18 Aug 2017

People - Scribblers

A Matter of Pride

And the thing about meeting people is that you strike a conversation of course – one that invariably leads to “Where are you guys from?”

Harshika Daryanani

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term “Pride” as “a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction that you get because you or people connected with you have done or got something good” 

So, an effect of living an expat life for over eleven years now is that one kind of becomes a travel junkie. We really do not have much to hold us back – for example, this year our 12-year-old will be away on a school trip the entire week of Diwali. I am not someone who follows traditions, and the only reason we do certain rituals (a family meal out once a week / on Diwali / New Year’s / Birthdays / Anniversaries… you get the idea) is to have our own small ‘traditions’ in the hope that these would be the things that would pull our son home when he leaves for college, and later on become memories he will cherish and share with his own family. But this year, with him not around, what is stopping us from packing our bags and leaving even if means ‘closing the door’ (traditionally, that is a big no-no) on Diwali? After all, ‘home is where the heart is’ right? And our heart will be away on a school trip anyway!


Travel junkies for life!
Travel junkies for life!


Like I said, not much holds us back. So, pack our bags and off we go, to a new place each time! Which often means we are introduced to new cultures, new traditions, new ways of life. And people. Lots and lots of them. And the thing about meeting people is that you strike a conversation of course – one that invariably leads to “Where are you guys from?”

This question has since become super complicated for us now. We’re Singaporean Nationals, of Indian Origin, Living in the United Arab Emirates – a lot to explain! So often we settle with a simple “Oh we live in Dubai”. And then we’re met with “Oh Dubai! We’ve heard that the place is fab! It has got energy, and that place is something else”. We grin and go “Well yea, it certainly is. We have loved the decade we have spent there”.

Which then brings a second layer of questions “And before that?”. “We’re Singaporeans,” my husband always announces proudly. “Singapore! WOW! What an amazing place, we were there a couple of years ago, that place left an impression for sure, we would love to visit again! And did you know in recent times it has been voted as the most powerful passport in the world?” We smile politely. Yes, we know. But we do not gloat, for we like our actions to do the talking in Singapore.


SG50 Celebrations in Dubai
SG50 Celebrations in Dubai


Recently, we were on a cruise trip round the British Islands for 12 nights. Within a couple of nights, we began to get familiar with the crew and the other guests. And of course, we get those same questions again. We dance the same dance – speak, acknowledge, smile. This time a lady continued the conversation. “Yes! We couldn’t place the accent (perhaps it’s now a little diluted?). We knew you guys were Asians, but weren’t sure from where. Though we knew you were not from XYZ (a place I shall not name), people from there aren’t as friendly as Singaporeans are!” And I think this time, along with smiling, we stood an inch taller!

However, my personal favorite is whenever we are told that we don’t ‘look Singaporean’ and they wonder how we managed without being able to understand Mandarin. What they have done here is to confuse nationality with ethnicity, which is down to ignorance. Of course, they mean no harm, but the onus is on us to clarify that Singapore is a multiracial and multi-religious society, one where the citizens come from different ethnic backgrounds, including and not limited to China. We even have four official languages, so as advantageous as it is to speak one language, we can easily make do with English. And as we say that, my husband often ends with “having said that, I speak fluent Mandarin, I picked up the language in school.”


The very diverse Singapore!
The very diverse Singapore!


As I see it, Singapore teaches us values, arms us with a set of privileges and then sets us free for us to find our own abode. Along the way, in everything we do, we draw inspiration from the values that we have been taught. And when those values are well-received, we feel a warm glow inside of us.

What is this feeling? This feeling of contentment, one that motivates us to keep pushing ahead. This feeling of humility in face of deep praise. This feeling that urges us to speak up and correct a misconception. Also, that feeling which keeps us in check should we in any way misrepresent the values that have been taught, more so when we have easy access to various media platforms to express our opinions and air our grievances. What is it that keeps us from going over board?

I think it is Pride.