It is my last night in Singapore and we have chosen a vegetarian Indian restaurant to celebrate. I order one of my favorite dishes, Palak Paneer. Then the waitress ask the question with onion or garlic? What in heaven’s name is she talking about? Apparently Jains do not eat onion and garlic. I believe in diversity but when you are in a restaurant and they ask if you want to have either Palak Paneer with onion or garlic or neither, they have gone too far. I was on board with gay, transgender, black women, children’s, animals, Hispanic, grey panthers, disabilities, and so on rights. I celebrate diversity but I draw the line at separating onion and garlic. It turns out that the Jain population (a religion primarily found in India) which respects all life and does not eat or kill anything, does not mix garlic and onion.
They claim garlic is an aphrodisiac and reeks (pun intended) havoc on your meditation. While it may make you horny, I have found that I have less success with garlic breath. I am always horny so I cannot tell if it makes me horny or not. Now I have learned why I cannot meditate for more than an hour at a time. As a result of eating too much garlic I have achieved advanced stages of sexuality which has hampered my meditation, and here I thought it was a lack of discipline. Maybe I am more suited to meditation by kama sutra.
It was my last night in Singapore and I was not in the mood for experimentation so I ate garlic and onion in my dish. This new form of diversity was a bridge too far. So at last I realized I am no Singaporean. Singapore has a Chinatown, Little India, a Muslim enclave, the remains of British colonialism, a Peranakan community place, an apparently a significant Jain population: it is a very diverse place. That is its charm. They still have a way to go on gay rights. I cannot believe that this diverse and creative place will not eventually become totally gay friendly but only time will tell. It has been a wonderful place to spend time and learn, to see things differently.
Postscript: As a docent at Savannah’s Telfair Museums I would be remiss if I did not point out that the Marina Bay Towers and the lotus-shaped Art Science Building were designed by the same architect that designed the Jepson Center: Moshe Safdie. Of course his original drawings for the Jepson Center included a punch bowl of Chatham Artillery Punch on top but the board at the Telfair rejected this, and we have today a grand museum without a punch bowl on top (this is a little known fact and probably should not be repeated because the less in-the-know people will want to argue with you).