Remembering Siglap

Out of finding someone to share my nostalgia, I ask the lady behind the counter of the swanky hair salon if she remembers what used to stand here.

-OCBC?

-No, it was a 4D shop.

– Oh.

There was a big medical shop next door, I continue, more to remind myself than to inform her. The sweet-pungent woody smell is coming back to me from some olfactory memory vault. And then the 4D shop. And what was there next to it? A carpark? A house? It’s frightening when the mind squints at memories.

I cross the road to Siglap Centre, which I saw being constructed in my childhood. All sorts of speculations then in the neighbourhood — about an ice-skating rink, a theatre, a food court. In the end, it became known for its Macdonalds, the default breakfast spot for us after church. It was there L lost and later found her retainers in the dustbin and where my friends discovered my love for eating jam with scrambled eggs.

I cross again to the 4 blocks of flats, now boarded up, their residents evacuated. Sung Wah hair salon, where Aunty Ah Chan pruned my hair into a uniform bob for years. Wong Clinic, which served generations of my extended family from the Siglap Kampong days. Hawaii Studio, where I faithfully trotted to for my bus pass, holiday and later IC photos for years.

Again, the olfactory vault opened. The smell of shampoo, Dettol, developing liquid. And then the sounds of familiar voices paired with faces who had known me as a child.

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