Standing tall at the Pinnacles

Standing tall at the Pinnacles

This year, we celebrate 50 years of independence.

I don't know what it was like to run for my life as bombs fell from the sky, I don't know what it was like to be ruled by someone else.

I grew up in developing Singapore and, compared to wartime Singapore, I'd say I had it pretty good.

Without having to work as hard as the pioneer generation for where I call home, I started wondering what home meant to me. Especially since SG50 is the hottest topic this year and, everywhere we turn, there's bound to be an SG50 logo.

There's a saying that home is where the heart is and I think that can lead to multiple homes because my heart is in several places - with my family, my passion for sports, and more.

So I started thinking about what it is about Singapore that makes me call it home.

Is it the food? Is it because my family is here? Is it because I've never tried living elsewhere?

I was thinking about it up on the sky garden of Pinnacle@Duxton one day. I train for my Mount Kinabalu climb and Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon there so, sometimes, after training, I spend a little more time in the sky garden to relax.

As I looked out at Singapore's landscape, I saw the Central Business District, Marina Bay Sands, Sentosa, the blocks of HDB flats, condominiums and houses, the trees and the Singapore River.

I saw the many opportunities Singapore had given me, from the time I was a one-legged kid causing mischief in the kampung, to when I had to learn to support myself, to today as Singapore's Blade Runner.

After my father and foster mum died, I was the "bad luck" kid nobody in my kampung wanted to take in.

I even dropped out of school to sell nasi lemak to make a living.

Those days, a handicapped person was deemed inauspicious. So, to get jobs, I'd wear trousers to hide my prosthetic leg. When asked why I was limping, I'd give excuses to hide the truth.

When my stump got infected and doctors had to take 13cm off it, I was crushed.

I didn't see a reason to live until I was inspired by Paralympians to pick up running.

You might say it's hard work and sheer grit that have brought me to where I am today.

But I think that credit also has to go to Singapore for cultivating an environment that allowed me to be courageous in the face of obstacles and for society to be open-minded and welcoming towards the handicapped.

One of the SG50 initiatives - SG Heart Map - wants us to share places that define Singapore as home for us.

Looking at Singapore from the top of Pinnacle@Duxton, this has never been clearer for me.

And as I read other Singaporeans' stories on the website (www.heartmap.sg), it also makes me feel that Singapore is a lot more special than I could ever imagine alone.

It amazes and humbles me that places completely overlooked by me mean so much to another, and that there are so many special places in our Little Red Dot - special because they attest to someone else's life.

With our hearts beating as one Singapore, I guess it is true to say that home is where the heart is because we all have different places that define Singapore as home for us.

Which is yours?

stopinion@sph.com.sg

The writer is a Paralympian, nicknamed the Singapore Blade Runner.

Share your stories of Singapore on www.heartmap.sg


This article was first published on May 18, 2015.
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