Archive for March, 2015


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Follow the rainbow, and ride it. And this is the legacy of the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

For those who are unaware, the past week was a week dedicated to the memory of Lee Kuan Yew. I woke up on Monday morning to newsflashes on the demise of the man himself. When I first heard the news, I wasn’t that shocked because the PMO had been slowly preparing Singaporeans for his eventual fate over the past few weeks. I cannot remember how I felt then when I was first informed of the news, but I do know that the emptiness inside of me started welling up the moment I knew he was no more. I didn’t know how to express that sense of loss I had, that continued to swell and eat me up from inside. Life went on as normal. Over the last few days, I found myself weeping inside for the man who had finally claimed his place in the pages of history, proper. He was now a name that can only exist in the pages of history books, rather than a living and breathing figure. All my life I’ve been taught that Mr Lee was the first PM of Singapore and he was the key architect responsible in transforming Singapore from a third world country to a bustling metropolis. All my life I’ve been so accustomed to seeing the familiar man on television screens and reading about him through the books that my mother bought. I am now in my early twenties and thus old enough to remember Mr Lee as who he was, and as a History major, he isn’t a historical “historical” figure for me because he was alive and well, and it is honestly disconcerting to have him imprinted in a two-dimensional, pixelated fashion now. This sense of loss is inexplicable. I think all of us have our own mental images of him and how we perceive him to be. To me, he was a man who never stopped trying. He never rested on his laurels and was always seeking ways to improve himself, and the world around him. He reminded us that life was not a sprint, but a marathon and you will only see the finish line when your next breath doesn’t come. The thought of summarizing what Mr Lee Kuan Yew meant to me in the past tense is a reality that is particularly jarring now, and also hard to come to terms with, but we all have to eventually.

So I’m going to put all these into writing. Words can only say so much but I do know that I want to dedicate a post to his memory. I’m not a fan of posting my heartfelt emotions on Facebook or twitter, so here goes. (because I know no one really reads this space anyway.)

Thank you Mr Lee for everything that you’ve done for us. It makes me feel lucky, having been born here in Singapore and enjoying the sweet fruits of your leadership. There will never be another man like you again, and I think, you’re every measure of the man most boys would aspire to be as they mature into adulthood. Thank you for being so calm and stable and the pillar of strength for so many Singaporeans. It hurts to say that you are no more and you didn’t believe that much in the afterlife either, because you once mentioned that if there really was an afterlife, it would be overpopulated–I think only you would phrase it this way. As childish as it may sound, if there really was an afterlife, or a next life, I would still like you to be the PM of my country.On second thoughts, maybe not. Giving up your life once is enough–if there really is an afterlife or a next life, I hope that you’ll live the life of an ordinary citizen then, and relish every single moment. It wasn’t easy, dedicating all you have for Singapore–I think it’s really hard to find another character like you today. Tough times maketh a man and you truly are. Your absence will take a little getting used to, and I cannot fathom what it’ll be like come August when I can no longer see your face light up on the television screen. But then again, you are with us. I like to think that you live on, somehow. Not in physical form, but spiritually and emotionally, you’re ingrained in our national psyche and your contributions can be seen everywhere, from the towering housing blocks to the lush greenery that surrounds us, everyday. For that, thank you sir. I don’t know where you are now, I don’t think the human mind will ever know. But wherever you are now, I hope you’re happy. Have a good rest Mr Lee, and if we are lucky, we’ll see you again. Till then, there’s still many things for us to do–there are goals to be accomplished and dreams to be fulfilled and a nation to defend. I think that’s your legacy and the most enduring gift you’ve bestowed upon us–you gave the young and future generations the luxury to dream and to fulfill our potentials. For that, thank you. We will dream big, act wisely and do your memory proud.

So long, and goodbye, for now.


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Cambodia, March 2015

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It’s Friday! TGIF! It has been a whirlwind week, what with 6 days spent in Siem Reap, Cambodia with some of the best folks in the world. It has been a truly gratifying experience so far and no words in the world can ever summarize the intensity of my emotions as well as the happiness experienced during the past week. It is amazing when you realize that the world has so much to offer beyond your own comfort zone and it is simply surreal. I was so distraught on Wednesday morning when I realized that I had to leave Cambodia. This trip is certainly the highlight of my year so far and with all the plans that have been lined out for the rest of my year, I’m confident that it will be a good year, overall. I am honestly overly saturated with work to type out my own thoughts right now but here is just what I feel currently–I am in love and intoxicated with life. I can’t wait for what the rest of life has installed for me and I do think that living itself is going to be the biggest adventure. It is high time that we treasure every damn thing in life, be it the big moments or the small moments–often enough we try to contemplate about what the future has installed for us and we forget that all we have is the Now. I think, I’ll never want to learn from time to appreciate what I have because by then, it would be too late.

