Changi’s generosity

Checking the departure gates on changing LED screens makes me anxious and excites me as well as makes me wonder about displacement and the generosities that can result from it. Displacements and migrations of all sorts, some fleeting some life changing, that unfold in the arenas of international airports. Globalised in their psychology, these spaces demand homogeneity. Yet each city leaves its subtle imprint and behind each city’s imprint is a national engine at play creating an arena that permeates a unique sense of welcome. Airports are the first port of entry as well as the last port of exit, they are the temples of ‘hello & good bye’. What engineering goes on beyond the global brand names in this transient space of social international commute? Is this a bazaar where you spend more to feel good? Where global brands blur boundaries of geographical sovereignties. Airports are the doors to our society, windows to our civilised souls, a haiku of our cities, a reflection of what it thinks of you in relation to itself! You populate it for your needs and in turn it generates business but in these complex transactions what qualities does it leave you with? How does it make you feel special besides offering timeless high street menus of spend spend spend? Does it manifest a welcome besides the garish welcome to…

Can civility be gauged in an act of welcome? What does welcome indicate? What is the quality of welcome?

London Heathrow Terminal 3 – over crowded, dingy and crammed with super market shopping trolley aisles like seating arrangements. Singapore Changi Terminal 3 -conscious of its ‘shopping city’ status, spaciously light with living plants, besides its familiarly globalised fantastic food courts specialising in Malay, Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisines, fresh fruits, chilled sugarcane juice are on offer. You are already paying a price for all of these, your bonus is – spaces to relax, recline and rest, playing areas for the young, spaces where one can almost be tranquil. Spaces to recharge for free – your own batteries as well as your laptop!

Welcome to Singapore must have been written somewhere, it was certainly endorsed with abundance. With such a generosity of welcome, people respond with respect too. There was hardly any littering. Not that people had not worked long shifts or had had mega long flights. There was a smiling body language and it permeated the hosts and the guests alike. Displacements were eased and as economy class I felt privileged. Maybe I was so tired that I was romanticising the idea of welcome? Maybe all it takes is small acts of kindness or an astute sense of business!

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