Posts Tagged ‘chinatown’

And Then There Was Naan

Like I said, most of the streets were dead clean and calm, but also more than a few reeked of fried seafood. That was pretty much the staple diet of Singaporeans. For every person gobbling a bowl of plain rice and squid meat, there was another one nearby digging his chopsticks in unrecognizable parts of some poor fish’s anatomy. The corner shop near my block was a restaurant called Suo-Kee. They mostly served noodles, a variety of mean-looking soups and fish sticks dipped in masala sauce. Spicy masala collected from hell’s fire and brimstone. The sickening part of eating in such restaurants was that the food seemed more alive than cooked. Little pieces of squid were wriggling on the plate and one time I actually wondered if one of these sea-bound critters was frowning at me.

Apparently other options solely included of a chain of Indian restaurants, which served only non-exotic Indian dishes. Anandha Bhavan, Saravana Bhavan, Chettinad and the rest. I didn’t enjoy the food at all; the rice was basmati by breed and rough by texture. The side dishes were tiny in quantity and odorless.

The worst dining experience however was at Mushroom Park. It was an ethnic Taiwanese restaurant where the menu had four black words. Vegetable. Chicken. Mutton. Bacon. Apart from these, all they had were mushrooms. The waiters were devastated when I made it clear that I was neither amused nor impressed by their variety of mushrooms. Only at the end of the meal, which included tedious traditional serving methods, the bacon finally arrived. It just sat there on the plate, terribly upset that it was being shabbily treated. I bet it knew how I felt at this goddam restaurant.

Thoroughly irritated by the evident culinary nightmare, I wandered into a place called Upper Thompson Road. And slyly tucked away behind the pavement was a restaurant known as Banana Leaf. It seemed liked one of those places where people seek to socialize rather than fret about the lack of sauces. But it didn’t matter. If I had the fortitude to walk into Chennai’s Mocha Coffee Pub where IQ points dare to drop beyond sane levels, then Banana Leaf should be a walkover. Right? Well, 45 minutes later, I was munching away at the best dam Naan I have ever tasted. The potato curry didn’t do any harm either!

After my first trip to Mocha, I swore on every dead man’s grave that I would rather stomp on a litter of sick puppies than go there again. Standing outside Banana Leaf, still holding on to the paper tissue…I patiently waited for a moment to let the feeling of doing something right sink in.

Fear Factor

In a country brimming with South Asians, Little India rests uneasily across Chinatown, which is the only other another place capable of vague depravity. Of course, the roads are wider. Little India lies east to the Singapore River and has the dubious distinction of being the most polluted part of the country. Originally this place was a division of colonial Singapore where Indian immigrants would reside under the British policy of ethnic segregation. Now it has become an abode for xenophobic south Indians and paranoid north Indians. The street corners are filled with garbage, saliva stains are liberally found on the walls of nearby buildings and people cross the road without a care in the world.

Several Hindu temples, mosques, and other places of worship can found here without much fuss. The star attraction is however, Mustafa Shopping Centre. It is a gigantic shopping mall, which is open all day, all night and all week. You can buy 56 types of shaving lotion at the stroke of midnight. You can get an aqua massage at 3 in the morning. Russian art-house movies, Robert Plant’s Road To Timbuktu album, skull necklaces, herbal cough syrups, professional cameras, plasma screen television sets, leather belts, nutmeg chocolate syrup, ‘I Love Singapore-Lah’ T-shirts and so much more.

I visited the shopping centre every other day. If not to see what other Bill Murray DVDs I could buy, then at least to take a break from whiskey & cigarettes.

Chuck That And All Those

I did a lot of things in Singapore that would have cured insomnia if given a chance. It was actually a business trip. I had to do make deals with fat men, drink their stupid herbal tea and sign papers. Basically doing things, which didn’t did not fit into my overall scheme for life. But I don’t want to write about it. An uncle also accompanied me for the trip. I stayed in his apartment and he left after 3 days. I also don’t want to write about him.

