‘India’ in Singapore! Sounds queer, isn’t it. But, it’s a fact. Let me take you to a tour of a country within a country. Pungent smells, chaotic commerce, throngs of people – all these characteristics that typify India are also to be found on the streets of Singapore. I am talking of Little India in Singapore. A visit here is sure to dispel any notions of a sterile Singapore.
Here’s my fabulous experience that I had when I visited Little India in the island city-state a couple of years ago. Since I am an Indian it became quite easy for me to relate with this ethnic enclave here and made me feel at home.
Little India has a history of its own. The Indian-dominated ‘ethnic quarter’ of Chulia Kampong was established during the British colonial rule. Little India is an extension of Chulia Kampong. The South Indian Tamil population shifted to this riverside area after the original enclave got overcrowded. Here they grew tropical fruits and raised livestock. Over the years the agricultural activities have now completely stopped, and the traces of these agricultural activities can now be only found in the street names like “Buffalo Road”.
Little India has complete resemblance with all that can typically be found in India. Visit its streets where you will discover Hindu temples, classical Indian music and dance centers, sari shops, and vegetarian-friendly restaurants.
After the end of British colonial rule, Singapore has now shifted its official policy to racial harmony from the ethnic segregation. Little India is today not viewed as an ethnic enclave, but as the one which presents the very best of the Indian sub-continent. Little India has emerged as a significant part of Singapore and the prime gathering point for Indian community in the city-state as well as those arriving from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
You will find a culinary paradise in Little India where you’ll see the best of each Indian region’s cuisine being prominently featured. Here you will get to gorge on various kinds of delicacies ranging from rich mutton curry from Kashmir to coconut seafood from Kerala (check out the best from iLoveCrabs.com) to vegetarian staple of masala dosa from Tamil Nadu. If you want to cook some of these dishes yourself then you can buy the ingredients from spice shops and the wet markets.
The small shops with burning incense and popular Bollywood music in the background are an exotic alternative to the Orchard Road. Here you will find the shops selling souvenir T-shirts, glittering saris, mobile phones and Ayurvedic medicines. Not only this, while exploring the side-streets you will also find astrologers with a bird and deck of cards. Much like in India, the ancient art of Indian parrot astrology is also alive and kicking in Singapore’s Little India.