Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew - Time Nor Tide

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had been admitted to Singapore General Hospital on February 5th 2015 for severe pneumonia at the age of 91. For many, we understood the grim implications of such a news release. The Lunar New Year came two weeks after and in the course of the festivities, many had pushed this piece of news to the back of their minds till the next update came about from the Prime Minister's Office. And from then forth, with Mr Lee in critical condition and a deterioration of his health, Singaporeans waited with bated breath and hoped upon hope that there would be a miracle. Somehow. 
That he would fight back, that he would live. 

But on March 23rd 2015, this was not to be. And the man who was the hero of our times, had slipped away peacefully at 3.18am in the wee hours of the morning to be reunited with the love of his life. For the minutes that felt like hours, and days that felt like years, it was a long time in waiting, for his ashes to finally be mixed with his wife so that they could be united even in death. His attention to detail was not lost on the people around him and you would expect even more so for his wife, Mdm Kwa. His love story has made its rounds in the news from the time of Mrs Lee's departure but here, at his final parting, we again relive through the anecdotes of how indeed, a true measure of a man is in his capacity to love. 

The Just In Time package for schools arrived yesterday and was to be disseminated by the next morning. The assembly this morning was a 15 minute video of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's life and legacy produced by Mediacorp. Even after the massive media suspension and overload from the past couple of days, many of us were reduced to tears. And how were we to teach for the next two periods? I steeled myself for a torrent of tears, if I cried, then so be it. But I bore in mind that what I had to say, had far more impact on the students than my tears. I made it through, but only barely so. I can now speak eloquently and wax lyrical about the man, his life and his legacy but yet, I'm reduced to tears, touched by what he has devoted his entire life to- the land I call home. 
The place called Singapore. 

For him to call this my people, my country, my home. Only he qualifies to speak as such. Some people have wrote on how they have found the term 'founding' floundering for Mr Lee Kuan Yew but for this generation of Singapore, the man we have met and seen what he has done for us as a nation, was Mr Lee Kuan Yew, not Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. And really, that was that. I'm heartened to see that at this time, many have poured out their hearts for their gratitude towards Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Growing up, I heard unhappiness and discontent in the coffeeshop talks of many a taxi driver and the older generation about Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the People's Action Party. And who are the ones who are sending their love and tributes willingly now? These very same people I do believe. In the course of Singapore's growth as a nation, they have seen and enjoyed the fruits of his labour. We put aside our differences, we stop fighting and we are united in our mourning of this great leader's passing.
"Could I have lived my life differently?" Mr Lee once reflected.
"Maybe yes, but probably not. At each stage I made what was then the best choice. Having taken that decision, I changed direction and there was no turning back."

These Hard Truths that kept Singapore growing, I may not have agreed in all of the man's beliefs but for his decisions, to have born the weight of a country on his shoulders for all of his adult life, it is true and I salute that he has, at that time, made the best choice possible for us all. 

And in closing, and I have changed the gender of the character in the words of Tim Rice as lyrics for Madonna's Lament in Evita.

 I could have any prize that I desired
I could burn with the splendor of the brightest fire
Or else or else I could choose time
Remember I was very young then
And a year was forever and a day
So what use could fifty, sixty, seventy be?
I saw the lights and I was on my way

And how I lived! How they shone!
But how soon the lights were gone!

The choice was yours and no one else's
You can cry for a body in despair
Hang your head because he is no longer there
To shine, or dazzle, or betray.
How he lived, how he shined
But how soon the lights were gone

Eyes, hair, face, image
All must be preserved
Still life displayed forever
No less than he deserved

These words were so aptly written, for the man, who indeed, deserved no less. 
Thank you.
Thank you, Sir.

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