Norashikin's Reflection

Before my trip to Singapore museum and the trail, I could say that my understanding of Singapore history is fairly alright. Maybe because I was exposed to Singapore history since secondary school. However not all of Singapore History that I know of, for example, the history of the shop houses in Singapore, the period in Singapore after Raffles left. All these were unknown to me as the secondary education and textbook did not contain this information and thus I was not exposed to it.

As my trail is on Little India, I knew that Little India was the place specifically for the Indians which Raffles had decided on when he drew the town plan. I had also went for Little India heritage trail during my school days however that was years ago! From what I could recall of Little India during my last trail was the flower garlands makers and the food. To me whenever someone mention about Little India, Tekka and Mustafa Centre would come to my mind.

There were a few things that I have learned about Singapore’s past during the trail. I learned to know about the names of the roads. The streets names were mostly named after British Colonial bungalow dwellers, for example, Dunlop street, Desker road and Norris Street. The trail has also provided me with new insights such as background of historical buildings like temples, shop houses, mosque and church. With the presence of mosque and church, I learned that Little India in the past does not only consists of the Indians but also other races and religion too lived around little India.

Only in the trail that I learned ‘Tekka’ was not a Tamil language but a Chinese dialect. This assumption came about maybe because Tekka is located in Little India and so I happily presume that it is a Tamil word.

This trail has really provided me a lot of information and there were a few ‘a-ha’ moments when I get to learn something new about Little India. Not only has the trail provided me with information but also at the same time clear some of my mistaken beliefs.

New discoveries that I made on the trail is to know the existence of a Chinese villa in Little India. I had never thought that a Chinese businessman would set up a villa in a place that rear cattle. Thus when I got to know about it, it was a shocking moment for me. My thoughts on the villa were; why did he decide to set up the villa in Little India? , how did the villa became a medical and health shop?. I have also made discoveries that most of the shops were family-owned and that parrot-astrology was common among the Indians.

I could say that efforts have been made to preserve Singapore’s past. Most of the buildings in Little India are still shop houses which had been preserved for the future generations to know what shop houses are like. Not only was the preservation of shop houses done but also the places of worship which were built in the past.  However, due to urban development changes were being made to the place itself. The layout of Little India in the past is not the same as now. This would be hard for the future generations to visualise how the layout of Little India in the past was like. Not only hard for the future generations but also include people like me as we did not experience the past.

To preserve the past, the government should not only preserve the buildings but also preserving the past in terms of experience. For example, Little India was a place of cattle and plantations and maybe the government could preserve at least one plantation to allow us to experience how it was like during the past.

What does preserving means? Does it mean that preserving a building is to keep upgrading them to ensure it would look attractive or preserving them means that no changes is to be made to the building and it should be as original as it is? These questions kept popping in my head when I did a comparison of the old photographs with the current building.  

To me preserving would mean to keep it just like it is. However, during the trail I realised that certain buildings have gone through changes with reference to the old photo and the current building. So do we still consider it as preserving? A question that I would need to ponder upon.

This trail has definitely helped me have a better understanding of Singapore history in Little India. It has provided me with many insights of how it was like for the Indian community in the past. It also helped me to keep asking question about what I see and not to accept it as it is.

Nevertheless, this trip with my group members was enriching and fun. Thus I would like my future students to be able to experience the same as what I had. The trail that I had was quite heavy thus for my students I would need to do a selection of places that would really captivate the students’ attention on learning about Little India’s past so as not to strained them. One of the places that I would want my students to definitely experience would be ‘Little India Arcade’ as the building is a preserve building and it is located at four different streets which were named after British officials.

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