dip in the pool.

Having enjoyed the food very much, we decided to lunch at Naivedyam again. Then it was on to the bus station to hop on a bus to the Tungabhadra Dam, a local landmark. The dam itself was an immense structure holding back a giant reservoir while next to it were shady gardens filled with lots of birds.

The Tungabhadra Dam and Gardens.
The gardens up close.

We returned to Hospet on a shared auto, a larger than normal one which functioned like a Grabshare service. Dinner was some very good but filling pasta at a restaurant opposite Naivedyam. Then it was a quick walk back to the hotel to retrieve our luggage and head to the station for the Hampi Express to Mysore.

Aalok decided to take the sleeper coach for this ride and so I ended up alone in a 4-bed first class compartment. An engineer from West Bengal joined me a few stops later and we had a chat about travelling in India. It was soon time for bed and I was rocked to sleep by the train once more.

Day Four

I woke up early as my companion bid me farewell before alighting at Bangalore station. Once again, I had the whole compartment to myself and I just watched the trackside scenery as the train chugged its way to Mysore.

Pulling into Mysore station, I quickly got off and rejoined Aalok on the platform. We took an auto to his parents’ place on the outskirts of the city. His parents were waiting outside the house as we arrived and warmly greeted us. It was good to see them once again after all these years.

Aalok’s parents and me.

Aalok’s mum had prepared breakfast for us, and I had three excellent masala dosas (had to decline more as I was absolutely full). Those were washed down with watermelon shakes and some sweet desserts.

Had three of these excellent masala dosas.

We then freshened up before Aalok brought out his dad’s car to take us both to the nearby town of Srirangapatna, famous for its ruins related to the Tippu Sultan.

Huge paintings cover the wall of Tippu Sultan’s palace.
A portrait of Tippu Sultan.
The place where Tippu Sultan’s body was found after his defeat by the British.
The ruins of Srirangapatna Fort’s walls.

After a long day, Aalok dropped me off at my hotel, the Radisson Blu Plaza. From now on, I would be exploring on my own. I was very impressed with the hotel’s luxurious offerings. Dinner was a mutton dum briyani from the lobby restaurant and it was excellent. I soon fell asleep on the soft and comfy bed.

My very comfy hotel room in Mysore.

Day Five

I began the day with the sumptuous buffet breakfast at the hotel. I tried one of their masala omelettes that were very spicy (!!). Then it was on to the famous Mysore Palace, home to the Wodeyar royal family that ruled the kingdom before India’s independence in 1947. The palace is very well-maintained and shoes are not allowed in order to protect the floors.

The front of Mysore Palace.

Copper tiger statues dot the palace grounds.

Lunch was in this charming restaurant, housed in a colonial bungalow, which offered wood-fired pizzas. After that, it was back to the hotel for a rest. I thought of taking a walking tour of the city in the evening and so I called up an agency, Gully Tours, to enquire. Despite my last minute request, they managed to arrange for a guide, Nikhil, to conduct the tour for me. We visited several historical landmarks before heading to the market district.

A cultural centre with a mixture of Greek and Indian design elements. Can you spot them?
The Old Clock Tower.
A statue of Krishna Raja Wodeyar, made from marble taken from the same quarry as the Taj Mahal.
The Devaraja Market in Mysore.
The colourful fruit section. Bananas had their own separate area.
Delicious samosas available here.

Back at the hotel, I decided to chill at the bar with some drinks before retiring for the night. The masala lamb kebabs deserve special mention.

This was GOOD.

A lightning storm that night knocked out power to most of the district, though the hotel’s backup generator kicked in after twenty seconds. Other city folk had to wait nearly an hour for power to be restored.

Day Six

While browsing the morning newspaper delivered to my room, I realised that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was arriving in Mysore that day for an election rally. Several roads in the city were to be closed and security tightened. I decided to check out the hotel spa instead. So after breakfast (more masala omelettes), I walked over to the spa to browse their packages. Before I realised, I had signed up for three express therapies: head massage, foot massage and cleansing facial.

2 hours of nice, relaxing therapies here.

They gave me a nice rose flavoured welcome drink before my therapist led me to the room. The massages and facial were so relaxing I felt like butter. I emerged two hours later with a spring in my step! The cost was also quite reasonable at $120.

Hungry at this point, I decided on a whim to go try the Mcdonald’s in the mall beside the hotel. To my surprise, they also offer the Mcspicy which tastes the same as the Singapore version, though the meat was less juicy.

