Taxi through time

SINGAPORE May 14, 2015

The taxi passes the mansions of the wealthy and the condos of the well-paid. The car in front is a Maserati. There’s a black Mercedes behind.

Singapore has more millionaires per capita than any other country. Some surveys say it is the world’s most expensive city. That’s how it looks through the taxi windows. Tree-lined streets. Interesting architecture reaching for the sky. Then the landscape changes.

The motorway cuts through large estates of high-rise public housing, kilometre after kilometre of functional blocks of flats, many decorated with lines of washing extending from balconies.

“I should not be wokking,” says the driver. “I am too old, but we muzz have jobs to live in blocks. Forry years ago, you could have bit of land, chickens, grow veg-ables. No wok all the time.”

I first came here in 1971. There were humpies all along the road from the airport, with families cooking the evening meal over open fires. I remember seeing chooks running around, and smiling children. It’s all gone now, replaced by the estates that have ended homelessness — and unemployment.

The old driver says he must work 12 hours a day, six days a week, to make ends meet. The fare for the half-hour taxi ride is $18. I give him $30.

“Why don’t you go home early today?” I say. He shakes his head as he pockets my donation.

“Better in here,” he says. “Home is jussa box. No garden. No chickens.” He laughs and drives away.

Like what you read? Give David Naylor a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.