Thursday, July 12, 2018

Interviewed for a school project

Yesterday, I presented a copy of my book to this poly student, Aisyah who interviewed me about Gillman Barracks for her assignment. 

In fact, 2 weeks ago, another student interviewed me about Toa Payoh for the same assignment. He told me a third student wanted an interview about Beauty World. I told him if I said Yes, their lecturer would probably conclude that I do this for a living.

Lol. Thanks to all these poly and uni lecturers, who like to give assignments which require the students to interview oldees like me and Jerome Lim (actually he is much younger), I have been kept busy these past few years. I have lost count actually.

The most time-consuming ones are video projects; like the recent one by a team of Ngee Ann Poly students who filmed me at my home, Kallang Riverside Park and Chuan Lane – where my kampong house once stood.

I do not mind helping the students. But I have decided not to accept any more requests for tv documentaries. You spend hours with them, and in the end, you appear for a less than half a minute. The most disappointing experience was with a company called Oak Tree Films who came to my house to film me for an episode of Project Neighbourhood. After spending the whole morning with them, I appeared for just a few seconds in the final product. Makes you feel as if you are so hard-up to appear on tv.

Besides such assignments and projects, I have also given talks at Spore Poly, RI and recently, my alma mater, NJC.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

We follow orders or people die

Two days ago, the Straits Times carried a report on the measures that the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) is introducing to prevent accidents like the one that led to the  death of NSF Cpl Kok Yuen Chin. Meantime a board of inquiry has been convened to look into this incident.

This article reminds me of the famous courtroom scene from the movie, A Few Good Men. In this scene, Col. Nathan Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson said something that I thought was very relevant to the tragic incident at the SCDF, as well as the Pasir Ris MRT track accident in 2016 and even the Bishan MRT tunnel flooding incident last year. He said; “We follow orders or people die!”

These accidents happened simply because people ignored orders or did not follow procedures. Hence, I believe that any investigation into such accidents has to go beyond looking at procedures and human actions. They have to look at the work culture in the organisation. Do the people there have a “you can do anything; just don’t get caught” mentality?

We have to get to the root cause. If the main cause is people ignoring the orders of their superiors, or not following safety procedures, then we have to understand why.
  • Were they simply too lazy; and ‘bo chap’?
  • Do they have no fear or respect for their bosses?
  • Are they exhausted with too much work, and think that these procedures were a waste of time? If this was the case, then wouldn’t adding more procedures make matters worse?

I remember a case from my own NS days in the 1970s. To the best of my recollection this was what happened. There was an accident involving a soldier who was sleeping under a three-tonner; and he was killed when the vehicle moved off before he could ‘escape’. After that, one of the new procedures that was implemented was that the driver had to check under the three-tonner each time he was about to drive off. Needless to say, very few people followed that procedure.

I also feel that our newspapers ought to carry out some ‘investigative reporting’ when it comes to such a serios matter. They should review past accidents and results of the BOI enquiries. Just how effective have their recommendations been? I am not being cynical, but judging from the frequency of these tragedies; I suspect they have not been very effective.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I remembered wrongly

Sigh … I realized that I made a mistake in the very first sentence of my book .
I wrote in my Introduction that many years ago, I saw a Taiwanese movie by the title of; 一个平凡人的故事, or An Ordinary Man’s Story.

I think this is incorrect. That movie, whose title I still cannot recall, was about the struggles of a man who tried all his life to achieve something extraordinary. Finally, he realized that that was unrealistic and it only made him and those closest to him miserable (something to this effect). In the end, he wrote a book with that title I quoted.

I hope someone can confirm my recollections.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Return to Blogging

Yesterday, I was invited to give a talk to a group of Secondary 1 students at NJC (National Junior College), my alma mater. They were attending a seminar on Place-Writing and learning how to write essays and poems about places they remember. Although I know nothing about writing poetry, that topic was covered by two professors who came after me. My task was simply to share my experience of writing about the places that I remember.

And so I shared with the children my experience in blogging about the Singapore that I grew up in. Due to time constraint, I focused mainly on the schools I went to (click on the label “schools” in the column on the right of this page); especially NJC, seeing that I was in the pioneer batch in 1969. Gave them some details of the old campus and shared about how we had to trudge across a big field, which is today’s Nanyang Girls School, and climb 103 steps to go for lunch at the Dunearn Secondary Technical School during the first few months when our own canteen was not ready. The irony is that the ground that DSTS stood on was the very same place that today’s NJC occupy.

