So something happened last night in Singapore that was for me a “first”.

We had gone on an organized city tour which lasted several hours and took in the main highlights of Singapore. Following the tour, we decided to have dinner on Orchard Street which is one of the main shopping areas in the city. We then took the MRT – which is Singapore’s subway system – to return to the hotel. The train was crowded and it was standing room only. As I grabbed one of the overhead “pulls” in front of a row of seated passengers, a Chinese lady who looked like she was in her late 30s’ gestured to me to ask if I’d like her seat!! I thanked her and declined.

There are multiple signs/graphics in every coach asking passengers to be considerate of others who have “special needs” – the graphics show a pregnant woman, a mother holding an infant, and an elderly person with a walking stick. Since I clearly don’t qualify for the first two categories, I assume it must have been the third sign that caused her to volunteer her seat despite my lack of the walking stick!

“Mzee” in Swahili literally means “old man” though it is also used as term of respect. Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya was referred to – and referred to himself as Mzee. But somehow this lady’s polite action caused me to feel that I may have passed a milestone of sorts! I have aspirations to trek the Himalayas again but it does not take away from certain realities! It should not be altogether surprising since, after all I am a grandfather and even have a 11 year old grandson!

It could, of course, be that she noticed I was a shade unsteady as the train was in motion – given that I rarely use the subway.

So, together with certain indelible memories that most people have like where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, etc perhaps this is one that will likely stay with me!:)

Some thoughts about Singapore: this was my first visit here and I will say that I am impressed with the city’s cleanliness, the politeness of the people, the overall efficiency and especially the subway system. For a small city/state it is well planned with parks and other preserved areas with lots of greenery. So it is not a concrete jungle by any means. I have heard from some people that there is a somewhat “sterile” component to Singapore – it is not something that I felt during the few days we were here.

The authorities are working on making the entire city accessible to free net access. At this time the airport and several other hotspots have free access to high speed internet. I am writing this post at Singapore airport as we wait to board our flight to Hong Kong!

4 Responses to “Just call me “Mzee””

  1. Mona says:

    I understand how you feel. My ‘mzee’ moment was a few years ago, when an attractive blonde in front of me in a cafeteria, stooped down and picked up the fork I dropped, and gave it back to me!

    (Glad to hear that you and family are enjoying your tour. I wonder if the Chinese people are as polite as the Singaporeans. Susheela and I are in India having a good time with the family.)

  2. Mona says:

    Another ‘Mzee’ moment today. Was on a treadmill at the gym. Drops my towel, and it gets thrown behind by the treadmill in dramatic fashion. The young guy next me stops his treadmill, picks up the towel and gives it me! Obviously the fact that I was going at 5 mph, and have already jogged over two miles, did not impress him. I guess the jowls of my face and budding turkey neck are give aways 🙁

  3. TJ says:

    Well Mona, if you read my latest entry about our cruise experience the anti-dote to “mzee moments” is to go on a cruise where the majority of passengers are a geriatric crowd!

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