singapore’s mrt trains are super efficient, despite occasional breakdowns. they’re clean, fast, no nonsense. they zip around smoothly underground, overground, ferrying commuters from early in the morning till late at night, every single day.
i don’t usually rush to get pictures of one of them.
but just heard that a train is all decked up for diwali, or deepavali as it’s called here by the large tamil community, and decided to go find it today.
singapore has a local indian population that’s into its third and fourth generation already. singaporean indians make up 7.4% of the population. you have a nice mix of tamils, gujaratis, sindhis, punjabis, bengalis, and others. as for religion, a large number are hindus, but there are sikhs, muslims, and christians as well. maybe even buddhists.
of course, deepavali is celebrated here with much enthusiasm, although fireworks apart from tame sparklers are banned. serangoon road gets ornate and very colourful light decorations every year. there’s a diwali market amid the usual crush of little india shops. i believe pickpockets from around the region land up during this season… so, do clutch your bag/purse tight when you wade into the crowds.
deepavali is also a national holiday in singapore. over these nineteen years that i’ve lived here, i’ve got quite used to the idea of diwali being a fairly big festival in a chinese majority city state. i don’t even bother to go and see the little india lighting most years.
but when i heard they’ve done up an mrt train for deepavali, i did feel a smile come on.
something nice about this gesture. two stations in little india and a train have got the diwali look.
i told aj, for today’s walk, we’ll go train hunting. we decided to meet at farrer park station and wait there till we spotted the train with rangoli and peacocks. i wanted pictures. even though the newspapers and websites had lots of shots, suddenly that wasn’t enough, i wanted my own. this is me, who doesn’t even really celebrate diwali. strange how some things get under your skin.
farrer park station had large unabashedly multi-coloured peacocks perched on the walls, right next to pretty hair ornaments and dangling earrings, actually, just one earring (can’t figure out why the artist had decided to have just one of these things). slightly garish pink lotuses bloomed here and there. happy deepavali was written in tamil and english in dressy font. malabar gold and diamond had covered the rest of the space with ads. kareena kapoor in strange and loud jewellery stared at me from every door. aj was helpful and took me to places from where i’d get good shots.
we agreed this walk would not consist of much walking. “hashtag warm the bench!” aj laughed, “that’s what i’ll put with my pictures on facebook.”
the train arrived, we ran in. right in front was a massive rangoli. okay, it was a sticker.. but still. and really, i’d never seen such a thing, not even in india. there were four rangoli designs along the floor of the coach, a different one before each entrance. the style and colors were southern. the graphics were bold and not even pretending to be posh or elegant. they were a burst of colour, not perfectly matched hues, a little ugly, and very happy.
garlands were up on the windows. on the panels above the seats, diwali greetings were plastered along with peacocks and lotuses. bright motifs and greetings decorated the ceilings. wherever you looked there was diwali.
commuters were most disinterested as they ended the day’s toil and headed back home. i was the only one prancing around taking shots, wary glances followed me. i don’t blame them. in our times of constant marketing and all this ambush or whatever advertising that has every available space converted to a billboard, one does get tired of seeing motifs and messages everywhere. nothing surprises or thrills. everything feels jaded.
and yet a weird rangoli or an overly curlicued peacock in a very grey and efficient day, can be good fun. the land transport authority had a neat idea. train is looking great. happy diwali, deepavali nal valthukal.
road to singapore, birch road, farrer park station, dhoby ghaut station, 18/10/2106, #SG50
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.
at the farrer park station