To Gather Your Leaving: Home is never really guaranteed

A copy of To Gather Your Leaving on a white cloth

Dear Reader, 

I have rung to see / if our tamarind tree is still there, where my brothers are, / because home moved house to bring me here, / and faces crumpled with the years.
—Imtiaz Dharker, “Call”

It is hot. August this year was likely the warmest and driest month recorded since 1869. The neighbourhood where I live, in a cluster of flats bordering the TPE, is becoming less green. Every now and then, withered branches line the pavements, lonely tree stumps idle by the side of the road. I take the bus across the highway and see, dotted along the stretch of grass and field—power plants, industrial buildings, and the skeletons of warehouses in its early, naked stages of construction. I wonder what goods these structures will house, the crossings it will take to transport them here. The bodies and natural resources that might be exploited along the way.

Home is never really guaranteed, whether you’ve been forced to leave your place of birth or if you’ve always stayed in one place. And we can’t afford to continue to take our homes for granted. The SG Climate Rally drew over two thousand people to Hong Lim Park in September, urging our leaders to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. If the ground already feels like it has been shifting, it is definitely on the cusp of change. Within the past few weeks, our government has said that it will plant 250,000 native trees and shrubs and restore mangroves. The Workers’ Party has also shared their efforts in Parliament over the past few years to question and call for action on reducing our emissions and protecting our ecosystems against hard-engineering solutions like land reclamation.

Our shared responsibility to the planet is perhaps at the core of what it means to belong to a place. Home is moving house and I don’t know where it will take us. But my hope is that we will persist, that we will raise our voices, rather than just sea walls. That our government listens and works with us. That I will see a forest of trees spring forth along the highway, shrouding our power plants, our warehouses. Sheltering us from the heat.
(From November 8, 2019)