Rare smiles amid the gloom in Little India

Rare smiles amid the gloom in Little India

IT WAS a strange, silent Sunday in Little India, with its roads looking remarkably roomy and many businesses steeped in gloom.

The latest measures had ensured that less than half the usual number of 20,000-odd foreign workers ferried there showed up yesterday.

Fields along Race Course Roads were nearly empty, with just a dozen foreign workers engaging in idle chit-chat - uncanny for what used to be a popular weekend hangout spot. They had traded beer for snacks in the light of the ban on public consumption of alcohol, following the recent riot. Businesses were badly hit.

Mr Ponnambalam, 80, owner of Nammavar Provision, said his earnings yesterday amounted only to $1,000, a far cry from the usual $6,000 before restrictions were made to alcohol sales.

"We cannot survive if things continue like this," he said, as he pointed to high rental fees of around $7,000, which he said he will have trouble covering each month if sales do not pick up.

Ironically, if the workers stay away, some of the more upmarket restaurants that line Race Course Road could actually see business improve on Sundays.

An employee at fine-dining eatery Delhi Restaurant said that road congestion used to be an issue with customers, but now the crowd has disappeared.

"In fact, I think more people might come in the future," he said.

Such voices, however, are rare.

Mr Jaganathan, 42, boss of Abirami Restaurant, estimated that revenue has dropped by 50 per cent as he missed the foreign workers who used to frequent his eatery after doing their grocery shopping.

"It's been a tradition for the foreign workers to come here and hang out with their friends and drink, and suddenly it's been disrupted," he said.

Another worried face was that of Mr M. Rajaram, 34, owner of RKJ Minimart, which sells vegetables and daily provisions. He said his earnings have fallen by 40 per cent to just $600 a day.

"I will just wait it out and see whether there are improvements in the coming week," he said.

Indian construction worker Seeni Srinivasan, 26, said that it was a sad outcome. "It was the only way I was able to meet up with my friends," he said.


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