Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Saddest Reading Ever

This semester I took the most interesting module since Sociological Theory – Contemporary South Asian societies. Each reading was a pure page turner in its own way, very exciting and heady stuff. Contemporary sociology applied to South Asian context, and it taught me so much about myself, my heritage, my religion and the socialization processes that I experienced myself. However, what has left the biggest mark on me though is the fate of the poor and disadvantaged, and how they are systemactically grieved. The stories shared in class about the poor were literally the fat to the fire within me. Let me share one extremely compelling tale that I was much moved by.

“There’s no grazing land for our cattle, and the dust after the blasting settles everywhere near our villages. Vehicles have fallen off the side of the mountain onto our villages. We have written applications to the authorities three or four times. Still they don’t care.

The collector invited a few elders of our community and then abused them by calling them goats, sheep, bloody fools and they were beaten by security forces. We had to run away from there.

The police told us before not to come with arms, otherwise it would have turned violent. Still they charged and fired gas on us. 70 of us had false cases made against us. 15 of us still have court cases pending against us for the last 5 years. They don’t listen or give us any job.

Our water resources are dying, because of mining. We are unable to rotate our crops. I, Sri Lasu Jani, speaking on the behalf of my community, say that we are struggling to survive. Not only us, many villages around the mine are struggling too. Nalco promised us to give us all facilities around a radius of 10km but nothing has happened. They promised to give us medical help, and this has not happened also. Nalco is doing us a grave injustice.

– From Out of this Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel by Felix Patel and Samarendra Das




Cusp of Change

So….summer started. Exams ended. Pens put down. The GPA is beyond my locus of control now.  (and I chew my fingernails in fear for that).

The Mayans predicted that the world would end in 2012. I think they are partially right – the world as I know it definitely ended on 21st April 2012 when I passed my final exam transcript to my prof.

This summer, the world changes. Close to half of my close friends are graudating. They have mostly found jobs, and one of them is already even thinking about using her pay to renovate her home. Haha, what a mindset change, from worrying about GPA. Some are returning from Australia to work in Singapore, and I can gladly see them more often.

Another quarter of my close friends are rubbing their hands with glee, with one word permeating their every thought  – EXCHANGE!  I kinda regret not going for exchange in Year 3 Sem 1, so all the more reason to make this one 100 times as exciting. Really glad to have good friends going with me as well. 8 months holiday! Europe baby Europe!

And the last quarter, who are happily still in Singapore or somewhere else – don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you! I’m confident you will be beset by change as well.

I think its an age thing. I was reading a sociological journal article 3 weeks ago about how the societal age for “adulthood’ has increased from 21 to 25. People are starting work later and making all the crucial life decisions when they are about 25 years old – which is about where I am. So with the backing of an esteemed sociological journal, I can definitely say these two years are going to be exciting. What’s interesting to me as well, is how people make these decision. Life lesson No #4153 to me was that there are no clear rules in this world. You make your own dammned decision and bear with the consequences. So sometimes I get a little kick analyzing how people make their choices and applying the Theory of Reasoned Action to it.

So what about myself? Yes Warsaw awaits.

4 months ago, when I was asked about contrat renewal at my old company, I told my boss I was confident of securing another marketing internship in summer and did not want to extend. Well, that went miserably (5 rejections and counting) and I am now somehow (surprise!) preparing to fly to Taiwan for 2 weeks to backpack. Jetstar Friday Frenzy and Tiger Friday promotions are doors to bankruptcy indeed. The tickets were too cheap to ignore, and the prospect of empty meaningless summer seemed so alien to me at that time. Deep down inside I think I suffer from acute wanderlust.

Anyways, that’s just a vacation to escape the Singapore early May heat (damn you, global warming). I was ambitious and applied for Ministry of Foreign Affairs internship at Moscow (yes, Russia! hehe). But God had other plans and they said no Russia, left only South East Asia for you. Applied for Jakarta on the 2nd round, and I hope I get that. Then I can fly to Warsaw for exchange, maybe do some travelling before that or even learn the language or do some farming?? (Or perhaps even a Polish internship hehe)

Ok enough rambling, back to the main point – life as I know it will never be the same again. As I found out a tumultous Tuesday morning after I received the MFA call, the only thing constant in life is the rumbling of the stomach. But rather being nostalgic, one has to celebrate the change. After all, it’s going to be exciting. And so to all my friends, those seen and unsen – my prayers and wishes are for you. May you prosper!!

The Young Ones

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young…”

Says Albus Dumbledore.


As I watch the younglings fight and organize yet another edition of The Project I Grew Up with, this quote certainly springs to mind. I think I understand now, or perhaps get an inkling, of what is a mid-life crisis –> When everything seems meaningless and all effort is mired in a lack of fruitfulness.

