Home Siia in the News
Back to the City of Blessings

Updated On: Feb 13, 2010

SIIA Chairman Simon Tay wrote an article which appeared in the "Life" section of the Straits Times on February 13, 2010.


Back to the city of blessings

Just over a month ago, I moved back to Singapore from New York. A bit more than a year has passed since my novel, City Of Small Blessings, was published. Returning to the country that I have called home all my life, many things have changed.

The city has a new horizon. Dominated by the rising towers of the Sands integrated resort, Marina Bay is taking shape. Further out, the Barrage is working - literally - a sea change, to create a lake in the middle of the city.

Familiar places have been redone. Orchard Road has new malls in Ion, Orchard Central and 313@Somerset while the Mandarin Gallery and Paragon have been revamped. Sentosa has undergone massive construction works for the new Resorts World.

These changes are not unexpected. Government leaders have laid out the plans in detail, almost like advertising. Singapore is a country sustained by the promise of the future.

Some changes are for the better. To sit at the Capella, look out to sea and sip a drink is to enjoy the island in a new way. Some changes merely displace the old. The Ion buzzes but Centrepoint suddenly seems emptier, dated.

The pace and scale of change can overwhelm and the sense of the familiar, of home, is eroded. The texture of society too has changed.

In everyday transactions, in shops and restaurants, one is now much more likely to be greeted and served by a foreigner than a Singaporean. In some cases, the service is better. In others, the server speaks neither English nor Singlish.

There are places where the customers too are predominately foreign. Added together, I sometimes wonder if I have come back home, or am still abroad. I look at my novel again in this context.

The main narrator in City Of Small Blessings is Bryan, a man who has grown up with Singapore and given his life to public service as the principal of a leading school. But in his end years, rather than finding reward and happiness, he feels distanced, alienated.

He has sold the house he grew up in to emigrate, only to return when he could not fit in. With his old house demolished for a condominium, he rents a black and white bungalow in a distant green corner of the island, only to have this too slated for redevelopment. The story unfolds as the house is taken away from him, leading him to think of Singapore as it used to be.

He thinks back to the Japanese occupation and the changes that were forced upon the people. He goes to the city centre and gets lost. He rails against the changes but is rejected by his former colleagues and students.

Readers have asked if the novel is based on my life. I began this novel some 12 years ago and, unlike the fictional narrator, am not in my 70s.

But, like the old man, I lived in a rented house in a faraway corner. And in this past month, as I have tried to settle back into the place called home, I struggle to understand and accept all that has changed.

Increasingly, I feel I am not alone. You do not have to have been away from Singapore to struggle to adjust. Nor do you need to have lost a house to feel no longer fully at home. It is not just Bryan from my novel.

Many others are asking similar questions: whether they belong to this place, and whether the city belongs to them. The current debate over foreigners in Singapore shows this.

Singaporeans are not basically anti-foreigner. But if his home is too quickly and fundamentally transformed, the Singaporean will react negatively to assert his claim. If, on the other hand, Singaporeans feel valued as citizens and at home, they will be gracious hosts.

In the year I have been away, the Seletar airbase where I lived for more than a decade has been redeveloped into an aerospace hub.

There are impressive, multi-million-dollar plans such as the newly launched Rolls Royce 'campus for the future' for manufacture and research. This new investment adds to the economy and must be welcome.

But to make way for this future, half of the houses have been demolished and highways are being built. The old airbase, historic and unique, will change fundamentally.

There are trade-offs that must be made in Singapore: between old and new, between the benefits to the overall economy and the cost to the individual, and between rational logic and emotional attachment. Yet if it is always the old, the individual and our emotional attachments that are sacrificed, then the city will become less and less of a home.

A balance must be struck and the pace of change negotiated. Only then can Singapore evolve and still remain true to those who would call this home.

When the Rolls Royce campus opened at Seletar, I was invited and would have gone. I know their director for South-east Asia, Jonathan Asherson, and have witnessed the growth of their business in Asia and Singapore. I do not hold the changes in Seletar against them.

I did not attend only because work took me to another city, Hong Kong. I enjoyed the visit, benefited from the work and could imagine living there comfortably for some time, as do many Singaporeans.

Still, when I returned to Singapore, late and tired, I felt I was coming back home.

