I am a Singaporean who lives in a series of hash tags. They are:
#iamchinese my race, my ethnicity, a language I speak, “mother tongue” classes I struggled with and the colour of my skin
#iamasian a vague identity I hold; ‘one of them’ in the tribes of Northeast India and I am ‘one of us’ when I am on the streets of peninsular Southeast Asia
#india my second home, a spiritual home that I frequent, whose cities I roam in, whose trains I love, whose air makes me homesick, whose people are my friends
#tech what I do for work and love
#iamsingaporean is the answer that’s so obvious, it surprises me
I spent many years doubting my future as part of this nation, for good reason. I always wanted to leave. I left, but as I returned I found the city’s transformation to my liking; its new citizens and residents as friends rather than threats; its 2011 elections a watershed that I took weeks off my life to play a part in. I am proud of my little country, whose red passport brings me places in a way that shows me how we ‘punch above our weight’. It is a home I can count on, a home whose rapid change I want to be a part of.
It has been an interesting journey: my circuitous journey upon graduation to the Middle East, to Europe, to India and Bangkok and KL, and back again by way of politics, tech and business. No doubt I will find myself living and working in other places in the world throughout the rest of my life, yet Singapore has never felt so much like home.
I can’t yet put my finger on it, it feels like a tide has turned somewhere. Friends I accepted as lost to the charms of the big cities of the West are now homebound; people who never used to care about this place now sing a different tune. I have had the honour to have served my nation with a great many able, clever, talented young Singaporeans.
I think I may be homebound sooner than I thought — although I have already come home in more ways than one in the non-physical sense of the word.
So happy 46th, Singapore. People expect a mid-life crisis of us but I think the best years are ahead of us.