Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Punggol Lost.

"Singapore is about routes, not roots: an intersection point of the trajectories of a thousand journeys. Singapore is the sum of a hundred diaspora: at night, it seems everyone is dreaming about somewhere else."

- from Peter Schoppert's essay Displacing Singapore.

I have resisted blogging about my experience on Sunday, but the sense of loss just keeps growing. Perhaps putting words to it would help stem the pain.

Went to Punggol End to pick up a couple of friends to help them get from that "middle of nowhere godforsaken place back to human civilization" (their words, not mine).

It has been years since I returned to my childhood haunts.

Was there early so decided to take a relook at my old hangouts. I had known the old winding two-lane approach into Punggol had been "redeveloped" by dropping a TPE exit and the SengKang New Town on top of it. I had also known that Saint Anne's Church had been totally rebuilt to serve SengKang. Saint Anne's bears not so much a religious significance to me, as it does as a old wooden landmark sitting in the middle of nowhere on Punggol Road. I had even accepted that the Punggol Seafood Restaurant which was built over the waterfront on stilts is now a distant memory long forgotten by most.


I could tell something was wrong as I approached. I smelled it coming long before I could see it. The tide was low but there was something distinctively missing in the air as I approached the waterfront at Tg Punggol (Punggol End). When I finally saw the waterfront, it felt like somebody had ripped out a piece of my heart.

The mangrove is gone now. Tons of dirty yellowish sand creating an artifical beach has paved over the mangrove, raising the ground level and pushing the sea out even further. The swampy mangrove has been totally erased. The old sea wall where I used to fish from is gone now. The improvised rope swing rigged over the mangrove is but a distant memory.

Another piece of my childhood just got deleted in the name of economic progress. Like it never existed.

Was tempted to hike into Track22 to see the damage done, but thought better of it. One of my most cherished childhood memories was the long walk down the loose stones and mud of overgrown Track22, emerging suddenly into the sunlight at the mongrove beachfront overlooking the forested Pulau Serangoon (Coney Island) with a tiny stretch of water keeping the mysterious island unreachable.

I am not risking that precious memory.

(The urban redevelopment plans call for resanding the entire coastline, building a land bridge into Pulau Serangoon, and redevelopment of the island as a nature getaway type resort.)

If who we are is defined by our experiences and our memories, then I have become a much smaller person for this loss.

How does that song go? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot...

Good bye, old friend. I will forever keep you in my heart.


Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

We are who are today due to the accumlation of our past experiences and memories.

The place is lost. Your memories are not.
The place is lost. Your pain tells you your experiences are not.
The place is lost. In the physical world, but not in your heart.

So why have you become a smaller person ?

December 15, 2004 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Our dear Sotong has really gotten very good at putting down his thoughts in words. Keep writing!

To continue from where he left off.

Don't be enslaved by the past.
Don't be indifferent to the present.

Otherwise in time to come, you'll find yourself looking at the present, the same way you are now at your past.

NTU may get rebuild 25x over but i'll still remember the day someone chipped his tooth on a french fry.

December 16, 2004 7:03 PM  
Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

I always liked this famous saying "Life is never a bed of roses".

I will attempt to contradict it.
Life IS EXACTLY like a bed of roses.
You have the beautiful flowers, and you have the thorns hidden below.

We should all treat life this way. See the beautiful things, and keep the thorny things out of sight, until you need it.. Until you need to remind yourself, until you need to protect yourself. Otherwise, live with the thorns.

Live life to the fullest, so that you can look forward with hope, and look back without regrets.

December 25, 2004 1:59 PM  

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