As I tramped wearily from the train station to my apartment complex last night I was pounced upon by the Manager of the condominium in which I live. The building manager is the ubiquitous Mr. Tan. I had not yet even entered the driveway when he appeared and bounded towards me. I was very tired after a long day in the office - battling with the cursed English - and I wasn't really in the mood for a protracted conversation.
"Good Evening Mr. Peter" he said.
"Good Evening Mr. Tan" I replied.
"I have terminated the employment of the scoundrel Security guards who were derelict in their duties" he announced triumphantly.
"Nice one Mr. Tan. You were paying them to sleep"
He was paying them to sleep and I have never before seen men so dopey. Day and night the security guards would be asleep in the Security Control Room. They were chronically fatigued. It never particularly bothered me until a couple of days ago when I had to deal with a distressed aunty. I could have used their assistance then but they had abandoned their post to sleep at a cafe in the Novena Square shopping centre. I have recorded this unfortunate event in a previous article entitled "The Distressed Aunty" and I also captured an image of the sleeping guards. I informed Mr. Tan immediately upon discovering the dozing Security men and he arrived at once to rouse and chastise them.
I don't understand why Singapore has so many Security guards. They are posted at every apartment complex and commercial building on the Island. Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world and it has negligible crime rates. The government has imposed an absolute zero tolerance approach to any and every form of criminal act and punishments are severe. Apart from imposing jail terms for offenses that many other countries would offer only a slap on the wrist - the Singaporean courts often add the corporal punishment of caning.
Singaporean law allows caning to be ordered for more than 30 different offenses. These offenses include vandalism, the unlawful possession of weapons, illegal money lending and for visiting foreigners who overstay their visas by more than 90 days. Caning can only be ordered for males aged between 18 and 50 and it is delivered using a rattan rod. This is a type of tough reed. Before a caning is delivered the rod is supposedly soaked in water to prevent it from splitting. I am not sure whether the caning is on the bottom or the back but it must hurt like hell.
I personally believe that this is a fairly brutal and barbaric form of punishment but I am a guest of Singapore and I obey and respect the laws of this country. I would not dare to break them.
On my way back to my apartment this evening I passed the distressed aunty. She was out shopping again despite her grand daughters disapproval. She was once again hauling shopping bags laden with boxes of Essence of Chicken. When I greeted her with, "Hello Aunty" she made a loud and disgusting guttural noise at me. I will not even attempt at trying to spell it. She also gestured at me to help her carry her bags but I was walking in the opposite direction and I did not want to be entrapped by her again. I did pause to take her photo though and here she is:
Mr. Tan insisted that I come and meet the new Security guards. I really just wanted to go up to my apartment and lay on my couch but I like Mr. Tan a lot and I did not want to disappoint him. We walked together to the Security hut and two very smartly dressed guards stood at rigid attention and gave Mr. Tan and I very elaborate salutes. I felt obliged to return them. My father was a career officer in the Australian army so I learned how to salute from a very early age.
I salute well.
Both security guards were Indians - from the sub-continent. They were not the North American type of Indians.
I have always found it peculiar that Native Americans are called Indians. Natives of India are Indians. This is supposedly Christopher Columbus doing. Whilst on one of his epic explorations - seeking a passage to India - Columbus stumbled upon the American continent and he thought that he had landed there. He encountered the natives and called them Indians and the name stuck. I think that this is quite bizarre and I would think that the Native Americans might do also.
The new not-from-America-Indian Security Guards had splendid beards and they wore turbans. I knew immediately that both men were Sikhs and that they were likely Punjabi. I spend a lot of time in India so I know my Sikhs. I count several amongst my friends.
"This is Mr. Peter" Mr. Tan announced.
"He is a member of the Owners and Tenants Committee and is one of our most important residents"
This initiated yet another magnificent and protracted salute which I again felt obligated to return.
"I am nothing of the sort Mr. Tan" I responded.
"I am just a bloke who happens to live here and I warrant nor expect any special attention"
"Nice to meet you guys" I addressed to the Security guards,
"What are your names?"
"This is Raj and Raj" Mr. Tan replied on their behalf.
I extended my hand and we shook.
The shaking of hands is a strange thing when you stop and think about it. Well it is when I think of it anyway. Clasping hands someone’s hand and moving it up and down is a bit weird but the ritual has been around for a long time. Common theory is that it originated as a gesture between men to demonstrate that they were not holding weapons. It somehow developed into a demonstration of courtesy and a physical means of greeting. I would personally prefer a cuddle.
"Both your names are Raj?" I enquired of the new Security guards.
"They are both Raj" Mr. Tan responded.
This elicited yet another salute from the guards but I did not return this one. It was becoming a bit farcical.
"Well that will be easy for me to remember"
"Your surnames are also Singh then?"
"Yes sir" The Singh's replied in unison.
Virtually every male Sikh has the surname 'Singh'. Female's mostly have the surname 'Kaur'. This means "Princess". I told the new Security guards that I had been to the Harmandir Sahib Gurudawara in Amrisar in India. I told them that I thought it was very beautiful and it is. The Harmandir Sahib Gurudawara in Amrisar is Golden in color and it's architecture is splendid. When I asked which Gurudawara they attended in Singapore the Raj’s grinned in delight and informed me that they attended the one in Katong.
