film online academia about
features sports trade reviews technology police life travel opinion
What it means to be a Singaporean
A personal viewpoint
Police Life writer Nisar Keshvani who turned 21 this year attended the National Day celebrations as a part of his duties with Public Affairs Department. Although he was there on a working assignment, he could not help being moved by the occasion. In this article, he voices his feelings on what it means to be a Singaporean.



... recalled the stories that my father had told me of Singapore after the Second World War,
and my mother's account of
the days Singapore separated from Malaysia. How our
former Prime Minister, Mr
Lee Kuan Yew shed tears on national TV ...



As I watched the parade, many thoughts rushed through my mind. I recalled how last year, before I was enlisted to serve my country, I had spent two months overseas without friends and family - a total stranger in an unknown land. I did not get a chance to meet fellow Singaporeans to celebrate our nation's independence. That is when I discovered my sense of identity or rather lack of it.

It was only there, miles away from home I felt like a full-bred Singaporean. I found myself telling foreigners about the wonders of our country and how we managed to survive so many years without natural resources.

I was reminded by a recent e-mail that I received from a friend studying in Australia. My friend, who was lamenting about being homesick, had been celebrating National Day with some classmates. All the Singaporean students had made their way to the Singapore consulate in Sydney for a get-together.

What delighted them most was the serving of local delicacies such as mee goreng, char kway teow and local pastries. Incidentally, he mentioned that there were foreigners there too. At these occasions, the Singapore government's management style and strict laws is always a topic for coffee talk.

The strange thing was, he who had been most critical of Singapore end up defending our nation. He mentioned how ironic it was that those who in Singapore had been critical of it had ended up being its most vociferous defenders.

Just then, President Ong Teng Cheong arrived. I was back from dreamland and busy snapping photographs as he made his way through the Guard-of-Honour. I knew some of my national service mates were present in the various contingents.

They loaded their weapons to fire their rounds. At that moment when they aimed for the sky, I felt a sense of pride I had never felt before. Here I was reaching the 21st chapter of my life. I would be celebrating my
independence soon too.


In fact, it made me feel good that I was serving my nation and doing my bit protecting my land. Here I was in the Police force contributing in my own small way to my country which has given me so much. I had never felt before.

As the parade continued, we began to sing our national songs. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. We were all proud and happy to celebrate our 31st year of independence. Then, as if to shatter this glass dream of ours and bring us back to reality, a live history lesson was staged.

It was re-enactment of Singapore's turbulent times. A time which most of us would rather forget. As I watched the display, I recalled history lessons in school. It seemed strange. I could never picture peaceful Singapore being a land of turmoil.

But then, recalled the stories that my father had told me of Singapore after the Second World War, and my mother's account of the days Singapore separated from Malaysia. How our former Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew shed tears on national TV, requesting migrants from lands afar who had chosen Singapore as their home to stay and not leave at the slightest signs of turmoil.

It was indeed an emotional moment for me. Watching the racial riots being enacted brought tears to people's eyes. Now I understood why. The images before me were too real and frightening. Just then a teenager next to me said, to my surprise. "Gosh. Aren't we blessed not to live in such fearful times."

Well I would bet my bottom dollar every Singaporean in the stadium that night felt the same way.

Then, as if to teleport us back to the peaceful present, fireworks lit up the sky. As I watched the aerial kaleidoscope, the words of one of our national songs echoed in my heart:

This is my country,
This is my future,
This is my life.

     

|  print  |  film  |  online  |  academia  |  about  |