It was a beautiful Sunday at Bedok. A Chinese orchestra was in position and about to perform on stage at the swank new Heartbeat@Bedok – a community hub incorporating a library, fitness centre, swimming pool, dance/music studios, activity rooms, eateries etc. We have mega churches in Singapore. We should also have mega community centres. These hives of activity should be promoted by the Singapore Tourism Board as part of being Uniquely Singapore. I’m sure that visitors to Singapore can learn a great deal more about contemporary Singapore from a weekend activity like this than taking pictures in front of the Merlion.
But this was no simple community event. The planning alone must have caused many grassroots leaders to lose their hair and the execution may have caused some to lose their minds. Imagine the seating arrangements, the order of arrival, crowd control … But the first thing that struck me was the airport security. The VIP seating area has been cordoned off with the only entrance guarded by uniformed policemen.
Happily, only a privileged a few had the honour of going through a security check to watch a Chinese orchestra performance from a more favourable position. I was just passing by on my way to the library and nobody dragged me through the “boarding gate” to fill the empty seats. I guessed that empty as they might be, they must have all been “choped”.
The rest of the audience (with no “boarding passes”) were seated behind and awarded the honour of fruitful waiting. Notice how anxious they are, waiting for their idols – except that this is no ordinary concert and the idols won’t be performing on stage.
And just as I was about to scratch my head, wondering what could make so many people go through all this, I noticed the free drinks and snacks distributed to snaking queues of hungry/thirsty people. I still scratched my head. Then, as I was going down the escalator from the library, a security guy stopped me in my tracks. The descending escalator had to be kept empty for the ascending folks, all dressed in red, smiling and talking among themselves. Perhaps they were worried that I would be so awe-struck by the presence of these idols that I would injure myself while reaching out to shake their hands. How thoughtful and considerate of them.
It was a rather rewarding experience that I would recommend to any tourist who wishes to know what makes Singapore tick. A simple event made so complicated really sums up all the little paradoxes that make Singapore, as we know it, so unique.
© Chan Joon Yee