Monday, 9 April 2007

Little India

We were back at Little India last Thursday night to do some midnight shopping. We arrived at 11.30pm but from the crowd milling about, you could never tell it how late it was. That’s what I love about this little place that never sleeps.

A visit to Little India is a treat for the senses and there is a surprise waiting for me in every nook and cranny. Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Little India...

As I stroll along the narrow lanes, I catch a whiff of sweet jasmine and the tantalising scents of spices drifting out from restaurants. What a feast for my eyes too…. the gorgeous saris, colourful garlands, gaudy bangles and dazzling array of gold jewerly. I love taking in the sights and cacophony of sounds. The blare of Indian music mingles with the sounds of car horn tooting, people bargaining, hawkers cajoling and visitors marveling. I see rows and rows of shops with a dizzying display of food from thosai to thali and tandoori, briyani, murtabak to an array of snacks and sweets. How can I resist the delicious smells and friendly faces greeting me at the door?

I marvel at the little shops lining the narrow streets that display everything and anything…from fresh vegetables to curry powder, clothes and Bollywood videos to pots and cameras.

I love how the colourful temples co-exist side by side with the churches and mosques, and the way fortune tellers and ‘mamak’ stores jostle for attention along the sidewalks. The ever-changing mix of restaurants, backpacker lodges and CD shops never fails to surprise me. It’s amazing even the back alleys of shop houses are occupied by tiny stalls hawking anything from VCDs to flower garlands.

There is orderliness in this cluttered, chaotic neighbourhood. You can almost imagine you’re in India, minus the beggars, squatters and the filth. This is the reason why our charming Little India is so loved by locals and tourists alike.

When I read that Urban Redevelopment Authority is planning to ‘spruce up this place yet retain the charm’, I wonder how this is possible.

Look at what they have done to Chinatown and Arab Street! They will reorganise the shop mix, relocate tenants that do not fit into the new scheme of things, get rid of clutter, ‘sanitise’ the area, rebuild old shop houses, spruce up the alleys, inject new art galleries and put in new signboards, increase rent…

In other words, the essence of Little India will soon be gone.

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