Have you ever…?

Have you ever tried to work? Write. Edit. Format. Or even sleep? But there’s this incessant sound that cuts into your consciousness?

It’s not loud. But it’s constant. Like water dripping drop by drop into a metal basin in the still of the night.

There’s this group of old men who should know better but do not care, who play draughts in a public space in the HDB estate, where I live.

They hog public walkways. So if you need to walk or even manoeuvre a wheelchair, you need to walk around them. They will not budge.

The law enforcement, town council, MP and police have left them alone for years, that it appears they think they own the space.

It is strange because it would have been easy to move them from the space, I would think, as they congregate in large numbers. Definitely more than five at a time, which is considered an unlawful assembly in Singapore. Yet, they have been allowed to fester.

My friend said five of her students were chased away from the void deck by the police when they were quietly doing their homework.

Why have these people been allowed to plague a once peaceful and lovely neighbourhood?

By and large, they have been playing at the covered walkways, nearer to where the shops are situated. At one time, they practiced follow-the-sun customer service hours and played 24 by 7, in turns; they kept their furniture and paraphernalia stacked up along the covered walkway.

To be fair, the Town Council did get them to move their paraphernalia. But since the Town Council only has jurisdiction over the covered walkway, the men are now stacking their chairs behind the shops. They are cleverer it appears. They have found a loophole. Park the stuff outside of the jurisdiction of the Town Council. Which agency is in charge of that space? NEA? PUB? Seeing as how they are still flourishing without restraint, no one has bothered.

Lately, a small group has started to encroach into spaces nearer to the residents. Think below my window.

They are playing draughts. So what do you think the sound could be?

The sound that has been cutting through my consciousness? The sound that has been shattering my thoughts? The sound that has been dispersing ideas and taking away words that were trying to form into sentences?


You get the picture?

It’s the sound they make when they strike the draught pieces on to the board and rap them into place. They do not even attempt to mask the sound by sliding the pieces on the board.

Every time you feel a sentence forming, tak…tak…tak…tak…

Every time you even feel sleep drifting in, tak…tak…tak…tak… Ask my parents.

The worse thing when you already feel exasperated and defenceless is when the people who should be helping you, think of you as the problem.

One Town Council GM even wrote back to me to say that I should think of this as “gotong royong” spirit. Hmmm… I wonder how this is helping one another?

The police, very politely say they can only try to talk to them. To their credit, they do. But it does little good – Talking. They shall return.

So what gives? These folks are congregating in large numbers (more than five) without a permit? And you will politely speak with them? You send students quietly doing homework, packing and you leave this assembly?

People, these days, seem to leave the “small” issues unattended as there are bigger fish to fry.

I wonder if the bigger fish happen because we do not attend to the small issues.




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