Singapore National Day 2016



Another eventful year for Singapore as we cross into 51 years of statehood independence and what a journey it has been for Singapore. Our forefathers have toiled this land to make this country a safe and prosperous one – a place where everyone can live, work and play (Pokemon GO) safely.

I am no doubt happy to be a Singaporean, as much as Singaporeans continue to remain in search for our unique identity. The debate between Singlish and English continues, and what do we make out of the strict ethnicity quota that hasn’t changed much as well as battling the evils of what globalisation has led us to (indiscriminate racism on social media and acts of terrorism through proxy funders).

But beyond the constant search for our Singaporean identity and mine (being of mixed ethnicity can get extremely confusing), the safety and security that this country has provided us all remains at the forefront of envy among others in the world. That is something that we cannot take for granted. We continue to be a place that is safe for our young and old to walk the streets at night compared to most countries regionally, our education system continues to be extremely rigorous in producing scholars and we continue to be a place where everyone can have freedom of worship.

True that there is a lot more that we could work on to become better than what we are today – a better pace of living, better work-life balance and to be a more affordable place to live in with better living wages to enjoy some of the best things in life when we choose to retire.

But as the National Day Parade yesterday has shown, we frequently still do travel back in time to revisit our historical past. We are a country of people that remains sentimental at heart, fillial to our ancestors and elders, and that helps to keep us grounded to who we really are.

Of course, while there were comments about the Badang narrative that was potrayed, I felt that what was more important is that there were those of us who knew the story and were trying to put things right to it. We believe in the right to potray what is truthful. There were contentions about Badang having tattoos, being a bit too muscular and flying at that but none of us were arguing about the legitimacy of his story because we know and we understand that Badang did exist.

So, I am proud and I am happy that Singaporeans were stepping up to defend Badang’s authenticity (looks, storyline, etc) and I wish that more people would step up to talk more about the other stories that we have in Singapore because the Singapore narrative is so much more beyond Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore holds stories to so much more history that if one decides to venture out in search for it, you will be amazed at how much history there is (if you’re really keen on venturing out to these places and learning about them, give this a try Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek).

More than just stories about Singapore, the stories that one can discover will make you realize how connected we are to our closest neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and how much we actually share our history with theirs. It’s a lot like the prequel begins in Indonesia, then the plot thickens in Singapore, with the sequels in Malaysia.

But moving beyond our history and shared history, we need to create new stories, we need to create new heroes or have people stepping forward, we need to create new figures or have figures that we can all stand together behind and support. And I’m not talking about politicians or figures of state, but it’s the story of the everyday Ali, Muthu, Ah Tan or John that we can all connect with – the story of how a young Singaporean saves his country like the story of Hang Nadim, or the story of an immigrant who roots himself in Singapore and puts Singapore on the map like Badang.

We need this to move forward and to do that, we need to stop arguing endlessly over the small things, agree to disagree and start looking at the big picture, of how we are positioned in relation to the world and work together hand in hand, locals and foreigners, putting aside our differences but align our commonalities for what is most important to us all – and if you ask me what that could be, I’m guessing it’s HAPPINESS.

True to the words of Pak Zubir Said when he composed our National Anthem,

‘Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia’

Let us all, Singaporeans head towards happiness

because if we aren’t happy, then really, what do we want?

Eventful March and April

March was a really exciting month and seems like April is going to look like a very long one as well. Every Saturday in March, I saw at the judges table, on invitation from National University of Singapore’s Persatuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Kebangsaan Singapura or better known as NUS PBMUKS, to judge quatrains for a Pesta Pantun competition.

This year was the competitions’ 20th anniversary and aside from the regular local teams/schools that took part to compete, this years’ competition was opened to teams from across the causeway, Malaysia, and what a competition it was.

Competition was tough and clearly, standards in language and delivery were different between the two countries.

Nevertheless, one thing remained in the world of quatrains, ENTERTAINMENT VALUE.

Quatrains, always had one thing that I enjoyed the most, was its’ ability to send out subtle messages in the most entertaining manner. Of course, some messages aren’t so subtle but take pot shots at the other.

