Happy New Year! I trust you had an excellent celebration over New Year’s Eve and you’re all set to take on new challenges, new diets and reimagined exercise routines. In the main office in Singapore, there’s renewed vigour in our
retired team workout sessions, possibly in preparation for all the feasting when Chinese New Year comes along in February. For now, or January at least, we’re sticking to salad and yong tau foo.
With 2016, I find myself toying with the question of what SG51 means. And I’m not the only one. While there’s no big marketing campaign around it, there have been discussions about where we go from SG50. What do the next 50 years hold for us as a nation? The SGfuture dialogue is one platform which invites Singaporeans to share how they envision our shared future. Carrying on from the Our Singapore Conversation, this series of dialogues and engagements invites Singaporeans to create a shared vision and to build our future. You can share your thoughts here.
Even as those plans take shape, something happened at the end of 2015 that defined SG50 on a personal level for me. It was a regular morning commute on the East-west line when I heard a thud on the MRT floor behind me. The auntie in front of me picked up a green handphone and handed it back to a pale faced teenage girl behind me. The red headphone cords were still hanging loose in the air as she stared ahead blankly.
“Girl, your phone.” She didn’t move.
And then barely visible, her lips moved. By now, I had unplugged my earphones and faced her, as did the puzzled auntie.
“I’m not feeling well.”
Immediately, a seat behind her freed up. Two other aunties leapt into action, seating her down, fishing out medicated oil and gently stroking her hair. Inquisitive commuters got on the train and looked on curiously. One auntie held the pale faced girl in her arms, blocking off unwanted stares while speaking in soothing tones.
“Where are you getting off?” asked the auntie seated beside the girl.
By now she had regained her voice and managed to utter her reply softly.
“I’m getting off there too. I’ll go with you,” assured the first auntie who picked up her phone.
“Outram Park station,” said the digital intercom.
The auntie led the teenage girl off the train, hand in arm. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were mother and daughter, disappearing into the lifeless morning crowd.
I like the word auntie, that familial relation with perfect strangers in a country you call your own, that you call home.
So go ahead, call me Uncle.