The heritage hypocrisy

I live near the the rail tracks. And for many years, I have never seen people tracking the rail track until recently. For many years, whenever I take bus out, I have never seen hikers on the road, until recently. All because of the closing of the KTM rail tracks.

I sometimes wonder about the psychic of Singaporeans. We best epitomised the traditional Chinese saying, "失去才知道拥有" or somewhere along that line. And it is always when things are disappearing that people start to be aware of our heritage and the cool stuff we have around us.

As a history enthusiast, I fully agree with Loh Keng Fatt on his point that Singapore's heritage must be experienced in the moment, not when it is going to be gone with the wind. And Singaporeans should learn from all the recent lessons on the loss of some of the heritage buildings, like the old National Library (man, I miss the building). In the name of progress and infra development, it is sometimes inevitable that some buildings have to go, but I think we ought to enjoy them while they last.

So what are the rest which are still around for us to enjoy them? Maybe I should organise some YGC4 outings to these places with my LG and do some photo shoot there together.

Don’t wait till places are gone before you enjoy them
July 12, 2011 Tuesday, 12:39 PM
Loh Keng Fatt on why Singapore's heritage must be experienced in the moment.
I did not take a walk down memory lane on the now-disused railway tracks after the shutters came down on the Tanjong Pagar railway station.
I have taken KTM trains before from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru, and dropped in at the Tanjong Pagar station several times long before the news broke that train operations to Malaysia would be relocated to Woodlands.
What is the point of jostling with hordes on the tracks and trying to track down something that has passed on, never to return?
The tracks are now like a museum piece and cannot tell a story without the participation of real trains rumbling on them.
One should really have made it a point to watch the trains whizz past, wave to the passengers and feel the romance of train travel when the services to and from Tanjong Pagar were still in operation.
My point is, things have to be savoured in their entire context.
It is not the same to go down after the action is over and try to reconstruct the past in your mind and attempt to catch a whiff of history.
In a Singapore where many folks argue that things sometimes seemingly are replaced overnight and never resurface, one should really make a fuller attempt to engage with the present.
There must be other things one can do, at least, every other weekend or any spot of free time that doesn’t involve going to the mall, cinema or yet another must-try eatery.
Make time for, say, Turf City where it is anybody’s guess what will happen to it after the current leases for businesses there expire.
The place - where big crowds once cheered the horses romping home – is a throwback to a quieter, gentler past and is nestled amid big pockets of greenery that calm the senses.
While the horses may have gone, the place is not dead and a different business vibe has taken hold.
What is there, you ask? I suggest you go down and find out before the shutters come down on this place, and another jigsaw puzzle of Singapore’s past is lost forever.
Similarly, there must be other places, and crucially, people around you that speak of a past and will be gone someday.
I was in a hawker centre at Toa Payoh the other day, and this one, while modernised, is populated quite a bit with old-time hawkers selling unpretentious, old-time food.
It was a slow Monday and the old couple who manned a coffee stall were friendly and in the mood to talk.
They told me they had to be there by 5am each day to get the water boiling.
No, that’s not early, they added – the aunty in her 70s selling beehoon next stall comes in at 2am to prepare her food.
How long will they continue? The uncle said: “Who knows? I have had a knee operation and I don’t really have to do this anymore.”
I will go back again to find out more about their lives – and Singapore – before they call it a day.


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