These days, not many people speak in quatrains and well, while we may have lost a small part of our daily culture, I am also thankful that we no longer speak in quatrains except on certain occasions or otherwise, it’d be really tiring to get a message across and if you’re someone who is unable to read between the lines, quatrains will leave you lost.

Pesta Pantun

Pesta Pantun 2016 judges (seated) with NUS PBMUKS Pesta Pantun Adviser (Standing Left) and NUS PBMUKS President (Standing Right) and Vice President (Standing Centre)

Aside from Pesta Pantun, By Definition Pte Ltd was also busy judging for a Storytelling competition organised by Tiong Bahru Youth Executive Committee (YEC). So, that’s two events in March.

No, I couldn’t do it so got one of the #TeamByDef family members to do it instead!

Story Alive

Hidayah (in hijab) together with the winners and judges from Story Alive!

And just yesterday, in support of a collaborative effort between Chong Pang CC MAEC, Woodlands CC MAEC, and Woodlands Galaxy CC MAEC together with Masjid Darul Makmur and Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, we took up two booths at Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, the last standing kampong mosque in Singapore for a ‘Jom Balik Kampong’ event, selling cold drinks and our traditional games.


Awesome friends volunteering their time to help out with the booth!

Response from the crowd was very encouraging as we marketed and sold many of our traditional game items, games that we usually conduct in schools. So yes, we are now also plying our wares to ensure that our traditional games can continue to be played even at home.


A very sporting Grassroots Adviser, Amrin Amin, who decided that he’d give the Tapak Gajah a try in socks, watched on by fellow Grassroots Adviser, Khaw Boon Wan.

So, if you’re looking for traditional games to play at home, look no further.


Tapak Gajah, Gasing Buluh (Bamboo Spinning Top), Batu Seremban, Yeh Yeh, Gasing and Lagu-Lagu Rakyat book all available for sale at the event and now, will be made available for public sales.

Of course, as these items are personally sourced out, we always keep a limited stock in supply. So, if you’re keen to get your hands on them, drop us an email ( to order and once the games arrive, we’ll let you know!

And finally, I’m really excited for the end of the month.

From Pesta Pantun in Singapore to PISMA, a regional pantun competition in Melaka held over 4 days and yours truly has been invited as one of the judges. All praise to God really for the opportunity. Without Pesta Pantun, I don’t think I would have received the invite at all.

So, I’m really looking forward to the 5 teams from Singapore Polytechnic who will be representing Singapore! That’s happening from 29 April to 2nd May. And yes, I’ll be sourcing out for more traditional games in my travels.


5 years ago, around the same time, I blogged about my hopes and dreams for Singapore as part of the National Day Celebrations (‘Live Our Dreams, Fly Our Flag’).

In case you missed it, here’s what I wanted:

“As a Singaporean, one of my dreams is for us to be able to experience a state which encourages the following:


I also have a dream for all Singaporeans:


How different have my views been over the past 5 years?

Not much really. I still believe in each and every single one of those hopes and dreams that I spoke of. More than just that, I actually have one more to add.

I would really like to see Singaporeans learn more about one another, our cultures, our ethnicities, our faiths, so that we can better engage foreigners who come to live, work and play in Singapore and make this country a better place for not just Singaporeans, but also for them as well.

Government policies aside, we can exercise our vote this coming General Elections, but as a community, a nation, we need to show the rest of the world that we are loving, caring and have the ability to accept people of all backgrounds.

Why am I so focused on this?

Because over the past few years, Singapore has had to deal with many issues related to conflicts arising out of Interfaith-Intercultural misunderstanding or miscommunication (Amy Cheong, Anton Casey, Cook A Pot of Curry). But these issues are not just exclusive to Singapore.

This issue affects each and every single country, globally, all around the world.

In the US, you have had a non-white Miss America winner which caused a huge ruckus. To quite a significant number of ignorant Americans, the typical American had to be blonde and white, which in my personal experience, is far from it. And even for those who have been living in America for a long time or are even Americans, they still face issues that recur time and again (Blackface).

These are issues related to ethnicity, culture and to some extend, faith.

Since 2014, I have been actively trying to engage the community through my own personal endeavour to spread the importance of interfaith-intercultural understanding, a personal commitment arising out of my fellowship in the US. Nonetheless, an issue I strongly believe in and champion for.

