This was an entirely unplanned trip. The most logical thing to do on a late Sunday evening was to go home earlier to rest, especially since I had already spent an afternoon in the gym, plus a light swim, and a comfortable 2 hours inside Starbucks reading.
There was certainly no need to photograph today. At least that was not in the pipeline. This was supposed to be a take-it-easy kind of day. And besides, my team Manchester United was taking on their bitter rivals (too bitter to type out the name here!) in the Manchester derby and I wanted to be home to watch it.
But when I boarded the North East Line heading from Vivo City, an inner instinct took over. It was a sense, a subconsciousness that overrode all thoughts of reason, and I found myself dropping off at Little India Station. I always have my camera with me. Sometimes, even when walking my dog. I have 3 lenses with me, 24mm, 35mm and 50mm. In the end I just used the 35mm for all the shots you see here. (In fact, most of my photos on this blog are shot with the 35mm lens..)
What was there to see at night in Little India, on a Sunday, when everybody would be winding down and going home to prepare for another week? Apparently, a LOT.
Hordes of foreign migrant workers waited for buses that would ferry them all over Singapore after a day of shopping, fellowshipping and dining in this part of Singapore which functions as a Tamil enclave. Like ants, they congregate on open grass patches, eating dinner, talking, socializing, and then, as the never-ending stream of company-organized buses came, they would scramble to take their places on the huge air-conditioned machines, at $2 a trip, to go back to their hostels and apartments.
Along the main road, orderly queues can be seen as workers clambered on board buses headed for different parts of Singapore. The organizers, all Chinese, were using loud hailers and shouting instructions at the workers to get them organized. One of them, upon seeing me photographing, came over and asked if I was “from the Union”. (Which workers’ union was he referring to, I wonder?) In fact, I encountered friendly smiles from the workers, but had to endure suspicious glares and stares from the organizers of these buses.
The person who asked if I was from “the union” didn’t seem to believe me. At one point I felt more in danger of being accosted by him than being knocked down by the constant stream of huge metal beasts – the buses that kept turning and plying this small stretch of road picking up the foreign workers.
There was even a line of mobile toilets setup along the road to cater for the needs of these workers. Obviously this is a very organized setup, complete with minders ushering the workers onto the buses, as well as traffic controllers.
It was a fascinating sight, not unlike a school where hundred of kids mingle and wait for school buses. The buses that came here tonight may have ferried school kids in the day, but at night, they become comfortable air-conditioned rides home after a day of shopping and dining.
In the end, I’m glad I followed my intuition and got off the train. Yes, United didn’t win the game (managed to watch half of the game in the end on my mobile phone) – but I had a blast documenting what I saw.
If you enjoyed this post, you may be interested in the other parts of this on-going series on migrant workers in Little India. Click on any of the links below to catch up on the earlier parts.