Thursday, March 03, 2005

Post No. 4: Back From India, Finally...

Namaste! Not that you all will be interested to know but I just got back from my overseas military training exercise in India yesterday morning. My company, that is 46SAR Cheetah Company, had the privilege (or the bad luck, depending on how you look at it) to be the 1st combat team in India. In fact, the people in my company are the first foreign soldiers that India allowed to train in their country. Well, since most of my stay over there was spent on doing military training, I won’t bore you all with any details… To tell you all the truth, I didn’t get to see or appreciate much of India (to my regret) as when not doing military training, I was stuck, most of the time, traveling in a tour bus. The only real highlight of my trip there was being able to visit the Taj Mahal (too bad I could only spent a hour touring it). For those interested, I’ll most likely be posting photos I taken in India on my Friendster page once I get them developed (and will be refreshing them every week).

Ha… I must confess that, sadly, most of my knowledge regarding foreign countries are from I read in books. So, I’m really a “suaku” with regards to traveling overseas… In fact, before I managed to go to Australia last year & India this year for military training, the only countries I ever visited were Malaysia & Indonesia (and only Batam, for that matter). Well, I suppose I will have to wait till I’m more financially able and have more free time on my hands before I can satisfy the travel-lust in me…

Okay, enough with the preamble… Just thought that I share some insights I gathered while traveling in India… So read on…

Although I didn’t get to see or appreciate much of India, I still managed to get a feel of its vastness (got to see a lot of wide open spaces while I was over there), length of history (it supposedly took about 3000 years to just built the walls of a historical fort I visited over there) and its cultural richness. In comparison, Singapore just suddenly seem so small, young and relatively culturally poor. Yet, we can still remain proud of Singapore. This is because, despite its small size & lack of resources, Singapore managed not to perish but instead flourished. Also, with no offence to India, Singapore enjoys much better living conditions and has little of the poverty I observed in India. Unlike India, Singapore does not have street urchins trying to peddle packets of cigarettes in the midst of fast-moving traffic or people chasing after tourists to sell them trinkets or people picking through your rubbish to scavenge for shoes you thrown away. Hence, we must be thankful and proud that we live in Singapore.

However, when I said “proud”, I’m not talking about “proud” as in “arrogant”. In fact, I am greatly disgusted with the “I’m superior because I come from a better-developed country” syndrome that afflicts most people (Singaporeans included) when they visit less-developed countries. Being richer and coming from a better-developed country doesn’t make one superior to those living in less-developed countries. It is no merit of yours that you live in a better-developed country. Thus, we should not show contempt or scorn for the poor of other countries (in fact, nobody should show contempt towards the poor of any country). Imagine if the situation was reversed. Would you like it if someone from a country better developed than Singapore displayed contempt towards you and Singapore just because his or her country is richer? I wouldn’t like it and I suppose most of you wouldn’t either. I’m no bleeding heart and I’m aware that there are cunning tricksters out there but we should really sympathise and empathise with the poor of other countries. I’m not advocating you surrender all your money to beggars when traveling overseas but we all should really try to help them if possible. Keep in mind that Singapore was also a poor Third-World country not too long ago and it is not impossible that it could regress back to that state again.

I’m not sure whether I’m making sense to you all or not but hopefully, I did. To end off, I would use a quote from Kuo Pao Kun (I think so anyway): “Don’t be proud because of your country. Instead, make your country proud of you.”

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