Three weeks ago I was in Singapore’s Little India on a Sunday night, searching for my friend’s favourite Indian restaurant.
The streets were packed, tight as a drum, thousands of men walking in all directions. Occasionally a woman would walk by but no man stopped to leer, pass a comment, or reach out to touch.
And the women strode through with confidence and complete lack of fear or trepidation.
I kept saying to Andre: “All these men, and no agro. How come?”
Andre has lived for five years on the island state and he knows his way around: “There is something in the culture of these people, something gentle,” he said. “And, look around, no alcohol.”
He was right. The men were walking, sitting on the pavement in clusters, or standing and chatting with friends. I saw lots of water bottles, but no alcohol.
The other startling aspect of the massed multitude was that although thousands seemed doomed to clash in their forward movement, it was a rare event. One man did bump into Andre and he turned immediately to apologise.
How many times have you walked up York Street fully confident you will not meat another human most of the way and when you do, you are surprised, as is the other human, and as you face each other neither can work out which side of the pavement to occupy?
What follows is that awkward one-step this way, one-step that way, only to discover the other party is mirroring your every movement.
If you’re lucky you get to share a laugh. If not, embarrassment.
Back in the car, Andre said: “In Singapore my wife can walk home any time of the night from the train and I know she will be safe. I don’t feel like that in Perth.”
I assured him that if Albany had a train, he could feel safe here to. But the look he gave me suggested he wasn’t so sure.