One day in Buangkok - Evening

Roof leaks as storm breaks

6.59PM: Above: Mr Akram Hussain, 40, leaves after praying at Lorong Buangkok's surau, or Islamic assembly building.
6.59PM: Above: Mr Akram Hussain, 40, leaves after praying at Lorong Buangkok's surau, or Islamic assembly building.
6PM: Above: Resident Annie Ridwan, 67, places egg cartons near her gate. Several puddles have formed due to the rain.
6PM: Above: Resident Annie Ridwan, 67, places egg cartons near her gate. Several puddles have formed due to the rain.

As the end looms for Singapore's last kampung, journalist Ng Huiwen charts a day of the throwback lifestyle - from leaky roofs to sharing food with neighbours - of the 26 families who remain there.

About three times a week, at about 5pm, postman Mohd Izri Yatiman, 29, does a quick round at Kampung Lorong Buangkok, deftly manoeuvring his motorbike from house to house.

The kampung is usually the last stop on his delivery route, which starts at 7am and takes him to parts of Serangoon and Hougang.

Most of the residents have their addresses painted on their letterboxes or front gate, but some letterboxes are tucked in nooks and can easily be overlooked.

But after four years of delivering to the area, Mr Mohd Izri has learnt his way around. And for residents who do not have a letterbox, he knows to leave their mail at the front of their doors or with a neighbour. In 10 minutes, his job is done.

The Malaysian, who lives in Johor Baru, says: "It is fun and interesting to see a kampung in Singapore."

A while later, the grey clouds that have been looming overhead since the late afternoon open up. Rain pelts down on rooftops, chasing the residents indoors.

But for Ms Annie Ridwan, 67, her home of about 50 years is no longer a refuge on rainy days, but an annoyance. Her father had built the house and she has lived there most of her life with her eight siblings. Now, she is alone.

Often, the rain seeps through the roof and into her living room, toilet and bedroom. She has to collect the rainwater with pails, she laments.

Ms Annie, who works as a cleaner and earns about $45 a day, says fixing the roof is not a priority. The widow, who does not have children, says her late husband and relatives have tried to fix it but the problem keeps coming back.

"The house is very old already," she adds. "I don't know what to do. Other people go under their blankets when it is raining, but for me, I open up my umbrella, sit in the living room and wait."

When the rain stops at about 6pm, she heads out to meet her friends for dinner at a Hougang Green coffee shop. At her gate, she throws seven large empty egg cartons onto the ground, where several puddles have formed.

"I saw (a video) on Facebook that said that when (the cartons) dry up, it will be like cement and it can flatten the ground," she explains.

Close to 7pm, a handful of people turn up at the kampung's surau (prayer hall) - a simple zinc-roofed house - for the Muslim evening prayers. In the 1960s, a few villagers had banded together to build Surau Al-Firdaus for the large number of Malay families there.

Today, many of the surau's regulars are not residents of the kampung, such as Grab driver Johari Suhaimi, 39, who fondly recalls his life in a kampung on Pulau Ubin. He moved to the mainland in 1991 and now lives in Punggol.

He says: "If I am nearby, I like to come here to pray. It is so close to nature. It gives me a sense of peace."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 08, 2017, with the headline 'Roof leaks as storm breaks'. Print Edition | Subscribe