Everyday life

Boarding buses

So I work in Little India and some evenings, it is late in the evening when I step out of the quiet, dark campus into the hustle and bustle of Little India.

There are massive constructions going on along Bukit Timah Road, just outside of my campus. The Downtown Line construction site is less than 10m away from my side-gate. Construction work in Singapore is mainly done by foreign workers now. A significant proportion of them are Chinese Nationals.

It was one evening when I was heading to the train station, that I witnessed a behaviour of these Chinese construction workers that shocked me.

It was close to half eight when I stepped out of the side-gate and walked along the perimeter of the construction site towards the station. Two rows of maybe 20-30 Chinese nationals lined the pavement next to Race Course Road, chattering noisily away. As I walked past them, it was apparent to me that they had spent a long hard day labouring and sweating out in the heat and humidity. I had just reached the end of the group when I saw a bus heading towards them. Someone shouted to to his friend to come along. Before the bus came to a complete halt, the entire group of 20-30 nationals had rushed to the front of the bus. Unfortunately, where the bus stopped, the pavement was blocked by some orange and white bollards. The moment the door opened, bodies literally flung themselves at the bus entrance, pushing and shoving just to be the first to get in. I didn’t see too clearly, but I’m sure arms tussled with each other and bodies clambered on one another as these Chinese nationals fought to get up the bus. The shouting and yelling was underpinned by the clatter of the bollards which were pushed back from the crush of bodies. A few metres away, several Indian foreign workers stared on at these Chinese males fighting for a seat on the bus.

I was stunned and literally stopped and stared. It was such a masculine sphere. It was such a culture-specific sphere. It was a slice of life in Singapore that not many people will have seen. It is so different and so far removed from what I’m used to. Shocked and a little embarrassed for staring, I wondered, what thoughts the bus driver has.

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