It’s been a year plus since I’ve been back to Singapore so I decided to take a leisurely bus ride down East Coast road to hopefully catch a glimpse of the many sights that hold wonderful childhood memories for me. (East Coast was where I grew up and spent most of my early adult years.) It brought on a mixed load of feelings and nostalgia. I was particularly sadden by how so many of the older buildings are now replaced with condominums and shopping centers with fancy promises like “Luxurious Shopping Experience”, “Crown jewel of the East”.
The building (see photo above) where I had my first job as a young banking officer at DBS Bank is now torn down. The branch brought many fond memories of what banking was meant to be before the recent financial fiasco. At that time, people in banking genuinely felt like custodians of people’s hard earned money where trust and integrity were treasured core values. The particular branch I was in had a strong sense of community between the bank and it’s customers. I remember fondly of a fruit stall owner who would regularly bring in his best batch of fruits to share with the bank staff. Come June, the branch would be filled with the waft of pungent sweet smelling durian hiding in the far corners of the back room waiting to be devoured once banking hours were over. All the staff irregardless of rank would gather round a table laid with newspaper, digging in with their hands, slurping up the juicy durian flesh. Some would share their “durian appreciation” comments like “wah! this one very nice! flesh very firm yet soft inside! This means it’s very fresh cos the fruit drop during the night time.”
The building now gone, seems so symbolic of the change not just in the urban landscape but with it the values of what banking represents. In it’s place, a modern shopping mall that is merely a seemingly glamorous facade but devoid of character, a sense of community and old fashion values of mutual trust & respect.
While I understand that in a land scarce Singapore, urbanisation is inevitable but a balance must be struck between the old and the new. A price tag can never be put on places of history and memories as this is what gels us as Singaporeans. A common history is what makes it home. Otherwise there is no difference for us to live in Singapore or elsewhere because let’s face it, almost all modern buildings look the same – Cold, Tall & Forbidding. Even if it’s architecturally magnificent but I honestly struggle to imagine forming any nostalgic feelings for a place like ION Orchard, for instance.
I also understand the need for business like banks to be bottom line driven but a balance must be struck between profit maximisation and integrity. Particularly with institutions such as banks. Like it or not, people are inherently putting their undivided trust in your hands. Be respectful of that trust, do not take advantage of it.
It’s only been a year but the speed at which the urban tsunami has swept across the country is rather shocking. If nothing is done to stem this tide, I shudder to think what the next few years would be like.
Here are some photos that I took giving a glimpse of what is still left.