Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Time Travel

Recently, I found myself in Tanjong Katong Road. I used to live there. In my grandmother's house. It no longer exists, that pre-war house that withstood Japanese officers requisitioning it and then my mother's family and every single one of my cousins from mum's side living in it at one point or the other. It saw through my teen years, my great-grandmother's, my grandfather's and then my grandmother's funeral. After which, it got sold off in accordance to her wishes.

I haven't been back in the area since we moved out, shortly after the photo below was taken. That was a good twenty years ago.

One of the few old and yellowed pictures I have of our front porch with the jade green tiles.
And because I had time, I decided to have a look around and I knew what I wanted to check out. I didn't want to walk down the street to where our house was because that would make me too sad. But there was a news agency that I had in mind; that my brother and cousins used to hang out in. They had the best magazines and every year end, we would buck tradition and buy our school textbooks from there rather than the school book shop. The owners of the news agency knew exactly which Literature book you were doing if you told them what school you were from. They would also dig up for you the accompanying guides. It was also filled with stationery and many students, myself included would stand ther and almost covet. On top of that, it was air-conditioned, something rare for a street shop during that time.

I saw it from across the road and the washed out signage was a clue to it having seen better days. But even that didn't prepare me for the half a store that still existed, packed to the rafters with toiletries, instant noodles and then shelves of dusty stationery, nary a text book, guide book or magazine in sight despite its declarations on the awning.

It looked darker and smelt mustier than I remembered it to. Obviously, the owners were older and whiling the time away but were suspicious about how I seemed to be lingering aimlessly. They did tell me very clearly that I wasn't to take photographs. So all I have is the photograph I took from across the street.

For old time's sake, I decided to buy some stationery; some coloured permanent markers. When I was paying up, I realised that even though I was doing the same thing 20 years later, it was not for me but for my daughter.

And that partially blew my mind.

While the place still existed, it was different from what I had pictured in my mind. The store and myself, we are now in totally different places in our lives. And sadly, I had outgrown it and I had to say goodbye.


  1. why would you not want to walk down the street! must la! and sit and cry la! don't care! i've done that too :D i lived a little further down the road. well, a little more than a little, but still. telok kurau. EVERYTHING i know from my childhood is gone. even the house with blue windows that i grew up in. red house bakery with the old rickety chairs and ancient men serving ice cream, remember? one of the old men is now keeping a log book at the internet cafe nearby :( :( :(