Need to bring back the soul of our hawker culture

I hope the attempt to earn a Unesco World Heritage status for our hawker culture will not numb or distract us from the stark reality that the hawker culture that we so treasure is taking its last breaths.

The hawker culture heritage is independent of any honour that is bestowed upon it.

What good is it to profit from a label from Unesco when a nation forfeits the very soul of its hawker culture?

If we do win the coveted status, but the hawker culture lives on as only a shadow of its past, it will be like having the icing without the cake.

We all know the oft-cited litany of reasons why the hawker trade is languishing.

We, as a nation, have solved far more daunting problems than the resuscitation of the hawker trade.

So, if all the stakeholders, especially the Government, which holds the levers to so many of the drivers of the problem, would prioritise this as a major problem to solve, we are likely to succeed.

It will be a farce winning a Unesco World Heritage status, but for a heritage that exists only in museums. Meanwhile, in the real world, will be "hawker stalls" offering foods from central kitchens, even though the stalls will have stickers declaring their world heritage status.

How disingenuous. A scenario similar to what a Chinese idiom describes - "putting up a signboard for lamb, but sells dog meat" - is not just a remote possibility.

Lim Teck Koon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'Need to bring back the soul of our hawker culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe