Friday, March 13, 2009

India vs Singapore

I was just in India couple of days ago and I noticed some interesting contrasts.

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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"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."

Think about it: does an act of charity feel good only if we can see the recipient begging for it? In other words, we need to feel like overlords for charity to make sense.

Carpediem said...

Dear Anonymous,
Certainly not. One can feel equally good helping a blind man cross the road, or giving up one's seat to an elderly person on the bus.

The key here is the opportunity to carry out small acts of charity. I admit that in any act of charity, there is some degree of self-interest - the desire to feel good about oneself - which is why I also believe there are very few instances of true altruism.

But think about it: signing a cheque to a charity also involves some sense of overlordship - that I can afford to give away good money to someone with less money.

shawn said...

"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." Well i agree that people are totally into stock markets cause that's their job,business. Singapore has a very low crime rate in Asia and had a better rating when it was compared with U.S. and England sometime in 2008. But definitely and surely India is no where close to Singapore for a low crime rate.

"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." yes there are poor people in the country but they are cared by the community centers and the government. i have no idea what you were thinking but I would never want to have beggars(as you stated) or someone far more less fortune than me in my society or country.

I LOVE TO LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHERE EVERYBODY ARE ALMOST THE SAME AND A PLACE WHERE I CAN SEE BEAUTIFUL VIBRANT AND COLORFUL SIGHT WHEN I LOOK OUT OF THE CAB.
( I'm an Indian national and a Singapore permanent resident.)

Balconera said...

Think I'll come visit this blog again.