Mnemozine Issue 1, October 2011

Page 25



step out the house you feel very cramped in. So we go out and take a walk. It was very hard getting used to it an ee I also noticed that you talked about National Service in your blog, any fond memories there? Can’t be all bad memories right? mr lam Yeah. I think you should know. Even the bad memories are nice when you recall how shiong those days were. Thinking back is fun, [both laugh] and of course there are a lot of very strong memories.

Mr Lam and friend, Barney. In the background is his family’s old kampong house off Lorong Chuan.

an ee Is there anything in Singapore that has remained the same over the years? mr lam Physically very little but perhaps the behavior of people. For example, during our time buses only had one door. So you enter and exit from the same door, so many people don’t want to go right to the end because when you go to the end, you cannot come out, very difficult. So everybody will hang around the entrance, and the fierce bus driver will shout, “Masuk Dalum! Masuk Dalum! Ao buey bo gui ar!” (Move inside! There aren’t any ghosts at the back!) [Laughter from both of us] mr lam So some things never change. an ee Are there any particular memories that you are most fond of? mr lam Kampong days. Those days we don’t even have TV. So growing up in the kampong, we will go around catching fighting fish and we have a lot of ponds in the kampong. Fishing, catching spiders, all kinds of stuff kids do to entertain themselves. The memories are very strong. an ee What about your experiences of moving into a HDB, am I right to assume that you moved into a HDB after your kampong days? mr lam The feeling, it is like a big change. I remembered when I moved into the HDB flat and the first night it rained, I found it very different. You don’t hear the sound of the rain hitting the roof. Also if I stayed indoors for the whole day, I felt very uncomfortable. If you don’t

Our time, it was very different in terms of physical landscape and that is the one thing that I will miss. Nowadays most of the trainings in Singapore are in very confined areas, our time we were right in the middle of the kampongs, we were running around in the kampongs and a lot of these places are gone. For example, in Marsiling, the hills, the farms, the landscape are totally gone now. When we did our defense camp, and when we went up Hill 180, the terrain was so different. We could see the causeway, it was so beautiful at night. Now we have no chance to see it again. an ee Can you recall what it was like to enlist? mr lam Of course, the last page of my upcoming book talks about it. So after JC, I was getting ready to enlist, the feeling is the same, very sian. But during our time we were more fearful because the stories were very frightening. The training was very physically shiong and it was almost like being sent to a concentration camp. We went to CMPB and they loaded all of us into the tonners and off you go, but now the Army is better, the SAF will reassure the parents that their boys are in good hands. And today’s army is an intelligent army, they use touch screen technology now whereas in the past we used logbooks for artillery calculations. an ee One last question. Do you think there is any value in learning from the past? mr lam If you do not know the past, how would you know who you are and where you have been to? I think for you who are studying history, you should know. We may not be able to articulate exactly why, but intrinsically we know there is value in it. an ee Thanks. Mr. Lam runs ‘Good Morning Yesterday’ at, and will be releasing a book soon.

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