Pieced Back From That Bright Light
Pushing my bike out from the area undecided where to go next, my eyes caught a distant sight of something very familiar, a sight that triggered more pleasant memories that carved a smile on my face.
It was a familiar structure, a landmark of sorts then but of distant memory now.
My mind had imprinted this structure since I was in school, living in a village. The kids passed by the huge structure every school going days. It was painted in white with red checked rectangles then, it is still the same color which heightened my joy upon seeing it.
It is a water tank, the most interesting part of the whole water reservoir structure. That tank serves to hold many of my childhood memories as far as I am concern.
I made my way towards the structure but obscurity crept in the more I came closer to it. Navigating dead ends, the tall trees and buildings served as obstacles that hid it from view.
It proved to be not an easy route… but added a cloud of mystery to it nevertheless on a clear and hot day. I had to follow the monsoon drain when the road came to a dead end and ventured to new but secluded roads that provided me temporary relief from uncertainty.
With every stride and huff of my breath maneuvering the undulating route, I thought I was coming closer to my childhood treasure chest but I soon discovered my bearing was way off and I had overshot my intended destination.
Fortunately before the disappointment set in, I sighted what was to be another familiar sight that made me paused for a while as if in a trance on my bike, sweat dripping off my forehead.
I Saw My Village...
I had a little trouble recalling where that structure fit in my childhood memories because the newly built road was unfamiliar. Neither was the prominent road sign “To KPE Tunnel" gave any help to associate but bewildered me more.
When my eyes caught the sight of the old airport building, the memories came back to me like gushing cool spring water on a hot afternoon day. It was refreshing it made me smile again when I realized that I was in the vicinity of my childhood Mecca.
The control tower-like structure is actually the water reclamation plant… well, not the water I would like splashed on me, but nonetheless happy to have found it again.
The road once led to the then Paya Lebar Airport, converted since to an air force base for the RSAF. The familiar sight of the old airport building now painted navy blue was its control tower… a clean, modern building back then in contrast to the old, often dilapidated looking shops and kampong houses in its vicinity.
As a child, I would see that structure towered over the trees along Airport Road whenever my village friends and I went jogging along the road, with the airport arrival hall as our destination before heading back to our rural lives.
Back in those innocent and naïve kampong boy days, I always thought the structure was some kind of a secret government UFO facility, being so close to the airport... a port for the aliens like “Men In Black.” Now it reminds me of the Seattle Space Needle... but of course none like its glamor and majesty... and intended use.
I enjoyed the cool shades provided by the rain trees planted along both sides of the long and straight stretch of road. Like a boulevard, it was pleasant being there at any time of the day. Cold, misty and quiet in the early hours of the morning... the road void of traffic.
Cool and breezy in the middle of the day with birds of different kinds singing their hearts out, competing with the sound of passing vehicles. It then turned to a classy-looking road, golden to the tint of the street lights like a leafy tunnel leading to the brightly lit control tower building at the end.
It was the standard of development set back then that is now common place throughout the island.
I Spy With My…
Paddling uphill, I revisited by childhood place with distant memories but the creaky knees and the lack of stamina reminded me of my present old self.
Panting, I reached the front gate of the RSAF Museum.
Although it was open to public, I could not help but felt that I would be mistaken for some kind of terrorist reconnaissance, snapping photos to the sensitive sites of the air force. I kept expecting someone to approach to stop and ask my intentions for being there.
Nothing of the sort happened, fortunately. It was just my overactive imagination… maybe the rekindled child in me at that moment, but most probably because of the heat.
Snapping all “non-sensitive” photos of the area and subjects that caught my eye, like a tourist, I left the place as fast as I came.
Now, for that water tank. I thought to myself... plotting my route with my instincts since nothing was familiar except for the childhood landmarks.
To be continued...