Travel Stories 2: Chasing the Time Machine in Singapore

The Singapore Flyer is a giant observation wheel that oversees the beautiful skyscrapers of the Lion City. On a usual evening, my family and I would have been enthralled to end our trip on such an encapsulating note. That, however, wasn’t the case. We had had a long perfect day of travel but there we were looking all distressed. My sister tried taking a few pictures of everyone on her phone but no one seemed to smile.

Just a few hours before boarding our cabin on the Flyer, we found out that we had lost our camera.


We did not speak much on our walk back to the hotel. We did not go out for dinner either. Sitting in our room, we tried to avoid feeling gloomy in our individual spaces. It might sound shallow to care about pictures we would have barely looked at anyway, but if you think about it pictures are the closest things we have to time machines. Go back to your childhood pictures, and you will find yourself recollecting memories from when you were three years old. If it weren’t for those pictures, a token of your consciousness—in this case, an extremely cute one—would have gotten lost in time. The eleven days we spent in Singapore were some of the best times we have had as a family, and we simply couldn’t have afforded to lose them.


My dad, the optimist he is, was the first person to break the silence. He pointed out that we did have a few pictures on our phones so losing the camera really wasn’t that big of a deal. The rest of us half-heartedly agreed and went on with the night. We were to leave the next evening so there wasn’t much we could have done anyway.


I slept early that night so when I woke up the next morning, I took some time to catch up to the discussion that was taking place. While I was enjoying my deep slumber, my family had traced back the whole day.


My sister called all the different taxi services we might have ended up using the day before. The thing about Singaporean taxis is that they come in different colours; each colour corresponding to a set of companies. As ignorant as it sounds, somehow none of us remembered the colour of the taxi we had taken the previous day. It is only when something goes wrong that people become observant of their surroundings. Think about it, do you remember the colour of the last Uber you took?


My sister’s efforts, therefore, mostly went in vain. An idea dawned upon me right then. ‘We can maybe check the CCTV footage at the hotel’s taxi stand.’


So around 11 a.m. we left our room and found ourselves at the reception of the hotel. We insisted for them to let us check the CCTV footage. The hotel’s rules, however, required for us to have filed an FIR first for which we simply didn’t have enough time.


At that point though, we just weren’t ready to give up. That is when my dad remembered that he had exchanged currencies at a shop inside the hotel that day. Shops like that usually have a security camera as well and he was correct. The shop owners turned out to be Indians and were extremely helpful. The transaction had taken place after lunch that day, and with the footage, we found out that we had lost our camera before coming back to the hotel.


This was not good news. It meant two things—either we had lost our camera in the taxi, or we had lost it in a place called ‘Little India’. As the name would suggest, Little India is a small segment of Singapore that us Indians have made our own. We went there quite frequently throughout our trip whenever we craved Indian food.


Naturally, as citizens of our country, our first instinct was to assume that we weren’t going to find anything in a place that had ‘India’ in its name.


It was lunchtime, and there was nothing to lose so we decided to go to Little India anyway. We went to the same restaurant as the day before and talked with the staff there. Talking to our own people made us feel a hundred times better. More so, because of how helpful they were. When the owner turned up, we checked the CCTV footage there as well. In the footage, we found that we had already lost our camera when we entered the restaurant the previous day. Now, we knew that there was only one place left to check—a giant marketplace called ‘Mustafa’. We had shopped there right before lunch the previous day. In a crowded place like that, it was almost certain that we wouldn’t find our camera.


After a delicious lunch, we ended up talking more with the owner. He narrated the story of how he had also lost a camera once, that too, on his honeymoon. He then went on to promise that he will let the authorities know about the situation, and send our camera to us in India if they ever find it. We were overwhelmed by this unexpected gesture and thanked him an awful lot.


We left the restaurant, somewhat hopeful. Even if we hadn’t found the camera that day we would have been content in knowing that we did everything we could have.


At Mustafa, we asked around the shops we had visited the day before. We found a shopkeeper who was kind enough to take us to the lost and found section himself since he had reported a missing object there. We were greeted by a security guard who went through a few drawers and finally pulled out a familiar small black bag. Beating all the odds we had found our camera in one of the most crowded places in Singapore.

In our cab to the airport, my dad called the restaurant owner to inform him about the camera and thanked him once again. My sister and I decided to go through our pictures. Knowing our clumsy selves, we tried to store Singapore inside of our heads, in case we ever lose the ability to go back in time again. Fortunately, we haven’t yet.


Singapore made a deep charming impression on me. Not because of its beautiful cityscape or the extraordinary art exhibits, but because of its people. The generosity and integrity we found there is a rare quality that not a lot of places have.


Written by Chintan Gandhi for MTTN

Graphics by Yashovardhan Parekh

Image Sources: Singapore Tourism Board, VisanTube

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