Drawing on S'pore's past

Drawing on S'pore's past

When Mr James Suresh, 59, tried to tell his three children about his growing up years during the 1960s, they had trouble visualising his words.

So he and his long-time friend, illustrator Syed Ismail, 48, wrote an illustrated book about life in Singapore 50 years ago.

Mr Suresh told The New Paper: "Growing up in a modern age, it is hard for (my kids, now 19, 21 and 26) to imagine a Singapore where cows and chickens used to graze around my flat at Margaret Drive.

"Or that I had to share a bed with my three siblings, or board buses with no air-conditioner."


The book, titled Singapore In The 60s, was sponsored by the SG50 Celebration Fund, which supports projects celebrating Singapore's 50th birthday.

The book contains a collection of anecdotes and drawings. It was launched yesterday at Queenstown Primary School, Mr Suresh's alma mater. Most of the 5,000 copies printed will be stocked at school libraries.

Another 50 copies will be given to members of the public through a social media contest. Some copies will also be donated to Mr Suresh's former schools.

Mr Suresh, who works as a corporate trainer, said: "It is a dream come true, to be able to share my childhood stories with the younger generation."

One of the most memorable moments growing up was witnessing a gang fight when he was in primary school. He saw a man use a stool to beat up three of his attackers.

"It was just like those fighting scenes in the gongfu movies," he said with a laugh.

Mr Suresh took about one and a half years to complete the book.

To ensure that the cartoons were as realistic as possible, Mr Syed, a full-time visualiser and illustrator at advertising agency TBWA Singapore, scoured the Internet for pictures of old landmarks.

"Since I was born in the late 60s, I was not very familiar with some of the things Mr Suresh experienced," he said.

"I did research to gain insight on intricate details such as the designs of certain buildings in the Queenstown area (which have since been demolished).

"I tried to inject humour into the drawings, such as through the expressions of the characters. That way, young readers can learn about the past in a fun way."

Mr Suresh's youngest son, who was at the book launch, was "fascinated" by the positive reaction at the launch and he can't wait to read the book.

Said Mr Suresh: "I hope the book will trigger interest among young Singaporeans to learn more about what Singapore was like 50 years ago, and to make them appreciate what they have now."


This article was first published on June 26, 2015.
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