truth nugget #64

I’m not a Hindu but I have many friends who are. they consider Thaipusam, a Hindu festival celebrated in honour of the God Murugan, to be a sacred celebration and much preparation and devotion goes into the procession that is held every year at this festival. devotees walk a predetermined route, some carrying milk pots on their heads, others with piercings of limes or leaves, and the most glorious to behold of all, the kavadi, where spears pierce through flesh to carry the heavy tiers of all sorts of different symbolic decorations. in order to aid the devotees on their trying journey, music is played, and I have heard it before, wonderful rhythms on the drums and beautiful, holy chants that touch the hearts of even non-believers. Singapore is the only place in the world that has placed a ban on music, alleging that it incites public disorder. an appeal was just rejected with the judge stating that “religious practices have to be practiced in accordance to laws regulating “public order, public health or morality”. bollocks. there is NOTHING disorderly, unhealthy or immoral about music, Judge Tay Yong Kwang. 

I am a Singaporean and I live in a country that professes to be multi-cultural, multi-religious and a society that claims to practise racial harmony. those are misleading claims, and the evidence to support that is blatant. 

my neighbours are Taoist. in fact, they’re pretty damn staunch and the mother of the family goes to the temple almost everyday. and yet, they never burn their offerings during the Seventh Month in the bins downstairs nor on the sidewalk where so many people seem to think it’s ok to do so.

the father of the family told my mum that he went to speak to the Town Council peeps to tell them that the bins right below our apartments are ridiculous and they need to do something about them because the smoke and ashes come right into our houses and we have to spend all day with our windows closed in this heat for almost a month. we also have lovely trees outside our corridor which are browned by the smoke and there are bats and birds who live in them and are affected terribly by the burning. my neighbour’s beautiful plants, which he takes so much pain to nurture have also, over the years, been destroyed by the fumes. let’s see what happens to my mum’s lovely plants now that she has just started growing a little garden. 

guess how the council replied? “sorry sir, we cannot do anything about this situation because people cannot be told not to follow their culture and religion.” he was indignant and of course tried to remind them he’s Taoist himself, so they thought they would placate him by saying, “ok sir, we will remove the bats.” and when, exasperated, he tried to explain it IS the bats he’s concerned about, they said, “ok sir, we will prune the trees, then.” seriously? totally missing the point, again. 

we live in a Singapore that hypocritically flies a multi-culturalism flag and waxes lyrical about tolerance and racial harmony but allows for this sort of inequity where one group of people is told it’s absolutely their right to pollute public space and the air we breathe, where at 11pm on a Sunday night, the Taoist wake happening in the void deck right below my bedroom window is crashing cymbals and blowing horns and fanning the flames of the biggest bonfire I’ve ever seen (meanwhile my cat’s having the shits) and another group of people is told that they don’t have the right to beat the drums or play traditional music loud enough to overcome the sound of traffic, just once a year at a very important Hindu festival. this has made my head roll from the time I was old enough to understand discrimination but nothing has changed. 

I am so thankful for my neighbours, who care about nature and their fellowpeople, and I wonder what it is about them that makes them who they are and so different from all our other neighbours who don’t see things the way they do. and so different from a government and all their paper pushers in all their many spineless, bodies that exercise authority over this country. 

something’s gotta give, Singapore. you so afraid there’ll be more riots? why don’t you give people fairness then? you think disorderly conduct happens when people are treated with respect? 


truth nugget #64