Finally I saw a Chuck Norris film on a local channel. I definitely don’t want to write about that.

Little Man In Big China

Chinatown is located in the larger district of Outram. Since the largest ethnic breed in Singapore is the Chinese (75% of the population), Chinatown is considerably less crowded than it previously was. But it still

bears the most frequent resemblance to all things weird and Chinese. It is also here where I tasted for the very first time – snake meat. It tasted like chicken.

It has several sub-districts, most of which are sprinkled with shopping malls and more shopping malls. The sheer size of the consumer market here is beyond huge, it is scary.

Evidently each shopping mall looked as though it was cloned from the fabric of the one next to it. All of them were so dam similar. After walking for a good 3 hours and exploring the place to death, I stumbled upon two stores, which would have kick-started a puberty revolution in Chennai. Condom Fantasy was one, which sold…er…condoms.

The other store was XXX Store For Adults. And if you look below the store sign, there is banner, which proudly proclaims “No Porn Magazines, X-rated Movies or Sex Service”. A couple of kids were standing outside this store and exchanging high-fives and nodding their heads in glee. Minutes later, it sunk in. No X-rated films. They ran like the fucking wind.

Routines Amidst Ruins

I hate Chennai because of all the routines that I have to physically and mentally go through. Funnily…actually sadly enough, routines were what saved me from Singapore’s clutches. None of my routines clashed with the ones of locals. Not on any level. They did their thing and I did mine. I would normally wake up from reading at around 8.30 in the morning, get freshened up, go to 7/11 and drink copious amounts of cold coffee, go back to the room and smoke a cigarette, walk out of the door once again and visit places where I have never been before. Most of the places disappointed my sense of adventure, but that did not stop me from doing it again and again. Mostly I missed lunch and had a softy chocolate ice cream instead.

Evening coffee would be replaced by that golden liquid gently spilling from Mr Johnny Walker and more often than not; dinner would solely consist of butter-smeared bread slices accompanied by more whiskey. Then came the promenade into unknown regions of Ang Mo Kio as several cigarettes were puffed away on cue. 7/11 again for more coffee and then back to reading until the next morning. Not exactly a schedule packed with eagerness but certainly a package deal, which stopped me from committing multiple acts of self-mutilation.

Hell Awaits

The return flight to Chennai was scheduled to take-off at 8.25 am. I got up at 3.30 am, took an uncomfortably cold bath and rushed to the airport at 4.30 am. I was the first passenger to check-in the baggage and also on the first line at the immigration counter. And then I shopped for liquor, beads and books. In-between I found ample time to sit at their lounge and guzzle down three Screwdrivers.. Vodka and orange juice did wonders to the bright colours of the Changai Airport.

The waiting lobby was filled with irate businessmen, enthusiastic families still clicking photos and lots of foreigners wondering how the rest of the world would treat them.

After 45 minutes of delay, the flight took to the skies. I closed my eyes and knew what I was going to do when I reached Chennai. I smiled a bit and wondered what effect it might have on me after 12 days.

Upon arriving at the Chennai Airport, I took a taxi back home. The taxi driver was a chatty sort of a fellow, so I told him a bit about Singapore and how clean and boring it was. He heard all of this with great intent and eventually distracted himself thoroughly with a little help from a few ladies standing at the bus stop.

Somewhere along the way near the Ashok Nagar Pillar, a speeding ambassador car crashed into a biker, sending him head first onto a lorry parked at the corner of a crowded road. In what was probably the biggest mistake in his life, the driver reversed the car and tried to make a getaway. A mob of people ran towards the car, pulled the driver out and proceeded to beat the living hell out of him.

The taxi driver turned back to look at me and he said, “Saar, nambha ooru kaete poghidhe saar, neengo Singapore kay poidingo, Saar ” (“Our city is going down the drain, you should go back to Singapore”).

A tiny voice briefly echoed inside my head…I really fucking cannot-lah.

Read Full Post »