Weng's Convenience Store was a well-known landmark feature of the Lumee estate.
Started by old Mr Weng in the early 1970s, it had grown from a little corner
shop selling necessities to today's mini-supermarket
catering to the needs of the neighborhood that had grown up around
it. Mr Heng still worked in the shop, although it was now more a matter of
recreation for him than making a living. His sons were not interested in the
business and Mr Weng ran it with the help of hired manpower.
Each evening, he
would sit outside the store and watch the little children playing at the
playground he had built almost ten years ago. The children loved their Uncle
Weng who laughed at their antics and often gave them sweets as well as hugs. The
adults always felt safe letting their children play there while they went about
their business. In fact, Mr Weng's store was like a huge childcare centre;
children would be well taken care of as long as Mr Weng was around. He was
indeed a well-loved institution in the area.
But things changed after Mr Weng suffered a stroke and became bedridden. His
sons sold the land on which the store stood to a large corporation with plans to
demolish the store and build two bungalows on it. It was a sad day for all in
the neighborhood when the familiar sight of the store was gone. The residents
were disheartened by the huge vacuum left in their lives by Mr Weng's absence.
It was no longer convenient to buy their groceries as the nearest store was
now more than two kilometers away. The efficient manners of the staff at the
other store contrasted sharply with the friendliness at Weng's Convenience
Store. No longer did the residents linger
for chats at the convenience store. Everything became business-like now: one
simply purchased what one needed and left.
The residents in the new homes did not make things better. They were largely
affluent professionals who had no time for friendly smiles and well-wishes.
Gradually, the neighborhood felt like a strange place as people passed each
other without a word or smile. Everyone was always in a hurry and avoided any
form of contact with one another. The neighborhood became an unfriendly place.
But the greatest loss that was felt was Mr Weng's presence itself. No longer
were children able to play at the playground that he had built for them. Even if
the playground had not been demolished along with the store, everyone would have
missed the comforting presence of Mr Weng on the bench every evening outside the
store. The streets were now deserted, streets that in the past were filled with
the laughing voices of children and friendly chatter
of adults. No one could get used to the change and gradually, many moved away
from the neighborhood to start a life elsewhere where there were no painful
memories of a lost community.