What makes me a Singaporean? A pink IC? Come to think of it, I was Singaporean even though my identity card has been blue since I was a child. Blue until now.
With a name like mine, most people often ask about my race. As I share how I’m not born here, I receive puzzled looks in return. Common replies I have gotten include: “No way, you’re lying right?” Or “Show me your IC, is it really blue?” Smiling widely I show it to them and then they respond saying: “No lah, you sound just like a Singaporean!”
My family, originally from India, came to Singapore when I was two years old. Like every local child, I went to kindergarten here and adapted to life quickly. The food, culture and great number of friends I made never made me feel out of place.
It felt like a perfect fit for me living in this country where everything was just so interesting and different and to my parents, a big plus was that it was safe.
I went through the rite of passage of every Singaporean teenager: PSLE, secondary school, CCA, BBQs, chalets, O-levels and poly life. I didn’t feel any different from my friends in class, nor did anyone treat me differently.
Every year, my family went back to India for our holidays and while I thoroughly enjoyed meeting my extended family and felt quite happy there, coming back to Singapore was a joy–especially stepping into Changi Airport.
Recently, I applied for Singapore citizenship together with my family. It was a quite an insightful experience as I had the chance to see what it was like from a bigger perspective.
Knowing how the country was established, how its leaders formulated policies and how we achieved so much in such a short time allowed me to appreciate the pivotal events that made me feel a sense of belonging for the country.
As part of the citizenship approval process, I had to go for an excursion and that’s where I met Johnnie, our tour guide whose words I will always remember.
Standing at one of the exhibits at the Army Museum of Singapore, Johnnie looked at us with conviction and said: “This country has given me so much and I am willing to protect and defend it no matter what comes our way.’’
This was a man at a ripe age of 72 speaking about a country he grew to love. Johnnie was a Malaysian turned Singaporean and that resonated with me. His passion to defend this country was something that struck me.
Looking at my Indian passport which I have recently renounced, I feel a mix emotions. Giving up one home for another is a significant decision and though I can’t really put my finger on it, I know one thing for sure.
On August 9 this year, I can take the flag and wave it freely, with a smile on my face. Happy that now, this is my home, where I will live and where my family and my dearest friends are.