Well, the first observation is actually from last year when I had visited both Singapore and Hong Kong…For some reason, I had this thing in my head that the locals in HK spoke English because the country had been a British colony till 1997…But lo and behold when I landed there I realized that the local Chinese did not or didn’t want to speak the Queen’s language…As a result, we had a tough time negotiating our way through the island…Our host’s landlord wrote down his address (the host’s) in the local language on piece of paper and we showed this to taxi drivers when we wanted to get back home…But Singapore is different…The locals speak English (thank god!)…Why is this so? Did Lee Kuan Yew force people to learn the language because he himself was Oxbridge educated?
The second observation is a phenomenon I thought was uniquely Indian – the obsession with ‘fairness’…The other day I saw an ad selling something called a whiteness chip which when stuck to your face makes you fair…OK, I know these creams and chips don’t actually make you fair and that they just help remove tans but I’ve never seen a tanned Chinese…Have you? Also, as far as I can see they are pretty white so why do they want to become whiter?
Singaporeans are extremely efficient…I got a shock when I reached the employment office (a division of the Ministry of Manpower) to register my daughter and myself as dependants…The office was not only clean and well lit, there were four well dressed and courteous young ladies waiting at the door to help us around…We had reached there 15 minutes early but since the place was empty, we were taken in immediately…The registration and fingerprinting (a new rule) took all of 10 minutes…They even had a play area for children which my daughter took full advantage of…Why are 2 countries which started off nearly at the same time so different? Do Indians lack motivation to better themselves or are we by nature discourteous and dirty? Do we need a dictator like Lee Kuan Yew?