Proud citizen says thanks
It is with profound sadness that I am writing this tribute after waking up to the news of our founding father, the legendary.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew's demise. With tears welling up in my eyes, I took a moment to reflect on the greatness of Mr Lee's leadership and how much our and the later generations have benefited from it.
I was speaking to my cousin recently (who was feeling really sad at his ill health) and she was telling me how she had lived through his initial leadership era and saw first-hand how he had set right major issues in safety, education, defence and health through his tough, but necessary, leadership. While that may not have been the case for me as, by the time I was born, he had already eradicated most of the major issues we were facing, growing up I saw our beautiful country transform over the years into one of the most reputed First World countries that most around the world admire us for. Those who have criticised his leadership will hopefully appreciate his foresight some day and understand how much he and his A team of leaders have actually done for Singapore and the people.
I lived in the UK (Glasgow) and the US (Dallas, Texas) for 12 years of my life where my two daughters were born. During my time there, I had the privilege of meeting Mr and Mrs Lee during their visit in 2004 and the picture we took together (above), which I am sharing with the world today, is safely stored in my treasure box. While I loved living abroad for many reasons - one of the main ones being the wonderful friends I made there, my career, the long drives, my large home, my 7-seater minivan and, basically, the independence that came with living abroad - there were also its downsides. I had to make a choice when my elder girl was due to start mainstream school. This was in line with my thinking over the years where I became clearer about how good we have it here in Singapore and how much we take it for granted and though the decision to move back was quite a tough one, I am glad I made it back home and am able to give back to the country that has given me so much.
It was interesting to me that one day after I returned, I was talking to a friend who, to my surprise, asked me, "Why would you return from a First World country to a Third World one?" And when I heard this a few more times from other people I met, I realised then that many Singaporeans thought of Singapore as "third world" without realising how First World we were . I told her, "Try living overseas for a few years and you will appreciate how good you have it here and how First World we are."
We have a world-class education system that is now replicated in other countries due to its tried and tested methodology; we have a clean, comfortable roof over our heads to retire to every night and the concept of "homeless" is foreign to us; we have running water and electricity 24/7; every single Singaporean has access to state-of-the-art medical treatment for a fraction of what we pay in other countries, regardless of whether we have insurance or not; we have world-class infrastructure and a transportation system that makes it easy for anyone from all walks of life to get around; we have political stability, low unemployment and a strong currency.
Basically, we have all the bells and whistles that a First World country has to offer but we also have the benefits of the so-called Third World such as low taxation rates and being able to have a live-in helper at home at affordable salaries.
Culturally, we have the perfect blend of the East and the West that I don't think we can get anywhere else. Most importantly - my 12- year-old daughter can walk home alone from tuition at 9pm and I do not have to worry about any of the bad things that could happen to a girl that age.
Yes, many of us may not be able to afford big homes or have large cars, there is a divide just like most countries between the rich and the poor, our country is too small for taking long drives, we don't have the large spaces as in larger countries, the work culture may not be as flexible as in the West, and the weather is a bit too warm with a lack of the four seasons. However where it truly matters, we have it all laid out for us.
Today I feel proud to call myself a fourth-generation Singaporean, feel proud to sing our national anthem loudly at every opportunity I get, feel proud that my children today are Singapore citizens, feel proud when my "expat" colleagues rave about Singapore and want to make Singapore their home, feel proud that I am living in a little red dot First World country that is envied by so many around the world and feel extremely proud to produce my red passport to the overseas immigration officers whenever I travel.
And all this pride is possible only because of our founding father Mr Lee and his A team of leaders who developed and shaped Singapore to what it is today and continue to do so. And, today, with the rest of Singapore and the world, my family and I mourn the loss of a great legend and the father of Singapore. It pains me immensely to realise that he will not be around to witness
Aug 9, 2015 and see first-hand the rise of the great country he had developed between SG1 and SG50. However, I am sure he will be the guiding force from above to lead our great nation into the next 50 years and onwards thereafter. May he rest in peace along with his beloved wife...
Ranjani Rangan is the deputy country head of a foreign bank. She has two daughters, aged 10 and 12.