road to singapore

time travel off hyderabad road

why is hyderabad road called hyderabad road? i couldn’t crack the puzzle. once upon a time, long long ago, that insanely rich man called the nizam of hyderabad may have owned property here… or he may not have. there is some mention of this in a newspaper – the hindu, published in india – from many years ago (net digs can bring up all sorts of things). anyway, i am not at all sure as to why the name of a princely state of india was bestowed upon a road along the southern arc of singapore by people who neither belonged to india nor singapore, namely, the brits, but there it was… a nice winding stretch of 0.65 kilometres with a beautiful park, the hortpark, by it and a stately building at one end.

i was convinced it was built by the hyderabadi potentate. but it wasn’t. the 1935 heritage building is at present leased to the s p jain school of global management. there were other similar though smaller buildings here once, these were officers’ messes apparently for the gillman barracks nearby. in the thirties, the british spent a lot of time and money adding to their military might in the far east, although it would all come to nothing finally. s p jain has refurbished the building, there’s a spacious and grand feel to the campus.

we turned into royal road, past a short side path – bury road –  along alexandra road, and like a movie we had escaped to a world that had almost nothing to do with the world outside. words such as “sylvan surrounds” and “warbler” and “dale” seemed to fit this place, and oh the pace was so mild and genteel. you almost missed your parasol.

we were in a loop and wander of lanes and paths that formed a quiet elusive neigbourhood of black and white houses.

now when you come to singapore as “expats” (i remember not feeling comfortable at all about that word when we moved here) and rent places, black and white houses come up in conversations often. especially if you’re here on an “expat package” with a multinational and can afford rather high rents… it’s all in that “package”. so my husband told me about these old colonial buildings, painted in black and white, with chicks (those bamboo blinds so much a part of homes across india at one time) and sprawling grounds and resident cobras.

colonial and cobra. not my kind of place to live in… and anyway, they were much more expensive than what his “package” would allow. i have nothing against history and its shenanigans as such, but somehow, the thought of living in homes that were created for people of only one skin shade and nationality, who didn’t treat too fairly the people they decided they had to “rule” over, and merrily looted their land and produce as well, makes me most queasy. then you have the cobras. ah well.

i will say though, the houses are very pretty from the outside. the colours, the lines, the trees, the sprawling quiet capture another time. and maybe once in a way we all want to escape.

from the inside, the homes are often uncomfortable with leaking pipes and not enough bathrooms, etc., but they do have unusual spaces, which is a respite from the predictable layouts one comes across so often. the government owns the handful of black and white houses still tucked away in glades and vales and woods in the tiny island of singapore. they don’t renovate much or refurbish, so you spend your money doing that with strict controls on what you can and cannot do. and you have to bid for them… online of course.

aj and i walked happily through the intensely green roads… cornwall, canterbury, russels, york, winchester… i do like the fact that in singapore road names have not been changed after independence. gives you a feeling of time, of all that’s passed over a land. there’s a curving lovely bit along canterbury road from where you can see the port and a steep part where aj made me walk backward. he still thinks he can make me do a “work out”. poor chap, such persistence.

some of the black and whites are in the art deco style, i wonder who the architects were. there are books devoted to these houses and their architecture actually. these colonial homes designed for the tropical climate started coming up in the late 1800s or so, for wealthy plantation owners and other rich merchants. in the 1930s several more were constructed. the art deco house we saw had 1933 inscribed on a wall. swimming pools sparkled under the sun, thatched cabanas by them. not a single car passed by, or maybe just one. hardly any people anywhere, plenty of chance to get lost, and we of course did.

just outside, the thunking huge condominium called the interlace looms over alexandra road. stacks and stacks of it. who’d imagine right across the road the past is safe in its secluded black and white haven. but really, why is hyderabad road called hyderabad road?

 

the stacks of the interlace.

 

an old frangipani tree gets some support… you can read about hyderabad house here: https://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/tag/singapore-land-authority/page/2/

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road to singapore, hyderabad road, alexandra road, bury road, royal road, cornwall road, berkshire road, york road, canterbury road, russels road, 23/09/2106, ‪#‎SG50‬

end of 1997, we moved to singapore from india. in 2015, the country celebrated fifty years 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.

indrani’s index

flowers grow here and there, gentle green slopes roll down…

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2 Comments

  • lalitasarya@gmail.com'
    Reply
    lalita arya
    February 25, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    OMG that stack of interlace apartments made my jaw drop. I didn’t know whether to give in to fear of living in one of those, or just stare in awe! Anyway, indi your writing is so enticingly descriptive that even all those colonial named roads did not bother me. thanks and keep traipsing those lanes as we join you with aj – tut, tut, making you walk backwards, ha, ha, ha.

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      February 26, 2017 at 10:06 am

      hi lalita 🙂 the interlace is quite a building, isn’t it. ha ha, i would have given in to fear instantly. thanks so much. in india, all colonial names are being changed and replaced with really difficult sounding indian names… which take years to be adopted. i’d rather have them leave the names as they are (unless something is named after a particularly heinous fellow) and give new names to new areas and roads. you can’t obliterate history, not when you have spent two hundred years being a part of it, there were good and bad things there anyway. and yet, i can’t quite ever feel okay about the colonizer and their mind, and i will always be grateful i was born in an independent nation. aj keeps trying hahahhah.

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