Su-chen Christine Lim's Description of Jurong

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University; Distinguished Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore, 1998-1999

Their bus sped along the broad straight road to Jurong, the new industrial estate. Marie shut her eyes; its newness was painful to see. Its mantle of green had been stripped off leaving the raw wound of red brown laterite. The land had been dug up, churned over and bulldozed so that piles of earth rose like painful boils all along the sides of the road, stretching inland as far as the new blocks of twenty-storey flats -- the only landmark for miles around. Stretching toward the new town were these great heaps of red brown earth placed almost equidistant from each other. Their bus passed mound upon mound of such porous red soil on which nothing edible grew, only tough coarse bullgrass, lallang and those tropical trees, shrubs and creepers which thrived in harsh sunlight and torrential rains. These had been the secondary jungles and swamps of Jurong, Paul would say, urging her to be realistic.

This was their land.

No lush green fields of padi would grow here.
No plantations of rubber and swaying palms
would thrive here.
It had been mile upon mile
of lallang, jungle and swamp.
This was their land.
Nothing much.
Nothing to be proud of.
Their land, poor in natural resources.

In the distance, out of the levelled laterite rose block upon block of flats and factories. As her bus entered the new town, Marie was greeted by broad straight roads designed to facilitate vehicular traffic to speed the movement of goods and people from one point to another. But she saw only a too neat division into squares and oblongs even though the planners had tried to soften such hard uniformity by planting trees along every roadside. Ah, Paul, can't you see?

This was the new land.
Jurong New Town the product of your kind of planning. No wild green things allowed to grow here. No jungle and its ever-present creepers allowed to thrive here.
Mile upon mile of concrete and asphalt fending them off.
Jurong New Town was aesthetically dead, boring.
Where was the variety? Where was the beauty?
Where was the memory of human spontaneity?[156-56]


Su-chen Christine Lim. Rice Bowl [1984], Singapore: Times Editions, 1991.

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Su-chen Christine Lim