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URBAN REDEVELOPMENT is an inane name for mucking up memories

May 2, 2018

PROMPT: Solastalgia


Singapore: we have years of culture that extend beyond our fifty-two years of independence — or do we, really? As a country that preaches multiculturalism, I find it abhorrent that so many aspects of our various cultures have been destroyed on the country’s path to further economic betterment.

    Singapore is geographically one of the smallest countries in the world, and I’ve discovered my fair share of places on this island. And there are so many places I know I will miss.

    In a few years I won’t be seeing the faded Queenstown cinema and bowling alley I walked past so many times while on my way to the Queenstown library. In a few years I won’t be playing a made-up running game with my brother in the space before the cracked, softly quaint tiled building; it is now just another old building on an area of prime land zoned for commercial use. As if we need one more shopping mall with an underground carpark and the same shops as every other neighbourhood shopping mall.

    Despite being permitted to eat there once a month at most, the McDonald’s at King Albert Park was my six-year-old self’s favourite lunch place — it extended over two levels, with the interior housing a wide staircase I loved hopping down leading towards the first level. Before entering the restaurant, my family would fool around with the McDonald’s statues hanging out on the stone steps leading to the restaurant entrance. My brother and I would often dance around them, sit next to them, draw them, all while my mother took photos and my father headed into the restaurant to find a good seat. In this outlet, the staff had worked there long enough to know the frequent customers, and we would talk to the manager if we were there during non-peak hours, who remembered our names and sometimes handed us more than one balloon each when he walked around. Cut to three years after this establishment’s demolishment: I pass the area in our car almost every day, but now, when I look out the window, I see a white building consisting of stereotypically modern structures and bright advertisements for new cafés that haven’t even opened. I see a building devoid of life.

    Fifteen years ago, when both my parents still worked the usual nine-to-five job, my grandparents took care of me in their two-room HDB apartment. The year I entered primary school, my grandmother told me they would be moving to a new HDB complex because the HDB was tearing down the one we were just having dinner in. It was after that day I began noticing the details only their home could have — dents on the linoleum floor from the time my grandfather moved the dining table when my parents bought them a new sofa, marks on the wall from when my uncle nailed band posters to his bedroom wall as a teenager, little pieces of pottery and cross-stich made by my mother with her own two hands throughout the years displayed around the house. Downstairs, the playground on the little hill I loved playing at more than the one in our own condominium complex was still maintained until the day all residents had to move out. Today, the new HDB complex built for the old residents is located just a few blocks from the old complex. Whenever I visit my grandparents, I pass a patch of empty land, where the buildings have been removed, the land flat and the grass regrown. A board with the Urban Redevelopment Authority logo stands on wood planks in the corner of this piece of land, stating in block letters “COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT”.

    These buildings don’t belong to me, but a part of me belonged to them. And when I think about it, there are things I miss more and places that anchor me down more. I’m not sure if I’d really ever let these places go; I’m not sure if it matters at all. But I do wonder about living in a country where I can’t recognise the buildings standing around anymore. 


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  • May 2, 2018 - 11:40pm (Now Viewing)

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