9 Aug 2013

Red & White: Part 10

"Hey Sis, wanna go down and get a snack?"

"Er... sure. Mom, Dad, we're going down, okay?"

"Hah? Why? Stay lah, got nice beds, got big TV screen, can still take photos from here!"

"Aiyah, we don't have much to do in this hotel room other than that. Fireworks over already, we might as well walk around, right?"

"...okay lah okay lah. Just don't fool around at the club–"

"Mom, it's way too crowded at the clubs now. We won't be able to enter anyway!"

"Just remember to come back up here!"

"Got it. Bro, let's go."

...

"How's the cake, Sis?"

"Pretty good actually! Toasty and fragrant. How's yours?"

"Not bad either."

"Dad was so dazzled by the fireworks outside the windows! Kept going 'wah, so bright!' 'Wah, so colourful!' 'Wah, so big!' Kinda like seeing the boy in him again!"

"Yeah, he was snapping so many shots he nearly used up all the space on the empty memory card! The fireworks were wonderful, can't deny that."

"And Mom was smiling and pointing at the TV so many times too. Kinda funny how she was the only one singing the theme song when it came up!"

"Maybe she's doing it out of sympathy for the performers?"

"Oh come on."

"What? Especially for the young kids. She'd want the children to feel appreciated, but she'd complain too much about the weather to actually watch them there."

"It can be more than just that. The flaws of the theme song very often get overlooked when everyone's feeling very inspired and patriotic. Even if it's a bad song, they'd sing it anyway because they love Singapore that much."

"..."

"What? Something wrong with your cake?"

"...how much do you love this country?"

"Huh?"

"How much do you love Singapore?"

"...why are you suddenly asking me this?"

"..."

"Fine. I like Singapore a lot. It is my home after all. This is the place I grew up, where I made my first friends, where I learned a lot about myself and about others, where I can spend time with friends and family."

"...and?"

"And what?"

"I mean, what are you willing to do for Singapore because you love her?"

"Er... I guess I'd stay here. I'm not keen to move residence to another country and forgo my citizenship. I'd start a family here. I may even lead my own company here someday. I know, that sounds crazy, but it's not impossible."

"..."

"...why are you suddenly asking me this?"

"I think I've lost the romance in this relationship..."

"Hah? You got girlfriend already meh?"

"No! I mean I don't feel the same love for Singapore as I used to. Maybe there isn't any love anymore."

"What are you talking about?"

"You know what I'm talking about. I feel completely distant from Singapore now. Not just physically distant when I'm overseas."

"...and you're telling me this because...?"

"I don't know what to do. I feel partly ashamed that what my passport says about my citizenship doesn't agree with what I feel inside. I was born here, I lived here for quite a good number of years, but I don't feel that connected here."

"That's kinda natural when you go overseas often–"

"It's been like this before I started the overseas work. It's one of the reasons why I chose to work overseas in the first place. I know of many friends who stay overseas for long periods of time, and they start missing so many things about Singapore. I don't feel as homesick or passionate."

"You chose to work overseas because... you didn't really like working here?"

"Sort of... I mean, I don't see my dreams being fulfilled in a place like this. I don't see myself living out the remainder of my life here. Not because I hate Singapore, but because I see her limits."

"..."

"...you're not going to start a National Education lecture with me?"

"Why should I? You're not wrong about Singapore's limitations. You do have better room to explore and grow in other bigger countries. You might even have a better overall livelihood there."

"Huh? I thought you'd go all politically correct on me."

"You're my brother, I have to give you my honest advice. Anyway, someone told me this before: What makes a home isn't just the building, but the people inside. You don't have to stay in Singapore to remain a Singaporean. Well, the government prefers that you do return and stay, but there are so many other factors that go into a decision like this."

"So what are you trying to say?"

"Well... even if you do decide to live and work somewhere else, you should still contribute back to your homeland. You do owe her big time for a great deal of your upbringing. You talk about her having limits, right?"

"Yeah."

"Then you can still help by expanding Singapore's boundaries. Help the country push the limits further."

"...someone else said that too."

"Really?"

"Yeah. He encouraged me to join the band of pioneers and help Singapore grow more with my contributions, but I said I can't take on such a big responsibility yet."

"...will you though?"

"I... er..."

"Will you eventually help Singapore? Maybe even come back for good? Mom and Dad would really like to see you more often here if it can be helped."

"...I don't know. Not yet. I still have years to go. So does Singapore. Maybe by then we won't really need each other anymore."

"Don't be silly! There's always room for improvement and growth. For both you and this country."

"..."

"Look. All I'm saying is that you don't have to be so fiercely loyal that you give up so many of your hopes and dreams, but while you live out your aspirations, at least do some things to repay the favour. Then perhaps future generations won't complain as much about being constrained in Singapore."

"...I guess."

"Quickly finish your coffee, it's getting cold! Then we can walk around outside for some fresh air."

"...thanks for talking this out with me, Sis."

"Aiyah, no big deal!"

"No, really. Thanks."

"No problem, Bro. Just quickly finish the drink, I think there's a live band outside performing."

"Performing what? More National Day theme songs?"

"Just finish the drink!"