Monday, January 21, 2013

Baghdad in Singapore, 'Development' in Mecca - work, heritage, religion and of course... food!

I went down to Singapore again for some legal work last weekend. I may gripe and bitch, I may moan and sigh, but truth be told, I like working. It gives me a sense of purpose, an urgency that is sometimes missing in my life. Sometimes it is a telephone call from a customer that actually wakes me up from my mid-morning 'oh-what-am-I-gonna-do-now' procrastination. But don't tell my customers that... they might want a legal fee rebate.

We had problems telling the Singaporean clientele where to meet us. "700 Beach
Street..."
 We said, and they would normally ask, "Yes la... but what is the name of
the building?"
 The name of the office tower is actually 700 Beach, being also the address.
Funny how things that should make life simpler ends up making it
a little more complicated. He he he.

But it was not all work of course. After a tiring but well-sorted day, we headed down to the Arab Street locality of Singapore. And I took some pictures also...

Alex, our head of property and banking. Awake until 2.00am sorting out the
contracts and signing schedules for tomorrow's session. I could barely keep my
eyes open by then. Over the weekend we sorted out 39 signings with an approximate
contract value of a hair below RM40 million. Our client would be happy.
Next morning, if you are a local of Jalan Sultan, you would find me at a restaurant
called The Sultan's Kitchen. If it was anywhere else in the world, such an outlet
would probably be selling Indian Muslim, Arab or Turkish food. But as it turns out
it was entirely Chinese. I had a strong cup of coffee to wake me up. As I sat outside
I saw an old Chinese man making his round collecting cans of soft (and hard) drinks
at the garbage bins outside for recycling money. It is a poignant reminder that even
in this very rich city state, there is poor among us, always. I think Jesus said that.
So that is my Jesus thought for the day.
In the evening, we walked the famous Arab Street, and wandered into the small
alleys and side streets nearby. We found a Haji Lane. And it was one way, so
we made our way as per the arrow...
There appears to be something going on down there. House techno music were
booming and crowds of people were mingling. This calls for further investigation
of two men with some time to spare in this city of lions.
People (mostly young kids and two weather-beaten lawyers) were standing around
shuffling and dancing in that I-don't-really-know-how-to-dance-but-I-will-fidget
-a little-so that-people-will-think-I-may actually-know-how-to-dance sorta way.
I call it the zombie shuffle. There was also a depressing realization by myself that me
and Alex were probably the oldest geezers in the vicinity. But Alex didn't mind at all.
Alex is a man with no emotions whatsoever.
I really wanted to get up close to take some shots of that fancy turntable that
the DJs were playing with. But I was too shy and this is the closest I approached
the Red-Bull sponsored street music team.
Who says there is no old culture in Singapore? Alex reckon that this cozy little
neighbourhood would soon be demolished to build towering condo apartments,
shopping malls and office blocks. But I don't think so. I really don't believe that the
Singaporean government (being the overbearing super micro-managing behemoth
that is is) is the kinda of organization that would overlook a neighbourhood to be
developed. For what it's worth, they have actually encouraged (and enforced) a
time-capsule in this Bugis district. So you would still find quaint old shops with
quaint old entrance and grill. I like.
And in the centre of it all is the Sultan Mosque, a declared national monument
(and still operating mosque) since 1976. In Mecca, the Arabs have gone ahead to
annihilate the old hotels and small street shops around the Masjidil Haram (where
resides the Holy Kaaba) to build grandiose hotels, shopping malls and a gigantic
clock tower overlooking the Muslim world's number one place and focus of worship.
Again, ironic how the secular Singaporeans know better how to treat their Sultan Mosque.
We finally ended up here before heading back to the hotel. This little itsy bitsy
tea shop is reputed to sell the best cheap milk tea in Singapore. But I must report
that I cannot agree with such an assessment. The Kampong Glam restaurant across
the street serves better tea. But then again, that is my taste...
For supper I bought curry puff (or karipap in our dialect), a pastry
with curried chicken and potato fillings. It was a bit bland for our
Malaysian tongue. There is Alex, looking in disbelief at the size of
the karipap. And truly the proportion of this humble street food was
a wonder to behold. As we stood up to walk back, a stranger passed by and
said that we shouldn't waste food like that, because we still left some karipap
on the plate. Alex actually brought back the leftover to eat as
we walked back.
You dont' have to go to Baghdad to get to Baghdad Street.
On the way back to our budget accommodations to rest.
I haven't written for a couple of days already. Alhamdulillah, I am happy to be in Kuala Lumpur. Singapore was fun and interesting (which is good because it looks like I may have to go down again this coming weekend), but there is of course no place like home. 

Don't you agree, sunshine?

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way

1 comment:

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