Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Melting Pot

One month ago, I landed in a place which is a melting pot in the true sense. I arrived at Singapore, a place of confluence of many cultures, races and variety of people.

I love observing people. In this month of wandering the streets and exploring the place I’ve had a chance to observe and interact with people who on the outside seemed really different from me, with very different backgrounds.
When you put so many different people together in one little place, you’ll find one common trait: The ability to adapt. It starts with language and goes onto a lot of different things like body language and mannerisms.

One good example is a little Indian boy I sat next to on a bus one day. He was probably around 7 or 8 years old. He was on the phone with a parent. Judging by the accent of his Tamil, I would say he was not a native Indian but the child of Indian expats who’s been here for most of his life. He was enthusiastically telling his parent which bus route is ideal for the parent. I was amazed at his independence and knowledge of the geography of the place, which is very uncommon back home. He spoke English occasionally with a proper Indian accent. He abruptly hung up on his parent saying he was getting another call. The other call was probably a friend his own age. I was taken aback when he switched to rapid Mandarin with this caller. And also he spoke intermittently in English but this time with a pronounced Chinese accent!

This is just one of the many people I’ve observed. Another thing that struck me is that no matter how different we seem on the outside, we are pretty much the same on the inside.

We all have the same problems with work politics, the same evil boss scenario, bad bonuses etc. You will find the same thoughtful wife who thinks ahead and carries an extra sweater for her husband. You will find the same guy who cooks for his partner when she’s stressed out. You will find the same parent handling difficult kids. And most common of them all, you will always find people looking for love.

But the most important people-lesson I’ve learnt is this: No matter where in the world you are, no matter how mixed the group is ethnically or otherwise, guys who never knew each other will instantly bond over alcohol, girls who meet for the 1st time will become close friends over a shopping spree.