Kampung spirit has been lost

I applaud the two families in Boon Lay for showing the kampung spirit which on reflection is few and far between in today's Singapore, where we tend to "mind our own business" (Boon Lay neighbours celebrate kampung spirit for Hari Raya, May 28).

Some years back, I stayed with a family in a village in Hebei, China, during winter. On the eve of Chinese New Year, the boiler heater malfunctioned and gurgled water which flooded the dining area.

We were frantically sweeping the water away when a few men arrived at the house and, together with my host, resolved the problem, allowing us to return to our reunion dinner.

I asked how it was that the repairmen could make a house call on a public holiday, since I was certain that they too had their own reunion dinners to attend.

I was flabbergasted when my host explained that the men were neighbours. This really brought the gotong royong (community) spirit to another level, with personal inconvenience not deterring them from helping a neighbour in need.

In Singapore during the 1970s, I had neighbours knock on doors to borrow a pinch of salt, an egg, a bar of soap, or even to use the toilet.

Today, this is unheard of. Perhaps we don't want to be obligated to others so that they don't demand the same from us.

With this much lost kampung spirit, it's a long road back to the kampung days.

But I would definitely like to echo the call, as quoted in the article, to "encourage others to continue to build a good relationship with their neighbours, regardless of race or religion".

Helene Ngoh