Monday, March 2, 2009

Let memories of old bring smiles, not tears

The New Paper
By Brian Miller
March 2, 2009

Let memories of old bring smiles, not tears
ST FILE PICTURE

THE wrecking ball is wreaking havoc with my memories. And, like some reader commented in a letter to the papers, Singapore is losing its soul.

I wouldn't go so far as to equate progress with losing one's soul.

But we're certainly losing something.

Fifteen years ago, I watched as a monument from my youth was reduced to rubble.

It wasn't the red-bricked National Library.

It was plain ol' Jackie's Bowl at Orchard.

No big deal, right?

But each time that huge metal ball brought down a chunk of concrete, it felt like a chop to the throat.

I remember it not because it was the first public place to install an escalator - although that was a thrill.

I remember it as being the place where I had my 'second education'.

St Joseph's Institution - it's still standing, thank you - helped me get through my exams.

Jackie's Bowl taught me about life.

It was an icon from my past.

Then there was the Singapore Recreation Club.

We called it the grand ol' lady.

Somehow, someone decided that the old lady's time was up.

She had become, well, old hat.

So they tore her down and built a new clubhouse.

An 'oasis', they called it.

I have yet to drink from her well.

Take Bugis Street.

What a great place.

Dirty. But full of character.

We got rid of it and built another.

It was never the same.

Some days when I've nothing to do, I drive to the end of Punggol Road, and look across to Johor.

It's all industry where once was unspoilt mangrove swamp.

To my left, the bungalow, where we spent family holidays, is no more.

It was brought down years ago.

Instead of the black mud on the beach, which we squelched through at low tide, there is white sand, like something out of a Bahamas tourist brochure.

Soon, on that site, Punggol 21 will rise.

But why can't some places be left untouched?

Then again, am I being a sentimental fool?

Or must everything be new to be good?

Is old the new bad?

I guess you can say that this is what progress is all about.

This is what is called 'moving with the times'.

Funny, I liked it when time stood still.

However, even I will admit that sometimes, it's all for the best.

The National Theatre where I watched top bands perform, is no more.

Van Kleef Aquarium where I saw my first leatherback turtle is gone.

I moaned when they pulled down the Globe Cinema along Kim Seng Road.

No more mid-afternoon snoozes in one of the 'circle seats'.

No more food stalls.

But look at it now.

Plenty of food. A new cinema. Great World City. Great.

No National Theatre, but we have the Esplanade.

Fantastic.

No Van Kleef Aquarium. So what?

We have Underwater World.

Do I really want a kampung on stilts at Punggol Point?

Or one at Lorong Buangkok? No running water. Only stand-pipes. No proper sewerage system?

Someone remarked that 'the lorry with many windows' - which collected raw waste in the 'days of yuck' was 'quaint'.

I think smelly's the word.

Yes, we are picky in what we want retained and what we want banished from our lives.

But do we really want to turn back the clock?

I think I hear a resounding 'no'.

So, don't stop reminiscing.

But make sure it brings on a smile - not tears.

1 comment:

Georg said...

Well, actually there is a third way between tearing down or going back to an age without proper sewage systems, that is trying to preserve the "old" while thoughtfully combining it with the necessities of modern life.

There are countless examples all over the world (especially in Europe) of how this can be achieved. It is true that even there it has taken time and brave initiatives to change shortsighted policies but why shouldn't this be possible here in Singapore.