Friday, March 26, 2010

从1949延伸.....(十一)泰麟之红灯码头

印象中童年的红灯码头(Clifford Pier)是个繁忙的港口,自1933年使用以来,便担负着海路运输迎来送往的重要使命。后来随着时代的发展,新加坡兴建起更加庞大而现代化的港口,红灯码头的任务简化成为小型游船服务,往返南部岛屿之间。

(1960年代市区鸟瞰图)

由于近在咫尺的Johnston's Pier(1854-1933)年久失修,殖民地政府在1927年开始动工兴建红灯码头来取代。据说1933年6月3日红灯码头开幕时,被本地商人抵制,要求恢复原名。至于Clifford Pier的俗名红灯码头,原自指引船只靠岸用的一盏红灯。

(1890年代的Johnston Pier)


(1890年代的Johnston Pier)


(1900年代的Johnston Pier)


童年时从住家沿着新加坡河畔一路走来,码头海边是一整列印度人茶摊,沿着海堤摆放着木凳木桌,一杯一毛钱的拉茶,今晚的风伴随着明天的梦,就这样坐落一个夜晚。

那个年代生活简单从容,不需要花太多心思去讨生活,也不需要花太多时间去应付读书考试。春天不是读书天,夏日炎炎正好眠,等到秋来冬又至,收拾书包好过年。成绩好坏都是一天,转眼间年终假期到,开学便是高一年级的老大哥了。

小五读地理,老师说新加坡就在赤道附近,我问老师看得见赤道吗?不晓得老师是否以为我在故意抬杠,不然就是没听书了。他叫我去红灯码头看海,看看赤道是什么形状,什么颜色的。我问泰麟,他反问我到底“吃到”什么?当晚如常坐在码头边,商船停泊在码头外,海面金光粼粼,无论我多努力,还是看不清赤道的模样。

下一节课再问老师,老师没好气,同学们哄堂,我依旧不明就里。泰麟说或许他当年乘船来新加坡曾经经过赤道这个地方,不过晕船得实在太厉害,昏昏沉沉,适应颠簸的船上生活时已经接近红灯码头了。他说下次带我乘船,我们一块儿看赤道去。

1949年的红灯码头外观和1970年代相似,倒是珊顿道为新加坡的海岸线缔造都市的神话。当年新客乘着接驳船在红灯码头上岸,走一段短短的路程就可到达福安栈。福安栈在大坡大马路,芳林公园斜对面,今天的大东方保险大厦。讲粤语的新客多由福安栈接待,在客栈小住后,便开始客工生涯。
(1960年代的红灯码头)

(1970年代红灯码头鸟瞰图)

如今问起泰麟当年的新客是否也面对移民,融合等问题所困扰?泰麟不以为然。大家都是黄皮肤,因血缘、地缘、业缘而相知相遇,大家缘在异乡,风雨同舟,为了生活也为了将来,能够三餐温饱,遮风挡雨就好了。至于异族同胞,学会几句巴刹马来话就可以沟通。移民与融合是知识分子的问题,不是一般平民老百姓的问题。

60年风风雨雨,似水流年中我们一家子已经有了第三代。第一代落地生根,接下来一代代血脉相承,都是新加坡人,唱着同一首国歌。此情此景,大家本是同根生,没有所谓的移民与融合。说穿了解不开的是心结,一旦敞开心扉,世上本无事,庸人自扰之。

2006年4月1日,随着红灯码头的红灯被移往滨海南码头,使用了73年的红灯码头正式走入历史。今天面对着失修的红灯码头,海上的景观已经完全改变,视野不再辽阔。蓦然回首,想找回一点隐约尘封的记忆,我竟然认不得童年,泰麟也认不得曾经熟悉、第一次踏上新加坡这片土地的地方。滚滚红尘中数十载人世游,繁华也罢,沧桑也罢,原来不过是挥一挥衣袖,不带走一片云彩。

