Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Tortoiseshell Town

We've seen them around, and probably grew up among them. They used to be very common sights, characterizing the 'area' and making up the 'neighborhood'.

When you talk about places like Yishun, Toa Payoh, and Ang Mo Kio, you think about the lines of shophouses and how they provide their owners with a decent living; you remember heading to the hawker centre and coffeeshops with your parents and friends to enjoy a cheap meal; you remember the sand-filled play grounds that reside in the middle of each little 'town'.

I had the change to walk along a row of shophouses alongside Tiong Bahru during lunctime one day, on my way to a posh coffeehouse. I guess one of the main reasons the graphic designers and office workers patronize the coffeehouse is because of the quaint little neighborhood that it resides in.

As you sit and sip your overly expensive coffee, you look at the old peeling pillars and the closed grills of the abandoned shophouses and the old people sitting on stone benches enjoying their day, you can't help but think that all this might not be here tomorrow.

But that's the beauty of such a view - the fragile nature of the reality that I coin the Tortoiseshell Town.

Do some research on the Tortoiseshell Cat you'll find out what I mean.

So what if the government has plans to turn the area into a cultural exchange venue with coffeehouses and art galleries?

Once the people who make up the essence of the place are gone - the bird watcher who goes in the morning to hang his cage alongside the others, the shopowner who sells kids toys and women's clothes, the grandparent missing her grandchild to look after at the playground...

All this is going to disappear forever, and with them our innocence. It's happened to Ang Mo Kio, Clementi and Toa Payoh, and it will rapidly encase all of the charming little secret places we used to call home.

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