Ayam Curtain is an anthology of short fiction that captures the absolute essence of contemporary Singapore. This collection of page-long microfiction and longer short stories sets the tone of what real, local Singaporeans think and feel about their city. The writers are to be celebrated for capturing such a complex city so well.
When you visit Singapore, you get a sense of ostentatious futurism. The main tourist areas like Marina Bay Sands push the outer limits of consumerism, with gaudy flair. Gondolas through a mega mall, link your phone with a 3D light show and choose what images get displayed through the shopping centre, simulate ice skate through computer graphics.
And yet, the suburbs are a tale of old Singapore, of traditional kopitams and bowls of chicken rice. The smells of wet floor filter through the alleyways, the alleyways are overshadowed by hundreds of tiny pastel coloured apartments. Fading laundry thrown out into the harsh sun.
Ayam Curtain captures the disparity between these two worlds with a perceptive nostalgia. The stories are different, each with a unique perspective on modern Singapore. However recurring themes tend to surface- that a technological Singapore has advanced so fast that local identities are being left behind.
If you read enough of these stories you start to look at modern Singapore differently. And you visit places like Gardens by the Bay with it’s alpine Cloud Forest and remarkable Flower Dome and you start to feel a similar resentment; that these places are for show, they are baubles filled with today’s environment, perfectly preserved for future generations, so that we as a consumerist society can advance and leave the environment and local culture behind. It’s devastating.
This anthology gave me insight and got me thinking. It was accessible and digestible, even if it was a little hard to swallow.