Friday, March 19, 2010

从1949延伸.....(十)泰麟之水仙门

泰麟对上一篇博文High Street Story中的照片,从乍看之下的浮光掠影到后来慢慢印象回流,是一个回忆的过程。

http://navalants.blogspot.com/2010/03/high-street-story.html

High Street Story追述的是上世纪七十年代的点滴,年华似水,转眼已近四十载;对我而言似乎恍如昨日的一情一景,对泰麟来说是将近半世纪前的经历。随着年华老去,过去已经显得模糊,每一段回忆都不再那么顺手摘来。

提起High Street(谐街),泰麟回忆起“水仙门”。记得小时候为泰麟写信封粘邮票,寄信回唐山,信封背后便写上“新嘉坡水仙门二马路……”。今天,“水仙门”已经逐渐在人们的脑海里消失,听得懂水仙门的,大概已届人间白头了。

当年问泰麟我们居住的地方是二马路(禧街,Hill Street),可是为什么不叫大坡二马路也不叫小坡二马路,偏偏叫水仙门二马路?还有在学校,新加坡的加,是加减乘除的加,写信回中国,却得用嘉奖的嘉?

地方俗名自有其神采之处。二马路这么一条长路,贯穿新加坡河的两岸,从大坡四排埔到小坡加冷,邮差要找到这个地方非常困难;水仙门二马路就不同了,它把二马路的范围缩小到谐街一带,送信找人都方便得多。原来如此!

(1846年城市地图)

严格说来,新加坡河是大坡小坡的分水岭。站在爱仁桥上(Eugene Bridge),桥的南岸是大坡,桥的北岸是小坡,短短的爱仁桥,在当年莱佛士城市规划蓝图中举足轻重。水仙门在河的北岸,自然属于小坡。不过历史与民情却不把是非黑白分得这么清楚,水仙门有名气,自成一格,不归属于大坡与小坡,成为两坡之间的灰色地带。

(1872年,从福康宁山上看谐街,直通海边)


(1880年,谐街靠海地方有家欧式酒店)

泰麟在这个灰色地带生活了三十年,但也已经离开这个灰色地带三十年。年少初到水仙门学印刷,从学徒做起,一步一脚印,每个月十元工资,印刷厂提供工人的伙食。

(散仔房的基本格局)

(德盛印刷所,泰麟走过的岁月)


(水仙门,1972年)

住宿方面,当年流行搭房,称为“散仔房”,其实就是包租公在楼梯口做个隔间,再分层做床位,出租给单身人士。大家都是江湖客,说不上什么居住环境与卫生。以今日的生活标准,“七十二家房客”式的生活并没有给予人权最基本的尊重;但以当日离乡背井的心态来衡量,有什么比得上一个能够遮风挡雨的鸟窝?

大环境改变了都市的生活风貌,也把“水仙门”这个百多年老字号送入历史。

附注:吴庆辉在《新加坡文史达人》中提到水仙门的由来:

http://blog.omy.sg/sgstory/archives/903

水仙门这本地华人地名俗称很大可能是跟福建泉州市的旧地名有关, 早在宋代在泉州设市舶司(管理港务的机关)时,海关设在南薰门内,南薰门又名水门或水仙门,那里因附近一座水仙宫得名。


水仙宫, 供奉的是水仙尊王(水仙王),是贸易商人和船员的海上保护神之一。各地供奉的各有不同,但以善于治水的禹为主。


我的看法是”水仙门“于是成为泉州的上岸入口的代称,随着海洋贸易的展开,到了明代在马六甲也有一处”水仙门“的俗称, 19世纪新加坡开埠后这民间对登陆口岸的俗称也来跟着来到新加坡。

Friday, March 12, 2010

High Street Story

During the 2010 budget debate, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan (MBT) recounting his childhood years growing up in various housing types (The Straits Times. Mar 6, 2010),

'When I was young, I lived in various places with my mother, who was a domestic servant. I lost my father when I was three years old, so we moved around a lot.

We stayed in a kampong in Lorong Ah Soo, …..I still remember where the kampong house was…..Then we moved to a shop house in High Street. My mum was working for a High Street merchant at that time. Today, that is where the MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) and MOF (Ministry of Finance) are (in The Treasury building)…..’

