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Soulless Singapore? It’s a matter of seeing things from a different point of view

Published on Apr 2, 2014 6:00 AM

Since 2012, The Straits Times has published a weekly feature in print called Street View, which looks into what is happening in different neighbourhoods in Singapore. We have compiled 12 of these stories here, and reporter Melody Zaccheus describes how her explorations of some of these areas have opened an unexpected window into Singapore’s past and present.

As a teenager, I walked by Toa Payoh’s towering “god tree” almost every week - oblivious to its significance and the mystical value devotees and fellow residents had bestowed upon it.

Despite having lived and gone to school in the estate for more than a decade, it was only at the age of 25 - and after a storm had caused the six-storey landmark to topple to the ground last September - that I learned about its existence.

I was sent to the site at Toa Payoh Central to do a story on the shen shu as part of The Straits Times’ weekly series Street View, which focuses on goings-on in neighbourhoods. There, I learned that the century-old ficus tree was home to a Buddhist shrine at its foot and for decades, had bore witness to the prayers and dreams of devotees.

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