The Bangla Guide To Singapore
So, you’ve just landed in Singapore, the land of opportunity. At least that’s what your agent said. But then again, that fella took not only your entire life savings, but also your parents’, grandmother’s, and uncle’s sworn brother’s wife’s. The weight of the world is on your shoulders. Oh wait, that’s just the stupidly heavy backpack you packed for this trip.
Work is tough. You need some space to hang out and chill after work and on the weekends. After all, when the dorm looks like this —
or this —
even sitting at a grass patch is a much better way to relax. And that is exactly what you decide to do.
Gather at a grass patch
Welcome to Lembu Road Open Space, Singapore’s premier spot of green for you to relax. The tiny patch of grass within Little India is bordered by Desker, Lembu, and Syed Alwi Roads, and also colloquially known as “Bangla Square”. Every evening, more than 200 Bangladeshi workers gather at the plaza, to sit, eat, drink, and mingle.
Just try your best to ignore the purposely conspicuous police cameras!
Keep in mind that no alcohol is allowed at Bangla Square though, no thanks to that incident. Real bummer, I know.
To get your drink on, places outside of Little India are unfortunately the places to go. You also need to know what everybody else is drinking.
Drink what everybody else is drinking
Everybody’s favourite beer surely has to be Kingfisher.
NOT THAT KINGFISHER. THIS KINGFISHER —
Yes. This Kingfisher. Attractively priced at $3.50 a 500ml can, this stuff is cheap, and delivers a kick that only 8% alcohol can achieve. But at the start of the month, just after payday, treat yo self to a nice bottle of McDowell’s whiskey.
Just remember to keep your pants on though.
But what about the weekends? What’s a lonely man, thousands of miles away from home, supposed to do on a leisurely weekend morning? Go for brunch? Check out some museums? Ogle at girls on the beach?
Ogle at girls on the beach
Sentosa: it’s got everything. Sun, sand, and the sea. Also girls in bikinis. Don’t forget the girls in bikinis.
Budding photographers should try to be less conspicuous though.
Even with all this other-worldly entertainment, there’s no shame in feeling that twinge of homesickness every now and then. News and information from back home can be difficult to find here in Singapore, and even just some reading material in a familiar language will do wonders in alleviating that neediness of home. Maybe a Bangla newspaper will do very nicely.
A Bangla newspaper
Banglar Kantha is probably the only paper of its kind: a Bengali newspaper, aimed at the Bangladeshi community in Singapore. The independent publication aims to provide an avenue for the Bangladeshi community in Singapore to stay updated with news in both their homeland and host country.
Abul Khaeer Mohammed Mohsin covers all bases for the weekly publication — he’s the editor, journalist, publisher, and even distributor. Priced at $1, each 20-page issue includes stories about migrant worker issues, personal experiences from workers on the street, and also advertisements and features from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Their blog hasn’t been updated since August 2014, but there’s still some useful information available.
You soon realize that everything on this list requires some money to achieve. But your evil boss hasn’t paid you in months. To make matters worse, a workplace injury has you bedridden for weeks, and your boss refuses to pay for your medical bills. Who do you turn to? What can a low-wage worker, stuck in a foreign land, do when such injustices strike?
An avenue for injustices
Go to Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). This non-profit organization runs many programs for foreign workers in Singapore, from providing free meals to seeking intervention to any of their problems. Apart from offering social worker assistance, TWC2 also dedicates resources to research — which includes finding out the problems that foreign workers face, in order to push for policies that can help.
The ultimate aim is to improve conditions for low-wage migrant workers, a sizable minority that is often overlooked in Singapore.
The TWC2 office is situated at Golden Mile Complex, 5001 Beach Road, #09-86.
Low-skilled foreign workers have it tough
But really. It’s time to get serious.
Foreign workers usually have the short end of the stick here. To fund their training and subsequent move to Singapore, workers have to pay their agents large amounts.
In a case featured on the TWC2 website, Rahman owes his agent $10,500, for a one-month preparatory course, air ticket, and other miscellaneous fees. With a daily salary of $19 (and an employer who doesn’t always pay overtime), Rahman needs 2 years to fully pay off his debt before being able to send any money home.
Which is why he believes he will die if he goes home just nine months after arriving in Singapore despite cramped living conditions, 7-day work weeks, and an employer who doesn’t pay him overtime.
Having to live in another country is hard. We may complain we don’t have much to do in Singapore, but how about these migrant workers who slog tirelessly everyday?
This is why the MustShareNews team would like to thank all low-waged foreign labourers here on our shores. Many initiatives and independent groups have sprung up to extend gratitude to this band of unsung heroes who have literally helped us build the homes we live in.
Some offer simple cans of Coca-Cola.
While others shed light on what happens after they head home.
Either way, we can all do our part to just be nicer to our foreign friends, if only just to live up to the kind words they use to describe Singaporeans.