Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Founding Father of Singapore, passed away at 3.18am at SGH today. As Singapore wakes up to the sad news and mourns his loss, flags around Singapore including schools flew at half mast. I asked RaeAnne if she knew that the very important person whom I told her about, has finally passed away today.
She said the Principal told that a leader of Singapore has passed away. That's why the flag is not going all the way to the top as usual. I asked her if she knew the name of the leader but she didn't. And she didn't know who was he and why he was important to Singapore.
I think that's really sad. So I showed her video clips of the PM's address at 8am which I missed as I just reached office and had to login quite a few screens to get to the CNA live feed. The special documentary programmes that paid tribute to the great man and what he did to build Singapore to what it is today. But I don't think she truly understands at 7 years old.
She was also clueless when her Ah Gong passed away when she was 4 years old. My Papa was born in 1928, 5 years after Mr LKY was born. My dad was 83 years old when he passed away. If he was still alive, he would have been 86 years old. My dad was the generation who witnessed Singapore's transformation from the kampung state to the modern city state.
My dad came from Swatow China as a Chinese immigrant to find work but ended up staying here for good, became a hawker, got married and started a family. We are not well off when we were young when my dad's business at the market grew poor due to the resettlement of rental flats. But my brother and I were the examples of how education and meritocracy will lead us out of poverty.
My dad once whipped me with two canes tied together when I refused to go to school on the second day of Primary 1. I had studied at a Chinese PAP Kindy and could not understand what my P1 form teacher was saying. But my dad was not one to coax and cajole. Our parents frequently told us, "Study hard. If not, you will become a road sweeper".
After that painful experience, I did not dare to say "I don't want to go to school" anymore. I studied hard at Alexandra Estate Primary School (which closed down for good in 1987, I was the last batch of students to graduate from there), and got into good secondary schools. My brother got into RI and I into Crescent Girls. Both of us got into university though our parents did not even complete primary education. Both of us went to NTU, my school fees were paid through the PSC Loan and my bro through other loan schemes. Truly after both of us graduated, life got better. Like many of the older generation, he respected Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Every year during National Day, my dad will hang National flag at our flat. If the flag gets faded, he will buy another one to hang. My father is not the demonstrative nor sentimental sort so I was surprised that he would do something like this to demonstrate his love for Singapore.
My dad never went back to China. Not even to visit his only sister and cousins. After I started working and could afford it, I asked him before if he will like to go back to visit. But he said he doesn't feel a need to do that. The successful Singapore that Mr Lee Kuan Yew helped to build has become a real home to him.
I have never met Mr Lee Kuan Yew in person. And I may not agree with all PAP policies. But I am grateful for what he has done. I hope my daughters' generation will also be grateful for his vision and dedication towards Singapore, though they will not have the chance to meet or get to know him anymore.
Rest in peace, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.