Achieving Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Through Games

“Achieving Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Through Games”, National Day Celebrations 2015, Hwa Chong Institution

I am thankful for the opportunity that I have been given to give lectures and talks on this issue. More than that, I hope that the audience I have engaged in, have a better understanding of the dangers of what social media can do to them. Going forward, we all need to learn how to “RESPOND, NO REACT” to situations that invoke our emotions. We need to rationalise the situation and provide the best response that will create positive outcomes not just for us, but for everyone.

In the words of Zubir Said,

“Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura, Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia”

(Let us all, the citizens of Singapore, move towards happiness)

“Cita-cita Kita Yang Mulia, Berjaya Singapura”

(Together with our noble dreams, hopes, ambitions, success Singapore)

“Marilah Kita Bersatu, Dengan Semangat Yang Baru”

(Let us all unite, with renewed hope/energy)

“Semua Kita Berseru, Majulah Singapura”

(Let us all proclaim, Onward Singapore)

We all need to internalize the lyrics of our National Anthem and work towards it. The lyrics resonate with us even today as we struggle with issues and as we seek to find renewed hope/energy. But we can only achieve success and happiness, if our ambitions, dreams and hopes are noble.

So, my dear Singaporeans, this National Day, let us focus on these lyrics. Let’s remember this lyric as we enter the General Elections and vote for the candidate/party that will be able to bring everyone together to achieve our noble dreams, ambitions and hopes for our success and happiness, and most importantly, to bring Singapore forward.

Cannon Bald Fellowship 2015

CANNON BALD FELLOWSHIP 2015The Cannon Bald Fellowship 2015 is the first fun and affordable Life Coaching, Networking and series of Developmental training programme designed to prepare and launch fellows towards a smoother journey in life.

This fellowship will begin on 5th March 2015.

Fellows will receive 20 hours of training in the following areas:

Training will be conducted weekly in the evening, 2000hrs – 2200hrs at A’Posh BizHub, #04-23, 1 Yishun Industrial St 1, S(768160).

Fellows will be required to clock 20 hours of assessed apprenticeship in one or more of the following areas that they have been trained in and will be renumerated for 10 hours of the apprenticeship.

All fellows will receive professional mentorship and FREE life coaching over a 12-month period upon successful sign up.

Participating in this fellowship requires a high time commitment and fellows are expected to be able to commit to complete the training sessions and apprenticeship.


To Apply

  • Minimum age of 21 years (Interested fellows below 21 will be assessed on a case-by-case basis)
  • Passionate about learning
  • Passionate about life
  • Open to sharing experiences

Interested fellows can email their CV and indicate their interest to Please put the email subject head as “Cannon Bald Fellowship 2015”. All applications must be received by 18 February 2015 at midnight.

Only successful applicants will be notified. A maximum of 15 fellows will start this fellowship. Applicants who are not successful will have an opportunity at the next fellowship.

A participation fee of SGD$1,000 is applicable upon successful application.

Regain Your Self-Love in 3 Steps

I’m an idealist, an optimist and sometimes, a realist, but in all the things that I do and believe in, I believe that we are all selfish people. We do things not for others, but for ourselves, and if others feel as if they are being appreciated because of what we do, then that’s great for everyone because everyone comes out happy but essentially, we are self-serving people – at least that’s what I believe in.

Earlier this afternoon, a friend of mine send me a text asking me “What do you always practice to love yourself?”

The question, provided me with a lot of information and it had to do with one thing that we all search for in life, HAPPINESS. We all want to happy and we all want to love and to be loved in return. There’s no denying about that but in this time and age, most of us get sucked in to our jobs that we forget the meaning of love and happy.

I don’t think any of us can remember how much love and happiness we were born into.

We were the product of love and happiness (doesn’t matter the situation by which you were conceived, because someone loved doing it and was happy to do it is the reason why you were conceived in the first place). We are the very product of someone or a couple’s love for each other (or sex) and were happy to commit to that act (at that point of time).

For the more religious, we are the product of two individual’s love for God and his commandments to procreate.

So, while we are the product of love and happiness, why do some of us struggle to always be happy and loved?

