It all started with a seemingly nondescript article from TODAY that started off by reporting how disputes handled by the Community Mediation Center (CMC) hit a high last year. What really caught the eye, and ire, or the reading public was the following highlighted case:
Case 1: A family, who had just moved here from China, had resorted to mediation because they could not stand the smell of curry that their Singaporean Indian neighbours would often cook. The Indian family, who were mindful of their neighbour’s aversion, had already taken to closing their doors and windows whenever they cooked the dish, but this was not enough.
“They said: ‘Can you please do something? Can you don’t cook curry? Can you don’t eat curry?’,” said Madam Marcellina Giam, a Community Mediation Centre mediator. But the Indian family stood firm. In the end, Mdm Giam got the Indian family to agree to cook curry only when the Chinese family was not home. In return, they wanted their Chinese neighbours to at least give their dish a try.
This sparked off all kinds of incredulous and negative reaction both online and off. Responses ranged from the proud trumpeting of local ethnic cuisine to irritation with Chinese nationals and anger at the CMC’s seemingly poor handling. The uproar eventually prompted the formulation of a Facebook-driven ‘Cook A Pot of Curry‘ day; drew a concerned clarification from the Law Minister about the CMC’s role; and even made its way its way on a UK Telegraph that sensationally headlined it the “Anti-Chinese curry war”.
What do you make of all this? Are these response really a much needed ground-up assertion of local identity and culture or they simply an immature excuse for the local populace to blame foreigners for their supposed intolerance and failure to adapt and appreciate?
In short: Patriotism or Xenophobia? Or both?