1981 Map of NJC and vicinity

I also shared my fondest memories of my two years in NJC. Showed them some photos of our Adventure Camp in Pulau Tekong in April 1969. Not surprisingly, the photo which most intrigued them was this one of me standing in front of a tobacco farm.

I should apologize for neglecting this blog - which had given me my much satisfaction and even a bit of fame – for so long. I haven’t blogged regularly since I discovered Facebook in 2014. Anyway, I have decided that I would try to resume my blogging here, even if it’s on a less regular basis. So do keep tuned.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Moon Between the Coconut Palms (by Edmund Arozoo)

Digital Photography has indeed simplified the task of producing quality images of the moon. The ability to mount my old 600 mm manual mirror lens to the body of my DSLR has allowed me to capture some good images indeed. However to push the challenge further I have for past few years been a keen “Moon transit” photographer i.e. capturing aircraft as they fly across the face of the moon.  I am fortunate that where I now live the Moon’s orbit and most of the commercial flight paths make it easy for me to set up my gear in my back balcony or backyard to achieve this. In addition there are many on-line apps that allow real time monitoring of flight paths. However this quest requires lots of patience and luck. Often there are long periods of waiting in-between flights. During these breaks I find myself staring at the moon and my mind wanders back to my kampong days in Singapore.  I start thinking of the significance the moon played then and the beliefs both religious and superstitious of the various races and groups of people in my kampong.

Copy of an old slide image taken in Jalan Hock Chye digitally post processed
One colourful memory that I always chuckle when I think about it is the ritual that my Chinese neighbours undertook during the eclipse of the moon.  I remember as a kid suddenly hearing the din of pots and pans being struck constantly. Even the large kerosene tins would be brought into play. Most of the Chinese households would be involved and I learnt that the belief was that a Dragon was swallowing the Moon and the noise created was to scare the dragon from completely removing the Moon from the sky. This ritual did go on regularly whenever there was an eclipse for most of my early years but as society became educated the practice faded away.

When I relate this to some of my friends a few remember this practice but others think I made it up.

The significance of the moon is central in Chinese culture. Most if not all festivals are tagged to the lunar calendar

Likewise the Indian celebrations are also pegged to their own lunar calendar. The two main ones Deepavali  which occurs  during the New moon of Ashvin (Hindu calendar) and  Thaipusam which  is celebrated during  the full moon day of the Tamil month of Thai

In the past the Malay Hari Raya dates were determined by the sighting of the new moon by local religious authorities. During those pre mobile phone years the method of relaying the successful sighting was by the use of carbide cannons. Carbide was mixed with water in the hollow of a bamboo cylinder and when the fuse was lit a small explosion took place and this could be heard for miles in the quiet of the evenings. When this was heard in a kampong one of the Malay families would then in turn fire a cannon and the message would then spread from kampong to kampong until the entire Malay community across the island would be informed to start celebrating the following day.

For the Eurasian and Christian households the main festival linked to the moon was Easter which is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. The other Holy days of Lent are adjusted accordingly. As kids when we were brought by our parents for the traditional “visitations of churches” on Maundy Thursday we often noticed the bright nearly full or full moon as we walked along the Queen Street / Victoria Street area. The significance of the moon was unknown to us or rather we were more focussed on the treats that we were rewarded with for being well behaved. Treats like freshly baked Hot Cross Buns from the two well-known bakeries around the vicinity “Ah Teng” and “The Red House Bakery”. The other treat would be the Kueh Putu Piring (or Kueh Tutu as it is now known as).

Similarly the dates of Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday vary each year. The former celebrated forty days after Easter, and the latter ten days after the Ascension (50 after Easter).

When Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, you can just imagine the reaction from the different families in the kampong. There was disbelief, taunting and scepticism.

The full or near-full moon was often a blessing if you came home late at night because it lighted your way home. There were no street lights in the lanes leading to our houses. With the moonlight we could avoid the portholes and on rainy days the resultant puddles that were ever so present.

However the moonlight also did cast numerous shadows from the trees and bushes. With movies like “Pontianak” on our minds combined with the fragrant scent of the newly blossomed frangipani flowers walking home usually turned into a quick paced trot.

I guess these days in Singapore, the Moon between coconut palms is only a recollection of some of the older generation. Moonlight between high-rise would be the norm.