Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

I finally have some time to put down my thoughts on this matter. I was so afraid I was going to do badly for my quiz I stopped myself from using the laptop for over a week. I wanted to do it on Dayre because sweeping thoughts of mine end up there. But this, is not a sweeping thought, so here I am.

I saw Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 25th July 2010. I was at Marina Barrage having a picnic with my family and he was having a look around. He was surrounded by so many people, bodyguards, if you’d like. I was an arm’s length away from the most powerful man in Singapore.  He waved back at all of us who waved at him, giving us smiles. Should I have asked for a picture then? I wish I had. It would be too audacious of me but it also would have been a life time opportunity. This thought only hit me after I was watching all the documentaries about him and this man gathered up the courage to ask him for an autograph. I should have done that too. Maybe an autograph.

My mom has been crying over his death since the hacked website stating false information that he has passed away. CNA reported it so my mom thought it was true. My mom is a rock hard woman and I am watching her cry for the second event this year.

I stayed at home on Monday to study. I switched on the television and it was already on CNA. I kept watching documentaries after documentaries on all that he did. I brushed social studies aside because I never thought learning history would be of any importance to me. It was just a side subject in primary school. I learnt so much the past few days. I learnt about why he wanted to lead Singaporeans to a better life, I learnt about the merger, I learnt about the fall of the merger, I learnt how he had to fight for this tiny little country when nobody wanted us. We were forced to be independent. I saw how much he defended us from brainless communists parties. I dare not fathom the future now if he had lost his position to them.

I wouldn’t say I cried a lot because I do not belong to the older generation who actually witnessed all the changes since 1965. What I experienced was an era coming to an end. I was lucky. I teared because I finally know all that he did and I acknowledge and am ever so grateful for what he has done for us. I found myself being thankful for the bilingualism policy because I speak both languages. Not well, but adequate. People say dialects are dying out because he pushed for mandarin. You could pick up any language through hard work; he showed that it is possible. I saw him giving his first chinese speech today and I was in awe. STUDIED CHINESE FOR 10 YEARS AND I CAN NEVER SPEAK THAT WELL.

Yijun and I went to pay our respects at the Parliament House on Wednesday morning, the first day the public is allowed to enter. We wanted to reach at 10 but we had to buy flowers first. I decided on lilies because they are flowers for mourning. I judged the current workforce generation just buying a small gerbera. I felt that tiny daisy wasn’t enough and he deserved more. Then again, who am I to dictate what flower people should or should not buy. At least the idea of bringing a flower is there. We joined the queue at 11.20. Within seconds another 100 people were lining up behind us. We were ready.

I didn’t have breakfast because I was expecting it to be over by 1pm. I was so so wrong. We even brought out laptops and textbooks along so we could study afterwards. Within an hour when we were queuing in the underpass, the amount of people, the shortage of oxygen, the lack of food, low blood pressure, I started losing my hearing and I got more and more annoyed at everybody’s chattering. These are the signs that I am going to faint. I forgot I can’t stand for long periods of time. I couldn’t carry my bag and I had to drag it whenever we moved. Yijun got so worried so she went to buy me some food. I felt a bit better when we were out of the underpass and the wind started blowing really strongly. I could breathe so much better. Afterwards, Yijun carried both my bag and hers. She had to leave me again because I needed sugar water so she went to find a 7-11. That was the worst. Everything got so bright. I was seeing the world in contrast and it hurt. I didn’t have my phone because it was in my bag with Yijun. I was so sure I was going to give up but I carried on walking. If I lose my spot, Yijun will lose hers too. I kept squatting down when the line came to a stop. People with low blood pressure shouldn’t be doing all these jerking movements but I couldn’t keep standing up. Yijun came back with Sprite and Coke. People around us were giving us cardboards and bottles of water. I was thankful. I started getting better after the drinks and carried Yijun’s bag. She was still carrying my bag with my textbook and her laptop. We took turns to rest. Joseph came by to find us during his break. We were almost at the Asian Civilisation Museum. Along the way, ushers tried to chase us out of the queue by exaggerating the hours it will take us. So glad none of us, well, in my visual space, decided to leave. There were people who cut queue as well and usually in front of Yijun and I. Probably because they think we are young therefore, pushovers. A couple of aunties behind chased them off. We made friends with the people around us. We reached the Parliament house and it was 4pm. The wrapping of our lilies were really crumpled by then. We were sad we didn’t get to place it near the casket but procedures have to be followed. We walked passed the casket in a line. We bowed and wanted to bow some more. This aunty kept bowing so I stayed behind her so I could have a few more seconds. The usher kept pushing us to move so we did. Everything was so rushed I felt that we weren’t able to gather our emotions. It took less than 10 seconds. Still, I was happy we completed the journey and did what we had to do. We are grateful we decided to go on the first day thinking even though it might be the worst, we will still stand strong. Turned out the other days were so much worse. Our queues were not as organised but I was thankful because we weren’t just kept in the Padang area but we had to snake around Raffles Place. It was an experience. Yijun kept saying, “Our 4.5 hours of wait is nothing compared to his lifetime of hard work and dedication for us.” It didn’t go smoothly but it was worth it. I felt that it was the least I could do. I know he knows the effort we made.

My mother went the next day and she had to wait for 5 hours. My sister went yesterday and waited 6 hours even after joining a shorter queue. My brother went too late and the queue was suspended so he made his way to Tanjong Pagar. My father went to four different community centers to pay his respects.

I want to thank the SAF for taking their time to usher us, carting the flowers too and fro, handing out the cards for us to write on, passing out water. I felt people overlook their efforts because they are not doing voluntary work, it’s like, they are supposed to be doing this. Thank you all for the hard work.

I saw a tweet which annoyed me. “It’s weird those who used to complain about Singapore all the time, are so patriotic now”. I find no wrong in people becoming patriotic because of this episode. I get that it seems like hypocrisy but I don’t think they gained anything from being proud of Singapore. It’s a good thing that more people are feeling proud of their homeland. For some, they simply need the tragic event to happen to realize how much they love Lee Kuan Yew. The outcomes are good so what is with the skepticism. I don’t think Singaporeans would think it is a trendy to go and have 4-6 hours of their time wasted, they genuinely wanted to pay respects. Even drafting out a “fake” caption for such a great man needs a bit of belief.

To the Singaporeans who tried to make money out of this tragedy, I wish I have the ability to cuss but I don’t so, I hope this shameful act haunt you for the rest of your life.

I’m done here.

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