Singapore is a multiracial, multilinguistic and multireligious country. I've just visited Shanghai in China during the December holidays and I can tell you that I've always faced trouble deciding what to eat for breakfasts because they have little to offer except buns, buns and buns. I have trouble in Singapore deciding what to eat for breakfasts too. But that is a welcome dilemma! We are quite lucky to have cultural influence from different races and people from different background.
Today I've met Kumar, a fervent volunteer at grassroots activities and a professor at NUS, in his cozy colonial house in Stirling Road. He comes from Tamil Nadu in India.
Kumar and his family
You were an Indian national, tell us more about how you came to become a Singapore citizen and your first apartment.
Well, my wife was a Malaysian and I travelled a lot to and fro Malaysia. I visited Singapore a couple of times during my travels and thats when I seriously thought about the propects of living in Singapore. In 2002, my brother's friend introduced to me an property agent while I was working in the US, and that is how i got interested in a commonwealth apartment. That time I was already undergoing citizenship orientation and was in the process to become a Singapore citizen. I was also facinated with the history of Queenstown through the orientation course, therefore I decided to settle in commonwealth.
You shifted to this new apartment in Stirling Road. You have such a nice and cozy house! Why did u choose to stay here?
It is probably due to my liking and familiarity to the Queenstown area. I have lived here for about 1 year. I call this house, "the poor man's property", as I cannot afford a few millions for a landed property elsewhere. I paid about 520k inclusive of renovations. But this house is not without problems in the start.
What problems about the house did u face?
Well, I spent a lot of money on renovations ( about 60k). It is due to the previous owner's negligence of the apartment. There were big rats, pests such as termites, and also many holes in the apartment. Another problem is that half of my flat is under the charge of HDB, the other half under URA. It is inconvenient because there are many restrictions due to the overlapping SOPs, so we had a hard time trying to apply permits for the renovations last year.
How are your neighbours? Are they friendly?
Yes, generally most of them are. Just like recently during my son's birthday party, I invited them over for a party. When we meet each other, we will also chat and invite each other over for drinks. However, I prefer the older folks as they are more friendly and hearty, as compared to the younger generation.
Do you like Queenstown? What are the things that you like about it?
Yes, I love the area. I like the fact that my house is near the mrt and that there are many bus routes that serve this area. It is also near to town . It is really a great location to live in, as I think it is generally quiet and convenient. I think that it is safer here as compared to other districts that i once lived, such as chua chu kang and marsling, due to the fact that the police are often patrolling around.
What are the things that you think needs improvement?
I hope that there will be more amenities around, such as shopping and hawker centres. The nearest place that we can buy necessities is the NTUC opposite the road. Other than that we will have to travel to Commonwealth. Another thing is that around 1 year ago, we used to have rubbish all along the corridors. However, recently the town council is looking into the matter and the situation is getting better.
Fate is what brings us together. I am very happy to have met Kumar. He gave me guidance and insight about local issues that many of us are oblivious or uninterested. Perhaps there are times we can befriend someone without the need to browse their passports. Life is more than that...
Outside Kumar's house!
The empty stretch of road and MRT track outside Kumar's house on a rainy day