Singapore, May 2011: I knew that I had to visit the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. This would probably be the last visit for me before the building stop operating as the railway station that I had once known very well, during a time in my life when I made many trips on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route.
It was late morning. The station was quite empty, the most obvious folks were there snapping photos, rather than the travelers.
I was doing the same, seeing for the first time some details that I had missed while hurrying to catch a train, or rushing to go home after disembarking from the train.
I wanted to snap a photo of myself with the ticket counter behind me. I approached a woman and her teenaged son for their help. They were happy to oblige.
The boy took a photo of me with my digital camera, but he was not happy with it. With youthful enthusiasm, he asked me to pose for another one.
It occurred to me that youth and train journeys share a common quality. They symbolize adventure and new discoveries. And that’s the way it should be.
Some of the train journeys of my youth held that adventure. On train journeys with friends, there were lots of laughter and funny, kooky observations as we hovered around the threshold of adulthood. A train ride with my father created a quiet, peaceful kind of bonding. And the train rides taken alone were early experiments in independence. When there was a shift in our family structure, though, some train journeys became tinged with more complicated emotions than just adventure.
I heard and read that many Singaporeans have taken a final train ride to Malaysia before the tracks would be closed for good in July. A friend suggested that we take such a ride. Sounded like a logical thing to do, but I didn’t have a strong desire to do so. Perhaps, it’s because the many trips are somehow still fresh in my memory. I can recall the feel of the seat, the chugging vibrations of the train’s movements, and looking out of the windows with their slightly murky panes.
And somehow, the station, rather than the train, seems to play a bigger role in my imagination today.
Walking out of the entrance, I passed the taxi stand. It was still situated where it had always been all these years. I stood there for a while. And I could see the scene during the station’s heyday when the taxi line was long with the returning passengers, eager to catch a taxi onwards to the comforts of home.
Then I left the station and started walking towards the bus stop. This time, I had no baggage.
Goodbye to a long-standing landmark. Captured in my camera, and in the pages of my personal history.