Paya Lebar – The New Serangoon


By: B. Goode

When restrictions were imposed on weekend alcohol consumption in Little India and Geylang, critics warned that the problem would just shift somewhere else. Supporters though argued that anywhere would be better than the two places and hoped that `anywhere’ would be somewhere ulu like Tuas.

In the beginning that was what happened. They went to the beaches and other far-flung places away from the heartlands to enjoy a drink or two to release some tension.

Lately however, they are beginning to gravitate towards Paya Lebar area. Paya Lebar has always been a magnate for foreign workers due to the preponderance of Indonesian maids and the budget hotels nearby. I am not crying foul. They are adults and as I said, they need to release some tension.

But there never seemed to be a prevalence of open-air drinking.

Until now.

If this is not stemmed, should something go wrong, it would be more explosive than the Little India riot.

Paya lebar is situated within Geylang Serai vicinity which traditionally has been a Malay area. I am not going to go into details as to why this might be a little sensitive. We can go all huggie-fuggie and go full-on North Korean propaganda style and say that Singapore is a peaceful country where people of all races truly live harmoniously ever after. We cried tears of blood when our Great Leader died. We draped the Island with millions of flags during our Independence Day. We dressed alike. Talked alike. We have similar hair-cut and heck! we even enjoyed picking up cardboards together whilst singing Count On Me Singapore.

Or we can get real and say that the reason why Singapore is peaceful and devoid of racial tension is because each of us understand and respect each other’s sensitivities.

The problem is that, although we are aware of each other’s sensitivities, the foreign workers don’t.

I doubt they know the history behind Geylang Serai or its cultural and historical significance.

Add to that mix is a little known fact about the foreign workers’ weekend shenanigans; their love-life.

In the past, the Bangladeshis would congregate in Paya Lebar for the Indonesian maids. That’s their how shall I say…mating ground.

The Indians, particularly those from the Northern state of Punjab, would congregate at Serangoon Road for a drink or two before proceeding to Orchard Road for the Filipino maids.

Again, I am not judging. Sex is a need. Not a privilege.

Now however, at least according to some Bangladeshis I have spoken to, the Indian workers are beginning to encroach on their traditional territory of Paya Lebar bringing with them their drinking habit.

Needless to say, there has been some sexual tension between these two nationalities. According to those I have spoken to from both sides of the divide, there have been fights between these two groups which largely have gone un-reported.

We could of course argue that the foreign workers too need an outlet to have fun and enjoyment. And that we should just let them be. That was what we said before the Little India riot and then what happened?

We must manage this situation carefully before it is too late. Perhaps a law should be enacted to prevent open-air drinking everywhere on weekends.

Too draconian? I don’t know to be honest. But one thing for sure, we have survived as a nation despite the odds simply because we have never taken anything for granted.



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1 Response to Paya Lebar – The New Serangoon

  1. sinkie says:

    We should have fight-clubs gladiator style for these who want to fight. Can be 1-on-1, 1-vs-2, 2-on-2, many-vs-many. Fight to death or whoever is knocked unconscious or broken arm / leg / head. Can have bettings and prize money. Fight to death carries highest prize.
    Will be very popular as even a small prize money of $20K is equivalent to 20 years of their salary back home. Jack up the winnings to $100K and you’ll need SAF & Cisco/Aetos to turn away enthusiastic participants.

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