They won't throw me in jail for my birthday

I realised over the weekend that there's exactly one more week during which I can honestly profess to being thirty years old, and hence, one more week before it becomes an offence for me not to have re-registered my NRIC. Being the dutiful citizen that I am, I betook myself to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Building today and lo! a modern miracle presented itself:

My entire visit, including the time taken to go up and down the escalators between the ground and the third floor, took a grand total of thirty-five minutes.

(I know at least of one person in Paris who is gnashing her teeth at the thought that such government competency is possible.)

The thirty-five minutes included going up the aforementioned escalators, waiting in line for photo-taking, waiting in another line to be redirected to the right counter for re-registration, being re-registered, waiting for them to print (or whatever the hell it is they do) the new identity card, and then taking the escalators down again. Oh, and it includes the two minutes that I paused in front of an aerial photograph of downtown Singapore, circa 1965 (more about that later).

Say what you will about our government, you can't say they're not efficient when they want to be.

On the other hand, we did try to go through the re-registration process online, but the irony of being married to a photographer is that the pictures he took, it seems, were too high-resolution for the online process. The image requirements for online re-registration: each image had to be in JPEG format with a file size of 60kb max. No matter how Terz tweaked his images, the smallest he could get them down to was 96kb each. And ICA has trained their servers well, for they refused to accept our files.

Naturally, Terz sent them an email with his "feedback". He got a phone call today and did his citizen's best to educate the ICA about why it's impossible for a 60kb file to retain the kind of definition needed for an identity card, and in particular, why the preponderance of digital cameras with at least 4.0 megapixels in the consumer market makes it even less likely that your common citizen --- to say nothing of a professional photographer with a camera that's heavy enough to club someone on the head with --- would have a camera that could execute such a ridiculously low-res image.

The response: "We've taken note of your feedback. We'll let our engineers know."

So I had to go down in person to rectify the situation before I got, y'know, slapped with a "composite fine" or worse. At least I spent only thirty-five minutes there.

On my way out, on the second floor, I grooved past a black and white photograph, then backpedalled and took a closer look. It was dated 1965 and presented an aerial view of downtown Singapore: the open fields of the former Raffles Institution, where Raffles City now stands; shophouses cloistered along all the streets running west of St. Andrew's Cathedral, snugly filling the land where the Adelphi, the new (gak) Supreme Court building, Peninsula Plaza/Hotel and Funan Centre now rise; the river packed with bumboats, and I don't just mean the kind that brings tourists on faux river tours; near the horizon, the sea was dotted with container ships and other symptoms of a busy port. The tallest buildings in the photograph: St. Andrew's Cathedral, and the few buildings clustered around the Fullerton Building.

I looked at the photograph, seeing in my mind's eye the present superimposed on the past. Standing in a government building, contemplating this unexpected ghost of the past, I wondered if I was supposed to feel pride at how far we'd come, how much we've built, how vividly our sparkling skyscrapers announce to the world that we have arrived.

Pride? No, no. Only dejection and heartbreak at how much has been consigned into the bins of "history" and "heritage". I'm reminded of the photograph of the now-demolished National Library, which is framed on the wall of Dhoby Ghaut MRT station and which I pass every Monday evening on my way home. Every Monday evening, my heart breaks all over again.

It would've hurt too much to look for too long. I stood long enough to capture the image in my own memory --- admittedly ersatz nostalgia, since I wasn't alive in 1965 to witness the scene for myself --- then walked on, and out, back into the busy, bustling afternoon.


At 3/23/2005 6:30 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

Why not backdate The Gripe articles too?

At 3/23/2005 7:16 am , Blogger Kay said...

More for T:
When I right-clicked on the jpeg file, then selected 'open with', I was faced with an assortment of options, including 'make jpeg (quality 10/30/60).exe', which compressed the image to a ridiculous below 20k size file. Oh joy (after eons struggling the way you did)! Who care's if the nation's record of me at thirty-something is at low-res? It looks fine in the IC anyhow. You should've given me a call.... =)

At 3/23/2005 9:42 am , Blogger Tym said...

Agagooga --- I'll leave The Gripe where it is. I like how it looks nice and antiquated, by web design standards.

Kay --- Aiya, what to do. Will come back and consult this blog entry when I hit my fortieth birthday and have to change it again (assuming they think we do...).

At 3/25/2005 3:20 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The MRT was one of the right things to do, because it dug underground, not overground.

SMU obviously cannot be built anywhere in the rest of the empty space in Singapore.

And, I've been to NLB when I was a small kid, 199*, it was really new after renovation.

Damn, we have a rich government.


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