When I made the big decision to move countries in pursuit of a new job, a lot of my thoughts and worries were related to adjusting to living in India, as opposed to leaving Singapore. My feelings on the Singapore side of things were basically around the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to hang out with my brother, sis-in-law and niece on a regular basis anymore. I knew they were upset about this too, because the sis-in-law said, “Go, have fun. Just, you know, be back in a year.”
Subconsciously, that must have stuck in my head as I made final preparations to leave, because I did everything as though I was going away on extended vacation rather than moving away. I had to move out of my house, of course, but I left almost everything else in a suspended state, convinced that I would eventually be returning in a year. It’s been almost three months since I left (a quarter of a year! 😱) and now, actually living here and working here, it’s really hard for me to tell whether I’ll be able to stick to that deadline of one year. I have no idea how things will shake out in the coming months.
I think in the hurry of packing up a life’s worth of things and leaving, I didn’t get a chance to fully say goodbye to Singapore. Rather, I did say goodbye, but it was quick and rushed, with no thought as to all the things I was going to be leaving. When people asked me during the last few weeks whether there was anything special I wanted to do or anywhere specific I wanted to go, I couldn’t think of anything because I hadn’t had a chance to miss anything yet. And then when I got here, there was so much to be done (from setting up bank accounts and getting government ID cards done to setting up a house and finding my feet at work) that I didn’t have the time or the mental headspace to think too much about anything else.
Now, though, I’m slowly starting to remember all the things I miss. The people are a given, not just my family, but my small group of friends, who always made the time to meet up (despite most of them having much busier schedules) and do things together. Different friends satisfied different needs (one to go cafe hopping with, one to do nail art with, one to exchange book recs with, one to watch movies with, one to drink wine with), and together, they made for a very holistic friendship experience.
This post is for the other stuff I miss, or as the sis-in-law puts it, “NON-LIVING THINGS.” I’ll leave out the obvious things like cleanliness, public transport, general orderliness, efficiency and safety, and focus on things that are more specific to me. In no specific order:
- Food. I know, I know. For all intents and purposes, I get tons more options in India than I did in Singapore – practically everything here has a vegetarian option. I think what I miss is the variety, and the easy access to different kinds of cuisines. Yes, there are lots of places here that serve world cuisines, but it usually takes a bit of travelling to get to anywhere good, and there’s just not that many restaurants to choose from for any particular cuisine. Whereas in Singapore, to borrow from a Tamil saying, if you trip and fall, you’ll land on a restaurant. Food is everywhere. Also, in the last two or three years, vegetarian food has started getting really popular. I mean, McDonald’s put its first ever vegetarian burger on the menu after a full decade of me being there. When my mom visited me last year, we made a list of vegetarian-only places and couldn’t even tick all of them off the list by the time she left a few months later. All that just makes me sadder that I had to leave just when vegetarianism was really catching on.
- Groceries. Vegetable shopping is so much easier when things are neatly packaged and weighed and not loose and caked in dirt. Also, even the basic supermarket would have gourmet ingredients for my more ambitious cooking adventures, whereas here, if I want herbs or a special type of cheese, I have to either order it online or travel to find a place selling it. (We’ve established how much I don’t like to travel here.)
- The internet. I’ve elaborated on this already. Suffice to say, I miss not having to think about numbers so much.
- Movies. I used to watch an average of two movies per month in the cinema back in Singapore. On Tuesdays, you could get cheap tickets for $6.5, and plenty of popcorn and drinks for $4. Also, getting to a screening would be easy, because there would be a cinema in almost every mall, and malls were scattered around the small city so plentifully that you’d land on one if you – repeat it with me – tripped and fell. I get to watch TV and movies as part of my job now, so this isn’t so much of an issue, but I miss making movie dates with friends, just as an excuse to meet them often.
- The library. Good God, do I miss the library. Singapore has about 30 public ones (another one of those “trip and fall” places), and all of them are large, air-conditioned, neatly maintained and well-stocked (and in some cases, damn stylish). For $10, I had a lifetime membership, which gave me access to more books than I could borrow at a time. Many a day have I spent in the library, perfectly content to sit in a corner, reading or working, nipping out for a quick lunch or a coffee. Good times.
- The beach. For me, the beach, especially when thought of in relation to Singapore, means a whole lot more than just sand and water. For me, it includes picnics with the family, long walks with the housemate and even longer bicycle rides to the airport or to the city. It is associated with sunrises and sunsets and ocean breezes, a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of normal life.
- Sidewalks. How sad is it that this can be something one can miss?! You can walk everywhere in Singapore. If not for the weather, I probably would actually have walked everywhere. Here, the sidewalk is more like “the side of the road”, and I have to be constantly on the lookout for open ditches, garbage, mud, spit, poop, and of course, cows.
Singapore is essentially Western life in an Asian context, which, when you think about it, really is the best of both worlds. I miss you, home away from home! (It’s too early for nostalgia, no? </3)