“Don’t shy-shy lah,
just friend-friend only.”
A conversation with Abdul Karim and his friends under the rain.
It had been raining on and off throughout the day. But we had planned to find people to chat with that night. Hence, we decided to try our luck.
On our way, it started raining again. We ran to the nearest bus shelter and found other people waiting out the rain too. We struck a conversation.
What do you do on your free day?
“ Rest in dormitory. Then go to Serangoon, jalan-jalan, buy things. Sometimes I meet my Malaysian friend or my country friends opposite Mustafa Centre at the field there. We find a place to sit down and just talk only lah. ”
Do you have Singaporean friends?
“ Actually Singaporean friends I don’t have one. They don’t have time to find us and we don’t have time to find them. ”
“ I want a better job in Singapore. I like metal work. I now do rooftop work. ”
How much do you usually spend a month?
“ $300. My phone bill comes up to $100. I use it to talk to my family. Another $100 or $150 for makan. ”
What are you listening to?
“ Bangla music on 96.3FM. ”
The use of Singlish struck us. On hearing the first lah, we asked them to repeat their sentence as we couldn’t believe our ears. We then exchanged glances as we resisted the urge to smile.
Singlish is a quintessential part of the Singaporean identity. Even as we travel abroad, it draws us towards each other. And here it was, being spoken by people whom we consider “foreign”.
It never occurred to us that our colloquial expressions such as makan and jalan-jalan are part of their daily vocabulary. We couldn’t help but wonder what other expressions they have picked up along the way.
Perhaps speaking Singlish was an attempt to connect with us. However, they spoke so casually, and it sounded so familiar. Having this shared language, brought us a wee bit closer.
“ We formed a cricket team in 2007. It’s called Success Team. The players have all stuck around since 2007. We play at Chinese Gardens every Sunday. ”
What position do you play in?
“ Batting or fielding. ”
“ Some people get white hair very fast you know. I am one of them. ”
Kumar then points to Aminul’s hair and beard: “Here got painting, here no painting.”
“ Are you going to make a movie out of this? ”
Aminul’s friends: “If you make a movie, make him the hero.”
What do you want to do once you head back to Bangladesh?
“ Do business in Bangladesh. 80% of the people will go back and do business. 20% go casino, find girlfriend and lose money. ”
Thus far, we have always encountered groups of common nationalities. Indians with Indians, Bangladeshis with Bangladeshis. Kumar is from India and speaks Tamil, while his friends Rubel and Abdul Karim are from Bangladesh and speak Bengali.
However, that does not hinder them from forming friendships. Kumar mentioned that English was sufficient for communication and he enjoys their company.
“ Make money, very hard. Use money, very easy.
Money have, Singapore good. Money no have, Singapore no good. ”
Do you have a girlfriend?
“ No girlfriend. Only boyfriends. Girlfriend come, money lose. ”
What do you plan to do now?
“ Make money, go home, and then marriage. ”
Will you come back to Singapore after your marriage?
“ See how lah. ”
When are you getting married?
“ Not now, but 3 years later. Mother told me to get married with a small girl. I no like small girl. After 3 years she will be 19, then I will marry. ”
If you don’t want to marry, why don’t you tell your parents?
“ Mother got 2 times heart stroke. I don’t want risk a third time. So I say any girl okay for me. ”
What is the colour of your eyes?
“ I don’t know. But they’re real. No contacts. ”
Sometimes the littlest things that we overlook could mean a lot to others. A radio station that many of us are unfamiliar with, is a source of comfort for a group of people who rarely crosses our minds.
Simple pleasures in life can take the form of an empty green field amidst the populated city, a song in your native tongue, or chatting away with friends as the rain pours outside. Sometimes, it does not take much to be happy.
In our subsequent posts, we hope to explore the avenues of entertainment that the builders seek in their leisure time.