In the middle of the densely built-up but otherwise flat city centre of Singapore rises a green hill holding giant trees, in the branches of which eagles build their nests. On the peak lies Fort Canning, which has repeatedly played an important role in the chequered colonial history of the city-state. In a corner of the park are some weather-beaten gravestones from the period 1900 – fashioned from different types of material and in various forms, and more or less eroded by time. Side by side here lie the Chinese businessman Lee Khia Soon John, the British Postmaster-General William Cuppace, the German Emperor’s Consul-General Hans Hermann Eschke, the Russian Marine Lieutenant Wladimir Astafiew, and Chik, the beloved wife of M. Hassan. Had these worthies tried to be close to each other in life, too? Whoever these individuals were, the last episode of their biography was played out in Singapore. I do not know what they had once achieved, what they had wished to leave behind – but their gravestones look like a model of the highrise city that Singapore has since developed into.
First Publication: 23-12-2013