Well, our environments and experiences play a big part but more importantly, WE are responsible for what we choose to happen to us. We are responsible for how happy or loved we want to be, no one has the authority to do that because they do not have that control over us.

And how do we learn to be happy or to love ourselves enough to not be distracted by what happens around us?

Here are 3 simple steps that you can practice. It’s the same one that I practice.

  1. Spend time with yourself, for yourself.
    Do the things you want for yourself. You don’t need to constantly be around people all the time. I’m a social person but I do appreciate being alone and I do enjoy being alone. Watch movies at the theatres alone. Laugh out loud alone. Get reconnected with your inner self. That’s what’s most important.
  2. Love yourself first before you learn to love others.
    You’ll get to this stage once you’ve spent enough time with yourself. When you know what you love, you’ll learn how to love others the same way you want to be loved. Not everyone may agree with how you choose to love them because they have their own opinion on it but at the very least, you’ll know that the relationship will not work out and you can move on without having to hate the person. For you, it’s just, incompatible. That’s all. No hard feelings.
  3. Share your love.
    There’s only so much love you can keep to yourself. Sharing your love will help others learn to heal and move on with their lives. I’m not asking you to begin planting love seeds everywhere you travel (as much as you’d want to be Don Juan) but walk with a smile on your face, with a skip in your step and with a song in your heart.

There’s no one size fits all remedy to this. Everyone does things differently and experiences things differently but if you’ve never tried this before. Then you probably should.

This was written with Lots of Love

Why You Should ‘Fail Your IPPT, Go For RT’

Don’t get me wrong when you read this. I’m not asking you to lead an unhealthy and unfit lifestyle. NO. I believe that you should keep yourself fit and healthy and lead a great lifestyle but this post gives a great reason for all NSmen out there who want to earn the $500 coveted GOLD for your IPPT but are unable to because you are just not fit enough to run.

So, to begin, let me tell you first that I come from a sports background, creative background and business background.

I used to compete in short and long distances, do the long jump, played a winger in my school’s rugby IVP team and played a defender for a local club. I also happen to perform a lot and write a lot as well. Professionally, I now run a business merging these elements and I am definitely passionate about National Service (6 Commanders Award, an appearance on TV and a MHA Award surely does it right?).

I’m not boasting but some people just need credentials before they’ll believe anything they read (I know plenty of my friends do!). So, there you go. Of course, it’s not an awesome track record but if you really want to know how you can earn that $500 or more without getting a GOLD for your IPPT, then you can read on, otherwise you can stop here.

Okay, so you decided to continue. That’s great!

Taking into account that you probably only receive $16.15/- for every half a day recall (I could be wrong but I’m just working with a number) for you to come and take your IPPT, should you get GOLD, you’ll earn $500, SILVER gets you $300 and a PASS with Incentive gets you $200.

So, your total amount earned for a day would be $516.15 (GOLD), $316.15 (SILVER) or $216.15 (PASS with Incentive). Not bad for a 4 hours of work right?

If you’re familiar with the Marshmellow experiment, then you’ll love this because delayed gratification could get you more, and here’s how it works!

Because you can retake as many times as possible in a year should you fail your IPPT, that increases your ‘earning power’ and if you signed up for RT, you have to complete 20 sessions. During the period that you are taking your RT, you are still allowed to go for IPPT and you still have the opportunity to earn those monetary incentives.

So, this is what you may want to consider.

Retake your IPPT countless times is going to be ridiculous but let’s set it at 20 times for the whole year. So for every IPPT that you go for, you earn $16.15, multiply that by 20 and you earn, $323!

Attend 20 sessions of RT at $16.15 per session, multiply that by 18 because you want to take your IPPT on the last 2 sessions before you end and wing it. So, over 18 sessions, you earn $290.70!

Now you take your final IPPT and you get a GOLD, so that means you earn $516.15!

So, in total, you would have earned $1,129.85!!

Now, of course, when you attend your RT sessions, you also need to be mindful that it’s a great opportunity for you to network with others.

But if you’re not looking at the big number and prefer to look at the Time Spent vs Income Earned (or Return on Investment), then of course, going for GOLD on the first try is what you should be going for because you would have made $129/hr in comparison to my alternative solution, $6.89/hr.

