Pulau Ubin Stories

Stories, old and new, about Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Conversation with a Mother

This Sunday I am supposed to be going to the Kampong Cooking Class organized by Cookery Magic that is hosted in the authentic kampong home of a lady called Kamariah.

Thus, I decided to give Mdm. Kamariah a call today to introduce myself.

Instead, I was rewarded with a most enlightening and inspiring phone call. I find myself speaking with a peer of my mother and that this conversation with a Ubin mother opened my eyes to the plight of one who is desperately trying to retain a piece of her heritage for her children and her children's children. In fact, listening to her make me remember that everything we do to try to struggle afloat in the torrent of changes on Ubin worthwhile.

The first thing that struck Kamariah is that I sound very young. Indeed, I am about the age of her son. Immediately we established that she is about the same age as my mother, well, a little younger! The home that I will be visiting this Sunday is actually from the time of her grandfather, whom of course is no longer with us on earth. (He would have to be more than a hundred years old if he was alive! My great-grandmother herself passed away more than 20 years ago at more than 90 years of age.)



Image courtesy of Cookery Magic

I begin to see so much similarities in her story. Having about 3 generations on Ubin, and herself born on Ubin, just as my mother. (My mother lived with my grandmother opposite my greatgrandmother. Our entire extended family existed on the island.) The only difference is that she managed to retain her home on Ubin to this day and is struggling to maintain the expensive upkeep of a Kampong house. On the other hand, the last time I saw the shambles that was my mother's home was when I was 10. Surely, it is no more than an overgrown secondary forest now.

She told of the arduous task of having to import every single piece of wood and building material to maintain falling pieces of the house all the way from Singapore to Pulau Ubin. The material and transportation is both expensive and difficult because Ubin no longer has these material. Ironically, from my understanding, it should be rather difficult to get these materials from Singapore as well. They might just be imported! While a family friend on the island complained to my parents of the cost of generators, Kamariah exclaimed that generators are mere luxuries for their family. The cost comes more from maintaining the stability of the structure!


Image courtesy of Cookery Magic

Regardless, she desperately wants to keep her heritage alive for her children (whom I am not sure if they were born on Ubin or not) so that the future generation would still have a piece of their past! How I wish I had their fortunate opportunity of growing up visiting the island home of my mother and grandmother and greatgrandmother when I was young.

However, in some ways, I am glad that my mother is left only with the memories of a happy 12 years old girl. Otherwise to this day, she will have to worry about the maintenance of a home on a dwindling island and a burgeoning financial burden. Perhaps sometimes, an innocent and happy memory is better than an adult one full of responsibilities, fighting against changes with time. Still I know the people are happy but in the deepest recess of my heart, I know neither the city dweller in me nor my mother can adapt to living in a rural kampong again. Too far gone we are indeed.

Against the dwindling population and constant change on the island, I applaud her very much for her desire to maintain this for the future. I feel almost like the child who grew up never knowing wild animals 'cept for pictures and stories looking at the children who grew up having nature in their backyard.

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If you wish to organize group outings or visits to Kamariah's home for a small fee, you can contact her directly at:
email: visit_ubin@hotmail.com
mobile: 91006958

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