kicking off august with a bang

Been crazy busy at work last week with the setting up of our magazine community, so here’s a quick update of what August has been like so far:

 Saw the derp lord, who was in town promoting his new movie:

Dove headlong into a book sale:

Met up with old friends:

 Got into the mood for the nation’s 50th anniversary: 

Then joined 200,000 people around the bay area to watch the National Day Parade:

The weather was breezy and cool – perfect for a parade.


The grounds were hella muddy where we were, but who cared really?


The Black Knights – or, as my friend Melissa put it, the lead guitarists of the Singapore Armed Forces.
The crowd was definitely left gaping in awe.

What’s a parade without some fireworks to top it off?

It was one of those you-had-to-be-there kind of moments. Having so many people around you singing along to the National Day songs you learned (way back) in school, the camaraderie and feeling of togetherness was so palpable I couldn’t help but tear up. I had already gotten emotional at this video tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew earlier on:

But when everyone sang along to the NDP classic, Home, in unison the floodgates broke loose. I sang with tears streaming down my face, and found that I wasn’t the only one. This girl my age next to me was in the same state. It’s funny how emotional you become, standing in the midst of such an outpouring of love and pride and gratitude for a country.

How has YOUR August been so far? :0)

Singapore’s Final Goodbye (and 10 Notable Articles about Lee Kuan Yew)

It’s been a week since Singapore learned that its founding father had passed away at the age of 91. This was my first experience with loss.

And while there were tears, outpouring of love and respect, and back-to-back documentaries of the man who built this nation, there were also many eloquent articles that surfaced all over the Web as Singaporeans begin to emerge from their shell of apathy to reexamine what it means to be Singaporean and reassess their view of their first Prime Minister.

Here are 10 notable articles that struck a chord with me:

1. Calvin Cheng’s defence of the Singaporean model of governance

2. Bertha Henson’s candid account of her encounters with Mr Lee

3. Lili Tan’s pensive musing on death and how it unites the living

4. Deborah Tan’s heartfelt letter to Mr Lee that made me cry

5. Steph Leong’s well-researched article on Mr Lee and his policies

6. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s interview with Today newspaper, in which he shared insights on the man we all thought we knew

7. Jaime Ee’s reflections on the surge of patriotic fervour that has arisen these past few days in the wake of Mr Lee’s passing

8. A taxi driver’s informal tribute to Mr Lee, as recounted by Tiffany Joyce Lim

9. Sahana Singh’s comparison of the Western ideal of personal freedom versus the Asian notion of community before self, and argues how much better off we are for sacrificing some personal freedom for the greater good.

10. A reflection on the past week of mourning that perfectly encapsulates all the reasons for our profound sorrow at Mr Lee’s passing.

And here were some of the ways we immortalised him,

At the Istana:

On the way to pay our last respects to him:

photo by Chen Zhirong

At community centres all over the country:

At the National Library:

And the ways the outside world honoured him,

In Time magazine:

In the words of foreign dignitaries,

And their physical presence:

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton
The Bhutan king
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Sultan of Brunei

And finally, this video that shows just how larger than life, yet human, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was (please get your tissues ready):

Yesterday, we sent Mr Lee off on his final journey.

Throngs of people gathered around the Parliament House and lined the funeral procession route to send Mr Lee off. Even the clouds hung low that day, and the downpour marked the climactic end to a great legacy. People wept for him, as did the skies.

I will never forget the day I waved my flag in the pouring rain and caught my first and only glimpse of Mr Lee, the day I broke down in public with my fellow Singaporeans as I whispered a word of thanks that I hoped he could hear.

At 4:35PM, we bowed our heads for a minute of silence, saying our final goodbye to the man who changed all our lives for the better.

Words can’t express how much gratitude, respect, and love I have for this man who was iron-willed enough to do what needed to be done to bring a tumultuous fledgling nation to its current state; who was never complacent and always sought ways to improve; who took no bullshit from detractors and opponents, but was always kind and protective of us, the citizens; who was so devoted to his country so much he made it his lifelong project and saw it through till his final days.

So we’ve lost him at last. Indomitable as he seemed, he was, after all, human, and no man – no matter how noble or gifted – can live forever. But perhaps we should also be thankful that we had lived in a time when a great, fearless leader by the name of Lee Kuan Yew was around to pave the way for us to venture another step forward.

Rest now, Mr Lee. We will continue writing the Singapore story for you. You will live forever in the hearts of your people, and be dearly missed.

Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew

I woke up yesterday morning to the news of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death. My first thought was, what now? What is to become of the country that he built from scratch without his guidance, leadership, intellect, and foresight? Will we have the tenacity, loyalty, and enough love for the country to go on and ensure his life’s work does not go to waste?

As I went about my morning, everything became magnified. Every privilege and luxury that I – and many of us – have come to take for granted: clean streets and running water and skyscrapers and an elaborate transport system and a cushy office job to go to. As the founding father of Singapore, Mr Lee devoted his life to the country and was always fearless in his ways, his opinions, his policies, and took shrewdly calculated risks (remember the casino debacle?) that paid off in the end. He did whatever he could to put us in the global arena, and had a profound love and sense of responsibility to the country and its people.

Whatever your grouse with him might be, however much you may resent him for his iron-fisted autocratic ways, you can’t deny that he was whip-smart and had the foresight and steeliness that was required to pull Singapore out of a backwater slum to the teeming metropolitan city that it is today.

He did whatever he could to the best of his abilities, broke boundaries, and was a hero of his time. Whatever faults you find with him, he did what was needed, risking resentment from the people with his harsh policies for the good of the country, the bigger picture that the common man was as yet unable to see.

Yes, times are a-changing and what the people expect of their servant leaders are different. I don’t deny that Mr Lee’s rule probably won’t sit well with many people of my generation, the post-war generation that has never experienced the hardships of war or the early days of independence, when we had basically nothing and no support from anyone else.

But as he said, he did what he deemed best for Singapore in the sociopolitical environment of his time, and he raised our annual per capita income from $500 to $55,000 in the 50 years he was involved in the governance of Singapore, no mean feat given that Singapore was just a tiny island with hardly any natural resources at the mercy of our neighbours.

I don’t claim to have in-depth knowledge of Singapore politics; nor am I able to articulate as well as others who have written beautiful, moving tributes to the late Mr Lee. Up till now, this post is a mess of sentimentality and emotion. But I’d just like to express my immense gratitude to the grandfather who, while sometimes stern and assertive in his opinions and beliefs, always had our best interests at heart.

I want to promise him that Singapore will be fine, that we will have the grace and courage to move forward as a united civilisation that looks far beyond our own petty, selfish needs and do what is best for our country. But I dare not. For his tenacity, vision, drive, and deep sense of responsibility and love for his people and country are unparalleled.

There is none like him, and there will never be. Love him or loathe him, he had poured his life and soul into his country. He makes us proud to be Singaporeans, for all its triumphs and failings. He was a giant amongst men, a hero who fought hard for his people and his convictions, and simply a man who loved his family and his country. He was a visionary whose ideas weren’t always accepted by the people during his rule, and will always be remembered as one of the greats of modern history.

Singapore was incredibly lucky to have him as her leader, and I really, really hope that we can sustain his legacy and continue to make Singapore a country that we can be proud of for many years to come.

Be at peace, Mr Lee. While we mourn your passing, we also celebrate your achievements, and are forever indebted to you for all that we now possess.