Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

It's A Date
by venitha

After feasting Saturday evening on a very spicy Yong Tau Fu and congratulating ourselves on our ever-improving chopsticks skills, we head to Little India for a postprandial stroll and a feast of the visual variety. If we don't get lost or otherwise distracted, we'll conveniently end up at Mustafa; I've got a dimmer switch, oddly enough, that I need to return.

We meander slowly up Race Course Road, enjoying both the irony and a section of Little India that's new to us. We check out the restaurants, many vegetarian Indian buffets served on enormous banana leaves, and perfect the art of people-watching.

In this part of the city, most people are Indian and oh, so beautiful. Women dress in vivid and flowing saris and are adorned with bright gold jewelry and messy vermillion . Men form tight rows at an outdoor temple, bodies pressed together as they bow side-by-side in their evening prayers. Voices rise above the frantic music emanating from shops as friends shout to each other in , which sounds exactly like it looks. Sprinkled atop the exotic sights and sounds are reminders that it's a small world after all: children playing on sidewalks, couples walking arm-in-arm, teen-agers loitering on street corners.

At Mustafa's entrance, a guard seals my dimmer in a bag but allows me to keep my backpack, special treatment for my obvious expat status: any Indian woman would be required to check her bag. Ten minutes, two lifts, and three queues later, we've found a man who will help us, but he's unhappy that it's been so long, just under three weeks. Normally, he confides with gravity, items must be returned within three days. He'll make an exception for me, the stupid ang moh, but I must spend the exchange voucher tonight. He disappears into the rabble of customers to obtain his manager's signature.

While I await my new friend's return, Jim heads up three floors, past the electronics, the appliances, the sporting goods, the shoes, the gold jewelry, the sari material, and everywhere, the mobs of shoppers. If we have to spend $20, we could use oatmeal and drano. An ominous combination, but still, it's what we need.

Twenty minutes later, voucher in hand, I have abandoned hope of finding drano and am putting oatmeal into a basket of my own when horror strikes. I've forgotten my cellphone. While Jim and I can of course each find our way separately back home, this feels disastrous, as if we're on the verge of losing each other forever in this strange and foreign land. There are so many people it seems ridiculous to hope that I'll find Jim, but then again, everyone else is Indian, so it's not like he doesn't stand out. Shall I ask the men digging through the fresh mangoes if they've seen an ang moh?

I wander aisle after aisle, looking nervously for Jim amidst the throngs of shoppers, until with near-melodramatic relief, I spot him across an array of brightly sari-ed women. Jim, I say loudly. Jim! Our eyes meet and lock, and he smiles at me. We slowly edge toward each other round the saris, the stack of matar paneer boxes, the shelf of canned chole.

When we meet, Jim triumphantly shows me his bottle of drano and asks, Where'd you find the oatmeal?