Road to Singapore is a series on the city I’ve lived in since 1997. Sometime in 2015, as Singapore got ready to celebrate SG50 or fifty years of being an independent, sovereign nation, I started ambling through its districts, towns, and wilderness with my walking partner AJ. The idea was to see as much of this small yet vibrant place, get to know Singapore more intimately, a city that rarely fails to astonish me. “This was not in the plan… around parliament house” is a part of the series.
I never thought I’d be going on this walk as part of my road to Singapore traipse. I thought Mr Lee Kuan Yew would be there on the Ninth of August 2015 at the Parade Ground, enjoying and celebrating SG50.
AJ and I had planned on going to Admiralty Road in the north today, but we decided otherwise. Both of us wanted to come and walk around the Parliament House where Mr Lee was lying in state and the public could come and pay their respects till Friday. A funny restlessness…
Around 10.30, we reached Boat Quay, which is opposite the new Parliament House, across the Singapore River. There were people everywhere. Hardly any noise though. They were mostly in black and white, some carried flowers, some were in larger groups, some by themselves. The queue meandered along the quay, past the skyscrapers abutting and disappeared into the lanes leading to the major downtown roads.
We could see a stream of people on the other side, along the bridge and the pathways by Victoria Theatre and the Asian Civilisations Museum. The sun was already up overhead, bright and hot. Umbrellas were out. Newspapers protected heads.
As we made our way following a curve that took us right around Parliament House, there were queues and more queues. All along Raffles Place, behind the Parliament, beyond that toward North Bridge Road… my eyes strayed to the Padang where the big fiftieth celebs will be held. Right in front of it the old Supreme Court was getting spruced up, soon to be a fabulous art gallery. A city of constant change, upgrade, building, making, at pace, surviving.
I saw a father pushing two babies in a pram, one of them held the flowers, the mother walked alongside. There were people on wheelchairs, a man was on crutches, old ladies sat to rest a bit; office goers, men, women, school kids… Chinese, Malay, Indian, others… people everywhere.
And a wait.
And that restlessness.
We sat down for a cup of tea at the corner coffeeshop on Circular Road. The crowds were thick, two lane queues by now. More cops came over, new barricades went up. Channel News Asia reported visiting time had been extended till 12 midnight, so people need not rush down. Later I heard, it’s now going to be open for twenty four hours.
On the way back home in the taxi, we saw people had gathered right up to Clarke Quay. The taxi driver tried to articulate his feelings… one should not look back, he said, but see how to keep this whole thing, the systems, everything, going. Look ahead. He struggled to find the right words, then said, it’s like,
前人种树,后人乘凉 “qian ren chong shu, hou ren cheng liang”
Which translates to: the older generation plants the tree, the next generation enjoys the “cool” under the shade. Thanks to my friend Geraldine for the Mandarin characters and translation.
(Please watch the video on HD. Thanks.)
Road to Singapore, around Parliament House, 25/03/2015 #SG50