a sort of history, of Singapore

Dim-Sum-DolliesAlexander found the island too small to add to his greatness; Ceasar came, but didn't see much to conquer; Genghis Khan wouldn’t take a place so tiny; Columbus took a peek and decided he’d rather go to America. No one great wanted Temasek. The Dim Sum Dollies merrily danced and told how dismally history began for their nation: “a history not from the books, but as we know it.”

The play was a set of skits artfully stitched together and the music was superbly scored. They played Very Dirty Pirates in which the pirate chiefs awarded themselves doubled salaries because the pirate sector had to have skills as good as the private sector—the audience roared at the daylight jab at Mentor Minister Lee. They laughed just as loud when the story of birth of the Sarong Party Girl was revealed. They guffawed when told their nation was born on a lie: Song Nila Utama was forced to make the voyage to Temasek by his mother. She wanted him to go shoot some deer or discover an island-city, so he went with his consort Siti. When they arrived in Temasek the realtors were waiting. Siti wasn’t satisfied with just mountains and trees, or even tigers. She wanted lions, and the realtors said: lions also can see, la. Utama rejoiced, setlled down with Siti on the island, and gave Temasek a new name: the Lion City, or Singapura. At everything everyone laughed and I thought Singapore is a fine democracy whose people can laugh at themselves. But the play was timed for the season of the National Day, so in the end they had to show themselves shining and they needed foils.

So Gandhiji came on stage, walking to Dandi, and Mao arrived there, coming from Dandi, and Mao confronted Gandhiji. Gandhiji preached non-violence, Mao preached the opposite. Exasperated that the debate with Gandhiji was going nowhere, wanting action, Mao suggested that India and China should rule the world as superpowers: Indians are good talkers, so you take all call centers, he told Gandhiji. And we’ll take all manufacturing. So saying, Mao ran to attend to his manufacturing. Gandhiji ran so he’d not have to wear things manufactured by Mao. (At a distance from both, Singapore confidently practiced prudent economic policy.) Please dismiss the incongruence of timing—remember the disclaimer.

I felt a stirring within me—a sulk rising! I’d been admiring their ability to laugh at themselves but I couldn’t accept that they poke at Gandhiji. Many, many minutes later, after more laughter at themselves, watching the skit on their integrated facilities that integrated all sin under one roof, when they began a number that jabbed Lee’s person all over, punning on Lee, rhyming with Lee, I brightened up. So in the finale when they sang good things about their nation and began to wave small plastic flags that were kept on the seats for the purpose, I waved one myself.

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