Toh Chin Chye’s house – what struck me the most

I attended Dr Toh Chin Chye’s wake on Sunday at 23 Greenview Crescent. It was not as busy as I had expected. Certainly, there were no throng of people. Or perhaps it was late in the evening and most have already left. Whatever it is, my friends and I were efficiently guided to where we should go – first to sign the condolence book, then to attend the evening service which was conducted by a pastor from St Andrew’s Cathedral, and then to pay our respects at Dr Toh’s coffin.

The first thing that struck me was how simple the home was. It was quite evident that the house has remain much as it had from years past. The paint on two of the main doors were peeling, the wall is evidently older despite the paint, and even the ceiling lights were nothing to crow about. In fact, two flourescent tubes had to be added in the hall as, I suspect, it would be too dim otherwise.

But what really took me by surprise was the mosaic tiles in the living room floor. I have not seen such flooring since I was a kid, really. And that is some years ago. You certainly do not see such tiles being used in modern houses anymore. I took a picture of it:

As you can see, it is pretty old and worn out but it is well-kept nonetheless.

You don’t see such flooring anymore either.

Dr Toh’s sparsely furnished house – and the flooring – told me more about Dr Toh than perhaps all that I have read about the man. Certainly, he is evidently one of humble needs.

A friend asked me why doesn’t this founding father of modern Singapore live more ostentatiously or lavishly. Well, I don’t know. But I can surmise that perhaps it is because of the times he was brought up in – an era where simplicity was lauded, where virtues such as humility and charity were appreciated more. But I don’t really know.

What perhaps we can deduce is this: one doesn’t have to live in big houses with luxurious furnishings to have a lasting impact on the lives of your fellow men and women.

I went home from the wake pondering on what I’d seen and what it means, really, to serve your nation and your people.

Dr Toh lived humbly and passed from this earth quietly, after having served his people through some of our most tumultuous times.

His feet was firmly set on the ground, as evidenced by the ground on which his feet walked.


8 thoughts on “Toh Chin Chye’s house – what struck me the most

  1. Rather ironic & poetic that this posting ends with an Expedia ad urging Singaporeans to “pack your bags”. We really need to – to make way for far more favorable, unquestioning ‘foreign talents’. We granted our ruler subservience & acquiescence, so now, it’s his RIGHT to expect it.

  2. The houses of Dr Toh Chin Chye and Mr Lee Kuan Yew should be preserved as national monuments. Without them, there would have been no modern Singapore!

    1. @ National – But in “Hard Truths”, LKY asked that his bungalow at 38 Oxley Road be demolished “when he dies” – but the PAP Government passed a law in 1989 (amended in 2007 and 2010) which empowers the majority of your neighbours to sell your family home in a condo despite your objections.

      Contextualize LKY’s bungalow demolition upon death with his purchase of Scotts 28 condo which he claimed he bought in preparation for old age when he and his wife would not be able to cope with the many levels of steps in the Oxley Road bungalow. LKY now has walking difficulties. Even after his wife’s demise, he still wants to live out his days in Oxley Road. I totally empathise with that.

      As a citizen, I only ask: “Why is sauce for the gander not sauce for the goose”?

      1. @The Pariah – What talk you? Your comment is incomprehensible. What does LKY’s expressed preference for his house to be demolished have to do with en bloc redevelopment? And what on earth does this have to do with his purchase of a condo — which was NOT Scotts 28, if I recall correctly?

  3. Thank you for recording this. Otherwise some Singaporeams (like myself) who didn’t attend the wake wouldn’t know of how humbly and simply dr. Toh had lived.

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