Simon Tay

abortion pill online

medical abortion pill online abortion pill abortion pill buy online

cytotec abortion pill buy online

online purchase abortion pill cytotec abortion pill buy online where to buy abortion pills online

buy abortion pills online

medical abortion pill online abortion pill cytotec abortion

generic viagra sale

female viagra natural viagra alternatives viagra alternative

non prescription kamagra

natural kamagra alternatives kamagra natural kamagra

discount kamagra jelly

kamagra jelly prescription buy free kamagra jelly sample kamagra jelly online uk

cheap amoxicillin tablets

amoxil dosage buy amoxicillin on the internet how to use amoxil

cheap thyroxine tablets

get discount thyroxine online http://www.cengage.co.in/content/english-language-teaching thyroxine prescription

laxative online uk

order laxative online buy bisacodyl on the internet bisacodyl online shop in uk

buy principen online a href

fedex generic ampicillin free ampicillin sample ampicillin without prescription

where can i get the abortion pill online

buy abortion pill order abortion pill online abortion pills

clarithromycin buy

buy biaxin without prescription buy clarithromycin no prescription buy clarithromycin uk

buy cipro online a href

free ciprofloxacin sample ciprofloxacin how to use cipro

buy cleocin

buy cleocin online clindamycin dosage generic clindamycin

dexamethasone dosage

get dexone alternative to dexone buy dexone online

order duricef

Cefadroxil online http://www.geospatialworld.net/Event/View.aspx?EID=105 buy duricef in great britain

cefpodoxime without prescription

where to buy vantin online generic vantin online generic cefpodoxime

natural cefuroxime alternatives

order ceftin female herbal ceftin cheap cefuroxime

on line abortion pill

order abortion pill i need to buy the abortion pill where can you buy the abortion pill

buy keflex in great britain

get keflex cephalexin generic keflex

get chloromycetin avoid prescription

buy cheap chloromycetin chloramphenicol buy chloramphenicol online safe

abortion pills online

abortion pill online http://www.fareastjournals.com/journal_detail.aspx?jid=18 buy abortion pills online

how does augmentin work

mail order augmentin http://www.fareastjournals.com/journal_detail.aspx?jid=22 purchase clavulanate online

cytotec abortion

where to buy abortion pills online http://blog.liveandsmiledental.com/page/where-can-you-get-a-abortion-pill.aspx cytotec abortion

Related Article

where to buy abortion pill

where can i buy abortion pills abortion pill order abortion pill

online purchase abortion pill

buy abortion pills online abortion pill buy abortion pills online

abortion pills online

buy the abortion pill online http://www.cengage.co.in/content/about-us where can you buy the abortion pill

get viagra

buy viagra online without prescription free viagra sample free viagra

buy kamagra online inurl:nc

kamagra online shop in uk natural kamagra alternatives female herbal kamagra

kamagra jelly uk

generic kamagra jelly erectile dysfunction kamagra jelly women does kamagra jelly work

buy amoxil online a href

get amoxicillin avoid prescription amoxicillin buy cheap amoxil

women does synthroid work

thyroxine for sale synthroid female herbal synthroid

women does bisacodyl work

bisacodyl online uk buy cheap laxative online uk generic laxative

principen online shop in uk

generic principen buy principen online a href get principen

where can i buy abortion pills

abortion pill online purchase buy the abortion pill online abortion pills

order clarithromycin

buying biaxin clarithromycin buy biaxin 500mg

how does ciprofloxacin work

alternative to ciprofloxacin http://www.geospatialworld.net/Event/View.aspx?EID=37 ciprofloxacin for sale

where to buy cleocin online

how to use cleocin generic cleocin sale buy clindamycin online safe

get dexone avoid prescription

buy dexamethasone online a href buy cheap dexamethasone purchase dexone online

generic duricef online

mail order duricef alternative to Cefadroxil female herbal duricef

natural vantin

cefpodoxime online shop in uk fedex generic vantin buy vantin online

buy cefuroxime on the internet

buy cheap cefuroxime online uk mail order ceftin cheap ceftin

pill for abortion online

buy abortion pills online http://ateneobergamo.it/schedaNews.aspx?id=216 where can you buy the abortion pill

order cephalexin online

keflex dosage cephalexin where to buy keflex online

buy chloramphenicol

photos chloramphenicol http://www.fareastjournals.com/conf_detail.aspx?conf_id=6 cheap chloramphenicol

ordering abortion pills to be shipped to house

order abortion pill order abortion pill buy abortion pill

get augmentin

order augmentin augmentin augmentin without prescription

cytotec abortion

abortion pill buy online http://blog.liveandsmiledental.com/page/where-can-you-get-a-abortion-pill.aspx cytotec abortion pill buy online