Which scheme works well for you is something that you have to decide.

One thing for sure, I enjoy going for RT because I just have time to spare in the evenings and since I already do my exercises on my own, why not just go in a group and get paid for it anyway. I make new friends, expand my network and possibly reconnect with old mates of mine!

On the job front, as long as there are people still going for RT, we are still ensuring that the PTIs have a rice bowl.

Teater Pelajar 2014

Teater Pelajar 2014 Trophies

Teater Pelajar 2014 Trophies

I haven’t written much this year in view of my busy schedule but the next few posts deserves an entry.

Going into the competition, I was only informed a month before the auditions date by a friend of mine, who teachers at Tanjong Katong Girls School. The information for the competition was just received then and she wanted to send a team to the competition and had sought out for my help, knowing that I train students for drama and have also taken part in competitions as well as sent students for competitions and have also judged drama competitions.

But this competition, was new for me. I’ve never watched the competition much less know what it’s all about but as with most things I do in life, I do it because it’s a challenge and because I know I will enjoy the process.

Training the girls was a challenge, for all of us – Teacher in Charge, Students and Myself. My friend was juggling between her work and this, the students were juggling between school, CCA and tests and performances and me, well, I was pretty much just trying to see how much time I can have with them.

My minimum time required – 6 Days, I ended up with only 5 days.

With the theme made known as Storytelling focused on Folklore, that made me feel at ease since I’ve been doing so much Malay Folklore over the years of teaching drama and I also run ‘Pentaskan Ceritamu’ under By Definition Pte Ltd to schools. So, there was absolutely no way I was going to let this out of my sight.

Meeting the girls for the first time, I had a plan in mind. An idea of sort with nothing concrete but I really needed to know what the girls knew and understood about Malay Folklore. Apparently, not much with the exception of one person who seemed to know almost every single story because she had been helping her teacher previously prepare slides on them. I guess that worked to our advantage.

Ideas aside, I took a few days to prepare my script and on the day I was to pass the script, it rained so bad my motorcycle broke down in the middle of the expressway! So, that’s how I lost ONE PRECIOUS DAY.

But all that aside, I was lucky because these girls were already drama trained. I could skip the basics and jump right into the script and directions. But I had another challenge, not everyone was present at the same time and my rehearsals were often only 1hr long with them since most of the time, they’d be chatting away BUT these girls were committed and dedicated to giving the best that they can.

And that’s what they did with 4 days of rehearsals with me before the preliminary rounds, followed-up by another two days of rehearsals with me, with the final script that had an additional character in. With that, the school holidays set in and they were left on their own to prepare with preparations with their teacher in charge.

The next time I saw them, was during the Finals.

I never had the chance to do any final rehearsals with them and off they went on stage, and perform they did. While they didn’t get as much applause as another group did, they sure did score the right amount of points because they walked away the winners.

Teater Pelajar 2014 Champions

Teater Pelajar 2014 Champions

With the Guest of Honour

With the Guest of Honour

This victory for them was sweet for me as well as I walked away with the ‘Best Scriptwriter’.

Best Scriptwriter

Best Scriptwriter

I hope these girls will continue to put in the same amount of effort, commitment and dedication to their studies as well as their life.

And I must say, that I am impressed by them because when they began, they admitted that they grasp of the Malay Language was not as good compared to now. Imagine how much of a difference drama can make to any student if they had the opportunity to explore the many uses of the Malay Language beyond the classroom.

Because the Malay Language, just like any other language, needs to be used often in order for it to come alive. And for schools which do not believe in sending students for such competitions, I do hope they’d reconsider because the experience, though cumbersome for you as teachers, will bring greater benefit to your students in the long run.

Best Actress

Best Actress

The experience they get just from participating alone, will bring out the best in your students.

You’ve got to trust me on this because I was a student that enjoyed taking part in such competitions/performances.

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I am Abdillah Zamzuri, a 2013 Community Solutions Program (CSP) alumni, a program sponsored by the U.S Department of State and I am also the first Singaporean to be on this program.

As a fellow of the CSP working and developing a project on ‘Tolerance and Conflict Resolution’, I was attached to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where I worked with a group of students who sought to bring peace on campus. The student organization, Students for Global Peacebuilding, had successfully organized the first ever Peace Week event in January 2014.

