By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Senior Vice-President, ITDC
Why do I call our visit to Singapore an experience? After four visits, I have no new tourist attractions to see except the ‘Jewel,’ a forest and waterfall re-created right in the middle of the Terminal 3 International Airport, a must-see place. The best months to visit Singapore are between November and February as this is considered to be monsoon months.
The secret of the fitness of an average Singaporean is the quality of water supplied to homes. Imagine one can drink from the tap anywhere — the water is minus all impurities. There are no scale formations on any bathroom and kitchen fittings.
I changed some bathroom fittings in Mysuru just one year back and they now look old because of the scale formations. In Singapore, even after 6 years, bathrooms look sparkling and new. One hardly falls sick there. How do they dispose of their waste?
In Mysuru, there is such a hue and cry about thin plastic bags but in Singapore, they are used in every single outlet. How do they get rid of them? I have been given to understand that they transport all their waste to an island and dispose of it at an underground facility.
Our flat was bang opposite the Singapore River. All along the banks, they have built gardens and walkways for people to walk or cycle and there are plenty of pubs, restaurants and discos. One can access the restaurants on river cruises. I also noticed that all the rainwater flows into the river. Every morning five boats clean the river of all waste and even dredging is done to remove excess soil.
Over 35 percent of Singapore is gardens and forests. They have created a huge dense forest right in the middle of the city with a reservoir which supplies 20 percent of the drinking water to the city. The rest is supplied from Malaysia.
The Singapore Government claims that their drinking water is safer than any mineral water. One hardly finds any mineral water in any supermarket.
Health is wealth. Every Singaporean believes that. I used to go for a walk in the mornings and would find at least 300 people either walking or cycling.
‘Dogs life’ we often comment in a derogatory manner but in Singapore, dogs are literally kings. Humans go behind dogs to collect their poop and spray water if the dog has peed on a vehicle or a lamp post. The sheer variety of breeds I saw was mind-boggling. In my 3-month stay, I did not see a single street dog.
One of the oldest localities of Singapore is China Town where one can still see some heritage buildings. On the main streets there are cafes lined up where one can see senior citizens sitting with a glass of beer. I did not see a single dilapidated heritage building.
Not for nothing is the tag of the ‘costliest city in the world’ given to Singapore. If one has to survive everyone — from 20 to 80 years — has to work. It is common to see a 70-year-old taxi driver or a waiter. Medical costs are prohibitive, an RT-PCR test (mandatory for Indian travellers) costs 75 dollars. Every locality has a clinic and the head doctor would only see a patient if he is referred by the local doctor.
I visited a Ganapati temple in China Town called ‘Lion Ganapati.’ They have a dress code and there is a heavy rush on weekends. I was pleasantly surprised to see many Chinese nationals praying. Ganesh has become truly international.
We had visited an Indian locality called ‘Little India’ on the eve of Pongal. The Serangoon Road was brightly lit up but I felt that our Devaraj Urs Road lighting on the eve of Dasara was far better.
On return by Singapore International, was pleasantly surprised when they served a piping hot idly and sambar for breakfast. The only disappointment was that the plane landed in the old airport terminal of the Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru.
I was hoping to see the hyped-up Terminal-2 but was told that it was closed for work immediately after the opening by the Prime Minister. The same fate is going to be for the Mysuru-Bengaluru Highway. Due to election politics, the road would be hastily opened and again closed for repairs and pending works. The amount of work pending cannot be completed in two months in my opinion. Hope I am proved wrong.
One shortcoming I did notice while travelling from Bengaluru to Mysuru on the new Expressway — there are no restaurants or washroom facilities. A minimum of two food court space should have been provided on either side of the road and displaced eateries and toy-makers of Channapatna could have been placed there along with pay-and-use restrooms.
Everyone travelling on the Highway does not zip through. Senior citizens and children require bathroom facilities. Every time I visit Singapore, I come back revitalised but Mysuru is Mysuru and I missed it.