# whatshouldweneverforget The Birthday Collective
I never forgot the day my mum told me I was given a place in Zhonghua Primary School. It was a treasured opportunity, since we weren’t from this land.
I remember too the gift that Zhonghua gave us Primary 1 students for good academic performance: Three books of our choice from a classroom full of books. Equally unforgettable was that day in 1998 when I discovered that MOE scholarships and bursaries were awarded to citizens only.
I never forgot my dad’s response, saying he would be my “government” and disburse those on behalf of MOE, or that day in Primary 3 when I was walking home from school and my Chinese teacher shouted across the road that I must remember to “drink and ponder (over) the source”.（“伟良！要记得饮水思源啊！”）
I remember trying really hard to convince my cousins that I was Malaysian, not Singaporean, when I went back to Batu Pahat during the school holidays.
I never forgot the first time I stopped singing the national anthem and saying the pledge – sometime in Primary 5 – just to see if it made me less Singaporean, more Malaysian. (Previously, I tried really hard to sing and say them well, both because I liked how they sounded and wanted to see if it made me any more Singaporean.)
I remember that interview I had with some teachers in Chinese High, when I told them that, while I was certain I would contribute to Chinese High, I wasn’t sure if I felt the same towards Singapore. I never forgot, too, how nurturing they were when they nodded understandingly and encouraged me to continue figuring that out.
I never forgot the day I pledged the oath of allegiance, the night we received our rifles or the day I recited the SAF Officers’ Creed. I remember mulling over them, wondering if I truly meant what I said, and if I will come to be completely sure. I also remember reading the Accelerated Citizenship offer (which we second-generation PRs received upon enlistment) again and again, and finally on my ORD tucked it safely into my drawer, where it remains till today – a keepsake, a memory, and an artefact of deep personal significance.
I remember feeling out of place sometime after the 2011 General Elections. I never forgot, however, the friends (and strangers in their own ways) who assured me I was as local as could be to them.* And there were so many of them.
If before Singapore found me wanting, from then on she signalled she no longer did. If before Singapore for whatever sociopolitical reasons found it difficult to express her acceptance of me, from that point on she’s never stopped trying.**
(Of course, I exaggerate for effect. 😛 Also, I opened my eyes and heart wider than before to see it happening.)
I attribute this deepening sense of solidarity, community, purpose and rootedness to something I knew but haven’t always remembered: That Singapore is more than her citizenship policies. That she is my Chinese teacher (all my teachers, in fact), my friends from school, my neighbours in Clementi, the affable staff at NTUC Fairprice, the strangers I rub against in the MRT trains (both local and migrant, however blurred the line is), my newfound colleagues (who unquestioningly included me as one of their own), the cleaning auntie who till this day is still trying hard to fix the sewage smell in our toilets at work, and much more.
While I would never forget the sometimes disorienting experiences growing up, I ought also to remember the many, many times this country has, through her people, included me as one of her own and invited me to take, to share, to care and to contribute in whichever ways I could.
Perhaps that is the Singapore that we should never forget.
This is as coherent as it gets for now, but I hope this little stub inspires you to think about, “What should we never forget?” in the context of Singapore. If you feel so moved to, do write a response of your own, be it in your personal diaries or public blogs, with the hashtag # whatshouldweneverforget and tag me back 😊
Beyond that, do keep a look out for this year’s #TheBirthdayBook! Edited by Malminderjit Singh and Sheila Pakir, the book has a collection of 52 thought-provoking essays on Singapore, responding to the prompt above, “What should we never forget?”
I’m helping with the initiative and we’ll be holding a launch event on Sept 9. Will be posting more details in the weeks ahead on how you might get your hands on these books 😀
For those interested, the Book is out! 🙂 https://www.ethosbooks.com.sg/collections/others/products/the-birthday-book-2017-what-should-we-never-forget
*Though honestly, so what if I wasn’t deemed “local”? We can discuss this someday…
**Though we could also talk about the types of migrants that are “desired” and those that aren’t. But hey, we already know it’s messy, so let’s not leave out the nuances.
📷: BCBA photographers~
The commodification of culture doesn’t always kill culture; one could point to many examples of culture thriving for its own intrinsic value while also producing (yes, in the language of production) transactional value.
Some then say, “Be careful! Lest you kill the golden goose,” thinking they’re stewarding this culture in question. Yet, perhaps it is the very conceptualisation of this “golden goose” that drags culture into “being”, instead of its continuous “becoming”, and that bestows culture with form – a discrete manifestation.
Vultures gather, bearing gifts, unaware they’re exacerbating the dying. At times, perhaps when fortunate, this goose bleeds slowly on and passes peacefully into oblivion. But, mostly (I say this for effect and with a tinge of truth), it limps on hollow, without a soul.
Perhaps we only truly own something when we give it away. Perhaps, too, what we didn’t struggle for, we can merely seek to behold, never to own nor to hold.
Continue reading “野子”
The stars have long gone.
Homebound, two million light years in emptiness.
Night has fallen, for while now, her solace freely given.
“This city never sleeps.”
To those who find the silence too quiet, or tremble in the dark.
“…woooOOOSHHHhhh…” The sound of wheels and wet streets.
The wind’s been at it for a month, or two;
an East Wind, it enters my abode undeterred, cleanses my soul.
In September 2015, I dropped NUS OCA an email regarding the potential mispronunciation of Oei Tiong Ham Building. The recording read it as “Oi” instead of “Wee”. They promised to look into it and change it. I think somewhere along the way, it was changed but I simply didn’t notice because it was no longer mispronounced. But today I heard it!
“Next stop: Weeeee Tiong Ham Building.”
Oh, how sweet…
业绩单 报销单 水电单 房贷单……诸如此类很多很多单。