“i often see chinese people coming from the kwan im temple stop in front of the krishna temple and light joss sticks and pray… why, ah?” i asked my ex-colleague, a lovely chinese girl who had once actually persuaded a client not to change a full stop to an exclamation mark because i had requested her to.
she looked at me and said with that open, friendly grin of hers, “respect, lah!”
her head bobbed up and down a bit, her glossy straight hair swung forward. i was touched somewhere pretty deep inside. respect… that’s all. actually, that’s everything.
she said since they were passing a hindu place of worship, no harm in showing regard. she didn’t preach, didn’t hold forth, didn’t expound on theories of coexistence. everything summed up in a smile and a gentle voice saying, “respect, lah!”
i wanted to fling my arms around her and declare her a sage. i am sure she’d have asked me to calm down and have some tea.
the kwan im temple on waterloo street is beautiful. i went there many years ago and was delighted to see a goddess like figure that reminded me of lakshmi, something kind and peaceful about her bearing, her face.
we decided to start our walk on that day from the temple. the first thing i saw were the lotuses. beautiful pink, white, and red ones. padma, lotus… never feels like just another flower. the fact that it blooms in muck gives cause for much ponder on things philosophical… as for me, i always remember how we’d pluck out the little rice like things from its heart and eat them as kids. muri… we called them, puffed rice.
waterloo street got its name in 1858, wiki says, to commemorate the 1815 victory of the duke of wellington in the battle of waterloo. it’s a short wide street lined with interesting buildings, among them, a chinese temple, a hindu temple, a jewish temple, a church, and the singapore art museum or sam as it is called. i come to the maghain aboth synagogue here often as my family is jewish, there’s a sunny happy feel to this street cutting across from bras basah road to the temple complex at the other end. you get lots of vegetarian food in the neighbourhood, had great vegetarian japanese here once. also if you’re looking for feng shui things or aura readings, look no further. the only kosher restaurant in singapore is to be found at the jacob ballas centre right by the synagogue.
aj and i traipsed past the quaint buildings flanked by older hdbs. a couple of peranakan facades with intricate lace like carvings, make you want to go closer and touch. the sam building used to be a school earlier, aj’s dad studied there. there are many things to see and enjoy on the route we took, and plenty of cheap shopping at bugis village too.
but as we turned into queen street, went through the compound of st joseph’s church – an old and stately building – onto victoria street, and walked all the way to the masjid malabar, a lovely blue mosque with a golden dome set up by the malabar muslim community from india who settled here, i thought about singapore’s religious diversity and how wonderful it was to live in a place where people from all faiths can live together, temples cheek by jowl, and not go to war, nor trample on others’ beliefs. i know the government of singapore has worked assiduously to create this harmony and singaporeans take this seriously. secular is not just a word in a high sounding para in the constitution, everyone here has the right to profess and practice her or his religion, and this is a cherished idea in the city state. i have grown up believing india is a secular state. i too hold this idea dear. when i see what’s happening in my country, in fact around the world, this little nation with its sense of self respect and respect for all, makes me want to leap with joy and get very dramatic again.
came back with four pretty lotuses from the walk. they bloomed ever so gorgeously in the clear glass vase. just a simple little street, touches and teaches me every time.
all pictures courtesy my walking partner anthony john, aj.
end of 1997, we moved to singapore from india. in 2015, the country celebrated fifty year of independence. singapore has given me much and i am fascinated by the spirit of this gutsy city state with hardly any land or resources, but oh what dreams and chutzpah (the finest interpretation of the word), the ability to reach big, hunker down and hold and strategise and act and grow. despite my many years here, i haven’t seen a lot of the island, which started out at only 28 miles by 18. now of course it’s bigger, thanks to that spirit i spoke of. so i thought why not see singapore in this landmark year, and celebrate #sg50. aj, my friend and trainer, and i traipse in different parts of the city every week. hope you enjoy the walk talk. you’ll find more in my index. and the walks continue in singapore’s year 51.