Today, while going over some old copies of the Straits Times sent to my home by my nephew from his home (I haven’t subscribed to the ST since the start of this year) , I was taken aback to read that Peter Lim (right), an ex-editor-in-chief of the ST, had stayed put in his Tiong Baru home for almost 70 years!
In Singapore where almost 53 per cent of the population had moved house once in the previous 10 years, Peter belongs to the firmly rooted group, like Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (who must have lived in his Oxley Road home for at least sxi decades).
I’ve often wonder how it feels to stay put, from the time of one’s birth and then grow up and grow old all in the same neighhourhood, if not the same house? How does it feel to see your contemporary neighbours grow old around you too and their once happy young children full of promise and hope wilt and become cynical and hopeless?
Or see those you admired as a child moprh into old age and feebleness right before your eyes and then before long leave this world altogether?
Or perhaps see new neighbours arrive and after a while move on, wash upon wash of neighbours, with you the only constant in a sea of change?
Thinking along these lines, I know I won’t want to live in one home for as long as 60 or 70 years. Even having lived all of 20 years in my current home — the longest ever in my life — has already made me feel too rooted for comfort.
Yet at the other end of the scale, I could also envisage the pain and sadness of being a nomad, a gypsy, a refugee with nowhere familiar to hang my skirt.
One prime example of such rootlessness is Julian Paul Assange (left) who created WikiLeaks and has recently made headlines again because his website has put the Pentagon in a quandary by publicising masses of the US army’s secret files relating to its war action in Afghanistan. And more secret files are pending publication.
Assange’s parents ran a touring theatre company and he claims he attended 37 schools and six universities in Australia alone. Currently, he travels from country to country, staying with supporters, or friends of friends—as he once put it and much quoted in reports about him: “I’m living in airports these days.”
Between these two extremes and allowing for longer life spans, I think the ideal amount of time to spend in any one home is perhaps 25 years. Which means I must move house again in about five years’ time. Provided I can afford the shift!