It was a rare Friday off, so South Asian Muslim foreign workers took the opportunity to pray in and around the Angullia Mosque in Little India yesterday.
The mosque, which can hold about 400 people, could not contain the crowd, so about 500 people poured out to the field next door, creating an unusual sight for passers-by.
The praying men were part of the large crowds that descended on Little India yesterday, on the first day of the Chinese New Year.
The atmosphere could not have been more different than the chaos that reigned during the riot on Dec 8 last year, sparked off by an accident in which an Indian national was run over by a bus.
The mob attacked the bus driver and a woman working for the bus company, threw stones at police, and torched government vehicles in the worst riot here in 40 years.
Yesterday, men reciting their prayers filled the field next to the mosque at Serangoon Road, a stone's throw from Mustafa Centre.
Bangladeshi construction worker Md Juwel, 28, who has lived here for two years, normally goes to Angullia Mosque only on his weekend breaks for evening prayers.
He said it was the first time he could go to a mosque here for Friday prayers, an obligation he has to fulfil.
Smiling, he added: "I'm happy that Chinese New Year is on a Friday this year. I can meet friends and we can pray together."
Another Bangladeshi construction worker, Mr Anamul Hauque, 38, agreed.
He said: "I work in Punggol and it's hard usually to go for Friday prayers. I normally just pray in my room, after work."
A call to prayer was heard around 1.45pm.
All the men then stood up and silently performed their prayers in unison on mats, oblivious to curious onlookers and the traffic that whizzed by just metres away.
"I've worked here for two years and I have never seen so many people at this mosque on a Friday before," said shop assistant S. Bala, 34.
Meanwhile, restaurants at nearby Race Course Road told TNP that they enjoyed about the same earnings as they do every weekend and on public holidays.
The manager of Jaggi's restaurant, Mr Joginder Singh, 52, said business is always good for Chinese New Year. He said most of his customers usually come for dinner.
The manager of Gayatri restaurant nearby, Mr S. Mani, 43, said he looks forward to Chinese New Year.
"It's one of the best times of the year for business," he said.
People of different races made up the lunchtime crowd in the area.
One woman, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Lee, said she had lunch with her husband at the Banana Leaf Apolo Restaurant.
The housewife, who is in her 60s, said: "It's one of our favourite restaurants. We come here about once a month to eat. We don't really celebrate Chinese New Year. After this, we will just visit my mother, and that's it."
Advertising executive Chan Wee Leong, 25, on the other hand, went to the same restaurant for lunch with 12 members of his family, including his parents and grandparents.
"We just go down to non-Chinese restaurants at this time of year because we know these places will be open. We don't want to go through the trouble to look for places to eat. So we just come here," he said with a laugh.
Get The New Paper for more stories.