Striking a chord with S'poreans through 50 stories

Describe everything you know or ever knew about Singapore, through 50 stories and using only 50 words each.

A bit of a conundrum, isn't it? And where to begin - Singapore is a melting pot of cultures brimming with a multitude of idiosyncrasies, which many of its people have come to love and hate.

Even so, Andre Yeo, an assistant editor of The New Paper, took up that challenge with his book, Home: 50 50-word Stories To Celebrate Singapore's 50th Birthday. And the 42-year-old has done a pretty fine job.

He begins his book with poems, describing some of Singapore's humble history and the challenges that plagued our forefathers when they first set foot on the island.

That lays the foundation for the rest of the book, which delves into the lives of typical Singaporeans, as well as events and phenomena that have made an impact on people here.

He illustrates the irritations that we go through, such as dealing with the haze and being left behind by an overcrowded MRT train.

"When did it all change?" he muses in on one story on public transport, echoing the sentiments of many commuters today.

His frustrations are palpable and relatable to the man on the street, myself included.

My favourite story in the book has to be the one called Silence, in which Mr Yeo writes that the measure of a person now is how busy he is.

But he also asks: "Whatever happened to silence? Have you experienced her lately? It's time to get reacquainted with her, because some friends are just worth keeping."

It's hard not to think about whether we have forgotten who we are, as we get caught up in the rat race and become slaves to our jobs.

It's not all gripes, though. In one story titled Culture In A Plate, Mr Yeo gushes about familiar hawker favourites which we have come to love and seek comfort in. I can't help but agree that one of the things that defines me and other Singaporeans is, as he points out, what we eat.

Reading this made me recall the time I visited England about two years ago. Some five days into the trip, I began craving Singapore dishes. That was when I understood what Singaporeans mean when they say the food we eat makes us true-blue Singaporeans.

Home's collection of 50-word stories will remind you of your roots, how you grew up and how far you have come, not just as a person, but as a member of Singapore's society.

It will also make you think of your own stories about the nation, as the country's 50th birthday comes round next year.

The hardcover book is available at Books Kinokuniya, Times bookstores and Popular bookstores at $15.90.

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