Can you don’t eat curry?

From ‘Curry is a Singapore flavour’, 11 Aug 2011, Voices, Today

(Frances Ong Hock Lin):…I am concerned when a family (from China) who have relocated to Singapore have requested that their (Indian) neighbour stop cooking curry. They had resorted to mediation because they could not stand the smell.

“Can you please do something? Can you don’t cook curry? Can you don’t eat curry?” they implored.

Maybe it is timely for us to remember that just as we are given freedom to express our culture and religious customs, we have to co-exist in our common space, such as the air we breathe.

…I feel strongly that it is inappropriate to ask the local family to only cook curry when the neighbour is not at home. It is equivalent to asking my neighbour not to burn paper offerings when my husband is home, which is a ridiculous request.

It turns out that the arrangement to cook curry only when the Chinese weren’t at home was agreed by both parties, a terribly unfair arrangement which means either these Indians are timid and accommodating by nature, or these PRCs are incorrigible bullies who scare mediators into not making the necessary interventions and would call the police to complain about a decomposing corpse if they so much as have a whiff of durian puffs passing through the corridor. It is the most basic of human rights to cook whatever you want, whenever you want, and even if you insist of eating the same fattening curry every day of your life at the expense of a heart attack or stroke, no one can deny you of that right to slowly kill yourself.

But if the preparation of your curry involves afflicting some unreasonable distress on your neighbours, despite measures taken to staunch it (closing windows etc), the sensible thing to do without disadvantaging both parties is a happy compromise, something which mediators are supposed to manage. Ideally, a win-win situation would be best: Say I conduct noisy experiments in my free time and this bothers my neighbour. Instead of yelling at me ‘Can you stop doing science?’ he gets more information on my work, and upon discovering that my makeshift lab would be a good place for his own son to brush up his lab skills and not mess with bad company, we work out a situation whereby I get someone to help wash my flasks for free, while he gets assurance that his son is doing something useful, noise notwithstanding. Win-win, not Chin-win.

In this case, the net level of happiness has been tilted heavily in the PRC’s favour.  An alternative solution would be the Indians trying healthier fare on alternate days, or the Chinese going out for a family stroll once they detect the slightest molecule of curry in the air. Or better still, have dinner together. The longest lasting solutions to problems are usually the most painful ones in the beginning. There has to be some sacrifice both ways for fairness, yet the outcome of this miserable feud is the PRCs gaining a peace of mind, while the Indians incur a cost of eating something less enticing than curry, or spending money eating out. It’s unlikely that the PRCs, judging from their ridiculous initial demands, would even express any gratitude for this.  This isn’t mediation even if both parties emerge content, when you have one side effectively surrendering a right to another. This is a case of our locals unwittingly, unethically disadvantaged in relation to foreigners, which doesn’t speak well of assimilation, or rather, it speaks of too much assimilation that one can throw one’s weight around instead of first learning the ropes of his foster country. This is not welcoming our immigrants with open arms, this is us cutting an arm off so that they can use it to smack our own loser  faces with it.


4 Responses

  1. Exactly Uncle Gd2shoes. I don’t know the details but the summary of the arrangement is enough to make me think the mediators didn’t do a gd job. Why should anyone be compelled to stop cooking their curry, unless he/she does it as a business and/or do it 24/7. Mediators please go to the back of the class!

  2. Curry is neither fattening nor unhealthy!

  3. Tabea, I happen to love curry and would be very to happy to be proven wrong so I won’t have to feel guilty eating it everyday.

  4. This begins the destruction of the nation called Singapore! Singapore is not Chinese. It is not Indian or Malay. It is a fusion of all these. The Singaporean is a unique creature. The closest kind he would find would be a Malaysia.The foods, smells, the acceptance, all of that combined makes for the Singaporean. Take that out and you are not a Singaporean any more. That Chinese from PRC should be put in a junk boat and sent right back to where he came from and all Singaporeans should jointly come together to censure that Chinese from PRC. If you can’t do that, then stop eating Curry Laksa, Bak Kut Teh, fish head curry, kangkong belacan. and Chili belacan. These are not Chinese and the PRC cannot claim it to be theirs. Why on earth that Indian family should submit to this demand or complaint is a real wonder! Is that because of a long held tradition of being submissive to a majority? Indeed why on earth the mediators even took this on speaks volumes about the stupidity of that mediation panel, however formal or legal they might be. They should have sent the complainant packing. Instead they have opened a hornet’s nest. Indeed i would say that the Chinese family here may have been silly and ignorant. But the mediation panel was a disaster. They are the real culprits for not having understood the ramifications of their most ignorant and silly conduct.

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