It all started out with a simple idea. To share Singapore’s story.
We were young, inexperienced and nervous. We were apprehensive, for we were afraid that our plans would fall through, that all along we were naïve for thinking that we could make any difference. But we had our shared vision - To build a Singapore without strangers, and we were set on making it happen.
Looking back, it’s been a year since our first pilot tour. I still recall the interactions I had with each person I met that day.
The graduate student who was due to enrol at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He had graduated with an Electrical Engineering undergraduate degree back home in India. Upon graduation, he worked on establishing electric grids in villages in rural India. It was there and then, that he saw the greater problem, the inefficacy of local government policies. He wanted to do more for the people, to improve their lives, and his dedication led him to study Public Policy in Singapore.
The East Timorese who was working in Singapore. He shared with me that, in East Timor, they spoke many languages. In addition to Tetum, the national language of East Timor, people took up their hometown dialect, Bahasa Indonesia, Portuguese and English. The need to learn Bahasa Indonesia is born of practicality, for East Timor is adjacent to Indonesia. Portuguese, is a lingual remnant that lingered on from the colonial presence of the Portuguese in the past. With regard to English, it serves as a working language for the people of East Timor to engage with people from across the globe. On a heavier note, he also shared with me that the people of East Timor had fought hard in recent years, to preserve their sovereignty and culture, as the country struggled to assert national independence.
These were personal stories that made me think about my own, that left a mark on me.
The graduate student who went above and beyond his duty to serve his people. He was a great inspiration for me. He stood as a beacon of hope and a reminder for me to stay grounded, to remain true to the values I hold dear, and to remember the greater purpose of servitude.
The East Timorese enabled me to see how the historical and political background of a country could have such a direct and evident influence on the words spoken by people of the country. And with all my might, I pray never for the land beneath our feet to belong to others. Though Singapore’s sovereignty is not threatened in present circumstances, we should till wait till Singapore, the place we call home, is robbed from us to realise her importance.
Albeit for a short period of time, I am grateful to have shared time with the people that I met that day, to have heard their personal stories and experiences.
As we shared Singapore’s story that day, we listened out to the stories of the people we met, and they, ours.