Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022
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Singapore Diary

I felt I was passing through a gigantic mall. The city was an extension of the airport. Consumerism feeds nationalism

Singapore Diary
Singapore Diary
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Mall Nation

Within minutes of landing in this island nation, I felt I was passing through a gigantic mall. The city was an extension of the airport. I lowered the taxi window to let the wind whip my face and suggested that the driver turn off the air-conditioning. After all, it was a lovely 30 degrees. He grunted and made me roll up the window. I was soon to realise that every indoor space in the city was air-conditioned. That evening, I was told by a friend about the work of Cherian George, a local academic and author of Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation (2000). Seems Lee Kuan Yew believed that the tropical climate made people lazy, and decided ACs would make them productive, efficient. Not just the air, everything here is conditioned. I gaped at trees that appeared too reticent, too conscious of spreading their branches. I was hosted by the National University of Singapore where I was to give a few lectures, on Ashis Nandy’s recent utterances, the Ambedkar cartoon and suchlike. I began one of my presentations with a lesser heard sound bite from Nandy at the same Jaipur festival where he otherwise mouthed nonsense: “The only country which I know is close to zero corruption is Singapore and that’s not part of my concept of utopia, it can be very much a part of my concept of dystopia.” A few days in Singapore reinforced this perception.


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