Workers upset rioters affect weekend routine

You have been working in Singapore for 11 years. You are comfortable in Little India.

It has become home away from home.

So how would you feel if someone had gatecrashed your neighbourhood and robbed it of all the fun?

Indian national Sasik Kumar, 38, was not exactly furious, but he was not happy either.

This is the first time he has ever experienced an alcohol ban, let alone in Little India, where he rents a room on Race Course Road.

"Just because of a few people who caused trouble, the rest of us have to be inconvenienced like this?" the safety supervisor asked in halting English.

He had just finished dinner and beers with some friends in the basement of the Berseh Food Centre on Jalan Besar, which is just outside the banned area.

Four lanes of traffic away, the shops were completely dry.

It was Mr Sasik's and his friends' first time to Berseh Food Centre, and they were seated in front of the only Indian food stall in the building.

They had travelled much further than usual for their weekly tipple and catch-up.

Mr Sasik said: "Most Indian workers come (to Little India) only once a month, to meet their friends from the same village, send money home and top up their phone cards.

"Then we have a drink or two, talk about our families and our problems. It's a way for us to relax."

But for now, their "norm" is in limbo.

Following last weekend's alcohol ban, the authorities will be reviewing what to do next. It is unclear if the ban in Little India might be extended.

Mr Sasik was initially reluctant to have his picture taken.

"I'm worried that people would think that because a few Indians caused trouble, all of us are like that," he said.

Are you angry at the rioters?

He quickly shook his head. A sad look flashed across his face.

"We don't like it when it's like that (the ban on alcohol sale and drinking in public). It's not nice," he said.

Catch up

On the upper level of the food centre, a handful of foreign workers had come for their weekly tipple. Sitting in a mostly empty part of the food centre, they talked quietly while sharing a few beers.

One of the men, Mr Raj, said it was his first time at the food centre but he would have preferred to be drinking in a Little India coffee shop.

"There, you're among friends," he said, before turning back to the two bottles of Baron's Strong Brew he was sharing with a friend.

Abis Indian Food and Drink stallholder Subbu Kannappan, 43, was glad the food centre had been excluded from the ban. Business had gone up by at least 10 per cent, he said.

Weekends usually see about $300 in alcohol sales but on Saturday, he made about $400.

His stall carries brands like Knock Out, Kingfisher and Haywards 5000 as well as more common brands such as Tiger, Heineken and Becks.

When TNP returned to his stall last Sunday evening, Mr Subbu had a steady stream of customers despite the rain, and could barely spare a moment to talk.

Over $100 worth of beer had been sold to the breakfast and lunch crowd, he said.

He had yet to tabulate his dinner takings but business was "very good", he added.

In a statement last Sunday evening, the police said there were no breaches of the alcohol ban, nor had there been anyone caught for consuming alcohol in public in Little India.


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