Before the visit and the trail, if I am asked by anyone about Singapore’s history, sadly only two names will appear in my mind: Sir Stamford Raffles and Lee Kuan Yew. I actually had very little understanding about Singapore’s history before the visit and the trail as it has been some time since I visited the museum and Little India. I could only remember bits and pieces about Singapore’s history which were from my secondary school history textbooks.
Through the trail, I realised how ignorant and oblivious I was about Singapore’s past. Little did I know that the places I used to frequent were rich in culture and history. For example, the Tekka Market is a place where my family and I often went and I have never thought or questioned the reason behind its name. However, through the trail I learnt that ‘Tekka’ in Hokkien means ‘bamboo clumps’ which once grew on the banks of Rochor Canal. Hence, when a market was built there, it was named after this plant. Other examples were Buffalo Road and Kerbau Road which actually meant the same thing, as ‘Kerbau’ means ‘buffalo’ in Malay. Both were places where buffaloes were kept as mentioned in our blog. I always felt that if we do not know the history or meaning behind something, for example a name of a place, then we will not be able to see the significance of it and let alone remember it. Therefore, I was glad that through the Little India trail I was able to gain so many new insights. Besides that, I was also captivated by the colourful items and sights there.
There were a few new discoveries which I made on the trail. For me, I did not expect to see a church (Church of True Light) or a mosque (Abdul Gafoor Mosque) or a Chinese temple (Leong San See Temple) in Little India. However, all these could be found in the Little India trail. This reminds me of our national pledge, the sentence “regardless of race, language or religion’ applies here as we can find all the different religions and races coexisting in one place, Little India. For me, one other interesting discovery was the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, which has a majestic 15 metre statue of Buddha surrounded by a never-ending chain of lights. I feel that this temple is very unique and different as it has both Chinese and Hindu devotees. Furthermore, it is also one of the most prominent and widely visited temples in Singapore.
From the visits, I realised that we have not been doing enough to preserve Singapore’s past. Much of Singapore's remaining past is being trashed and discarded in the name of progress. Hence, anyone wandering around Singapore would think that it is one big construction site as everywhere you look, a new shopping centre or high-rise building is in construction or taking shape, and maybe in a few years’ time you may not even recognise the place. Furthermore, I feel that the government’s attempt to retain our heritage is just a cosmetic effort and an effort to attract tourist. Hence, it is not surprising why an increasing number of Singaporeans lack the nationalist spirit.
Nevertheless, I also feel that we cannot have the best of both worlds. There is a need to sacrifice certain things in order to move forward and become the great nation that we are today. Therefore, I think we need to find that balance where we can progress and also retain and preserve Singapore’s past and heritage.
During the visit to the museum, I think that some of the information provided there was insufficient as well as selective, for instance only one small section was dedicated to William Farquhar, the first resident of Singapore, whom I feel was Singapore’s ‘forgotten founder’ as he played a major role in building Singapore from scratch during Sir Stamford Raffles’ absence.
During the trail, I was surprised to learn that I did not even know about most of the historical places in Little India which have information boards that describe and elaborate more about its history. I feel that as we live in a fast pace society, most of us just walk pass these historical places without even stopping to look or recognize its significance and value. Therefore, I feel that the government should create more awareness by publicising these places (e.g. Little India) on television. Interactive online games and virtual tours on websites could also be created to attract the younger generation. As a future teacher, I will also create awareness by sharing my knowledge and experience with my future students and colleagues.
From the trail, I have definitely gained a better understanding about Little India and I will never look at it the same way again. I was able to learn about how Little India came about, the communities that lived there, the common activities that happened there and the types of shops and places of worship that were there and are still there. In addition, another interesting thing that I learnt was about the reasons behind the names of the streets in Little India. For instance, the differing reasons behind why a street was named Hastings Road or Buffalo Road. Unquestionably, Little India is rich in history and culture and I cannot wait to go there again.
From my experience during the trail, I also learnt to be more aware of my surroundings and to question about its past and the reasons for its name or location. I will also use my experience and new knowledge to help me in my future work or assignments. Moreover, I feel that seeing the monuments and historical places first-hand is more impactful and informative to me as a future teacher or historian.
In conclusion, this trail was a very fruitful but exhausting one. I feel that if as adults we were exhausted from the trail then what more as children. Therefore, as a future teacher if I am to plan for this trail I would be very selective about the places I pick. Moreover, I would also think about the safety of the children as some places were along or very near to the main road (e.g. Hasting Road). Furthermore, the timing of the trail would also be essential as it would be very warm in the afternoon. Last but not least, before the trail, I will also have an informative and interesting lesson introducing the places that we are going to visit, so as to ignite the children’s’ interest in the trail and to also teach them on how to behave as we have to be quiet and respectful when visiting the places of worship.