An interesting discriminatory event near Desker Road, Little India

I was walking along a road which intersects the Desker Road(red light) alley in Serangoon Road with my friend Sim last night - on my way to buy some veg and curry powders - when we witnessed a near-collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian. The pedestrian was obviously not checking for traffic as he sauntered across the road. The cyclist screeched to a halt. They both looked at each other and the cyclist asked, ‘Why? You can’t see ah?”. In response, the pedestrian, with a look of condescending disbelief, shook his head as if the cyclist was at fault, just ignored him and walked off. At the same time, some blokes sitting at the entrance of the alley to Desker Road (probably ‘kua chui’ (lookouts) for whatever illegal goings on that might take place in Desker Road, or bouncers..they are always there whenever I go by) begin hurling vulgarities in Tamil (Indian dialect) at the cyclist to the tune of, (minors look away now) ‘pussy!’, ‘I f**k your sister!’, amongst others, whilst some amongst the group were just laughing along with these insults as the cyclist ignored them rode away. At this point, they noticed me looking at them, and for an instance, I saw a sort of confusion on their faces as if they couldn’t make up their minds about something.

Now it was obvious that the one at fault was the pedestrian. But to both the pedestrian and the vulgarity-hurling onlookers, the cyclist was the problematic one. Perhaps, I thought, that this was a show of local solidarity between the onlookers and the pedestrian in the face of a freewheeling foreigner. Then again, the reaction by both might simply be a more blatant corollary of existing perceptions of the race of said foreigner. You see, when right and wrong is determined along a local vs. foreigner, or preferred race vs. less preferred race scale, then one tends to make sense of reality through these latter filters. I was quite surprised that neither the pedestrian or onlookers showed any sign whatsoever of appreciating the fact that it was the cyclist who had the right of way. And as I witnessed this event whilst walking along the said road, the onlookers looked at me and seemed to wonder if I ought to be classified with the cyclist given ethnic similitude though I was obviously, to them, (i think) a local. I simply smiled at them, not in support of their insults, but in what might be their attempt to improve their Tamil since the government would not deem it to be their ‘mother tongue’. Anyway, I don’t think they really bothered about my witnessing the event as they were sitting right beside an Indian restaurant and obviously couldn’t care less what the Indian workers, shop proprietors, and patrons thought.

I said to Sim, ‘they’re lucky that Indians are an accommodating lot, or else that cyclist wouldn’t find it very difficult to round up a posse of Indians and tar the road with these idiots given the insults directed at him and his family.’ In the UK, we have those white skinheads who despise difference, but the general population is exonerated from complicity given that they do their utmost to get rid of racism in all its manifestations no matter how small. The question I have been forced, by reason, to ask is, to what degree is this little interesting event in Serangoon Road a more blatant example of a general malaise given the fact that Singaporeans, and the opposition, are nothing like the Brits when it comes to empathy (I've often said to my mates that the opposition ought to be judged not by what they do, but what they consistently fail to do - and which i why i find that there is, at significant times, little difference between them and the fascist organisations in the UK). What I found most interesting about this little event was the ethnic composition of the dramatis personae.

The onlookers were Chinese, the pedestrian was Malay, and the cyclist was an Indian national. On the one hand, I was pleased to see the solidarity between the Chinese and the Malay, whilst on the other hand I was disgusted to see that both obviously viewed the Indian national as wrong even though he wasn’t. In this, I also saw a hierarchical scale of preference along racial, local vs. foreigner, and (relatively) upper class vs. lower class lines. Which one applies? The only thing I can say is that the degree to which we contend with the manifestations of any one of them would serve as an indicator as to which applies. After all, if we haven’t done our best in something, we cannot really assume the absence of our complicity, witting or otherwise. Not too far from this event is a tourist board detailing the history of Little India. The information details what the Chinese were doing there in the past whilst the Indians are portrayed as mere props in a wholly Chinese theatre. Somehow, both the sign and event seem to complement each other.







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