Will you have me over this Hari Raya Puasa?

This may be surprising, coming from someone who was born and raised in Singapore, but I have never been invited to anyone's house to partake in the festivities during the Hari Raya Puasa period.

It is not that I am socially inept, mind you, but I must confess that I have very few close friends of other races.

As a member of the majority race in Singapore, it is easier to stick to forging friendships with others in the Chinese community, especially now that I am in my 20s.

It was a different story when I was in school.

Then, schoolmates of all races spent significant amounts of time together on a daily basis.

We shared our "grievances" against teachers and pored over difficult assignments together. But those times are behind me now.

The friends I made then have moved on. Some have emigrated, while I have lost touch with others.

Now that I am immersed in the working world, my chances of building bonds with people of other races seem to have become slimmer.

The people I meet in this phase of my life have, for the most part, been due to my work.

The relationships with those I meet in the course of my work are kept mostly politically correct and formal - regardless of race, language or religion - and are hardly the kind you would want to pursue after a long day's work.

I consider myself lucky in one aspect, though.

My best friend is Sinhalese and - surprise, surprise - we met at work. He is a rare example of someone whom I not only get along well with at work, but want to spend time with even after that.

I joke with him constantly about how he is my only non-Chinese friend, and he retorts in mock indignation that I need to get out more.

But that is the challenge that many in my age group face.

Singapore is becoming increasingly urbanised, with more than 80 per cent of its population living in Housing Board (HDB) flats.

There are racial quotas in HDB estates, primarily to encourage ethnic integration. But it is still not easy to truly interact and get close to people of other races.

We live in homes that are beautiful and modern - but they are gated, distant and a tad cold.

Keep your door closed and you can shut yourself away from the outside world indefinitely.

Compare this to the days of yore, when open doors were common and neighbours bonded, thanks to a ubiquitous kampung spirit.

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