I was in a car with some friends on a day trip to Jaipur and as we were driving out of Delhi, our driver was pointing out several buildings along the way. He was telling us this building is owned by Ford, that plot of land is going to be developed into a mall, Toyota is going to build an extension etc etc.
I was amazed at how well informed he was about the urban developments of the parameters of Delhi, and his knowledge about big MNCs like Ford, Toyota, and some of the bigger names in India (which I can't even remember now). So I asked him how do you know all this? And he said he reads the paper everyday, both the Hindi and the English ones while waiting for tourists like myself to finish our shopping and sightseeing. As we talked more it was evident that he was very much in tuned to the politics and social issues in India and in fact he was far more informed than I was!
When I came back to Singapore, first thing I did was jump in a cab to get home and enroute I asked the taxi driver, what's new in Singapore. First thing he said to me was citibank shares dropped by more points today and is only worth XXX amount. It used to cost $60 plus a share and now it's only 50 cents or something (I can't remember).
But this is the ethos of Singapore. This is what the city is obsessed about. The stock market, and the occasional murder or petty crime.
Chatting with another friend I realised another irony of life. In India, when I cannot finish my food at a restaurant, I pack it and give it to the kids on the street just outside the restaurant, begging for money. But back here, if I can't finish my food I let the waiter clear it, and it goes into the dump. I'm sure there are starving people in this country. But they're hidden from society, like litter is being put away from the street.
I'm not saying whether this is good or bad, but I guess that's one of the reasons why I like it in India more than here. There, poverty is not hidden and there're plenty of opportunities for people to ventilate their compassion. As much as it bothers me that such poverty should exist right next to such opulence, it is so easy for me to show generosity and compassion to someone less fortunate. But here, charity is monetized and the act of charity is far too tiresome to do beyond signing a cheque.