This post has been written for the theme “26 Places, 26 Memories” for the #AtoZChallenge.
S FOR SINGAPORE:
Singapore is a small island nation in South-East Asia. Despite its minuscule size, it has proved itself a global centre of finance and modernity. The multicultural population and squeaky-clean environs enhance its futuristic feel. There are many man-made sights to see, as well as delicious food and fantastic shopping on offer. However, its perfection may seem unreal to some!
I visited Singapore on vacation with my father’s extended family in May 2007. We were a large group consisting of my paternal grandparents, two aunts with their families, and my own, numbering 12 in all. We travelled from Singapore to Malaysia and then Thailand. From the entire trip, this memory really stands out.
SURDY SHENANIGANS IN SINGAPORE:
We were travelling from Singapore to Malaysia on an overnight sleeper train. My grandfather, a retired Colonel, had shut the lights to his compartment by 11:00 p.m., having removed his impeccable safari suit; while the others chatted away next door.
The train halted close to midnight and some men began knocking on the windows. Uninterested, we continued with our family gossip. By the time we learnt that it was a necessary immigration check to enter Malaysia; we had only 15 minutes to get our passports stamped before the train’s departure.
My grandfather was on a wheelchair, which took additional time. We reached the immigration office on the station, to an alarmingly large queue from other trains. Fortunately, my aunt, the wife of an Indian Foreign Service diplomat, was allowed to cut the queue on showing her diplomatic passport.
By the time our passports were stamped and collected, our train hooted its preparation for departure. All 12 of us (the number is a mere coincidence!) began running to our compartment; pushing my grandfather’s wheelchair along. I climbed onto the nearest one; but my cousin yelled at me saying this wasn’t ours and we needed to keep running. Instead of explaining to her that we could walk inside the train, I jumped off to join them.
There wasn’t a soul on that platform, everyone had climbed on to their nearest compartments, while my family dramatically sped towards the front of the train. What a sight we must’ve been! A large group consisting of senior citizens and agitated young people, dressed in night-wear, running for our lives.
When we finally climbed on to the moving train, I exclaimed, “why didn’t you just climb the first compartment?!”. My father responded, “it would’ve been tougher to push the wheelchair inside the train .” To which I replied, “yes but most of us could’ve climbed on to alert the staff about a passenger on a wheelchair, no?!”. Realising their folly, everyone looked at each other sheepishly before bursting in to uncontrollable, side-splitting laughter.
This story is now part of family lore, and a fondly remembered anecdote. We call it our collective ‘surdy’* moment- my family’s for not climbing the first compartment, and mine for climbing it and then coming right back down 😉
Come back tomorrow for the letter T and another story!
*Surdy is a colloquial term for Sardar (a follower of the Sikh religion). Often, Sardars are made fun of for being foolish (without any cogent reason). Belonging to a family of intelligent, enterprising and proud Sikhs, I’m opposed to this unfair condescension. However, as a Sardarni myself, I think I can be forgiven the use of this term for this amusing anecdote 🙂
On our Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand family vacation, May 2007
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A for Amritsar, B for Bhopal, C for Cambodia, D for Delhi, E for England, F for France, G for Gwalior, H for Hemkund Sahib, I for Italy, J for Jim Corbett National Park, K for Kamakhya Devi Temple, L for London, M for Munich, N for Naples, O for Odisha, P for Prague, Q for Qila Mehrangarh Jodhpur, R for Rishikesh