Another memory is triggered, and it is one at Golden Shoe Hawker Centre, with one of the faithful readers of my blog. I remember saying “After some time, you begin to wonder if everything is worth it. You reach a point when you know the motivations just are not the same anymore”.
And now these words come back to haunt me. Who is the one with different motivations? Is others, or is it really me?

It’s just like Liverpool, stuck in the rut, unable to put a ball in the back of the net.

So like my beloved club, I think its time for me to step out of my malaise. This laziness, the idea that “I’ve been there and done that” has been festering in me for some time already. Perhaps, I have been too arrogant in my attitude and I am truly quite sorry for that. That is the old man mentality. Experience is one thing, but arrogance is another.

Back to the The Project: As we debrief, the fresh younglings do not understand the battle of ideas going across the table. I glance at one young couple, both glued to their phones and itching smiles. I suspect they are flirting over SMS, oblivious to the world. Sweet young love indeed. The older ones push their ideas across and share their stories. I watch carefully, and plunge into the foray when I can. And then I remember; not too long ago were we the young ones glued to our phones instead. The Elders have left (a messy situation indeed) and now we are the in the lead. The weight of age hangs on heavily on our shoulders. Are we worthy of our positions? Am I even worthy of it? Based on The Project alone, I think I have done a horrible job. I’d give myself an D for effort.

In retrospect, my two week adventure in Berastagi was the impetus needed for this epiphany of sorts. The Year of Dragon is arriving, and I hope I am lucky enough to change myself. “You need to have a mind of a 5 year old – question everything.” It’s high time to espouse those values indeed.

The Lure of Redemption

Happy 23rd Birthday to me!

As glad and thankful I am to have lived 23 exciting years, I am beginning to look at birthdays with dread. Each year (ok maybe this is just the 2nd year haha), I ask myself – am I getting old and disillusioned? Hmm perhaps, it is a sign of times or the sign of age.

But as I let my thoughts settle, there is one temptation shining clearly in mind – the lure of redemption. The idea to do it all over again, make it perfect this time. No small flaws and no tiny errors.

It’s not helping that I see some of my friends have succumbed to it already – to start from scratch in the hope that everything will be all right this time.

But is that really possible, or is it even true?

I guess maybe or maybe not. We will never know till we crossed that path. The word “Arsenal” comes to mind – “we will always win the next season”. Hurhur. Another perspective – the whole project was a success, just that my standards are too high.

Hmm, there is no turning back the clock. Only time for reflection, repentance and reciprocity. Glad am I that I have lived the life I had. I am not proud of all my actions, but I hope I have done some good in this world and that it made an impact.

Alas this is the wrong time to for such musing, birthdays are the time to honour all the people in your life. Time to go back to thanking those who wished me happy birthday!

The Iron Cage that Crushes: SMU Bureaucracy

Do bigger organizations inevitably turn out to be a bureaucratic mess?

I think definitely so. In my past 3 years in SMU, I have seen such an institutionalization of rules hitherto unseen and it leaves me with sad and strange disappointment and displeasure. After all, this is the school that was supposed to be different. I write this blogpost for the greater good – that SMU this piecemeal intention in trying to change the burgeoning institution will somehow have a butterfly effect.

One of the reasons why I chose SMU was because it marketed itself to be different. And I’m sure it was, for the first year. Yet slowly, I noticed (with much annoyance) over the increase in red tape.

My biggest bugbear: Endless forms and emails. Documents are being kept there for the sake of being kept there.

Case Study

I went to Office XXX to borrow a tripod and got stonewalled by the staff.

Me: “Are there any tripods for me to borrow?”

She: “No, I can only check if there are tripods available once you give me the form which must be 2-3 days in advance for processing time”

Me: “So are there any tripods available?”

She: “I can only check if I get the form”

Me: “So you don’t know how many tripods you have in your office?”

She: “I cannot tell you until I get the form”

Me: “What if I get the form now?”

She: “You need it to be sent 2-3 days in advance.”

Me: “Why?”

She: “For processing.”

The Resistance by Muse

The paranoia is in bloom, the PR
Transmissions will resume, they’ll try to
Push drugs, keep us all dumb down and hope that
We will never see the truth around, so come on

Another promise, another scene, another
Package not to keep us trapped in greed with all the
Green belts wrapped around our minds and endless
Red tape to keep the truth confined, so come on

They will not force us
And they will stop degrading us
And they will not control us
We will be victorious, so come on

Back to Case Study

So  I wanted to complain why were there so many forms and procedures. How do I do that? Write a form of course, then wait for it to get processed.

