I still love these Singapores.
The one I grew up with, the one that’s not there anymore. The vast field full of moths ants grasshoppers and bored hot afternoons. The great trees, the 5.30 TV shows. The cavernous wet-market, full of mystery and monstrous rats. Mamashop at the void deck, uncle boredly watching your anguished dilemma: 50c keropok or 20c curry puff??
The one I visit with, the one that’s vanishing. The kopi and kaya uncle retiring at the end of November, because he’s 83, cooking 50 years. A Toastbox store replacing him. The great trees, cut down because inconvenient. The late light at 6pm, the sun sinking away. The old ones defeated, waiting glassy-eyed for someone, for something. Somehow. The makcik coming all the way to repay the 20cents she owes ahma at the provision shop.
I still love these Singapores, the ones I’ve barely and newly known. The workers waiting wearily for their lorries home. The unbearable drilling hammering blasting, a future made by calloused, foreign, lonely hands. The awkward, wordless anger at stonewalls like “it’s just a joke” and “you won’t understand la”.
I still love these Singapores, even the ones I cannot stand. The men (usually men) who think they know better. The Woken Ones, preaching polysyllabic contempt without contemplation. This is what inequality looks like, too. The choking humidity this month, full of famished ghosts. The uncle leering over his beer. The princes congratulating their own contradictions.
I still love my Singapores, this island I still don’t understand. The hornbills and horseshoes, the wild boars and great bores. Of course it’s imperfect: cut and coarse, brawling and broken.
But here I was born, and here I still dream of often. This is love, too: slow and soft, persistent and patient.
Do I repeat myself? Very well, I repeat myself. It is worth repeating, like a song sung every year: this is home, truly (not easily).
This is Singapore.