Some things surprise you beyond all levels. One such is if you get to travel by the same taxi chauffeured by the same driver with whom you have established some kind of camaraderie over your previous travel.
And that happened to me. That too within a span of two months. The friendly taxi uncle smiled at me when he saw me hailing his taxi.
After the usual prep-talk, he began, ‘So, where did we leave last time ?’, enticing me to proceed further.
(You can read the earlier transcripts here ).
‘Education, people leaving Singapore and India and the like’, I reminded.
‘Oh yes, my people leaving me to go to Australia and the US right ?’, he inquired.
‘You mentioned something like they ‘escaping’ at the first opportunity..’, I prodded him to speak.
‘Well, our schools produce some of the brightest and those guys migrate. Those that stay back, screw us..’, he continued.
I don’t interrupt in the middle of speeches. I had learnt my lessons as a result of my previous interactions with taxi folks. When the flow is on, I keep quiet.
‘Son,’ the uncle continued, ‘I can only say one thing. Our graduates are good. Some are very good. A few are extremely good. But we don’t get to see the benefits. If they are extremely good, they go away. And some, who are very good, after some time, join our politics and become MPs’.
And that is true. Singapore has the best legislators in the world. Highly educated and known for their integrity and skill, they are often the world’s best paid legislators. Some draw close to a million dollar per year. On a personal level I think quality justifies the cost.
‘Therefore, son, other than those who become our MPs, we are supplying some good talent to world’s companies’.
I interrupted then. ‘Uncle, I know that Singapore’s education produces the best grads but how come we don’t see great innovations coming out ? We see them only out of the USA and Israel and to some extent in China and in India ? What is lacking ?’
‘Well, you are correct. I think we are a Confucian society driven by orderliness and calm and that kills the spirit of inquiry. And so innovations are not forthcoming’ , he reasoned.
‘Probably Uncle. But that should be the case while in Singapore. What happens when your learned elite go abroad ? Are their innovations still under wraps – the Confucian Wrap ?’, I asked.
‘Should be so, son’, he resignedly said.
‘That probably explains the lack of Nobel prizes yet’, I thought.