I lost a $50 bill this week – it slipped through my hands while I was riding the escalator, and through the razor thin gap between the steps and the metal wall at the sides – it was gone before my mind could even register what happened.

Usually, a situation such as this calls for a great deal of cussing and swearing, stomping of feet and clutching of hair. But it was the eve of Chinese New Year and I had a 4 day weekend stretching ahead – a lost $50 ain’t gonna mess with that mojo(also I have no hair).

I walked to the Novena MRT service office, told them about my mild predicament. They noted my name, phone number and my IC, and gave me a very non-committal ‘Can’t make any promises – if we find it, we’ll let you know’. Being Indian and having grown up with the ruthless efficiency of the Indian bureaucracy, I mentally kissed goodbye to my $50.

To my utter shock, less than 2 hours later I received a phone call asking me to come and collect the bill. They said its a little oily and grimy and may be unusable, and they apologised for that.

I walked down to the MRT, slightly dazed and clutching a box of chocolates for the good folks behind all this, to thank them and to see for myself if it was actually true!

Now just so we’re all clear on how big a deal this is: to retrieve the $50, they had to stop the escalator, open up each and every stair(in case it was stuck inside any of them), and when they couldn’t find it, then go down to the bottom inside and fetch the $50. Add to this the fact that it was New Year’s eve, and it a marvel that they managed to get it done, and so fast!

I cannot think of any other country in the world where something like this can happen – I am blown away by the sheer efficiency and the simple honesty of these people. They could’ve chosen to wait for the next maintenance schedule(which is the best outcome I had allowed myself to dare to hope for), or to wait till after New Year’s ended, or simply pocketed the cash. I am still struggling to come to terms with the whole experience – it feels surreal to me.

This year Singapore celebrates 50 years of existence, and I would like to raise a toast to the spirit of this nation. I hope and pray you would never lose this rare and often unappreciated part of you that warms my heart and cheers my soul.

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