Monday, June 15, 2009

Kampung spirit alive in Singapore

Last night, I was strolling in the East Coast Park, a breezy, six-kilometre stretch of palm-fringed beach that arcs all the way from just outside central Singapore to Changi Airport on the eastern tip of the island.

It’s frequented by joggers, roller-bladers and cyclists and is also a popular camping spot, especially among Singapore’s minority Malay community, who are generally less well-off than their countrymen of Chinese origin.

While washing my hands in one of the many public conveniences that are scattered along the beach, I was rather shocked to see the guy next to me, a young Malay Singaporean, gutting and disemboweling a Stingray.

Blood coursed down the sides of the gleaming white sink as he slit the fish down the middle and pulled out its innards, washing the Ray thoroughly once he’d removed its guts.

“I caught this one earlier,” he remarked after noticing my attentive gaze.

“There are some more fishes over there,” he added, pointing to the rest of his family, who were busily washing some other freshly-caught fish in another sink.

The fish were destined for the barbecue, after which the family would retire to their huddle of tents on the edge of the imported-sand beach.

So, despite the transformation of Singapore from a collection of sleepy villages or kampungs into an all-encompassing high-rise housing estate, the old way of life clings on to the coattails of economic development.

Hemmed in between the unending line of HDB flats just across the road from the beach and the scores of unemployed shipping tankers moored just offshore, the kampung spirit lives on.

This blog was brought to you courtesy of the free if unreliable Wifi at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where I’m currently en route to Bangladesh

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