The opportunity to visit Cambodia is honestly a heavensent and I am really grateful for this opportunity. It came out of the blue and never did I expect it to come knocking at my door. I am in debt to the organizations in Singapore for having so much faith in me because to be honest, chances are given by people and I do not think that I am that worthy of the nomination, but I am glad that I crossed their minds and I’m really unsure about how I can express my gratitude in other terms–perhaps, being the best that I can be and doing my part for Singapore will be one of the manners in which I can repay them one day. Also I am incredibly thankful that my professors and schoolmates have been very accommodating and understanding of my schedule as well. Blessed with many “firsts” in this trip–I was asked by the organizers back home to moderate a session for more than a hundred participants in the conference–combating my fear of public speaking was the biggest challenge and figuring out what to do next was also an issue. Thankfully I had the support of the Singaporean delegation and the friends whom I’ve made along the way. Had the pleasure to befriend one of the most inspiring people in this world–he’s one of the most amazing lads I’ve ever met–young, free spirited and with alot of love for humanity and for the world. He has grand dreams too, which I can only hope will come to fruition because if there’s anyone I believe in, it’s in this friend of mine. He was actually a fellow moderator for another session and the first friend I made when we set foot in Siem Reap. It was also through our own puzzlement about the session and the stress that accompanied the preparation of the report that allowed us to bond. As I listened to him share his stories about all the places he had been to, I felt inspired to embark on a similar route too. Talk about positive influence XD. Being young has its merits–it allows us to have the capacity to dream and to feel, without having to arm yourself with too much pleasantries/false fronts.

We went to several landmarks during the trip. One of them was the Angkor Wat, the cultural heritage and symbolic marker of Cambodia. All the hype about the temple wasn’t overrated at all. Commercialized, yes, but overrated–no. When you gaze and marvel at the architecture of Angkor Wat, it reminds you of how much humans are capable of achieving. Bear in mind that the temple was actually constructed in the 11th century–how on earth were the people back then able to construct buildings that strutted way out into the sky without risking the fall? How were they able to harness the technology back then? So many questions bogged my mind as I climbed up the building. Angkor Wat was indeed a beauty and it’s majestic presence will always be imprinted in my mind. However, what really touched my heart in Cambodia wasn’t the breathtaking, astounding monuments that I saw, but the ordinary, everyday people whom I had the chance to interact with. What stunned me into self reflection was the fact that they smile so readily and they seemed to be pretty contented with their lot in life. I am aware that I may be making a sweeping generalization about the Cambodians at large, but at least for the people whom I’ve interacted with, they gave me the impression of being happy with their lot. Their smiles were so genuine and whenever they smiled, you can see the light reach their eyes. I think this is a quality that is lacking in the faces of city life. We are embroiled in a culture of speed and ambitions and we are always telling ourselves to move faster, be better and to aim higher. Yet in the midst of chasing these illusive goals we tend to forget that life is for the living and is for the present. In our pursuit of so many goals we tend to lose sight of the things that matter and such mental myopia may cause us to lose even more in the long run.

From this trip, I am even more certain that life waits for no one and is highly capricious. Sometimes, you’ve got to play by ear and go with the flow. Whatever that begins will have an end, and where there is joy, sadness will abide. But where there is sorrow there is also happiness. Perhaps instead of seeing things in a dichotomized fashion, it’ll be better to allow there to be some leeway.

Having the privilege to encounter so many people of diverse backgrounds exposed me to vistas which I have yet to see, and stories that I have yet to live for myself. It makes me ponder about how we are all from different parts of the world, yet we are still so similar in many aspects–passion is probably the glue that binds us all together and the belief in the wondrous possibilities that await. After all, what is youth if it isn’t about chasing one’s dreams? It hurts so badly for me to say goodbye on Wednesday, because to be honest I was really unsure about whether I’ll see them again in future. I am still unsure now but then again, to be sad about not seeing these people again only meant that I am lucky enough to have people I’ll miss because it means that the feelings were real and not just a product of my mind. If I were to be presented with another alternative, which is to not meet them at all by giving up the opportunity when it was offered to me under the premise of having too much work to do and deadlines to meet, I would choose the former. I’d go through the pain of separation for every chance to say hello, because even though people come and go, life is in itself, ephemeral and transient. I am heartened, honoured and very privileged to have been given this opportunity to see the world in a different country, and through the eyes of the many others who have dropped by my life briefly, but have made their presence felt in my heart. Not many people are able to stay on in your life and there are many reasons for their eventual absence, be it geographical, financial or even cultural factors but that doesn’t discount their impact and I think, in a world where billions reside, being able to have met these people in a sea of blurred faces is comfort by itself. Let that be enough. Let the memories be enough. We all have our own lives to live, and I’ll take the photographs along with me as I go on. 我们还有很多梦没做 还有很多明天要走。May our paths cross again one day, but till then I’m sure we will all be living our lives in the best way we can. Cheers to humanity, and to life.

百年修得同船渡,千年修得共枕眠。 前世的五百次回眸,才换来今世的擦肩而过。 For the rest of my life, I’ll always be thankful for this chance meeting, even if life takes us on diverging routes from here.

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