I return to the old alleys of my childhood. The meandering lanes of shophouses, eateries and hidden treasures bring back the old stories – the ones my elders told me as I sat on their knee. Growing up, I had no idea that one day Arab Street would be part of Singapore’s heritage trail.
To me, it was just home.
And in a way, it still is. I may not live on Arab Street anymore, but the old stories – they live on in my heart, each memory a treasured relic of a world gone by. I shake my head whenever I find myself telling tales that begin with, “During my great-great grandfather’s time, this place was…”
Oh dear… I’m going to be that aunt. The one that tells the grandfather stories.
Five generations ago, we were here – living our lives and creating the histories that would go down in my home city’s heritage. And yet my story here remains untold. Perhaps one day, I will be able to share that tale with the world. How my ancestors came to Singapore on a steamer – and never returned ‘home’.
In many ways, I am still that kid – the one who walked through the alleyways amazed at all the secret things that all the shopkeepers sold. And in other ways, I couldn’t be more different. I’ve been around the world now – but the alleys of my childhood will always be special. I will carry the old stories and memories with me wherever I go.
The landscape of Singapore is different now. Modern buildings scratch the surface of the skyline with a pomp and display that wasn’t there in days gone by. The old and new come together to create a modern Singapore that was still in the process of being made as I grew up.
After over a good decade abroad, I rediscover my home and notice everything that’s changed; and everything that has remained the same.
My Singapore. My home. How could I have missed you without even realising it?
It’s good to share a meal with old friends. It’s good to reconnect and find old friendships still intact – growing deeper and stronger with life’s hard tests of time and distance. It’s good to create new memories after such a long hiatus.
Oh dear God, at long last – thank you for bringing me home.