Looking back: Senior Singaporeans on how country has evolved

Looking back: Senior Singaporeans on how country has evolved

"SINGAPORE has changed a lot." That was the first thing Mrs Ramathilagam Thanabalan exclaimed when tabla! visited her.

"There are practically no kampung houses anymore. We used to have cows, goats, chickens and ducks walking around. All that changed in the '80s," she reminisced.

Mrs Thanabalan was born in India and came to Singapore at the age of 17, after she married her Singaporean husband. The 56-year-old housewife told us about the many ways in which she has seen Singapore evolve since attaining independence. Along with her, 10 other senior members of the Indian community also shared their reflections.

Transportation and infrastructure

Living near the Equator means that Singaporeans are used to hot weather. But even that has changed, says Ms Shirin Rustom Ghadiali, a Parsi company secretary in her 50s who came to Singapore back in the '70s. "It was just 21 to 23 degrees in the past. Now it's much hotter."

Perhaps that was why our buses were not air-conditioned in the past, as the president of the Hindi Society, Mr Shiw Shankar Pandey, pointed out.

"Buses were not air-conditioned and often used to break down," said the 60-year-old.

"I remember, we used to have only 10 cents as pocket money. Transportation to school used to cost five cents and the other five cents was recess money. So if there was a breakdown, we couldn't take another bus. And if another bus came, it would be very crowded, carrying passengers from another kampung," he added.

Mrs Liza Navaratnam, 90, gave us another insight into history when she said: "In those days we had electric tram cars and it was cheaper to travel."

While they all agreed that the MRT has made life more convenient and is constantly improving with the planning and construction of more rail lines, the stories they shared about taxis shed more light on how transportation has changed.

Said Mr Pandey: "Taxis were private cars, and they wouldn't take us unless there were four or five passengers going to the same destination."

Mr Raghavan Raveendran, who used to work with the Public Works Department and the Port of Singapore Authority and currently runs a consultation business, said taxis were rare, "so they charged as they liked".

On taxis now, the 86-year-old said: "It's standardised and the quality of service is much better. It's also affordable but surcharges and tolls make it a bit costly sometimes."

So what do they feel about the overall changes in the transportation sector?

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