What’s in a birthday

The manner in which a person celebrates his or her birthday or how others celebrate his or her birthday perhaps reflect the kind of person he or she is. Are you the party-lover, who likes to be surrounded by people to give you hugs and presents, or are you the type who likes a quiet evening with close ones. Or are you the kind whose birthday is just another day, or the type that forgets.

But whatever way you celebrate your birthday, the date marks a certain milestone, that it is on this day that you turn a certain age, a day that marks the journey you have travelled thus far, a journey made up of personal stories which shape you as who you are.

And as we near the 48th birthday of the nation, two recent incidents reminded me of why I celebrate the birthday of this small little red dot.

One is the Hair for Hope incident at St Margaret’s Girls’ School. I came from a girls’ school myself, and understands the inclination for girls’ school to emphasise feminine values. I also understand that teenage is perhaps one of the more rebellious times of our lives, and girls’ school tend to also inculcate feminine independence in a way a co-ed school never would.

So the incident of the girls, in my view, is part and parcel of the growing up teenage stories, some more dramatic than others. This would eventually become a memorable event for the girls when they reminisce about teenage later on in their adulthood, and mull over the lessons of this episode. The controversy of the case will eventually fade away, but the values and lessons will remain.

I was reminded of how my own secondary school Principal switched a classroom for an upper secondary student to the ground level (it was on 3rd floor), because she had an in-grown toenail operation and had to be on a clutch. Inconvenience for the affected classes, but this taught all the girls in school a valuable lesson of how the world can accommodate those in need, with some consideration and generosity.

And perhaps my ex-Principal, if confronted with girls who wish to shave their heads for a good cause, would have chosen to talk about it at assembly, celebrated the spirit, but state why the school upholds a certain image and therefore the baldness can only be temporarily allowed. This might have averted the controversy.

Right or wrongs aside, it is episodes like this that brings out Singaporeans’ shared psyche, let us contemplate and reaffirm what we value, and remind us of why we are who we are. Many Singaporeans have shown from this Hair for Hope episode that we are capable of empathy for both the girls who were brave to shave their heads, and the Principal who stood by her principles. This is something to celebrate.

The second incident or event I wish to talk about is the “flag-off” activity organised by the National Taxi Association on 1 Aug. I happened to pass by the carpark near Kallang Leisure mall, where the event was held, and saw the cabs drive off with their little flags fluttering in the wind.

It was quite a sight, and as my heart swelled with pride knowing that these cabbies are proud to fly the Singapore flag, it reminded me of how National Day isn’t just about hanging flags outside of our flats, or watching fireworks of the NDP. It is also the pride of holding up a nation that has come a long way. It’s holding up this ‘flag’ that symbolises the spirit of the people, small country but big hearted enough to take on anything that comes our way.

Even as some of us scoot off for the long-weekend vacation, that is also us ‘flying the Singapore flag’ in the form of the red passport, and it is the stamp of evidence that our nation has progressed so much and provided our citizens with so much affluence that our people can celebrate National Day holidays outside of the country.

This is proof, that Singaporean are not just at home when we’re home. We are at home with the world, wherever we go. And this is perhaps the best gift that Singapore could give us, a place not just among ourselves, but a place anywhere on earth.

Happy Birthday Singapore.


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