High Street, Sunday morning, 1977

You may not agree on his way of managing housing. You may also wonder if he could score another decisive victory in his political career if so decided to serve another term. However, MBT had worked hard and pulled himself out of poverty. His story is also the common story of many local of my generation.

MBT implemented a series of controversial public housing policies in the mid 2000s e.g. reduced the resale levy and relaxed the occupancy rules. The changes would possibly serve the multiple frontiers: (1) They aimed at the "upgraders" in order to generate more income for HDB; (2) solve the over supply problems in some remote areas such as Jurong West; (3) attract a critical mass to those under-development sectors like Punggol; (4) fulfill other economical and political agenda such as sustaining the domestic construction and renovation industries, and winning votes from the heart-landers.

In so doing, MBT broke away from the long-standing guiding principle of providing affordable public housing for the mass and ventured into high-end products. The public housing is closing the gap with the private. To show his support, PM Lee had been repeatedly telling the public that this move enabled a steady housing price appreciation and cumulated wealth for our citizen.

The series of new policies were like a double-edge sword. In the budget debate, MBT attempted to explain the housing price hike was not due to the popular reasons cited by many people. He used various statistics to show that the influence from PR and investors were insignificance. Realistically, HDB had to battle with many evolving challenges. Apart from unreasonable expectations from the youth, there was an overhang of 31,000 unsold flats following the 1997-98 Asian currency collapse. It took a decade to clear that. Pent-up demand after the 2003 SARS period and the 2008 banking meltdown created what now appears to be a supply shortfall.

The recent open criticism from MM Lee led to a series of market cooling measures from MBT. However, it was not certain if the cooling measures were drawer plans that prepared much earlier, or they were established and implemented as a result of the wakeup call.

MM Lee's criticism may also be viewed as a political move of dissociating the government from MBT. It had successfully directed the people's attention to MBT. However, looking at how the government functions, it is rather difficult to imagine that important issues like housing which affects most of the Singaporeans was decided by an individual and not the collective brains in the cabinet.

Back to the lighter moment. High Street ( 谐街) had provided me some fond memories in the 1970s. I stayed in Hill Street (禧街) directly opposite today’s MITA Building. MITA Building was a Police Station cum living quarters. It housed the Provost Unit for a few months in the early 1970s before returning back to the Police Force.

High Street Scene 1972

High Street was just a few ten metres away from where my family of six stayed. In the late 1960s to 1970s, High Street was a busy shopping district. It was like Orchard Road, or perhaps a mini Oxford Street of London. Sincere Watch, one of the public listed companies today, was first established at the corner of High Street and North Bridge road. Emporium (东风百货公司, belonged to the Emporium Group 英保良集团) opened in 1967, occupying another corner of High Street and North Bridge road directly opposite Sincere Watch. Emporium imported China products. Even the uniforms put up by the sales staff (white top and pink skirt) were very Chinese.

Although internet did not exist in that era, High Street No 86 Melwani’s Men’s Shop had already connected itself well with the globe, selling men wear from all around the world except China.

No 86 Melwani's men's shop, linking itself with the world

There were many other shops along High Street selling beautiful Indian Sari. These shops also carried interesting Chinese names such as 企企哈里(K K Harjani) and 祥加士(M Kishin). I collected international stamps from them and exchanged with schoolmates. The stamp albums continued to grow until my childhood was over. They also reflected how well these entrepreneurs had linked themselves up with the various continents.


High Street - Dominated by Indian merchants, 1972

Metro (美罗) was situated at the heart of High Street and attracted big crowds in the busy afternoon. The departmental store closed at night and on Sunday. High Street was quiet after seven, only Emporium provided night life (up to 9pm) for the residents.

High Street after 7pm. 1971

Vicky Dutton, fashion designer and model told Her World in July 1964, “The woman who dresses with a difference is one who chooses materials, colour and cut of her clothes, her hairstyle, her jewels all to match a sense of personal uniqueness.”

