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Clement's Corner: Thoughts On Singapore

Owen Clement gives his impressions of the city that is also a state.

Reflections danced on the avocado green water of the canal that runs through the city. Ogre-faced barges plied back and forth barely scraping their way under the cast iron highly decorated bridges, each one fully aware of tourist cameras. A delightful sculpture of naked urchins hung off the wall over the canal outside the Fullerton Hotel whose stark brickwork and concrete was broken by a variety greenery of palms and tamarind trees and riotously coloured bougainvilleas trailed off the hotel balconies. Skyscrapers, of which Singapore has many, block out the sky.

This leisurely scene belies the true nature of the thriving metropolis.

It amazed me as I sat on a bench beside the canal under the shade of a large tamarind enjoying the relative cool, as to how this city cum country managed in such a small amount of space to cope with its large populous and the hordes of tourists.

Singapore is also to be congratulated for the harmonious interactions of all its races, cultures and religions. There is an ever present open and ready hospitality to the city’s visitors.

In certain areas various ethnic groups predominate like Chinatown and Little India, but by no means are others excluded. It seems as if it is merely for the convenience of the betterment of trade.

Business, trade and education are what drive this nation. At times there are incongruities. Like a young man I met in a tiny stall selling clothes in Little India. He was on holiday from the USA where he is a merchant banker. His parents owned the franchise where he was helping out.

One cannot say that Singapore is a city of contrasts. What one can say though is that it truly is a melting pot of all peoples of the world whose main reason for being is commerce and whose atmosphere is unashamedly capitalistic.

Despite this business-related atmosphere the arts are not forgotten as the cultural centre resembling a durian is in constant use. I was privileged to see a fine classical concert featuring a well-respected international pianist. The Singapore University also has an impressive concert hall where I too saw and heard some fine music. The instruments of the highest quality and pedigree have been provided for the students’ use by the magnanimity of one family. Art galleries are also well represented.

Some colonial buildings like the world famous Raffles Hotel and the also fully restored, St Joseph’s Institution for boys, are as fine and beautiful as the day they were built.

I cannot nor do I wish to make any comment on the pros and cons of its society. My brief stay of just over a week does not qualify me for making any judgement. I do however wish all Singaporeans good fortune and hope that they can steer clear of the many problems that are faced by this troubled world.

© Clement 2008


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