I’m thinking that if we must remain cosmopolitan, then we’d better do away with the damn Hua Yu Cool campaigns, or at least, match that with Bahasa Bagus and Tamil Terrific campaigns. Else we’re quite damned to becoming a mostly Chinese chauvinistic society with no respect for our cosmopolitan heritage.
I say ‘cosmopolitan heritage’ because there was a time when the entire country seemed to speak better English than the Good that they are trying to get the populace to speak, when no one batted as much of an eyelid when a troubled English boy sought refuge in a local Malay family to grow up and become the doyen of local radio announcers; when there wasn’t so much of a cultural cringe when the brands and dialects of Chinese spoken on mediums such as Rediffusion could be and were relied on by many; when we weren’t asked to Pinyinize our Chinese names for ourselves as well as for places; and when local Chinese television didn’t start to try to sound like Taiwanese or Mainland Chinese just because they thought they were the real deal.
If you were to sup at the Al-Ameen ‘Restaurant’ on Upper Bukit Timah, you’ll be reminded on how much of a melting pot this city is, and how you just have to love an eatery with an Arab-Muslim name that serves Thai-Muslim dishes alongside bastardised specials like Nasi Goreng USA, meat dishes like Bistik (beef steak), and something called ‘Mee Meditarian’, which, as I guess from the photograph featuring tomatoes, mushroom and capsicum, is a Mediterranean-inspired noodle dish.
All manner of Milo is served. Or rather, a tin of Milo is upturned into half a tumbler of iced-water and condensed milk and given a name like Milo King Kong or Milo Dinosaur.
At the next table, two young Indians are sipping their beverages, coughing as they accidentally inhale a teaspoon of powdered Milo, before continuing their conversation about how nowadays where got Ah Long come into the housing estate and spray paint, you got see or not? It’s the bloody banks who are the real Ah Long, I tell you. One day late never pay your loan, confirm sure call you, I tell you…
Across, two Chinese men and a girl, probably in their twenties, are sitting, glum-faced, twiddling their car keys before muttering something that sounds like what you want to eat? in Singaporean Mandarin.
Behind, you hear conversations in Malay amid the sudden din of small capacity motorcycles.
Is it just you or do quite a few people your age and older also think that there was a time you all got along better, even if racial stereotypes were stronger?