Lessons in Little India

Lessons in Little India

Mr Karthick Muthuraman, a site engineer from a sleepy village in Tamil Nadu, replies instantaneously when we ask him why some workers acted the way they did in the Little India riot.

"There are good and bad men everywhere," the 29-year-old said with conviction, as we stood together chatting in narrow Kerbau Street.

"My parents taught me to do good, the same way your parents taught you. What they did doesn't mean that all of us are like that."

His comments, among the many we heard during several hours spent trawling Little India to understand foreign workers' sentiments last week, left a deep impression on us.

Many workers' values and feelings, as we were reminded through Mr Karthick, transcended race and nationality. They felt strongly about how they were perceived. Many just wanted to earn an honest living in Singapore and avoid trouble.

In the aftermath of the riot, we had wanted to understand how, living thousands of kilometres from home, these Indian and Bangladeshi workers coped without their loved ones close by, and what the Little India enclave meant to them.

The men that we met had different socioeconomic backgrounds from us and most of our friends.

We have different mother tongues. Our lifestyles and pop-culture references are different because they have less leisure time to waste on YouTube.

But their feeling of being homesick and wishing they weren't a thousand miles from home is almost universal, and something we can identify with.

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