It’s a sad week for Singapore. My sis and I, along with my 1 year-old nephew, Elliott in tow headed to the Parliament House yesterday after a few spontaneous text exchange. Both of us are neither fervent patriots or the sort to follow and delve deep into politics, but no words were needed to explain to each other why we wanted to join the throng of people in the long queue. We just knew that we wanted to go.
We joined the priority queue opened for those with children below the age of 6, elderly above the age of 60, pregnant ladies and the disabled. We queued for close to 3 hours and the whole experience has restored all my faith in humankind and in Singapore. We will be ok.
When we arrived at City Hall, a random stranger and kind samaritan told us that a priority queue was available for us to join. Along the way, sun-baked volunteers offered us drinks and fans fashioned out of cardboard – their poor faces were all red and sunburnt! Elliott was getting really cranky mid-way whilst we were in the queue but people around us spontaneously played with him and cajoled him to hang-in-there. It made the wait with a baby in tow so much easier. I also saw random aunties offering young kids snacks and biscuits that they have brought along.
Everyone seemed extra patient, kind and there was an unspeakable spirit of bonding in the air. No one seemed to really mind the wait. Now, who said that Singaporeans are emotionless? I think Mr Lee would have been proud.
For the past couple of days, I’ve been trawling through articles and videos on the internet finding out more about our founding father. I also got a glimpse into his personal life through articles written by his daughter, Lee Wei Ling
along the way. Whilst we may not all agree on some of his policies and methods of governance, what is clear to us, and to me is simply, the work that he has done for Singapore. It is all around us – the beautiful city landscape, world class bilingual education, efficient transport systems, safe drinking water from the taps…and the likes that go on and on.
His foresight, perseverance, dedication and sheer hard work has brought our tiny dot of a country to where it is today – a gleaming first world oasis that we can all proudly call home. Before this week, I admit that I’ve always taken Singapore for granted. I often complained about the humid weather, lack of ‘fun things to do’ and ‘fun places to go’, and wished I was in another country where we could take long drives out to scenic places with cool weather.
This week has brought me into perspective. To appreciate what has been done and the little things around me – to still be able to enjoy pockets of greenery despite being on a tiny island, to be able to walk around in the dead of the night without fear and as a frequent traveler, to be able to speak 2 languages and travel to most countries without the need of a visa or any delays at customs because I held a Singapore passport.
Apart from appreciating Singapore, what struck a chord with me most of all, and appealed to my sentimental side was that above all the political greatness, there was also love. This sentimental side of me was most touched by his great love for his wife. So, it is possible for a man to have both a wonderful career and love! It is admirable how this giant in the political world was so tender, caring and dedicated to his lifelong partner.
He told her: “We have been together for most of our lives. You cannot leave me alone now. I will make your life worth living in spite of your physical handicap.”
She replied: “That is a big promise.”
Papa said: “Have I ever let you down?”
In a few ways, the love story between Mr Lee and his wife reminds me that of my late grandparents’ towards their last few years together as man and wife. My grandfather left before my grandmother and similarly, my grandmother’s health deteriorated after his death (although at a much quicker speed) and she went from an almost fully healthy functioning person to her deathbed in just about 3 months.
Here’s a little back story:
Close to my grandfather’s 100th day of passing (The Chinese believe that the dead will move on into another realm 100 days after their death), my grandmother told us that she had dreamt of my grandfather. She said that he had asked her to join him where he was, or she would not be able to find him after he has gone to the next realm. After that dream, my grandmother had a fall one night, and passed away shortly after.
You guessed right. She passed away on my grandfather’s 100 day of passing.
I’m probably being sentimental, but Mr Lee Kuan Yew also often reminded me of my grandfather. My sis and I just remarked a few days ago that they both spoke English in a similar fashion. When my grandfather was alive, he often reminded me that he was born in the same year as Mr Lee, 1923. He would share stories from the past, way before I was born and note the changes that Singapore has seen and gone through.
I am from a generation that is reaping the rewards of Mr Lee’s hard work and tenacity. For that, I am most grateful. I am glad that my sis and I made the decision to join the queue to say our thank yous and bid our proper goodbyes!