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Being an Eastie my whole life (save for the holidays which I spent in my grandmother’s old Tiong Bahru SIT flat that I should’ve appreciated more when I had the chance to), my heart looks back fondly on the places I used to know as a child.
The market at Bedok South opposite my alma matter, TJC, is one of them. As a child, my mother did her weekend shopping in the wet market here, and we would always have brunch at the adjoining hawker center with it’s cheap 50 cent ‘hei bai’ of soya bean and grass jelly, $2 yong tau foo, bak chor mee and char kuay teow.
Opposite the hawker center is a line of shophouse flats, and in that line of shophouses there were a couple of convenience stalls I was well acquainted with as a child, as they sold those lovely old school biscuits from the tin. At $6 a kilo, I could get 100grams of those gem biscuits we all ate as children for a mere 60 cents.
I was in the area a couple of weeks ago capturing footage for our Thisishome submission, and asked the aunty manning the shop for permission to capture a few shots of the biscuits tins. She immediately told me to go ahead, and not just to shoot the biscuits, but to shoot whatever I wanted, because in a few months time, the store would be no more. They were closing down, she said. The business had been unprofitable for too long and sentimentality could not make up for the monetary losses of keeping the shop going.
They were kind enough to allow me to wander around the old, concrete confines of their small space, this mother and her two sons. They had finished packing most of their second floor in preparation for, I was told, renovations that were to begin the day after I popped by, so I guess I came at just the right time.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do now. I don’t think my mother even thought about that when she decided to sell the shop,” one of her sons said quietly to me in Chinese when his mother was not around.
It was sad to know that one of the few places I could get these biscuits straight from a tin was going to disappear. In fact, it was probably the only place I knew I could get the biscuits (I am aware there are others, I’ve been told that there’s one in Whampoa). These biscuits accompanied me even as a JC student. My classmates and I would buy them during lunch to survive the dullness of afternoon lessons, not-so-secretly eating them in class when we shouldn’t have been. But those were good memories of good days.
If anyone is interested, this shop is at Bedok South, opposite the hawker center.
They said they’ll be closing their shutters for good by June as they’ve already leased the space to a new tenant. If like me, there are some of you out there whose childhood memories include this humble space in Bedok South, you might want to drop by before it disappears like much of the old shopfronts from this passing generation.
Sometimes you don’t feel yourself getting older, till you realize that many of the things you once overlooked and took for granted in your earlier years, are now increasingly difficult to find.