Goodbye Mr Lee


The Statesman left this morning and there’ll be no lack of political commentators talking about his life and impact on a global stage. What struck me, was how and why he is so much larger than life, as I recollected the role he & his colleagues had in shaping the lives of many ordinary Singaporean families like mine.

Had it not been him and his colleagues,

  • my parents may never have met through work at one of the many ammunition production lines, against the backdrop of a nascent post-independence military and its affiliated industry,
  • I wouldn’t be growing up in a 3-room HDB flat with modern trappings of fresh tap water, sewage and 2 vertical lifts. Nor will I be singing Majulah Singapura, reciting the national pledge every school-going morning and playing with my friends at concrete-mosaic-sand filled playground,
  • I wouldn’t be asked to recite a full page from Good Citizen (好公民)in front of the class, much to my embarrassment cos I was paying more attention to my first crush who was seated a few tables away,
  • I wouldn’t know that I’m a born mosquito magnet if my schoolmates and I didn’t have to pick litter and leaves from the school compound and field every other morning,
  • I would possibly have another sibling though my folks always insisted that they had all they hoped for in my sister and I,
  • I wouldn’t have been able to speak Mandarin & English fluently, though i hated those countless hours in Chinese remedial, Maths remedial, Science remedial which in turn lead to more homework, tests and exams, etc etc…. and that kinda leads to what i’m doing today, writing this in English while listening to Chinese pop songs and working on my postgrad work,
  • I wouldn’t have the chance to meet great teachers who saw me for who I was and allowed to excel in art, even if that was the only thing other than history, I could do well in without breaking a leg,
  • I wouldn’t have spent the early years of my adult life studying and travelling abroad on a government scholarship and learning what it means to teach with a heart but always think with my head on,
  • I wouldn’t be feeling conflicted as a young teacher, justifying what’s good ‘benevolent patriarchy’ and ‘a nanny state’ to even younger minds, while being a wannabe-weekend artist who fantasises about traversing OB markers in the name of creativity,
  • I wouldn’t have appreciated that the wall is still a whole lot bigger than the cracks and that my passport gets me places (faster, easier) with Changi Airport as the most comforting/comfortable place to be before and after every flight. Home, was and still is about a 30-minute safe cab ride away,
  • I wouldn’t have read more and thought long and hard about our nation’s history too. By then, I had learnt that it’s important to read widely and be aware of rights and wrongs….but like above, always do so with your head on. Doing due diligence pays, if not other heads, together with yours, will definitely roll.
  • I wouldn’t have spent sweat and burnt weekends under the unforgiving sun standing near godforsaken guard posts in the name of national duty while getting to befriend some of the most diverse and endearing people in my life. & perversely I would look forward to ICT and relive those spider-catching 18-year-old days with these guys,
  • I wouldn’t be able to squirrel away forced savings via CPF for a flat of our own (that’s contentious i know…but a place to call your own home is something i’d always wanted)
  • I wouldn’t have met and worked with some of the most dedicated and talented teachers and support staff who believe in the potential of our kids,  and that was truly a most humbling experience,
  • last but not least, certainly my in-laws would probably not have made the decision to settle in Singapore from Malaysia for economic (and educational) reasons. And thus, I probably would not have met my future wife, popped out a lil critter and as they say the rest is history.

So yes, he & his colleagues has impacted my life in so many minute and significantly fateful ways. & for these, I’m truly grateful. On this solemn occasion, I’d like to give thanks to Mr Lee. Thanking him for leading his colleagues, being a great politician and even greater Statesman. And in between all these, we have been somehow imbued with his very real sense of pragmatism in whatever we do and wherever we go. Like it or not, his legacy lives on in every true blooded Singaporean.

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