I’ve been a minority my whole life. In Singapore, I’m Indian. In India, I’m Singaporean. In Britain, I’m Asian. In Japan, I’m a gaigokujin. Foreigner. The essence of who I am is truly lost in all the labels that people keep giving me. I went to the National Gallery in Singapore last weekend, and the docent told me – ‘Enjoy the rest of your stay here’. No, the comment did not annoy me. To be honest, I thought it was quite amusing. Our preconceived notions about who and what people are can be startlingly different from the truth.
One footstep led to the next and before I knew it, I was in front of Sri Mariamman Temple. I felt a strange indescribable sense of deja vu as I gazed at the gopuram of Singapore’s oldest Hindu Temple. I have been here before. I know this place. Its soul reverberates with mine as though the two were one and the same.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that our Singaporean national identity is one of multiculturalism – one that is embracive and strengthened by its ability to adapt. As a culture, we cannot afford to build great walls because our economy is intertwined with the world economy. Singapore was founded on the premise of international trade. Even till today, we have one of the busiest ports in the world.