08 April 2007

Memories...

Blessed Easter Sunday to you!

I went with my mum to her church this morning. She attends All Saint's Church at Anglican High School, which was the secondary school that we both attended. If you've been to AHS, you'll know that there is the new school building and the old school building. The old school building is what I really love. The old rickety stadium with the concrete stairs and rusty grooves, the dilapidated table tennis training area, the old canteen that has fallen into disuse and the old school hall with the faded paint work and small toilets. Memories cling on better to old buildings than new, freshly painted and impersonal architecture.

As I stood and surveyed the old stadium, the nostalgia put me into a reflective mood and I started to think about the old buildings in Singapore as well as the places where my memories are built on. The grey, dinghy halls in AHS is one. My other memories are scattered between Malaysia and Singapore. The neighbourhood under my grandmother's old flat in Bedok; uncle Fook Wong's house--a family friend whose house in Petaling Jaya is the usual gathering place for my parents and their friends where they gambled many hours away playing Jim Rummy; a primary school in Siglap that is now defunct; the old highway with its mountainous view and various potholes leading from KL to Ipoh... These places never fail to make me stop in my tracks and fade back to when I was 5, 10 or 15.

I find that the problem with progress and clearing the old for the new is that it wipes out places where our past is tied to. When assessing the historical value of a place, how do you measure the value of memories? What is it worth to the people around it? In space-starved Singapore, many old areas have been cleared out to make way for the new and together with it, the sense of rootedness and belonging to a place is also gone. How do you feel attached to a space when all the familiar elements are no longer there?

For my mother's generation, all the old sights and sounds are long gone and replaced by shopping malls, official buildings and highways. This point gets mentioned whenever we drive past a plot of land near Changi ("We used to stay in a kampong there! Now no more already..." *gestures broadly at an empty land*). Earlier this year when I went to renew my passport, my mum and I spent some time looking at the old photographs in the ICA building and she would point out to me where she used to work relative to the new buildings now. The landscape is completely different so we had some difficulty trying to figure out where the new buildings are on the old maps, but it was a lot of fun.

Looking back, I must say that Singapore hasn't changed all that much in the past 20+ years I've been around as compared to the time from 1960s-1980s. However, with the old National Library gone and the National Stadium going to be gone, there will be 2 less places where we can stand and stare and be transported to when we were young.

5 comments:

Singing Tigger said...

ya. quite sad to lose "historical" places attached with certain fond memories. upgrading is always happening around singapore.

i find that i would also attach memories to certain foods that i eat. sometimes when i miss my maternal grandfather, i would go out and hunt for the foods that he used to love to eat....

Anonymous said...

clifford pier is also going to be gone.. the good old clementi fountain pool is gone too..

sadz..

Ms Krong said...

a well written post! enjoyed reading it and certainly share some similar sentiments about losing a sense of rootedness and belonging when we lose some of our old familiar buildings...

Quirkz said...

singing tigger: yeah upgrading always happens. there's value in upgrading lah, but it really also erases the character of a place=( me is sentimental.

i also attach memories to food =) maybe one day i'll write about nostalgic food...!

anon: oei, identify urself leh..

ms krong: thanks for ur compliment! ^^

bingren said...

I have been quite disappointed with the many buildings and sites lost already. I'm not sure if our ministers feel the way we feel about having a sense of belonging and finding our roots with the buildings and places that we've grown familar with over our life spent in Singapore.

There are two buildings I miss that have not been mentioned yet - The National Theatre (1963 - 1986) and Van Kleef Aquarium.

Another 2 places will be gone soon -- Musical Fountain and Ferry Terminal on Sentosa. Musical Fountain will be relocated. Ferry Terminal will be demolished. Gone are the days when we took ferry to Sentosa island.