i think i’ll always remember the moment when i looked up and saw the tree. it was breathtaking. no exaggeration or worry about using a cliche here, i felt something rushing through me while my eyes stayed glued to the tall dark one, slightly shocked. where do they make such unspeakably beautiful trees? who made it? how terribly majestic as if it owned this planet. i think i thought of the little prince and his capricious rose. if i had a tree like that, i’d put up with anything from it. funny thoughts went through my head.
we’d been walking for a while on an astonishingly unpaved track just off lim chu kang road. when i saw the state of the road i couldn’t believe it had been allowed to exist in singapore and i was elated. it was completely uneven, a little wild in its very look; leading to army camps where ns (national service) men groan and bond and pick up stories they’ll tell for the rest of their lives. aj, my dear walking mate, was already (in singapore, pronounce it a’rreddy) telling me all about his days in these unkempt, ulu parts of the city. we had turned onto this particular track because his son had come for camp nearby a while ago and he was keen to see the area.
delighted to write, there was nothing out here, only unmanicured green, untrammelled blue, and unfettered dusty grey. trees, shrubs, bushes, grass, wild flowers, pond, eagle, sky, a lurking fear of snake.
i bet there were reticualted pythons reticulating in some undergrowth close by and scorpions practising their sting.
but the sense of freedom was so keen, one forgot to get scared. aj said, he felt close to god. even the trundling comfort delgro buses that appeared from time to time, no zipping around here, only trundling and chugging… even they couldn’t interfere with the sense of wonder and deep breath high oxygen happiness.
say lim chu kang and everyone is on about cemeteries. well, they are there, many of them in fact, on either side of the road as you enter this enclave in the utter west of the island. but more than the tombstones, my eyes strayed to the large curve of skies. no multi-storied structure for miles around.
just before the graveyards a simple breath knocking singapore idea. notice, the main road doesn’t have dividers?… aj said casually, that’s because this is a runway. before i came to the city i’d been told by a friend who worked in air india that the road leading out of changi can be converted to a runway in minutes… but here, in lim chu kang? so, one in the east and one in the west… well, aj and i certainly behaved like two people from the cuckoo’s nest on our way back, when we leapt out of bus and ran onto the middle of the road to get a “runway” shot.
the wide six lane avenue went on to become a narrower two lane road shaded by trees, leading to farms of all kinds and camps. there was no pavement, you walked on the grass verge and hoped the trucks wouldn’t get you. here and there were signs that said “protected area, trespassers shall be eaten” or words to that effect.
otherwise, only thick woods, almost jungles.
i’d been feeling the sting of the behind the cloud sun when i turned slightly to the left and looked up, and was caught off guard by the tree. felt like i was in a luxurious airconditioned boutique looking at a magnificently designed, meticulously crafted (how many times i have had to write those words and found them boring and meaningless) objet d’art (french is necessary at this point) or something.
the difference between a bargain oriented outlet mall crammed with indifferently dumped branded goods and a fine boutique where each piece is dusted, polished and displayed, with ample space and atmosphere around it so that it may “breathe” and look very very tempting, became instantly clear.
the display here was faultless, and i was so glad one couldn’t really buy it. ever.
just realised i saw it on the birthday of someone who in many ways reminds me of that slightly tilted yet rock steady and generous massive gorgeous one of a kind tree.
road to singapore, around lim chu kang road, 19/06/15 #SG50
end of 1997, we moved to singapore from india. in 2015, the country celebrated fifty year of independence. singapore has given me much and i am fascinated by the spirit of this gutsy city state with hardly any land or resources, but oh what dreams and chutzpah (the finest interpretation of the word), the ability to reach big, hunker down and hold and strategise and act and grow. despite my many years here, i haven’t seen a lot of the island, which started out at only 28 miles by 18. now of course it’s bigger, thanks to that spirit i spoke of. so i thought why not see singapore in this landmark year, and celebrate #sg50. aj, my friend and trainer, and i traipse in different parts of the city every week. hope you enjoy the walk talk. you’ll find more in my index. and the walks continue in singapore’s year 51.