Everyday Walks: A Patch of Green Sky

By Amanda Lim and Jocelyn Chng

On one of her daily walks, CCP participant Amanda Lim (one half of a duo with Jocelyn Chng) reflects on the tensions that arise from the contestation of an empty grass field near where she lives—a space that is both a harbour for dreams of economic prosperity and a constant burial ground for the widely sought after “kampung spirit”.

Photo contributed by Amanda Lim

This is one of my favourite public spaces. It appears unremarkable—just a grass field bordered by roads and HDB flats; and occasionally, a random temporary structure appears, vacillating between stages of construction and deconstruction, like a person perpetually in a cycle of dressing and undressing.

On most days in the year, this grass field remains green. A well-trodden path cuts across a corner of this field, stretching from the main road to the train station like a scar marking a caesarean delivery. Thankfully, no ‘baby’ has been delivered—yet. My grass field remains green and fertile, growing with gusto. It welcomes my feet with its soft soils, lightly crunching beneath my shoes and fresh with the smell of dew. It is my hope and desire that this field remains a field, green and untamed and full of surprises and empty; as a space.

More than a handful of years back, a flyer appeared in my mailbox telling me of the wonderful future my grass field would have, if it gave birth to a mixed-use commercial-cum-residential development housing, an underground carpark and bus interchange, which led straight to the underground train station. It would bring public transportation right to the literal doorsteps of its residents, resulting in ultra-convenience for modern living and valuable private properties for investment. Who in their logical opportunist mind would resist such a proposition? It was a unilateral decision; non-negotiable, made with the assumption that there would be no opposition. After all, it was just grass lying around. What good is that? It grows quickly and dies quickly. It had no economic value to any living thing.

Except that, I cared. This grass field was one of two remaining grass fields that had been left untouched for years. Its more famous cousin was just a few minutes’ walk away, a gathering place for people to listen to alternative viewpoints (even if some of the stuff being uttered were objectively poorly thought-through rubbish). This grass field was more than just grass. It was a symbol of freedom, of resistance to utilitarianism; of dissent and autonomy; of community and sharing and gatherings. We hosted all sorts of community events here: large celebrations in the Chinese-Taoist traditions, Chinese opera troupes, National Day dinners, art installations, pasar malams and the rare amusement park carnivals. Were these less valuable than yet another mixed-use private development?

A watershed election year passed us by, and my grass field was saved. It remains mine, and yours, and ours to share and enjoy, on our own terms. A public space that truly belongs to the community—for now. I shall cherish it as long as it lasts.