Other Examples of Red Tape

1) The exponential proliferation of forms for community service.

2) Scrapping of LTB service projects in favour of case studies for the incoming freshmen.

3) Implementation and review of KPIs for CCAs

This is a school…and schools shouldn’t be a cage.

Ok back to mugging.

It’s Been Awhile

You know it’s been awhile when the WordPress layout doesn’t seem familiar anymore…
I miss writing for leisure.

Think Curry First

I’ve shared this anecdote so many times that I feel like an old man typing this out.
When I was a kid in primary school, I experienced strong racism from the Chinese for being Indian. “Black”, “smelly”, “curry” they called me. (Yes, pity me and the other minorities in my generation – we suffered and grew stronger from it)
Ten years later, my youngest sister studied in the same primary school, and she said the foreigners were the ones suffering from racism. We Indians had become part of “the gang” already. The foreigners were being verbally abused with phrases “go back to your India!” and “Chinaman!”
(Hooray to that! We love Singapore now! haha. kidding)

In my humble opinion, the tipping point came during the National Day Rally in 2004. Lee Hsien Loong, in his maiden address to the nation, made it clear that Singaporeans were not procreating enough and that we would need migrants to cover up for the shortfall. I think the flood gates opened soon after that and the trains became unbearably crowded and housing prices shot up.

So now, 7 years later, we have a presidential hopeful campaigning on the premise of “Think Singaporeans First”. I regard Tan Cheng Bok as an astute politican. He has been gunning for presidency since June 2011, and quit the People’s Action Party in May. With so much time to plan, he even came up with an iPhone app for himself!

TCB observed, and accurately so, that there is a deep nationalistic under-current in Singapore. I wonder what would have happened if he had remained with the PAP during the General Elections. Could he have done a “George Yeo” and told the PAP to wake up?? Personally, I doubt so since he was just a backbencher but it is some food for thought.

The unanswered question to TCB’s election manifesto is “If Singaporeans first, then foreigners how?” I am sure this must be running through the minds of all the Filipinos, Banglas, Indians and Chinese etc here. I think TCB will win because his nationalist manifesto is the catchiest and resonates with the public better than anyone else. (although he really does have an ugly symbol which may work against him) If he wins, I fear  that TCB might turn out to be a very divisive president and split the society into “Singaporeans” and “non-Singaporeans”. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, but it could be a tipping point in societal relations – just like how the NDR was. But I’ll leave it to him to prove me wrong.

Presidential politics aside, what does it mean to be Singaporean exactly? I was surprised by the sentiment I observed after NDR 2011. LHL announced an increase in the number of university places for Singaporeans only – and many people commented back “New citizens also Singaporeans what!“. (Having chaired over a Citizenship Ceremony for new citizens, I would like to use this chance to categorically state that 70% of new citizens are usually Malaysians).

So if having a pink IC doesn’t qualify you as a Singaporean, then what does? Being kiasu? Using tissue to chope? Going for NS (for guys)? Speaking Singlish?

Singapore is now 46 years old, and I think we are now at a flux in terms of nationhood. Most Singaporeans (the old citizens) already have a set of similar experiences and common ideals. In a society that prides itself on multi-culturalism, we do not have any similar religion (we have many majority religions) or race (one dominating race and three other protected minority races). What we need is a set of universally accepted norms and lifestyle. It does not need to be articulated in clear words, but as long as it exists we have a chance of standing up strong to the tide of foreigners.

I believe we are halfway there – Singaporeans now value their way of life. Multiculturalism, being kiasu, queueing, NS, hawker food, MRT, ERP, HDB, PSLE, O-level, streaming, etc etc – they are now precious.

And thus, in retorspect, you have to say a big thank you to Lee Hisen Loong and the PAP. Great job!!! If they hadn’t opened the floodgates back then, would we still have had enjoyed curry yesterday??

P.S. I think the state media and rulinga party are absolutely despicable with regards to the whole Chinafamily-cannot-stand-the-smell-of-curry-issue. Firstly, it sidelines the story in a small box at the bottom of a very politically correct and politically motivated article. Then when the matter is made big online by smart citizens, Law Minister and friends come out in a big force to say that the matter is seven years old, it has been blown out of proportion and that there are many untruths circulating around about it. The day after the event, the Straits Times publishes a big picture on the front page with the organizer eating curry with a migrant from China.

WTFFFF. Dear PAP, SPH and Medicorp – I know you love Chinamen, but if you don’t want the issue to get out then why publish it in the first place??? –“

Anyways, the whole event really sums up why I love Singapore – primarily becuase I love curry! hahaha. kidding of course.