Home > My Home, My Nationality, Singapore Scene, Uncategorized > My home, My nationality

My home, My nationality

My maternal grandfather, whom I never knew, was a first generation Malaysian. He fathered 13 children in Penang. He also ran a successful business and made good there. This was on top of being a top-notch craftsman. Many carvings that you see in Hai Kee Peranakan mansion, the setting of TV8 production “The Little Nonya” were his artwork.

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As a typical Chinese businessman, he invested in property. According to my mother, all the girls received education, mostly in Chinese schools. Grandfather had bought them properties and the intention was to let them return to China eventually. The boys were sent to English schools. Grandpa had the foresight to understand the importance of being educated in English.

Well, he died young. There was no successor to his business. The only properties he owned in Penang were his shophouse, which also doubled as the family home, and a piece of land. I still remember my first uncle grumbling about that piece of land. We continued to pay taxes on it, and although it was in a prime location, it could not be sold profitably. There was no infrastructure, no roads. Eventually we had to sell it for a song to the government. As for the properties in China, they were either confiscated or lost, thanks to the communist regime.

Why am I telling this story? Grandpa might have lived in Penang for a long time, he might have had a successful business in Malaysia and he even contributed to the Art History of the country. Ultimately, though, his heart was really for China.

Then there was my father, another first generation Malaysian. He came when he was in his late teens or early twenties. My grandfather was a school principal in China, so dad was pretty well educated. His life in Malaysia was one big struggle after another, and success eluded him. Still, even after he married my mother, and I came into the picture, every cent he earned, he sent home to China. He often reminisced and indicated how much he wanted to return. When I got married, and went home in a cheongsam – the first time I had ever worn a traditional Chinese dress, he was in tears for he was sooo happy. I had seemed to embrace Chinese Culture.

It was easy to tell what his heartfelt nationality was, no matter what his ic said.

Then there was me. I came to Singapore when I was in my early teens. I came because Singapore had given me a scholarship to study in the then University of Singapore. Singapore’s offer came a week earlier than Malaysia’s. Eventually, I got married to a Singaporean and started my own family here. In time, I felt way more Singaporean than Malaysian. My roots were here, my life was here. I felt nostalgia when I thought about Malaysia, but that was about it. My family was here, my friends were here. When I was good and ready, I changed citizenship. It was not impulsive, it was inevitable. Still, it was not easy to denounce my Malaysian citizenship. I felt somewhat like a traitor. I felt bad. To keep my Malaysian citizenship however was to keep a citizenship in name. I had spent way more time in Singapore than in Malaysia. Singapore is my home – Malaysia my birthplace.

This brings me to the question of the true “nationalities” of our paddlers.  My answer is unless you know them well, and what they think of the two countries, you cannot have an accurate answer. My grandfather and father spent years and years in Malaysia, but were essentially Chinese at heart.

Besides, does it really matter?

Think of how they were brought in. The talent scouts went, dangled the Olympic carrot – the ultimate dream of any athlete. In exchange, they had to change citizenship. In the case of the young Feng Tianwei, she had approximately one year before she had to denounce the country of her birth. In the meantime, her life was spent in training, mingling mainly with PRC or former PRC teammates and coaches. Did she even have time to integrate?

Why do we unleash our anger at these girls? They were given an opportunity that hardly any young athlete could ever refuse. It was a business transaction that ensured them financial freedom and an opportunity that their home country could not give them. If anything, I feel that it is Singapore who has made light of nationality issues.

I like to compare this with the World Cup Soccer. Footballers, in order to make an income, played for clubs in many countries. But when it is time for the competition, all returned to their countries of origin and played with their compatriots, for their respective countries. They had a common goal – achieve excellence for their nation. What is the spirit of the Olympic Games? Is it not similar to the World Cup, a game that celebrates athleticism and healthy competition amongst the nations?

But I am not here to discuss the games, sporting excellence or policies. I really want to talk about the tell-tale signs of what your heartfelt nationality is. For this I am going to use some lyrics,

Malaysian National Anthem has this:

Negara ku.

Tanah tumpah-nya darah ku.

My country. The land from which my blood flows.

Singapore National Anthem

Mari kita rakyat Singapura, sama sama menuju

Bahagia, cita cita kita yang mulia

Come citizens of Singapore, let us move in one accord towards happiness and our noble dreams.

Bahagia is actually much more than happiness. What these lyrics tell us is that there must be an agreement, a unity and an effort to walk together and achieve noble dreams.

Then there is the all-time favourite National Day Song –Home by Kit Chan. This song, for me at least, sums up why I regard Singapore my country.

The Chinese saying is – you guo cai you jia (only if there is a nation can you have a home). I believe this is equally real – you jia cai you guo ( a nation can only exist if it is home)

Happy National Day

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  1. ObserverOne
    August 9, 2012 at 3:30 am | #1

    Another well written article. Were you in ELPU of NUS?

