I am a Singaporean.
A third generation Singaporean to be exact. But I am often “denied” the privilege of being one.
I don’t sound, look, or have the name of a typical Singaporean; and so I am often mistaken as a “foreign talent”.
When I clarify that I am indeed a Singaporean, the follow-up questions are often: “When did you give up your citizenship? When did you become a Singaporean? Where were you born?”
When I clarify that I was born here, I’m met with a befuddled look, a few more rounds of ‘Are you sure?’ before eventually resulting in the following conversation:
Okay, then what’s your race?
I am Indian.
Cannot be. You’re very fair. Are you mixed?
Nope. I am pure Indian.
But you don’t look like one, leh.
Bro, I am Indian lah. I am a Singaporean Indian. Indians come in all shapes, skin colour and sizes. And in fact so do Singaporeans.
Are you sure you’re Singaporean? You don’t sound like a Singaporean
Yes. I am a Singaporean. I was born in Thomson Medical Hospital. Passed through the Singapore education system. Have a brother who was a regular in the Singapore armed forces.
I am super kiasu, I love my milo peng and my favourite childhood memory was playing five stones and zero point after school. And if you must know, yes, I can spew Hokkien bad words as well as the next Singaporean. (Does not mean I will).
Despite all of the above, whether I am a real Singaporean has been a recurring question throughout my life.
Growing up in Singapore – Marymount Convent Primary, CHIJ Katong Convent, Catholic Junior College
Don’t believe me? Just check out the HardwareZone posts questioning my citizenship after My husband wrote an article about our experiences with racial discrimination in the Singapore rental market.
One MiG123 wrote:
User BO_KO_LENG asked:
It’s frustrating (and mildly funny) to constantly justify that I am as Singaporean as the next person, just because I look different, or have an “unusual” name.
Now, why am I writing all of this?
Because I would like my daughter to grow up knowing and feeling like she is Singaporean. I want her to know that this is her home, as much as any other Singaporean’s. That she doesn’t have to grow up the way I did, constantly having to battle to prove that she is part of the nation she loves.
Celebrating my daughter’s Man Yue
And so mums and dads, I urge you to stop thinking of Singaporeans as having a specific look or name or skin colour. I also urge you to not discriminate between old Singaporeans and new Singaporeans. At the end of the day, we all hold the pink IC and call this place home. The only way this country can prosper is if we rise above all of that and stay true to our national pledge.
I hope that we can truly move towards being “one united people, regardless of race, language or religion”, or in my specific case, an unusual sounding name.