Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Pot of Curry Unites a Nation

As of today, over 53,000 Singaporeans (see the current number of responses here) have responded to the call of Cook a Pot of Curry, an event that will take place across the island on August 21 2011.  Singaporeans will cook a pot of curry in their homes in protest of a news report that a local Indian family agreed during a mediation session to cook curry, their staple dish, only when their neighbors are not at home. The neighbors, a Chinese immigrant family, had complained of the smell of the dish.

If there is something we Singaporeans love more than our country, it is our local food. I suspect we will defend it to death if necessary. Though not officially coined as a national dish, curry is a dish that Malays, Indians and Chinese enjoy. We all have our own recipes and versions of this beautiful dish and nobody's ever heard of a curry related complaint till now.

Though I'm thousands of miles away I'll be joining in the spirit of curry cooking, mainly because I cook curry from time to time anyway, and also because of what the event means to me. Many Singaporeans are joining this event in spite and retaliation that immigrants are expecting locals to conform to their ways instead of them assimilating into local culture. I think many more positive things can come out of this movement other than simply wanting to "show em".

The Singaporean government has been trying to instill creativity into its people, but no amount of grants, incentives or campaigns work better than events created from the ground by the people for the people. Singaporeans are starting to come out of their shells and learning that they do not need permissions or permits to do everything.

The organizers have found a harmonious way to embrace our cuisine and culture, and bring the people closer.If there were any concerns of divisiveness, we have shown camaraderie and will speak up for our fellow Singaporeans regardless of race.

Food has always united us, and likewise Singaporeans can take the opportunity to invite their foreign friends and coworkers to try our favorite dish and foster relationships. The sooner locals help them to adjust to the local culture, the less conflicts and discomfort will exist (for those who are willing to learn, can't say much for those who insist their home culture is superior).

Lastly I feel that the response by Singaporeans this time really sends a strong message to some newcomers that they really need to humble themselves and take steps to acculturate themselves. I speak from experience, living in another country myself. If you sincerely make the effort to learn the local culture and norms, people will accept you. We move out of our own comfort zone into foreign territories to broaden our views and learn new things. If we never open ourselves to new things, behaviors and culture, what then is the point of leaving our home country?

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