Kampong Spirit

People often lament how modern Singapore has lost its kampong (rough translation: village) spirit, that cameraderie and sense of extended family that comes from living in close proximity with your neighbours. Since most of us live in apartment blocks, we rarely see, let along talk to our neighbours anymore – I know I don’t. For most of us, the people who live next door to us are strangers, not friends. All is not lost, however.

I was sitting at a kopitiam (coffeeshop) with my friend on Sunday afternoon, when a car drove by at high speed honking its horn continuously. I wondered what it was all about, until I saw the parking warden, whom he had preceded by bare seconds, begin to park his scooter, and all the people whose cars were illegally parked by the coffeeshop rushing to move their cars. Our anonymous driver’s act of altruism had given them a few seconds more of warning, much appreciated by the crowd at the coffeeshop. Less appreciated was the poor parking warden, who was booed by a particularly boisterous group of men, despite being fairly generous (he actually waited for people to move their cars before ticketing the ones left). In one 10 minute stretch, the crowd demonstrated that kampong spirit, good or ugly, was still alive in Sinagpore, just in a slightly different guise.

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