The old market building, before it was torn down two years ago, was a long and rectangular structure of drab and weathered wood topped by a roof of rust stained corrugated metal sheets which had for decades been so much a part of the Lianga landscape that even many local old-timers could have been forgiven for entertaining the fanciful notion that the whole building had always been there since time immemorial. That it was already rundown, decrepit and long overdue for either replacement or, at the very least, some form of renovation or rehabilitation, was painfully obvious to everyone here even if for many long time residents of the town like me, it retained that sad, sentimental and nostalgic charm common to many old public buildings long past their prime yet gallantly putting up a brave front despite the threat of imminent collapse or actual demolition, whichever, of course, would come first.
The new market mall, on the other hand, has a youthful, brash and arrogant air about it as it proclaims its new dominance of the Lianga skyline, its clean, symmetrical and robust lines setting it apart from the old wooden houses and the far more modest structures that surround it. It may be a minute fraction of the size of any of the giant commercial malls in the cities but, by Lianga's more modest standards, it is not only the "in" location for the town's more serious retailers and would-be merchants with the capital to set up shop and hustle up some serious business but also the place for the local population especially the younger crowd to go, meet up and do some local "malling".
After several initial months of uncertainty and now after almost a year of existence, it has become clear that the Lianga Market Mall cannot, by itself and merely by the very fact of its very own ponderous existence, be ushering a new era of business and economic growth in this town. Instead, its very presence must be seen for what it really it is - as an earnest attempt to give concrete shape and reality to a dream, the building of a symbol or a monument, if you will, to the collective hope and desperate yearning of the people here for better and more prosperous times after so many decades of economic distress and despair.
Of course, whether or not this still spankingly new and shining monument to that hope and dream will eventually become a self fulfilling prophecy or tragically end up as another failed footnote or misstep in this town's long history of costly mistakes, failures and lost opportunities will have to be left to the future to decide. In the meantime, a lot of honest to goodness soul searching on the part of the local citizenry might not only be a good idea but might even help them finally rid themselves of that unacknowledged yet persistent and nagging suspicion that in the case of their new market mall and their vision of a more thriving and booming Lianga for the future, they may have, as they have so regretfully done in the past, mistaken the illusion for the reality.