Just the other day, someone asked if I was looking forward to coming home to Singapore (for good) next year.
For the first time in ages, I actually struggled with my own emotions and in giving a response. You see, it is no longer a clear “Of course lah. Duh!” for I have come to appreciate the many appealing sides of Mumbai and India at large. But it’s quite impossible to describe these sides and my emotions succinctly to most people. Of course, I could have said “the people are nice”, “I’ll miss the winter”, “there’s so much beauty” and “shopping is great!” but I think you need to actually take time to understand Mumbai/India in order to understand where I’m coming from.
So. Anyway. I gave a lame response like, “Well, it’s hard to say. Mumbai has its advantages, like… cost of living is much lower?” And that drew vigorous nods around the table. Because, hey, everyone knows that EIU has recently pronounced Singapore as the MOST EXPENSIVE CITY IN THE WORLD, whilst Mumbai is one of the most affordable cities. But if you understand the report, this ranking is based expatriate expenditure and includes items such as Burberry-like raincoats (seriously?), fillet mignon and imported cheese, and doesn’t reflect the costs of living for the average citizen. (Note to self: I need to get a Burberry-like raincoat since it’s in the expat basket of goods!).
That said, Singapore is expensive. A punnet of imported strawberries in Singapore costs between $4-6 whilst one in Mumbai costs $2 (albeit local ones). A tub of greek/natural yogurt in Singapore costs between $3-6, whilst one in Mumbai costs just $2 or less. Many a time, I told PJ that we cannot afford to eat as well (organic, wholesome, natural foods) as we do in Mumbai once we return to SG. “Eat more now!” is his solution.
Without a job for now, I really feel the pinch in Singapore. I never used to think twice about a $20 lunch or a $5 artisanal coffee. Now, I do. Just the other day, I needed to kill time before my next appointment. Normally, I would have found a cafe for a cuppa. That day, I thought about how the $5 coffee would just end up as expensive pee and instead found myself in the gianormous National Library instead. Escalator after escalator, I ended up on the 7th floor where the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library is located. It was packed. There were students cramming and adults working. I browsed the shelves aimlessly and chanced upon a series of marketing books. I grabbed a couple, found a seat and immersed myself in the wonders of air-conditioning, free (and clean) books and quietness. I have forgotten how much I used to love the public libraries. It was comforting, soothing, uplifting and exactly what I needed on that particularly depressing day (for many different reasons).
Yes, Singapore is an expensive country, but we do have some really good stuff for free (like entry to the museums, too!). I think I’ll be very happy to come home next year.