Decades ago, as a young Hewlett Packard R&D engineer charged with technology transfer, he was making his first trip to Singapore. After spending nearly 22 hours changing planes and in actual flight, he finally dropped his bags at the hotel and made a beeline for Bugis Street, at the ungodly hour of 4 a.m. He had heard about the famous "ladies" of the night who will pose with you for a polariod photo at $10 a snap. One specimen did grab his hand and shoved it up her skirt to demonstrate she was the "real thing". What happened, he asked, where are they now? We don't know, we confessed. Maybe at Changi Point, maybe at the Four Floors of Whores in Orchard Road.
As Little India is slowly being sanitised, another landmark is about to be erased. Very soon, one needs to go to their dingy dormitories to meet the migrant workers. Horrors, like heading for Auschwitz to see a real Jew. Recall our forefathers were also migrant labour, some were actually locked away when Singapore was Syonanto. Except for the dastardly few who collaborated with the Japanese invaders, as a translator or wearing their police uniform.
Rumour has it that Benjamin Sheares Bridge will also go under the wrecker's ball of the construction crews. Many an overseas visitor waxed lyrical about the fabulous city skyline coming into view as they were driven in along the East Coast Parkway. The route from Ayer Rajah Expressway heading for the airport was just as scenic, with the Flyer on one side, and the Marina Bay Sands casino on the other. Now all they see will be the boring concrete walls of the underground stretch of the Marina Coastal Expressway.
We worry about the core of the Singapore identity being diluted. We should also worry about the familiar places being eradicated, places we grew up in, places alive with fond memories of yester years. It's bad enough there's no heart in the city; soon, the soul will also be extinct.
|Not Bugis Street but Gurney Drive, Penang, Malaysia|