Keep cultural significance of Geylang Serai bazaar

I am concerned about how the Geylang Serai bazaar has evolved in recent years.

It is at risk of losing its identity.

Whenever the bazaar is mentioned, the image of stalls selling songkok, satay and a wide spread of kueh comes to mind.

This should be the case because, after all, it is meant to be a congregation of stalls selling items for Muslims to usher in Hari Raya Puasa and purchase traditional Malay fare for the breaking of fast.

Instead, there recently has been a significant proliferation of stalls selling hipster food - fanciful food products such as edible helium balloons and rainbow tacos.

While it is commendable for such creative stalls to inject vibrancy into the bazaar, I wonder if it has been overdone.

A general observation of the bazaar shows that the number of stalls selling traditional fare has dwindled and, on the flip side, there are many stalls selling food with no relation to the festivities. Such a trend is worrying because this bazaar has a cultural distinctiveness for the Muslim community.

To perceive and treat the Geylang Serai bazaar the same as other ordinary bazaars is doing an injustice to its unique identity, and there is a risk that its spirit will be eroded in the long run.

This issue was also highlighted last year, when The Sunday Times ran a report on how the bazaar has gradually lost its flavour as a Ramadan bazaar (Changing tastes of Geylang Serai Bazaar; June 11, 2017). This year, the online voices lamenting the erosion of the bazaar's identity have become louder, especially from the younger generation.

Hipster food can be served at other bazaars all year round, but let us keep the Geylang Serai bazaar as a Hari Raya marketplace and not turn it into another ubiquitous pasar malam.

The bazaar committee should look into this and ensure that the cultural significance for future bazaars is not compromised.

Sean Lim Wei Xin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2018, with the headline 'Keep cultural significance of Geylang Serai bazaar'. Print Edition | Subscribe