The Resident Tourist – Singapore from a Singaporean’s perspective

Troy’s story begins with a homecoming. To many on this small, well-connected island, the world is an easily accessed place.

Home for a Singaporean is a mercurial concept.

The Resident Tourist is a comic that is immediately recognizable to any Singaporean; the familiarity of Singapore as a country caught with one feet in its ‘kampung’ past and the other in a hyper-modern society is ever present. From the first few pages where the airplane lands and its world-renown SIA logo is seen, to the dialogue peppered with snippets of the country’s multi-cultural population, The Resident Tourist is a definitive view of Singapore from a Singaporean’s perspective.

But that is merely the appetizer.

The hero of the story, Troy, is a returning Singaporean. Yet he feels strange to be back home, for the home he once knew is no longer there. The familiar icons are still there, but the periphery is surrounded by new buildings, new sights and new sounds. In many ways, Troy’s tale is a struggle for identity, very much like the home he is returning to, and it is a tale that many Singaporeans caught up in the hubbub of daily life in the City-State can relate with.

Only a Singaporean can appreciate the laughable squeezing of 3 megamalls side by side as a matter of convenience; or the obsession with distance, time and taxi fares.

    In many ways ‘The Resident Tourist’ unveils the subtle anxieties that Singaporeans share; and these are anxieties that, as much as we have little difficulty in pointing out, are very often not properly pronounced and voiced out in the throes of Singapore society. At times, they are anxieties we often laugh at ourselves. More often than not, they are lingering within the hearts and spirits of Singaporeans, eager to be explored.

‘The Resident Tourist’ certainly invokes a great deal of introspection in this aspect. In a bid to distinguish themselves from the rest, Singaporeans are constantly in flux, trying to negotiate their identity amidst a change that comes at too fast a pace. If anything, Singaporeans are an adaptable people, and the titular character of ‘The Resident Tourist’ is a perfect embodiment of that. Half embracing, half stoic, Troy is forced to navigate a Singapore that has become somewhat alien to him, but at the same time has to acclimatize himself to the only home he knows.

Stylistically, ‘The Resident Tourist’ works extremely hard at recreating a Singapore that is immediately recognizable; and the devil is in the details.

The characters in the graphic novel are highly believable; readers are treated to a buffet of languages including Malay, Teochew, and even Singlish, mirroring Singapore’s multicultural sensibilities. With regards to the artistic direction, Troy prefers to show the Singapore he knows (or does not know) rather than to tell, and this is very evident in the depiction of familiar sights that all Singaporeans are privy to.

In reading ‘The Resident Tourist’, I find strong feelings of nostalgia welling up inside me.

Like Troy, I lament the rapid transition from rustic village to technological city; and the little details that get caught up in the house moving and constant ‘upgrading’ that our Singapore undergoes. A minor change in these details threaten to unravel the traditions and practices that we as Singaporeans so dearly hold on to. No doubt, they continue to exist in our modern Singapore, but in a different form. A stereotypical form, conveniently packaged and easy to digest.

Like rojak, it is a strange but palatable mixture of melancholy and literary joy.

Melancholic, because we as Singaporeans can recognize that the past is potentially unrecognizable from the present; and joy, because in following the exploits of Troy we are familiarized into ourselves, thinking, Yes, this is exactly what I feel! To those unfamiliar with Singapore, ‘The Resident Tourist’ is a tale of discovery amidst loss; of one man’s struggle with daily life in an increasingly plural society; and of one’s journey home. On a higher plane, Troy Chin’s ‘The Resident Tourist’ is a comic that will certainly fit comfortably in the bookshelves of any resident Singaporean; and is always worth a second read if only to feel once again, unfamiliar in a familiar land.

You can now get Part 1 to Part 5 (recently published) on his online shop and also available at these stores: BooksActually; Kinokuniya; Prologue; and Planerds.