Many people don’t know but for many years growing up, I identified as half-Singaporean (I know, I know …). These days, I say it in jest.
I grew up not understanding why we would call a language our mother-tongue but I needed to take a separate identity from my mother who was born in Singapore.
Mum’s journey is probably not unique too many who grew up “back then” but she was raised equally both in Malacca and Singapore (pre-Merdeka, pre-Malaysia and pre-separation) off and on. So although she has roots in both countries, she ended up being “Singaporean” although her father is Malacca-born and mother is China-born.
So as we celebrate 50 years of Singapore independence, I also want to mark 50 years of separation. I don’t know what both countries would have been like if we never separated then (or would we have at a later point?). But should have, would have, could have.
I’m just grateful that even with that bitter divorce back in 1965, my mum and dad were able to find a way to come together (they met in Malacca a few years after) and have me (okay, fine, and my two pesky siblings).
Mum has spent more than two-thirds of her life in Malaysia but remains proud to be a Singaporean. I’m sure that this is more to do with her identity of choice, than just about her cross-border roots (and passport which doesn’t need a visa to go into many countries). So in my own universe, I too will mark the occasion today because my heart belongs to mum, and so, I’m still very much half-Singaporean.
I took the picture above during the 5th year anniversary reunion of the Asian Journalism Fellowship in 2013. I was part of the programme in 2011, and the only “real” time I lived in Singapore.
11.33am Malaysian time (+8 GMT)