Yishun residents turn void deck into 'kumpung central'

Many residents, young and old, have made an informal second home of the void deck of Block 603, Yishun Street 61, where they gather regularly to chat and eat.
Many residents, young and old, have made an informal second home of the void deck of Block 603, Yishun Street 61, where they gather regularly to chat and eat.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Yishun residents have turned a void deck into 'kampung central' complete with kitchen and toys

One might mistake the void deck at Block 603, Yishun Street 61, for someone's kitchen and living room.

After all, a corner of the space is filled with household staples such as rice cookers, refrigerators stocked with fresh groceries, a television, a sink and potted plants.

There are even toys for the young, including a miniature slide, kick scooters, bicycles and a foosball table.

 

In the mornings and evenings, the spot swells with activity, as residents in the estate gather to eat, play card games and exchange the latest in neighbourhood gossip.

Rag-and-bone man Tan Kim Nam, 70, said many of the regulars have known each other since their kampung days.

"We were relocated from Yio Chu Kang and Mandai and have been here for about 30 years now," Mr Tan, speaking in Mandarin, told The Straits Times.

"It's like a big family here. It feels like my second home."

TRUST

We can entrust our kids to each other while we go off to the market to buy stuff.

MS F.T. ANG, a housewife, on the strong kampung spirit.

The spot began as just an ordinary void deck corner more than 30 years ago, where residents of the estate would frequently congregate to chat and pass their time.

It was officially opened as a senior citizens' corner in November 1997, by then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tony Tan Keng Yam. He was also the Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC.

But the corner has since gained a momentum of its own: Toddlers as young as three zip around on tricycles, and aunties as old as 90 sip coffee in the morning.

It gets especially crowded on weekends and during public holidays such as Christmas and Chinese New Year, when easily more than 100 people gather to chat and eat. Residents share potluck dishes such as bittergourd omelette and fried bee hoon that are either home-cooked or bought from a nearby coffee shop.

Crane operator Ang Seng Wan, who has lived in the block consisting of four- and five-room flats for about 30 years, said: "It's very lively and we enjoy being together."

Indeed, red plastic pineapples and strings of multi-coloured lights dangle above wooden tables and plastic chairs - testament to the perennial festive mood of the place.

Housewife F. T. Ang, 38, said the kampung spirit is strong. "We can entrust our kids to each other while we go off to the market to buy stuff," she said.

Mr Tan said he and his friends feel a sense of ownership over the corner, which they decorate and clean up together.

"I've also picked up a lot of discarded goods so we can use them here," he said, pointing to the children's slide and some furniture.

Housewife Wendy Ng, 29, said: "We come down when we can so my two daughters can play here. Hopefully, they will continue this tradition."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'No staring into the void for these folks'. Print Edition | Subscribe