A home is not merely a place that people live in. It is a place where memories come and go and we all know we grow a sentimental attachment to it because it has imminently been a part of our lives.
To me, a home is a place that is filled with stories, it is like the setting where characters develop and grow whether individually or as a community and we are all part of it. I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not one of my greatest joys. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. It is the same when it comes to reminiscing about my past, my childhood as well as hearing other people’s past.
Their stories— memories and experiences, intrigues me and home is where it all began. Home does a better job at storing memories than brain tissue can do because it has seen and lived through someone else’s most intimate experiences and growth.
On second thought, does it really? It is easy to forget or notice the subtle things that we will one day realise we will never be able to retrieve, the little things that makes up the lost memories we grow up yearning for, especially so like the place we call home. It was after all, a barren land, an empty space just lucky to be covered with life, with bustling crowds and commotion. It is easy to take it all away instantly, shockingly even, just like the famous Lavender Food Square at Jalan Besar where my family would take me out for dinner on occasional weekends since I was twelve.
It pains me to see it crumble into nothing but debris, dust, metal shards and a whirpool of lost memories as I stared reeling from the shock of its state through the windows of the bus driving along the street where it once stood. The demolition of old buildings to make way for the new and the reclaiming of land for other purposes are on a high demand as Singapore steps its way further into a first-world society.
I have seen bits and pieces of land in Yishun, where I live, being redeveloped into high-rise condominiums since the year 2008. A part of it most strikingly unforgettable to me, is the shortcut walk through the wet market during my primary school years. I would get out of the house in the wee hours for school, my little hands clasped tight in my mother’s as I prepare myself for “the worst”— the roaring market in the morning with an air of unpleasant concoction of fish and stale vegetables, is now awake from its peaceful slumber. No air freshener could have defeated that sour, rancid stink which ruled over the cramped air.
The shops were stuffed and stall vendors made the walk extremely narrow, forcing me to walk in a straight file like a soldier going to battle. I still remember the warm pleasant faces of the stall vendors smiling at me in their plastic aprons and rubber boots as they greeted my mother.
A part of the market is being reclaimed for a new condominium’s multi story carpark. Unfortunately, the warm smiles, the warm bustling atmosphere that I have shyed away from for close to four years of my childhood became nothing except a far-off memory I still yearn for till this day.
Our skyline is barely recognisable from what it was a decade ago. It’s not uncommon for one to chance upon some story of a relative returning from abroad, shocked at how so much could happen in so short a span of time.
Singapore has undergone many changes and one of the most prominent changes are the influx of foreigners into our tiny red dot. The places we use to orientate ourselves are constantly being redefined, rebuilt or erased completely. The architecture, new amenities, coffee shops— the coming and going of all these don’t just leave a quaint nostalgia. A sense of loss and dislocation also results. It is often relatable for Singaporeans to feel lost, disoriented and isolated in our own country.
I am happy to say that within all these, I have found a place I proudly call home. Yishun gives me a true sense of identity.
Despite the increase of foreigners in the neighbourhood, the sense of it being my home is so strong that it overpowers all these exterior influences. It is a place where I identify as a part of me, looking beyond cultural differences and focusing on everyone living together in harmony. Even little moments such as sitting in the train and hearing the train announcement of reaching Yishun in the next stop makes me feel some sort of comfort and relief.
It is where I grew up, where I learnt new things, where I had the fondest memories with myself, my family and where I found my best friend that I still look forward to seeing her everytime we meet. It is why I would like others to experience home, see home and feel home as I have.
It’s only a matter of time before the last vestiges of open land along Yishun cave in to the demands of urban change where it was once flanked by sizeable plots of open land. Now the plots are cleared and fences erected announcing construction, and in some cases completion, of another new condominium project. The area around Yishun Ave 11 is already beginning to look predictable.
Despite the ever-changing differences regarding to how Yishun looks now, or even in a decade’s time, these emotions, relationships and memories still live strongly in my heart. I believe change is inevitable and I feel that it is a shame that things could not be remained the way it was.
However, as they say, ”every cloud has a silver lining.” It is joyful to know that this change that I am experiencing can be part of somebody else’s new beginning, their new story. Who knows? For the future generations to come and new residents coming in to Yishun, the current multi-storey car park becomes part of their nolstagic memory for the years to come.