Unusual Sunday hush in Little India
THERE has never been a Sunday quite like this in Little India.
Walkways were quiet, parking spaces vacant, and several foreign workers from India were spotted drinking out of soft-drink cans, not beer bottles.
Exactly a week after riots there shocked the country, the number of foreign workers in the neighbourhood appeared to have dropped drastically.
Business owners felt the absence of their biggest group of customers keenly.
Mr M. Suresh, who runs a provisions shop in Race Course Road, said that his business dipped by 80 per cent, and that even Singaporeans had stayed away.
Drink stalls at Tekka Market, a hot spot for those in search of cheaper booze, were closed by 4.30pm.
The lack of activity was apparent throughout Little India, from jewellers and top-up card booths to bars and eateries.
Restaurants in the area, even those not catering to foreign workers, have also taken a hit, with many reporting losses of 30 to 50 per cent.
Cricket matches at the Northumberland Road grass patch, which usually attract 200 people by mid-afternoon, saw only 25 in attendance yesterday, including players.
Mr S. Kumar, an Indian national who goes for matches every weekend, said he thinks the absence was because workers were afraid of being linked to the rioters.
The Government imposed an alcohol ban on 374 shops on Saturday morning, after the riot last Sunday, involving some 400 foreign workers. It was allegedly fuelled by alcohol.
The ban will end at 6am today.
Foreign workers also had some place else to be yesterday.
The Migrant Workers' Centre organised five concurrent variety shows for migrant workers across the island in celebration of International Migrants Day. Many workers also stayed in their dorms instead, drinking alcohol and watching television.
But those who headed down to their favourite hang-out spot anyway did so to shop for groceries, meet friends and remit money.
They made the trip to Little India even though it took them a longer time and more effort, without private buses to ferry them.
Some of those who were there received a surprise in the form of 250g of Basmati rice from the director of grocery store RFM Enterprises, who prepared 250 packets to give away.
Mr T. Gogulakrishnan, who took two hours to get to Little India from his dormitory in Kranji, said he was there to remit money as he was sure the area had a remittance firm open on Sundays. He was not sure about other places.
Mr M. Balraj, 29, explained why he was there: "We have to move on. We didn't do anything wrong, so it's okay to come here and be normal."