(Written in early 2016. We moved from this area in January 2017)
Sometime last week, I was walking along Rochor Canal Road carrying my son. At around 8:30 in the morning, the usually sweltering heat of Singapore was yet to reach its peak and there was an air of pleasantness to the weather. The water in the canal was still and, there in the still water, I could clearly see the reflection of the blocks/buildings of Kelantan Road – my home for the past 3.5 years in Singapore.
Who better than you readers of this blog know how I have always wanted to stay only in Madras and how my wish had/has always been to never shift from Madras! So, it was with a mixture of disappointment and excitement (at getting a chance to explore a new place) that I first set foot in Singapore on 28th July, 2012.
My husband had rented a HDB (Housing Development Board) apartment in Kelantan Road a few weeks before I came with our then 7-month old daughter. The main reason why we wanted to stay in this area (Kampong Glam/Little India) was because a close relative’s house was nearby.
During the last 3.5 years, we have had several friends and acquaintances asking us why we are still living in the same place, which is amidst the crowded Little India. Initially when we came here, this place seemed perfect location-wise, since the weekend crowds of Little India comprising of migrant workers didn’t come till Kelantan Road. But post the Little India riots on 2013, when a ban on drinking in the Central hub of Little India was imposed, the crowds slowly started moving to Kelantan Road and the open spaces along Rochor Canal. It was only after that that we had considered moving to another area in Singapore. While it looks like the move has to wait for more than a year at least, let me continue to enjoy all the positives of living here.
Before I move on to the positives, let me also list two other drawbacks of living in this area. The house is very old (40 years!) because of which I have only two complaints in it – the toilet is in the kitchen and so is the dustbin chute. The newer HDBs do not have it that way. But despite several decades passing since it was built, the external appearance of the apartments does not indicate it and I, otherwise, love the roomy, well-ventilated layout of the house.
We have some really good friends who are from our block as well as the neighbouring blocks. But I still feel that my kids need more friends to play with on a daily basis. The playground and its surrounding areas have way too many adults and teenagers smoking which doesn’t really create a nice atmosphere for the kids to play. Besides, this neighbourhood is completely the opposite to that of a R. A. Puram or a T. Nagar neighbourhood of Madras or that of East Coast of Singapore.
So while you too may start wondering about why we are still staying in the same house, here are all the positives.
Located at a stone’s throw away is Mustafa – which, to me, is the Saravana Stores of Singapore. My husband, being a fan of supermarket-shopping, loves this fact that we can easily bring back all the loads of shopping in less than fifteen minutes walk. Buffalo Road & Kerbau Road of Little India where all the Tamil vegetables and provisions shops are located, are again a hardly 20-minute walk away.
Veeramakaliamman temple, Krishnar temple and Srinivasa Perumal temple are all less than 15-minute walk away. Vadapthira Kaliamman temple and Manmatha Karuneshwarar temple are also almost of the same distance away. A short walk and you can get your peace of mind by praying and sense of being in India by visiting a temple exactly similar to the newer temples of Madras. Since both my husband and I love visiting temples, to us, the very fact that there are 5 temples at a walkable distance remains a most attractive location advantage till date.
The Central library of Singapore which houses the maximum books compared to its branches and also has a very wonderful kids section which even has a mock treehouse is, again, a hardly 20-minute walk away from home or just 2 bus stops away.
Being a vegetarian, Little India being the place for all the India pure-vegetarian restaurants, on those days when I am lazy to cook or when we want to eat out for a change, again, all the restaurants are at a walkable distance away.
Downtown, Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore River – a walk around any of these places is always relaxing and when you can combine a walk back from there to your home itself, you can get your workout done too. A walk along Rochor Canal itself feels good on those rare pleasant days of Singapore or during those cloudy moments during the day when I walk along with my daughter who cycles around.
The view from our corner apartment on the 9th floor or, as they say in Singapore, 10th storey, with Bugis, Downtown and Singapore Flyer on one side and the open meadows and trees in the now defunct Royal Muslim Cemetery on the other side, is something that I have enjoyed having a calming effect on me during way too many sleepless nights and tiring days with my children. How many nights have my then baby daughter and I spent gazing outside, looking at the TV in Bugis getting turned off at 12 midnight and even then sleep continued to elude my baby, while all I wanted to do was get back to the comfort of my pillow and bedspread!
Today, I don’t mind the fact that the bathroom and toilet are inside the kitchen or cockroaches continue to drop by occasionally (don’t get me started on this!) or even the fact that I don’t have any friends with whom I can have a chat with everyday. The only thing I want is for my kids to get a good set of friends with whom they can play with every single day. This is the only important thing lacking now. And it is for this reason that I hope that, next year, when we try moving out from this house, it works out at least then.
As for the dreamer in me, that dream of returning to Madras for good will always be there at the back of my mind, though I don’t see that happening any time in the near future!
P.S.: It was only after I wrote this post that I got a very nice group of friends who are the mothers of my daughter’s schoolmates. I got the much-needed after-school aratttai and kids got their happy playtime with friends too 🙂