Wednesday, September 15, 2010

People are People

The usual lunchtime buzz at Tiong Bahru Market was broken by sounds of plastic bowls hitting the floor loudly.

All eyes turned toward the source and we all saw a lady in pink berating the "Ban Mian" auntie.

I could not make out what the argument was about as the lady in pink was speaking Cantonese but appears to be in a very condescending manner.

The "Ban Mian" auntie did not take it lying down and she also got into a fierce shouting match with the Pink Lady.

I was a bit surprised as the "Ban Mian" auntie had always been very polite and cheerful and I do visit her stall quite often.

She is one of those rare One (wo)Man Stall who opens early in the morning and closed only at about 9pm for 6 days a week.

I'm impressed with her diligence and her "Ban Mian" is also nice enough to make me a consistent repeat customer.

Initially, I was not sure what had happened today but since my wife was queuing up for her food just 2 stalls away (And she understands Cantonese), she could hear what the argument was all about.

It was some miscommunication between the Lady in Pink and "Ban Mian" auntie.

Apparently Pink Lady ordered some dumplings thinking that it only cost $2.50 a bowl.

Perhaps "Ban Mian" auntie misheard the order and upsized the order and charged Pink Lady $4 which effectively "upsized" Pink Lady's temper immediately.

Such disputes could easily be resolved by replacing the order or accepting the upsized order.

But instead of trying to resolve it, Pink Lady turned provocative and uttered something disgusting.

"You China People are very good at cheating people, Why don't you go back to China!".

I guess when crass people utter detestable remarks or make brain-less statements, you expect a reaction right?

Yes, the response was flying bowls! (It was probably done in a fit of anger)

Those bowls elicited more crazy remarks from Pink Lady who seems to be stuck in a verbal frenzy mode.

Ban Mian Auntie did the right thing after she cools down and ignored the Pink Lady.

She went about clearing up the mess and continue with her routine.

About 4 customers in the queue walked away...I'm not sure in disgust or in fright.

Maybe both because the pink lady chose to sit at the table right infront of the stall and continue to provoke the poor woman.

Is she trying to win the argument or was she trying to make Ban Mian Auntie come out with a chopper

Whatever she was trying to do, it reflected very badly on herself and she doesn't seems to know it.

I guess this Depeche Mode song, People are People, best sums up the way how some of us who treat another fellow human being:

People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get
Along so awfully

People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get
Along so awfully

So we're different colours
And we're different creeds
And different people have different needs
It's obvious you hate me
Though I've done nothing wrong
I've never ever met you so what could I have done

I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

People are people...

Help me understand
Help me understand
Now you're punching

And you're kicking
And you're shouting at me
I'm relying on your common decency
So far it hasn't surfaced
But I'm sure it exists
It just takes a while to travel
From your head to your fists

I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

Our forefathers once risked their life and limbs to eke out a better life in this far away land and they may have been bullied by the colonial masters, gangsters or people who speaks a different dialect.

Why then are some of the offspring of these earlier immigrants behaving in a manner which our forefathers would not have condone.

I guess "prosperity" has made some of us think that we are more superior than others.

This may indeed be a sad effect of "progress".

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Holey" distractions

A few months ago, I saw a window that looked out of place.

Was this little window part of the original design?

I did not give it much thoughts until today when someone "sms" me to find out more about my previous blog on the painted over brick walls.

During our back and forth "SMSes" while I was in my church service (yeah, I wasn't paying attention today), I mentioned about a hole that was created in the facade and how that could even happened to a conserved apartment.

As I was ranting away with my fingers, it suddenly dawned upon me that this hole may have been created to insert those 1st generation aircon system many years ago and it may not be this owner's fault at all!

He may have merely inherited this infringement.

Holes hacked to accomodate the 1st generation aircons
Conservation status aside, can we actually hack holes through an apartment?

By the way, most owners nowadays will not bother to knock a hole in the wall to put in their aircon.

They will just go for the weakest point in the wall to get the aircon trunking through and the weakest point happened to be the air vents. (Trust me, no one police such things here even though it is a conservation area)

If everyone in this estate has the discipline and determination to at least keep the facade intact, many more people can come and enjoy these buildings without any blemishes for many more years.

Below are some example of how the walls should look like :

Anyway, if you are reading this, you may want to refresh your memory on the URA Guidelines for the Tiong Bahru Area. : TIONG BAHRU CONSERVATION AREA

And oh yes, I was so distracted with my sms that I did not know what the guest speaker shared in church today. :-(

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Walk down along the Yong Siak Street side of Block 78 and you would have noticed this "CON"venient "CON"servation effort to make these brick wall blend in with the rest of the block.

It looks like "vandalism" or "desecration" to me.

If the person assigned to do the job is not going to put in some REAL effort to conserve or preserve these brick walls, how can you expect owners who have recently acquired one of these conserved apartments to adhere to the URA guidelines wholeheartedly?

No wonder not many care about retaining the old stuff in these historic apartments like the green stained glass windows or door frame.

Just as it takes effort to restore those walls to it former glory, it also takes a lot of effort and patience to restore those green stained windows.

If the guardians of this historic estate can "short-cut" the process, what do you think the residents will do here?

I could still remember what my army officer said to me: "You don't do what I do, you do want I tell you to do!"

Tonight, that statement ring very loudly in my mind.

Friday, September 3, 2010

WOW! A book about Tiong Bahru!

If you have time to spare on 9th September from 5-9pm, take a stroll down to the White Canvas Gallery along Guan Chuan Street to meet up with the author of the book, Black & White Tiong Bahru.

Here's the flyer which the white canvas gallery owner, Colin, passed to me.

And I've reproduced the text on the flyer here for easy reading :

White Canvas Gallery invites you to learn about our first book project, Black and White Tiong Bahru.

Now in production, Black and White Tiong Bahru combines original imagery and research with insightful writing to create a dynamic portrait of this unique area.

On Thursday, September 9th, from 5-9 PM, artist/writer Stephen Black will show photographic work and discuss topics related to the book.

You are invited to join us for this casual meet-the-artist session.

Light refreshments will be served.

A resident of Singapore since 2002, Stephen Black brings to the project a perspective that is both localized and global.

Black has worked with Annie Liebowitz, Kazuo Ohno, David Sylvian and Kenzo. as well as CNN. Fox, Cartoon Network, and Fuji TV.

His book, Bus Stopping, is a critically acclaimed photographic look at Singapore.

Recently, he created text for Michael Lee's installation at the National Museum and also performed as a member of show in the Lit Up Festival at LASALLE College of the Arts.

White Canvas Gallery is located at :
78 Guan Chuan Street #01-41
Singapore 160078

T : 62208723
E :