by Teo Soh Lung
Two days ago, I had an interesting conversation with a taxi driver. I had asked that he take a route through Nicoll Highway. He told me that he wasn’t sure if the road was open because of the national day rehearsals. I was lucky and we drove through the highway. We then talked about celebrating the national day.
I began by saying that we spend a lot of money for the day. He corrected me saying that it is more than a lot. He went on to say that it would be all right if we spend the money once every five or ten years rather than every year. And he wondered if the celebrations are for Singaporeans!
To his suggestion that we celebrate once in five or ten years, I fully agreed. I said it would have been more meaningful if the government distributes the annual celebration money to us. He enthusiastically agreed. He said he needed to work to earn money and a gift would be helpful.
Shortly after I reached my destination and met my friend who was on a two-day transit to Thailand. We had lunch and decided to see the art exhibition at the National Gallery. We took a bus, dropped off at Hill Street and walked towards the gallery. On the way, we passed the North Bridge Road side of the Supreme Court which has encased marble. My friend asked if it was really marble and if so why was it encased! I laughed. I told him that we used to joke about it. A friend told me that it was actually wall paper!
Reaching High Street corner, we were prevented from proceeding to the gallery by national servicemen. We told them that we were going to the National Gallery. They said the gallery closed at 12 noon and will be closed for the weekend because of the National Day rehearsals. We were disappointed. The nice guys then told us that we could see the museum by the river. Since we were already in the city, we proceeded to the Singapore River. Along the bank, we reminisced about the Bank of China Building and its vicinity in the past. A costume exhibition at the museum did not attract us. And so we took a train to Orchard Road.
The crowd at Orchard Road MRT station drove us crazy. It took me some time and not before asking several young strangers to get to Takashimaya. They were exceedingly helpful and polite.
Reaching Takashimaya through an underground passage filled with shops, we located Kinokuniya. I was very happy to be in the bookshop and so was my friend. While I browsed impressive books, he found The New Yorker and bought two old copies costing S$16 each! We were both tempted to buy some books but we refrained!
Orchard Road was a bit much for us. And so we went back to the Jalan Sultan area and had a nice dinner at one of the restaurants. As we sat to eat outside the restaurant in one of the cleaned up back lanes with graffiti art on its wall, airplanes roared past above our heads. “What’s that?” my friend asked. “National Day rehearsals” I said. “A few millions burnt!” “Ah, fly past!” Another few planes roared by.
National Day celebrations these days are very grand affairs. In the 1960s, I participated in the celebrations as a secondary school kid. The celebrations were held at the old Kallang Stadium. I was in the gymnastics team and I don’t recall having too many practices before the great day.
Today, however, I am told that school children spend a few months at rehearsals. Like North Korea, it is also a day for Singapore to showcase her defence capabilities, her army, weapons, and air crafts.
This was first published on Teo Soh Lung’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.