India’s Mcspicy which came with Mexican salsa fries and Fanta.

As the weather was quite cool, I thought it was the right time to visit the Chamundeshwari Temple atop Chamundi Hills. The resident goddess is said to have slain the demon Mahishashura upon the hill after 9 days of battle, now celebrated as Navarathiri and Vijayadashami. I booked an Uber Hire Go which allowed me to keep the driver and car for as long as I needed and pay a distance and time-based fare at the end.

The towering gopuram of Chamundeshwari Temple
The interior of the temple. Photography is forbidden near the shrine itself.
The intricate carvings on the massive gopuram.

Dinner was at the lovely Tiger Trail restaurant at the Royal Orchid Metropole hotel. Specialising in tandoori cusine, the place offered a huge variety of vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes. I chose to have some tandoori fish and a mutton dum briyani. The latter was possibly the best I’ve ever eaten and the meat was extremely flavourful and tender.

Possibly the BEST mutton briyani I’ve tasted.

Day Seven

I began my final morning in Mysore with another helping from the breakfast buffet. Then it was time to check out and head to the railway station for the Tippu Express back to Bangalore.

The train had over 25 coaches!

The train ride was smooth but it got held up 7km from Bangalore due to congestion. As the minutes ticked by, some frustrated passengers got off and proceeded to walk to the station on foot. Thankfully, the strong air-conditioning kept us comfortable while we waited. The train finally pulled into KSR station 40 minutes late.

My Uber was stuck in the notorious Bangalore gridlock, but I eventually reached my hotel, the Radisson Blu Atria, and checked in speedily. I was due to meet Aalok and his wife Maya for dinner that evening, and so I decided to spend my remaining time getting some souvenirs.

The Cauvery Emporium is a government-operated shop which offers an enormous variety of handicrafts, especially those made from extremely fragrant sandalwood. Prices are high, but the quality is assured and salesmen don’t tout or use high-pressure tactics. I purchased two small figurines for $130.

A sandalwood carving I bought.

Dropping them off at the hotel, I went to UB City once again to meet Aalok and his wife at the Fava Mediterranean restaurant. Maya is such a lovely lady and Aalok is very blessed to be married to her. I passed them my overdue wedding gift, a painting done by my mum. We had a lively chat over dinner and it was such a great way to conclude my trip.

My friend Aalok, his wife Maya and myself.

Day Eight

My final day in India began with a quick breakfast and check-out. Aalok had advised me to head to the airport early due to traffic congestion and so I hopped on an Uber at 9am for my 11.55am flight. The roads were jammed with rush hour traffic, but I reached the airport by 10am. Check-in and immigration formalities were quick and I was soon at the gate waiting for my flight.

The familiar Silkair bird soon pulled up at the gate and we were on our way in good time. The flight was very smooth (no crying babies!) and we finally touched down at Changi Airport at 7pm. My maiden India trip was over.

Concluding thoughts

I must confess that I went to India with many preconceived stereotypes and fears based on news headlines and what I saw on Indian TV shows and movies. While India indeed has many deep social ills and infrastructure is appallingly poor for a self-proclaimed “rising Asian power”, I also saw the energy of its youthful population that is hungry for success. Beyond the Taj Mahal, India has countless other cultural and historical sites worth a look. I am very grateful that I got a chance to reunite with my friend and get a small taste of the vast heritage that India offers.

Be inclusive in how we celebrate Paralympians

By Dhevarajan Devadas

The podium finishes of Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh at the Rio Paralympics are admirable achievements that have generated much applause and praise among Singaporeans (“S’pore on track for best showing at Paralympics” and “Paralympics: At last, Goh wins elusive medal“; both published yesterday).

Both athletes have aptly demonstrated that their disabilities are no barrier to achieving success in the global sporting arena.

Goh’s 17 years of perseverance that led to her bronze medal is an awe-inspiring feat that deserves no less recognition than Joseph Schooling’s journey to his Olympic gold medal.

Read More

PDF of Published Article

Build further on S’pore-US partnership

By Dhevarajan Devadas

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s official visit to the United States is a good opportunity for us to reflect upon the mutually beneficial and trusted relationship that both nations have enjoyed for 50 years (“Singapore a solid-rock partner: Obama“; Wednesday).

Singapore and the United States have been close partners in areas such as defence, trade and research and development.

The presence of more than 3,700 US companies here and large inflows of foreign direct investment from the US are a testament to the confidence American business leaders have in the safe and stable environment offered by Singapore.

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