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      August 9, 2012 at 3:33 am | #2

      what is ELPU? I was in Science, my majors were Eng Lang and Maths!! Typical teacher subjects! haha

  2. ObserverOne
    August 9, 2012 at 7:12 am | #3

    ELPU = English Language Proficiency Unit. I thought you were a lecturer there.

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      August 9, 2012 at 7:15 am | #4

      haha – me small time teacher only – now mainly retired

  3. patriot
    August 9, 2012 at 7:58 am | #5

    ‘You kuo cai you jia’ in this globalized era
    is passe.
    Home(jia) is where the heart belongs; it
    could be a familial abode or any piece of
    land where the abode is situated.

    Happiness anywhere is the same and
    happiness is what the ‘Jia’ should provide.

    patriot

  4. ObserverOne
    August 9, 2012 at 10:11 am | #6

    Dear SpeakSpokeWriteWrote,

    I think you should consider writing a book that contains collection of your writings and others in a specific theme. I may volunteer in some parts of it.

    It is always good to have a neutral voice in any system. It is better if they are documented in a proper book.

    Looking back, we are deviating to certain extend. Collectively, it is a process. But, in any point of time, mistakes may be done. Only neutral voice that is not carried away by other interests will be able to sense it.

  5. August 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm | #7

    no one cares

  6. ObserverOne
    August 10, 2012 at 8:53 am | #8

    “no one cares”

    It is this apathy syndrome that seriously need to be changed.
    Well, it is a good title for your book, SpeakSpokeWriteWrote.
    Thanks to jace for your suggestion.

  7. jay sim
    August 10, 2012 at 9:43 am | #9

    i believe your post is the fairest and better thought out than others out in cyberspace. We have to look at what we (or our govt) did to those paddlers than what they try to do here. We happened to be also the only country to dangle the highest reward for winning gold medals. It is purely transactional and financial. I’d rather we spend a million to train sportsmen/women up and gave them token rewards for winning, and we take care of their future careers. Give them a career path that is assuring not just a million if you win. if you don’t you are condemn for a life of poverty(?). Perhaps this will even generate thoughts of returning to your old homeland.

    There are many ways to give old sportsmen/women a decent career path. Many jobs related to sports are out there. Where are our old sportsmen/women? Is that why many are not taking sports seriously?

  8. SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
    August 10, 2012 at 11:47 am | #10

    Hey observer… a book!! haha..will have to think about it…not sure who will want to read!!
    Jay Sim – thanks a great deal. When i wrote this, i was wondering whether i will get bashed myself for being ex Malaysian. I think when Kojak wanted to put it up in TRE i expected some.

    Sure we all look to greener pastures, and Malaysia was discriminatory. I qualified locally, which was a great deal, given the small quota, so i really did not need to leave. Many of my relatives left too – but unlike me, many returned while others are waiting to return. Their hearts are still with Malaysia I guess. So it is not true that greener pastures will entice all to forget their roots.

    As for me, my heart is here, or else i will not be blogging about singapore – chiak pa so eng meh?? My immediate family members are all singaporeans, and i wonder what my children’s life will be like if we do not help making some issues heard now.

    This is a departure for me… i try not to justify myself, or elaborate about my posts or write long reply to comments – cos i really dislike how some blogs turn into a circus. I say what i believe in my posts, i do not defend myself, and if comments are overly offensive i just delete them.

    Have a nice weekend.

    • Remy
      August 11, 2012 at 11:55 am | #11

      Respect!!!
      Myself, very worried about the situation here in sg. Definately over focus on Foreign Talent. Worse of all Foreign Talent also refers to import of cheap labour that does jobs which many local are keen to do. I.e administrative, accounts etc… This ping pong competion another piece of evidence that show how the govt crazy-ly rely on foreigners.

  9. ObserverOne
    August 15, 2012 at 5:07 am | #12

    Dear SpeakSpokeWriteWrote,

    Your book is a crystallisation of your blog. If you have readers in your blog, you should also have readers for your book. Further, a book is a historical record that lasts more than our life time.

    If you write with your heart, your book should be able to serve a higher purpose. It is a reflection from a unique person (i.e. you) in a unique situation (i.e. all current social, economy and yes political issues) in a unique era.

    Your book is not only for yourself, not only for me, not only for others who read your blog, but also for your children, their friends, their children, who one day later will refer back to our time to understand their own situation and era.

    If you have the required skill, well structured thoughts, and reasonable time to write one book, then it is in my opinion that you should write one.

    I have trust in you.

  10. Pak Dong
    August 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm | #13

    Yo…. Very well said

  11. ObserverOne
    August 23, 2012 at 2:04 am | #14

    Dear SpeakSpokeWriteWrote,

    I am willing to support your book. Please let me know what you need.

    • October 6, 2012 at 8:11 am | #15

      Hi
      Was away for a month, come back so much bs, no mood to blog….hahaha… when the mood returns you will see my blog return

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