Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Singapore Confidential

I have the whole of Singapore visible, exposed and revealed right outside my window. Its inner secrets, its unspoken desires and aspirations, its sheer ordinariness. HDB blocks are dense, urban flats; 12 - 16 floors of cookie-cutter housing with walls of windows facing each other.

The Heartland.

It's inevitable that you get to know your neighbours really well. Not well enough to know their names or even recognise them on the street, I mean really well, like what colour shorts he wears around the house (beige) and when he does his ironing (Sunday, 5pm). It's enforced voyeurism. Like Rear Window without the optical assistance or dead body.

My fellow-travellers include the Indonesian construction worker on the unfurnished 12th floor who is rarely in and empties whole ashtrays out of the window. The Singaporean mom cornering her son in the second bedroom threatening to hit him with a cane if he doesn't study harder. The nicely decorated (carpeted) 4th floor flat with a huge, white-covered reclining chair in front of the big TV and the work laptop abandoned at the dining room table. The Filipino maid working a constant cycle of washing, hanging up, ironing and folding. The quiet family with the God's table permanently aglow with 2 red bulbs that look like the eyes of a slumbering demon at a bleary 5:30am. Lap dogs following their owners around hoping to be let downstairs so they can chase a stray cat down a drain culvert. Kids screaming until their throat hurts more than the lack of an ice lolly. And below, maids washing their master's car of the city's dust, tired workers slumping their way home, reckless pizza delivery bikes banking around the corners, taxis dropping fares and going on shift, mad joggers and embarrassed husbands with pampered dogs on long leads.

I know these people. Men comfortable, wearing just a pair of shorts and a paunch. Women solving domestic chores in a t-shirt reduced to an grey, non-colour by constant washing. Kids bouncing off soft furnishings. Teenage daughters talking for hours with the boyfriend at the window.

And last but not least, the hairy ang mo watching and typing.