As President of the ‘World’s Most Powerful Country’, your continued silence for Israel’s onslaught and genocide of innocent civilian Palestinians in Gaza is unbecoming of a family man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 

You and your governments’ cowardice to stand against your biggest lobby and economy contributor is not representative of a government that believes, propagates and advocates for democracy and human rights. You and your government, in fact, only believes, propagates and advocates for democracy and human rights for Israel and Israel only.

A man without a backbone to stand for what is right, is not a man at all. You, Mr President, is looking a lot to look like that man, a man who has been demasculinized. Be a man, do the right thing. You would resist if you were illegally occupied. You would resist if your family was being harassed physically and mentally. You would resist if you were not able to sleep in peace every night. If you wouldn’t resist, then I pray that your family will have the opportunity to have such an experience, so that you can learn to empathize with others.

I plead and urge you, to dig deep into your soul to take the right course of action by being a good friend of Israel and to take all necessary action required to stop the genocide, the same way your government have intervened in previous conflicts. Wouldn’t good friends do all they can to help if they see their friend committing a crime? Wouldn’t good friends be the check and balance for a friend that has overstepped the line?

Should this job and task be one that conflicts your moral values, then perhaps, you should step down from your Presidency or you will very well go down in history as the President Without Moral Guts, just like all the other World Leaders who have stood at the side to continue watching this ongoing genocide.

The world needs to have peace.

The wall needs to be brought down so that people living on both sides can begin to have dialogues, to learn about one another, to have an understanding of one another, to clear misunderstandings with one another, to build trust with one another and most importantly, to love one another.

If there’s one thing that I have learnt from the many sharing sessions organized by the U.S Department of State representatives speaking on Conflict Resolution, is that to resolve conflict, parties need to focus on commonalities.

In this conflict, PEACE is a commonality shared by the GLOBAL COMMUNITY.

In this conflict, GENOCIDE is a common word to describe the situation in Gaza.

In this conflict, WAR CRIME is a common word that has been used to describe what Israel is doing.

Yours Truly,

2013 Community Solutions Program Alumni

Ask Your Member-of-Parliament

If you’re living in Singapore and you belong to the community that is affected by Malay/Muslim policies that the government rolls out. You’d probably want to carry on reading this.

As of last Friday, 11 April 2014, Minister for Communications and Information, and Minister for Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, will be going ‘LIVE’ on air, on Warna 94.2FM from 5pm – 6pm, every fortnightly to answer your questions or listen to your views on the state of the community, on a new programme called, “Tanya AP anda” (Ask your MP).

This initiative is only going to run for 11 episodes ONLY, and since the first episode has passed, you only have 10 more episodes to go.

So, how can you contribute to this segment?

  1. CALL 6691-1942 when the show is on air.
  2. Comment on Warna 94.2FM Facebook page,
  3. EMAIL

Personally, I think it’s a good outreach that the government and Malay Minister is trying to do, although of course, it’s intentions are questionable as how most of you sceptics would think so too with the only one being:

  • Politics at Play
    You’re a politician, your party has lost a GRC and an SMC to the opposition for the first time in history. Your community is famous for being swing voters, which may give a win or lose result to the constituencies. Ground sentiments are anti-party, your party. So, obviously, some work has to be done on the ground and best way is still through the mass media outlets and radio, as a channel where people still listen and get emotionally connected to/with has proven to still be one of the best media channels.

Otherwise, I would say that regardless of the political strategies in place, to win votes in the next General Elections (which I strongly this is part of the outreach strategy), it’s a good initiative nonetheless.

It provides an opportunity for the captive audience (home-makers and the elderly), to air their views and concerns since most of them are probably less IT-savvy and wouldn’t use the internet as much as the young. 

There is no doubt that there is plenty of misinformation and misinterpretation on the ground with regards to policies and this gives them a good opportunity to try to understand and learn about what policies mean. I can only hope that there is sufficient enquiries to air these concerns because otherwise, it will only be another under-utilized platform.

So, if you’re a Muslim and you’ve got questions to ask or opinions to share, I hope you understand the Malay language enough to be able to understand what is being shared on radio. Otherwise, perhaps you could just surf on to Warna 94.2FM facebook page to air your views and hopefully, get a reply in English there.

