Finding (de)light: A child’s perspective on the morning train squeeze

15 Jun

Crowded morning trains. Well, nothing new there. We have long since gotten used to being packed like preserved fish fry in a Thai snack – first baked dry by the sun, “seasoned” by salty sweat… You get the drift.

But what surprised me today was the innocence of a fellow passenger who made me smile.

Life is Beautiful (pic from

The cute little girl dressed in her blue kindergarten frock was with her parents on the commute to work. It was so crowded that she couldn’t find room to stand (well, she could but really…. Nobody wants to smell adult sweaty butts). As the train filled up, she climbed up to perch upon the crook of her mother’s arms.

Never mind the fact that nobody gave mother and child the seat. The little girl didn’t mind. As far as she was concerned. She was still the little princess, on top of the world.

She waved the little toy she held in her hand like a wand and pointed regally, telling her mother – “I want to go shopping… We can buy many things. We go….. There!” – as we passed by the Singapore Post Centre near Paya Lebar station.

Her mother corrects her gently, and her eyes twinkle as the new knowledge sinks in. “Oh! Then is my post there? Can I find my post?”

I couldn’t help but be drawn into her world, even though it felt slightly voyeuristic. I put my phone down and listened. She babbled on about how all the mail was at the Post Centre and that she was going to start a grand adventure to find hers.


The train pulled into Kallang but the door remained open. It was only for a few seconds but I, probably like the others around me, rolled my eyes internally and thought back resentfully to the December 11 SMRT incidents that delayed hundreds who were stuck in the epic train breakdown.

The PA comes on – “The train doors are open because the train in front is still at the next station. We apologise for the inconvenience.”

“It’s okay!” said the little princess, loud enough for the speaker to hear. She was perched on daddy right now.

“Only for a while, it’s okay…”

As the train doors beeped to a close and began its descent to the Lavender station, the girl wisely says,”See! It moved already! Just like she says!”

The little girl might not be entirely aware of what she was saying but I was captured by how she looked at the world with doe eyed fascination. Her innocence was enchanting and it made me smile. I forgot about being irritated.


Ah … To be a child again.

We may stand upon the same world but she, through her unique vision, saw adventures in office buildings and in her innocence also showed great patience and acceptance of the little hiccups in life.

We adults would stew in frustration at the packed train. Yet this little girl found a way to escape through her active imagination, through an imaginary world inspired by things she sees, and still have fun.

I on the other hand have forgotten how to play!

It reminded me of the Italian movie “Life is Beautiful” starring Robert Benigni who played a Jewish father in WWII. His family sent to concentration camp and he creates an “game” for his son in order to mask the horror of war.

We don’t always have a choice in changing the situation we are in. But we are always in control of how we react to it. Instead of wallowing in self pity or stewing in frustration at things outside of our control, perhaps we should just try to do what children do and simply play…

So I guess what i’m trying to say is – Remember to Have Fun!

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