Sunday, 29 March 2015

My Gratitude Notes To Mr Lee Kuan Yew

I have been wanting to write this piece since Tuesday, the second day of passing of my country's founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

But I just haven't been able to. I wrote this, this morning...

Within another two hours, my countrymen and I will bid our final farewell to our founding Prime Minister. The days since his passing has brought out the best in Singapore and Singaporeans. I could never have been prouder to be a Singaporean.

 As one of these fortunate citizens, I needed to pen these now to put down my thoughts of gratitude to this exemplary human being, and of course, an outstanding nation-builder.

I am a Muslim, and in Islam, we are taught to thank people, for if we don’t, we do not thank Allah, our Creator.
For our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah." (Ahmad, Tirmidhi)

Thank you, Mr Lee, for all the opportunities your leadership has showered on my family and I. Both my parents are second-generation Singaporeans. My father is a despatch clerk, and my Mum is an office attendant. They both raised two children – my brother and I who graduated and are now in good jobs.

Our family’s income or social status did not define our future. We were given a choice to dream of one, and live that dream. So, all that mattered and still matters, is if we were willing to invest – with hard work, real hard work. And we did. And we made it.

We started out with a one-room rental flat and lived there till my teenage years. My parents weren’t cash-rich and weren’t able to save much then.
Thank you, Mr Lee, for envisioning the CPF system and the home ownership future for Singaporeans. Solely with my parents’ CPF savings, we moved to a 5-room flat.

Our race, religion or language never came in the way of our happiness. Some of my closest friends are non-Muslims, and I remember vividly the day my Chinese colleagues welcomed me with warm hugs and cheers as I donned the hijab for the first time to my office. We practise our religion with peace. There are suraus (small prayer rooms) and bidets in office buildings, malls and schools. Colleagues, friends and neighbours respect our prayer times, diets, are keen to join us for Iftar (the time of breaking fast during the Ramadan, the fasting month) and celebrate our festivities with us.

I couldn’t have appreciated the national papers and social media more during this time of national mourning than at any other time. Everytime I read a story retold, an experience relived, a quote re-written, I tear. Like all my other fellow Singaporeans, and even foreigners whose lives you have touched.

I teared, one of many times, when I learnt the Mosque-Building Fund that working Singapore Muslims have a chance to contribute to, is once again, your brainchild.

I teared again when I saw Indian nationals who have worked here in our home, and have from their earnings, build up their families back home for three generations, sobbing uncontrollably as they paid tribute to your legacy on an Indian channel.

Thank you, Mr Lee, for rooting for bilingualism. For my brother and I were not forced to learn Malay or Mandarin in school, but could learn to appreciate our tradition through studying Tamil.

I needed some space throughout this week to reflect on my life and all the blessings that I have granted as a Singaporean. I was at NTUC’s Tribute Centre on my first visit. But I felt that wasn’t just enough. My husband, a non-Singaporean and I decided to be there at a community tribute centre at the library. We both teared again. If only we had a leader like him, he always says. 

People from all walks of life, ages, abled and not-so abled queued for up to 10 hours along Padang, throughout 24 hours over four days at the Lying-In-State at Parliament House, with the full Singaporean spirit.
 This morning, Singaporeans must have woken up with heavier hearts than the six days passed. Getting ready to bid you farewell, I needed to complete one more chore. Before I headed out to join my family and residents in lining the streets along Bukit Merah as we say our final goodbye along the state funeral procession – to water our plants in the corridor. And when I did, I thanked you once again for appreciating and advocating that flora and fauna co-exist with Singaporeans through your tree-planting chapters.

Thank you, Mr Lee, for these and everything. For clean water from our taps anywhere on the island. For safe hospitals and clinics that will not rob me of my entire salary or organs. For air-conditioned buses and trains, and metered cab rides. Oh yes, and for my parents’ to be able to sleep peacefully even when they know I will head back home late after work assignments.

Just like the day before and early morning hours of your passing, the skies on our island darkened and it poured and poured. Today too, as we are wearing the Singapore pledge on our hearts and take to the neighbourhoods, to give you a final, united send-off, our skies are in tears too. Just like we are.

Thank you, Mr Lee.

From a Fortunate Singaporean.

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