The other day, I was passing by King Albert Park—KAP, for those of you Bukit Timah kids—and I saw that in its place now stood a shiny new condo.
A place that bore so many memories for so many of us who lived, studied, and grew up near and along this road was demolished, and here in its place stood a soulless residential estate.
I tried to remember what it looked like before.
I remember the cashier counter, the first floor, the staircase up, the seating layout once you got up there. There were the good seats—the cushy sofa seats that looked into Cold Storage—and there were the normal, not so good seats. We always tried to get the good seats.
I remember always going there after school to study with my friends, and doing more talking and distracting each other than actual studying; going downstairs to Cold Storage to buy sushi and snacks to eat while we tried to be productive. I remember learning more about my now-fiance over a Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby. I remember decorating a Sara Lee pound cake with M&Ms, gummy candy, Nutella spread, and all sorts of sweet treats with my friends before we went to another one of our friends’ house to surprise her. So many memories were made in that building.
I tried to remember what it looked like on the outside, the building’s façade, the drive-thru, the familiar golden arches, and I realized that I was already beginning to forget it.
Gone are the landmarks of our youth
I can’t remember what the old Heeren or Cineleisure looked like, even though I used to go to these places so frequently. I can’t remember what came before Ion, what the stretch of road looked like before 313.
In Singapore, change in the norm. The old must make way for the new, the better, the shiny, and we Singaporeans understand this—that the thriving of our nation depends upon this.
We need better malls, more homes, better physical infrastructure, and I appreciate that many of the changes we’ve seen in the Singapore landscape have been for our good; the MRT lines make getting around incredibly convenient, the malls make for a great shopping experience. For the most part, change has been for the best.
But when we get rid of the old, we forget what was once there. With each structure we demolish, we rid with it the ghosts of our youth. We forget how we lived, what we used to do. We lose the reminders of our past, and for some of us, our youth.
Maybe I’m the only one who’s bothered by this.
Maybe I’m the only one who wishes some things could remain the same, and maybe I’m the only one who wants to hold on to the landmarks of my childhood.
But maybe I am not, and with each major change to our landscape, maybe we Singaporeans feel a bit of loss and displacement we can’t quite articulate, even as we adapt to the new.
What is home?
Singapore is our home and home should feel warm and familiar—not just be productive and useful.
I love Singapore. I think it’s a great place to live and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel fortunate for all the things we get to enjoy, living here.
But I do wish that in the midst of change, as we continue to forge onward and upward, we still get to hold on to some of our favourite things—even if just for sentimental value. Surely, we don’t have to give up everything in order to be a world-class nation?