Living in Singapore is kind of schizophrenic. There’s always 2 polar ends to every issue. While we complain about lack of communication with the government, not enough support for farmers, insufficient infrastructure in the countryside, we tell our foreign friends which make up 2/5 of our country how fantastic that expanding MRT services are, how safe the streets which we travel on are, how advanced our medical services are, not to mention that good education system set in place. At the end of today, I retrospected and introspected – our appreciation of life.
Today I have seen a simple family of 5 living happily in the living / bedroom/ kitchen of 15 sqm, a v v basic toilet facility ( how basic? It’s simply a 3 by 3 sqf space with a few buckets of water n a hole through the wall to drain out your piss and god knows wat) in a small courtyard.
Daily meals include white rice n curry. Briyani (yellow rice) n curry chicken / curd only 4 times a month. Their entertainment was a b&w 30cm by 30 cm TV with only 1 channel playing daily. They really enjoyed playing host n prepared a lot sweet snacks for us. While we were introducing ourselves, the crowd built up and before we knew it, we were whisked from houses to house. Each house with the similar architecture which is bedroom which doubles up as living space n a kitchen or work storage.
First neighbor we were introduced to was the host (Malleswari)’s friend, the cotton farmer. He has set aside an entire room of cotton. His family consists of his blind sister and his 16 year old wife who is 5 months pregnant. I have just learnt from Noel ( this trip’s facilitator) that the legal age to get married should be 18. Any people whom had witnessed or know of their union would have to be jailed up to 2 years. Honestly, besides being shocked by their ages ( the husband is 21), they do look very blissfully married though that is a typical arranged marriage.
As we made our way out, we met M’s daughter Prasanna and then being ushered v quickly to her community programme member, who is a seamstress. She was sewing a blouse as part of the make up for a sari assemblage. Sewing machine was placed beside her bed as that bed doubles up as a seat. They quickly decided to put me in a Sari as I was curious about the length of the cloth and how to wear one. Great experience as i did felt very special as they fussed over me looking for accessories/ pinning the sari to adorn on me. The seamstress then let down my hair, combed it and pasted a red round sticker on my forehead. I was then told that I just got married. To who? I do not know.
Malleeswari insisted that I keep the sari set which comprised of the 5.5 m cloth, blouse and an inner slip skirt. I WOULD have LOVED to keep it but thinking that they would have 1 less.. I reluctantly rejected their offer. Instead, I asked them for their address so that I can send them a Singapore dress ( which obviously is a Topshop or Zara). They then started fluttering around again tossing out stacks of clothing and what emerged was a Punjabi Top. Clearly, AdDRESS became a dress.
Instead of changing back to the NG shirt, I was in a v flash, pretty sequined and beaded punjabi dress. Again they paired the dress with matching green scarf and pants. The profile we’ve got from the Trip leaders Leona and John stated that this family was poor and her husband worked in other people’s fields! But their generosity was simply mind blowing and really shouldn’t be taken as a given!
We spent about another hour sitting in the courtyard doing henna ( hand painting). We could never station too long in an area as the local kids and neighbours starting swarming around us and we were pretty much obliged to visit more homes take more pictures and then visiting a church and a massive cotton farm!
Did I forget to mention about the lunch? It was OMG.^_* a LOT.