Singapore water hike…a lesson in lousy communication?

March 26, 2017

You know what? I have never been a great fan of throwing out just facts and figures to either push a point home or to get buy in from those around me. Never.

I am not saying bar and pie charts along with percentiles are not useful. Sure they are…to a certain point.

But the main thrust of any ‘hard sell’ should always be structured as an emotional appeal. Weaving one’s message creatively into a story recruits not only the imagination of those one is appealing too…….frequently experience informs me, it even has the extraordinary power to transform the audience into characters in the story.


‘Many people have asked me what I really think about the recent water hikes recently back home. Actually to be honest – I happen to agree with it. Now if you press me why? I would probably never say it’s strategic.

Why? Because that’s a cold and metallic word that doesn’t really mean much to most people and doing so would probably go down as well as a stone in a dark well with no bottom.

It doesn’t have soul…there’s no sympatico.

To say water is strategic is not so different from saying to make durable jet engines one needs chromium. Or maybe to grow succulent fruit one needs potasssium and possibly boron….it’s awfully cold and the corners are terribly sharp when one uses such words to get a point across.

I much prefer to shift the discussion to the story of how I once discovered a ruined temple in Bukit Timah. When I was back in Singapore. I used to venture into the jungle with my bicycle during the weekends all by myself. I happen to know that place like the back of my hand and I am not making this up…..sumpah!

There is actually a forgotten temple ruin in McRitchie reservoir!

You see the story goes right back to the tumultuous year in 1942 when the Japanese steamrolled across the whole of Asia. At that time Singapore was like the equivalent of Gibraltar that was why it was bristling with monster canons that could fire shells the size of a Cherry QQ.

Now the seige of Singapore officially lasted just seven days. But if you ask me – when was the real date when the Japanese wrapped it all up like a sweet Bento lunch box. It was probably around noon on the 12th February 1942. As that was the moment when a jap soldier climbed the tallest Chingay tree that ever grew in Singapore and hoisted up a Japanese flag.

That super duper tall majestic Chingay tree is no longer there. The Japs eventually cut her down to build their mythical jungle temple and a wooden bridge. But in the old Bukit Timah maps used by Surveyors and planters – it was a very prominent marker that planters frequently used as a fixed point as it could be seen for miles and miles. During those days no haze lah.

So when everyone saw the Japanese sun blazing high on this solitary tree sticking out high up from Bukit Timah. They all knew it was truly over. Finito….kaput..habis…pochi (in Tamil it means Matilah)….game over!

In Raffles hotel the bartender rang the last bell – all the Ang moh broke out in Auld Lang Syne. Those who were smarter scampered to buy the last tickets from the Imperial airways that had a flying boat service just on the Quay of a present day Fullerton that used to be a post office.

Everyone knew that fortress Singapore which was previously considered impregnable. As it had the most modern array of monster artillery ever assembled in one place was well and truly lost.

As that Japanese flag on that tall Chingay tree meant the Japanese had full control of the water supply over Singapore as they had overrun both McRitchie and Pierce reservoir….all they had to do to win was to threaten to cut off the water supply to the city.

From that moment onwards all the calculations of war…how many artillery pieces who have. Where are they positioned. Along with number of battalions, reserves, tanks, squadrons of planes, tonnage of warships didn’t matter one ounce…the final outcome was decided solely on water….and very little else.

I am not kidding you all. I am not. There’s actually a forgotten ruined Japanese temple in Bukit Timah….someday when I return back home. I’ll even show you all where it is…..they can’t stop me. I know the jungle like the back of my hand. I even know at least ten ways to get in unseen and unheard like special forces – we will take the long route that no knows, it’s called the tiger trail. The one where I can show you part of an engine of ww2 plane half buried into the side of a hill. We trek at night. Travel in single file to hide our numbers. Use only light sticks and rely on the moon and stars or maybe the bright lights of the distant Malls to fix our position. On day break we will arrive whip up some curry sardines and roti – it’s a very mysterious and eriee place just like maybe how Singapore ghost stories gives one the creeps….but it’s all real…a real story that is.’

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