On a sidenote, I think it’s also a good opportunity for those of us who’s Malay Language isn’t that good, to be listening to this, so we are forced to listen and understand.

Rags to Riches – You could be one

We all love to hear rags to riches stories and we never get bored of them. They inspire and motivate us on the large possibilities in life, on overcoming adversities and on how it’s never just about luck, but about how to create that luck and opportunity for yourself.

I’ve got my own story to share.

It’s not mine, it’s my family’s and I wasn’t aware of the structure of the story until recently when my mom visited Singapore, on her regular visa extension stay.

It’s common for me and my mom to discuss on issues related to money, religion and society. She loves to save, she’s frugal, she’s a devout Muslim and while she doesn’t champion for causes for the society, she is very much aware of what happens and has had her own personal encounters through her network of friends and it was during one of our conversations on money that she shared with me this.

She told me that I must never forget where and how our family was in the past. At this juncture, the only memory I had when I was a kid was living in a 3-room HDB flat in Yishun, that was it. I knew we lived in Ang Mo Kio when I was too young to have any recollection of memories and that my parents used to rent a room when they were a newly married couple with my sister when she was a baby.

Little did I know that this is how the structure looked like.

Rented a Room > 1 Room Flat > 3 Room Flat > 4 Room Flat > 4 Room Flat > 3 Room Flat > 7ha of Land

Total time taken?

30 years

Yes, I know it took 30 years because when they got married, it had to be 5 years before I was born (1 Room Flat) and at the time when they moved back to my dad’s homeland, I was 25.

But this progression was equally tiring and painful as well for both my mom and dad.

My dad’s career progression:

Construction Worker > Diver > Sailor > Captain > Tug Master > Self declared retirement cum Property developer cum Entrepreneur

He came to Singapore as a 13 year old and began working as a construction worker with barely a P6 education. One of the few lessons my dad always taught me was to study hard and he would be there to study with me, especially in mathematics. He would make me memorize the multiplication table almost every night, after dinner when I was 8. 

If I got it wrong, I had to go memorize it again. He was good in maths and physics despite. That’s one thing I can’t deny and for someone with only a P6 education, he writes in manuscript. I always thought it was horrible handwriting because I could never read them. Little did I know, he was much better than me in handwriting.

He’s an inspiration for me and gives me hope knowing that if you work hard and continuously improve yourself and work towards your goal, you can get there. 

I mean, he would always tell me that growing up, the only clothes he had were the ones he was wearing. He’d wash them at night before he slept and wear them again in the morning, EVERY SINGLE DAY. If that’s not poor, I’m not sure what that is.

Mom on the other hand, had a totally different experience in her working life:

Clerk at ROMM > Homemaker cum Seamstress cum Entrepreneur

I don’t think she ever knew she was running a business from her own kitchen, taking in orders from people to sew clothes for them. She always had an eye for detail and focused a lot on building customer relationships, ensuring quality of clothes sewn exceeded expectations, always improving her designs through taking up challenging tasks and keeping the price affordable for customers yet enough to make profits to sustain the family.

She was, however, never enterprising enough for the bigger business because she is risk-adverse. 

Through my mom, I picked up everything I observed she did and applied it to myself and to my business, in how I decide to deal with people. An inspiration for me as well.

Two very different individuals, providing me with different sources of learning and inspiration.

Today, they live comfortably in the 7ha piece of land that my dad bought in his hometown where he grew up and he’s still working hard, for himself at least and now, I’m making him do a bit of work for me since he’s got so much free time on his hands. And my mom, she’s still taking in orders to sew and word of mouth just keeps getting better even at this age for her. 

I’m not sure if I could ever learn her nifty sewing skills but perhaps I should and put that into good use for my business as well since I’m doing handicraft work as well. 

Regardless, one thing remains.

What’s the story of your family?

Perhaps, if you dig deep enough and spend enough time talking to your parents, you might just discover some interesting things about your family’s history and have a better appreciation for your parents journey in life.

One thing I hope for now, is to be able to spend Hari Raya as a family again. We haven’t been able to do that for the past 4 years, ever since they moved overseas.