Tuesday, 15 April 2014

I remember Singapore

I remember Singapore

when there was no MRT,
and Nicoll Highway was the only expressway
(no ECP, AYE, PIE, CTE ...),
with 2 lanes going one way and one the other,
alternating between morn and evening peak hours

when buses had no AC,
but had conductors whom you paid,...
in exchange for punched tickets

when kids collected colourful bus tickets,
ice-cream sticks, bottle caps,
matchboxes, and if possible,
foreign coins and stamps

when there were no cell phones,
so you arranged meetings carefully,
and kept to them, waiting patiently for the other,
using coin pay-phones as a last resort

when there was no cable TV,
but only two free-to-air local channels,
and two others, courtesy of our neighbours,
all black and white,
with no remote

when there was no internet,
nor computers,
and libraries and books held
the information you needed,
with card indexes the "search engines" of the day

when Jalan Kayu was bordered
by rubber plantations,
and the prata was for 10c just outside
the school gates
(the school is gone and someone moved my prata!)

when Yaohan opened in Plaza Singapura
and half of Singapore went to check out the
Japanese store,
with its novel freshly baked goodies
and many freebies

when City Plaza,
Katong Shopping Centre,
and Beauty world
were the "IN" places
(they still exist but in a different IN)

when Katong Park was much
grander than it is now,
right at the edge of the sea,
now pushed away by reclamation

when Changi beach was the place to be
on weekends,
and planes landed at Paya Lebar Airport
where you could wave at people
from an open balcony

when the Malaysia Cup was
the football event of the year,
with live radio broadcasts
and shouts of "Goooooal"
heard from windows

when RI was at Stamford Road
(where Raffles City is now)
before it moved to Grange Road,
and split into RI and RJC as it moved again to Bishan.
Now I hear it is one RI again...
...but is it the same?

when the University of Singapore (US)
at Bukit Timah
was merged with the Nanyang University (NU)
of Jurong
to form the N-U-S at Kent Ridge
(and then split again into two, but with different names)

when the iconic Robinsons burnt down,
with smoke visible half an island away,
when Hotel New World
came tumbling down
and the Cable Cars got entangled

when NS uniforms were olive green
and needed to be starched,
with boots polished,
and the Singapore River was a truly stinky place

when posters at government departments warned
"you will be served last"
if you kept your hair long
(and when a famous physicist
had a hard time getting in the country to give his invited
talk...because of his long hair).

when cinema seats were hard
(some are re-used now in the Esplanade library)
and tickets cheap,
with huge halls
but not very clean
(chewing gum was still available)

when Yusof Ishak
was the President
and when Benjamin Sheares
was sworn in
as the second President

when Lee Kuan Yew
held court,
mesmerising the nation with
his speeches,
no special effects,
just a man with a mission
to realise a Vision

when an unknown
Chiam See Tong
stole some thunder,
at a little known
Potong Pasir,
and affirmed:
what is good can be better

That is what i remember
of old singapore,
I am sure I will remember more
when i get older,
will tell you then
(unless this simulation ends before
i put pen to paper again)

R .
April 2014

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