High Street was trendy. You could discover the fashion. Fashion was not limited to the mini-skirts for the ladies. The thick frame spectacles worn by the men also recounted the lost era of 1970s.


High Street Fashion (1), 1971

High Street fashion (2), 1971
High Street Fashion (3), 1972

Friday, March 05, 2010

从1949延伸.....(九)泰麟之月光光

(泰麟,国昌与他的小儿子Max,和我。我家一角)

人对第一次的印象总是格外深刻。我儿时学会的第一首广东童谣“月光光”还深深烙印在脑细胞里:


月光光,照地堂。年卅晚,摘槟榔。
槟榔香,摘子姜。子姜辣,买蒲突。
蒲突苦,买猪肚。猪肚肥,买牛皮。
牛皮韧,买张刀。刀背薄,买菱角。
菱角尖,买马鞭。马鞭长,买只羊。
羊沉底,沉死佐两只番鬼仔,
一只浮头,一只沉底。

多年以后,把童谣转授给儿子。专家说两三岁的小孩语文学习能力特强,我也感觉到这一点。儿子两岁时学了两遍便琅琅上口,把七十九个字串联成的“月光光”一字不漏地朗读出来,还使我误以为家里多了个天才儿童。

“月光光”其实挺好记的,它提供环环线索,通过联想的方式逐句追寻下去便记住了。五岁时,小朋友竟然把歌词忘得七七八八,天才梦碎。有人说正规教育使孩子失去联想力与创造力,同时制造就业机会,通过专业辅导来重新唤起他们的潜能。经济满分,生产力零蛋。

现在问起儿子,他反问我“月光光,照地堂”是什么意思。气煞!

沙地上的秋千与跷跷板,你一句我一句的方言儿歌,月下提灯可是我们这一代最珍贵的童年啊!

(少年时期的泰麟)

在小孩心中,大人都是很了不起的,他们见识广博,万事皆通,天塌下来当被盖。于是我问泰麟什么是槟榔,什么是蒲突,什么是番鬼仔,为什么番鬼仔又浮又沉?至于菱角我吃过,中秋节的食品。菱角壳是黑黝黝的,把外壳敲开,白肉带点淡黄,味道倒不觉得怎么样。

泰麟对槟榔,蒲突,番鬼仔都没兴趣,倒是对月光情有独钟。1938年,日军经香港入广州,在当地汉奸的带领下,顺利占领鹤山。听说是日军杀到,村民都匆匆携老带幼,往山野逃去。

在非凡时期,没受过军训的乡下佬也具备行军的意识。逃难最避忌的是月光。皎洁明月的晚上,把大地照得一片光亮,军机在头顶来回盘旋,找个安全的藏身之所就更困难了。漆黑的环境反而更适合生存。

我问泰麟逃难时期最刻骨铭心的事,他寻思片刻,不是枪杆子也不是什么大英雄,而是二十来岁的哑巴。

那晚虫声唧唧,哑巴提着灯笼走过田埂,朝着茅坑的方向走去。负责守夜的壮丁连忙喊着他,要他把灯笼给熄了,以免暴露行踪。哑巴也是个天生的聋子,对外界的声音毫无所闻,灯笼一摇一晃,像极天上的明月。

哑巴是同一船上的落难者,本来就该同舟共济,要不然就不会带着他一起逃到深山野岭了。大家在同一条村子生活,看着哑巴长大,照顾哑巴是人情。在此非常时期,哑巴也是一个负累,他的沟通能力与无知,随时会断送全村人的性命。鱼与熊掌,该如何取舍?唉!

大人们聚首咬耳,在叹气声中取得共识。月黑之夜,几个壮丁扛着工具,拖着哑巴的手,渐行渐远。隐隐约约中哑巴似乎还回首向大家挥挥手,在田埂尽头消失了,大家心情一片落寞。夜半时分,壮丁们回来了,只少了哑巴。

久而久之,大家都似乎忘记了生命中曾经出现过哑巴这个人物。