Come, sit around me and let me share a story with you. I will not take up much of your time for I have a business to run later. As you can imagine, even recycling business has became very competitive these days. In this trade, we are only as good as our previous day, so there is no time to rest our laurels.
I'm glad you came along. Nobody listens to an old lady these days. Nobody likes old things in our society. I know because I was young once. I was part of the generation they termed 'nation builders'. Just yesterday as I pushed my rusty trolley along the streets, I felt a sense of pride. The Singapore today was built the brothers and sisters of my time. We were the pillars behind the success story, the economic miracle, of Singapore.
We were told that Singapore had no natural resources. The only resource was our people. That would be us, in our time and prime. We believed in the common vision and that Singapore could count on us. We did not disappoint our country. The pseudo motivational discourse inspired so enormously such that we were able to punch way above our weight. We were young, boosted and felt invincible. Each year, we saw how Singapore progress and celebrated with gusto on National Day as one people. We toiled but we were happy, because we knew we were building a place we and our children could all call home.
I overheard a short conversation between two office ladies the other day. They were peering at me over their teacups held by their dainty hands, displaying exquisitely manicured nails.
"Fortunately I have a degree, I don't need to do that when I'm old," quipped one.
"I'll rather die than do that when I'm old loh," the other lady concurred.
I perdured pushing my trolley along, dragging my slippers to rhythm of etiolated wheels against tar. Like any precious resource, each of us has a sell-by date. A human resource is no exception. The luckier ones were sold or claimed before our expiry date. The rest of us were left at the back of the shelf, out of visibility in the best possible arrangement. We were no longer fawned over anymore. No matter, we still have a brittle bone at our backs and would not beg for adulation or assistance from the new society. We were the Nation Builders, the legendary ones.
Last week, my grandson Isaac asked me to pick a tourist attraction of the past or present to write about in his school work. I selected the Musical Fountain of Sentosa. A child being a child, he had to ask why. I gently explained to Isaac that the Musical Fountain was a symbol of our generation. His grandpa and I shared many fond memories at this tourist attraction with his father, who was a child just like him back then. It was a warm feeling to have your grandson presenting something that meant a lot to his grandmother and father.
Little did little Isaac knew that the Musical Fountain cost Singapore $3.2 million to build, as compared with other attractions such as Fantasy Island, Tang Dynasty and Gardens by the Bay which cost $54 million, $100 million and $1 billion respectively. Fantasy Island operated for 8 years and the Tang Dynasty for 15 years before they were demolished for better projects. It is anyone's guess how long Gardens by the Bay will be around. If it is anything as long as our humble Musical Fountain, which was still drawing in the crowds before it had to finally make way for the construction of Resort World, I would not be alive to witness it. The Musical Fountain operated for 25 years.
Like the Musical Fountain, the people of my generation contributed at least 25 years of our prime serving Singapore. We were cheap and good. Like the Musical Fountain, there is a time to go, a time to be forgotten. At the darkest corner of the bottom shelf, conveniently out of visibility, we are all waiting.
Someday, the ladies with nice nails will realise that they are the same as the likes of myself in my time. They are not special in their own generation. They will understand, because someday, they will be wearing this pair of shoes. I'll be leaving them behind when it is my time to leave.
Mr Nix Chan