Punggol

13 06 2009

My family visited Punggol at least once a year.  A “sworn sister” of my grandmother resided in the area, and we would pay her a visit during the Lunar New Year. I never really looked forward to the visits to the small attap hut that she lived in with her husband and her daughter, as I never liked the smell of chickens, something one could never get away from where she lived. The Punggol area at that time was where most of Singapore’s pig farms and poultry farms could be found, and my grandmother’s “sworn sister” and her husband were running a chicken farm on behalf of the farm’s owners.

Our visit during the Lunar New Year would normally last an entire day and usually upon our arrival, a plump hen would be picked out from a cage and slaughtered right in front of our eyes. The sight of headless chickens running as if they were running for their lives is still very vivid in my memory. While the adults caught up with each other, I would be left alone in the living room of the hut, with new year goodies set on the pink formica top of a foldable table, to keep me occupied. Sitting alone by myself wasn’t my idea of fun, and there was only so much you could eat! For a city boy, the idea of venturing outside around where not so pleasant smelling animals were wandering around, didn’t seem very appealing as well.  The best I could look forward to was lunchtime, when at least I would have some company.

One Lunar New Year I would remember very well was when I was seven. One of my incisors was loose at that time, not quite ready to fall out yet. Biting into an Ang Ku Kueh, a sticky red coloured cake of glutinous rice skins with filling of green bean paste, I realised that I had swallowed the tooth. A mild panic overtook me and I dashed out immediately to look for my parents. They weren’t quite sure what to do, and it caused me quite a lot of distress over the next two days, before the tooth appeared through the orifice at the other end.

Another thing I remember very vividly of the Punggol area is the sound that punctured the air each evening around 5.30 pm – the squealing chorus of hungry pigs in the adjacent farms literally singing for their supper! 


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