ASIAN ADVENTURE part 13 - KATONG
I grew up in Katong, in Singapore. I went to secondary school in Katong Convent. My best friend, Lily lived a short walk away from me. I bought magazines and nibbles from the Indian tambi shop beside my house. I often had take-out from the coffee shop hawker stalls across the road from me. I went to mass at Katong church. All these routines in my world were a short walk from the pivot of my world - my house at 415 East Coast Road. It was time to take a walk to 415 that is no longer there. The old colonial style house was demolished in favor of building several flats that would generate serious money for the owner. They could not know that a child, now an adult, would stand before their investment and feel a deep loss for the home she loved.
I went with with Lily to walk these streets together after over 50 years of having not trod them together. We began in the Gaylang area (25 minutes walk away), often referred to the red light area of Singapore. What joy it was to discover so much of the Singapore I remember still in evidence: the small shops still doing business and the preservation of homes.
As we entered Katong I was delighted to see a return to hawker type places. For a long time hawker stalls were in sanitized areas, often malls, and had lost a lot of their charm. But Katong had returned to placing tables on courtyards outside food shops or hawker corners.
We passed the Catholic Church I used to go to. My father would send my sister and I to the front and tell us he would stay at the back of the church, instead he'd sneak out to sit in the turquoise Chinese run coffee shop beside the church and wait for mass to end.
The tambi shop is no more but the building remains. Beside it is the glass and concrete edifice that now stands on my childhood memories.
My front garden is now a pool. The garden was larger than this and extended further towards the road. It also bore 3 mango trees in the front and 1 to the side, a giant bougainvillea tree, hibiscus, frangipani, mammy cotton flame plants, elephants ears and many others species of plants including a lawn that was often a tennis court.
As children Lily and I would often climb these circular staircases in games to see who was brave enough to reach the top before getting into trouble for trespassing. I don't think we ever dared to reach the top.
We walked down lanes, rejoicings at flowers, and excited to see a chiku tree. We had two in our side garden. It's not a fruit you find easily, or at all in shops, ever. Sadly none were ripe for me to pick and try again.
Our last port of call was the school we spent our last yeas in together. \