A Gurudawara is a Sikh Temple. It is a place of worship.
I told Raj and Raj that I thought that their Dasta were splendid and they beamed again. The Dasta is a Sikh name for a turban. Sikh males are prohibited to cut their hair. The Dasta keeps it bundled and covered but it is also symbolic. It portrays the very strong values and virtues of the Sikh faith. Amongst these are honour, morality and courage. The Sikh people have a strong set of moral values and ethics. They do not drink alcohol or engage in vulgarities. Historically they have been a warrior people. They are fighters. They were much persecuted throughout their history.
I informed Raj and Raj that I had once attended an event of Pag Vatauni here in Singapore with two of my Indian friends. This is a Punjabi Sikh thing where two Sikh friends swap turbans. Pag Vatauni is a pledge and declaration of their friendship for life. It is a bonding and they become Best Friends Forever. Besties. BFF's. I thought that the ceremony and the symbolism of the Pag Vatauni I attended was very beautiful and I may have even shed a tear. If I was a Sikh I would do a Pag Vatauni with my best mate Berty for he is my BFF.
Raj and Raj and I were chatting for quite a while about being Sikh. I think that they enjoyed that I knew a little of their faith. We were talking about karma - which is very big in the Sikh world - when my Danish neighbor and nemesis - the crazy fucker Jens - roared up the driveway on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He came to a stop where Mr. Tan, the new Security guards and I were standing. He was wearing his ridiculous motorcycle helmet with the two horns stuck on it.
"How is de modderfokker skippy?" he roared at me.
"I am quite alright thank you Jens" I replied.
"You look fatter, more foolish and even uglier than you normally do" I added.
He simply tossed back his head and laughed insanely. The man is a nut.
"This guy Jens should be watched very carefully" I informed the Guards.
"His personal hygiene is disgusting and he is prone to shitting in the swimming pool"
"I will rip you fokker face off Kangaroo man" Jens screamed at me.
"Be careful of such threats you make you insane Dane" I replied.
"I met a Russian killer the other night who has volunteered to come and stab you in the eye with an icepick"
This is true. I met a huge, very hairy and heavily tattooed Russian gangster at a bar in Marina Bay last week. His name is Vlad and he told me that he hates Danes. He told me that he despises all Scandinavians in fact. He has apparently also killed several people before - in Russia. Not Singapore. Vlad's preferred method of killing is to use an icepick to stab them in the eye. When I told him about my lunatic neighbor Dane Jens he immediately volunteered to 'Keel zee Danish peeg" for me. I thanked him for the offer but told him that it wouldn't be necessary.
I don't want Jens dead.
I wrote about this very interesting encounter with the hairy Russian gangster in a piece I called "Vlad, the icepick and a couple of trays of meat."
"Fook de Russian and you too Skippy" Jens yelled as he revved up his Harley and then he tore down the driveway to the basement car park.
I noticed that Mr. Tan had surreptitiously disappeared during this conversation with Jens. He quietly slipped away. Mr. Tan is afraid of Jens. I am a bit too sometimes but he mostly just amuses me. Also when push comes to shove I can certainly run faster than the fat slob so I can run away. The new Security guards Raj and Raj were standing there looking like stunned mullets during my engagement with Jens. Their mouth were open and their eyes were slightly agape.
The term 'a stunned mullet" is Australian and it means to be in a complete state of astonishment and confusion and bewilderment. A mullet is a type of fish but it is also a style of haircut that is common amongst the Australian bogan population - both the male and the female species.
The origins of the saying "a stunned mullet" is fish related. Not bogan. It first arose in the 1950's and was an expression that described people who exhibited signs of confusion and bewilderment in situations that shocked them. Their eyes bulged and their mouths were open - like a dead fish.
"That man is a very sick puppy". I explained to Raj and Raj.
"He has no honor and you should watch him carefully" I advised.
"He is not Sikh" one of the Raj's declared and he looked very concerned.
"No 'sick' not Sikh" I laughed. "He is mentally ill"
"Jens is a deranged lunatic and you should not hesitate in shooting him if he causes you any trouble" I added
"We are not being allowed to be shooting peoples and are being having no guns" the other Raj replied. He looked very serious and earnest. Both Raj's did in fact.
"I know" I replied.
"I was only joking about the shooting bit - but the man is potentially very dangerous and you need to be wary of him. He has made many threats to harm me"
"We shall be protecting you at all times Mr. Peter" the other Mr. Singh declared.
I think that they will too. Sikh's are brave and honourable and Raj and Raj are both very big Punjabi boys. They are a massive improvement on the previous dopey guards that we used to have.
I bid the two men good evening and then I walked to the lobby lift to go to my apartment. I shook hands with Mr. Singh and Mr. Singh as I departed and they once again snapped to attention and gave me an incredibly elaborate salute. I just waved to them this time.
I like the Singhs already. I like them a lot. They make me feel secure already in my home.
I suspect that we will become good friends.