Dear Sin­ga­pore,

CLEO (Singapore) - - DEAR SINGAPORE -

Happy birth­day! You are 53 now and in your prime. It is a good age and also a good time for self-care and self-re­flec­tion.

Things that seemed so easy in the past are tougher now.

You are no longer grow­ing with the en­ergy and drive of youth. When you want to bring in help, your older chil­dren com­plain that there is not enough room for ev­ery­one.

Get­ting around can also feel more chal­leng­ing at times, what with MRT break­downs, roads flood­ing dur­ing rain­storms and pile-ups on ex­press­ways.

In your 20s and 30s and even 40s, we all thought you were in­vin­ci­ble. You moved fast, acted swiftly and be­came a role model for other Asian economies.

Your fourth decade was hard, in part be­cause of over­seas bank crashes and re­ces­sions. Many things hap­pened that you were un­pre­pared for.

No one can pre­pare for ev­ery­thing. Be kind to your­self. You were knocked down but you got up again, shaken but wiser. 53 is a good time to take stock of your strengths and weak­nesses. Build on the for­mer, work on the lat­ter. The goal is to get you to your 100th birth­day in good shape.

It is time to build up trans­port mus­cle to pre­vent ac­ci­dents in your 80s and 90s.

It is time to re-ex­am­ine some of the cher­ished ideas that have got you this far. Are you still truly a mer­i­toc­racy? Does progress just mean pros­per­ity or are there other mea­sures of suc­cess?

It is time to re­mem­ber old sto­ries, even the painful ones, be­cause they are all part of your be­ing. You came from ex­plor­ers, ad­ven­tur­ers, en­trepreneurs and seek­ers of knowl­edge. It is time to re­dis­cover that spirit by let­ting your chil­dren tell their sto­ries in their own way – and hear­ing them out.

It is time to savour your most im­por­tant suc­cess: that you are a coun­try where al­most ev­ery­one eats pineap­ple tarts dur­ing Chi­nese New Year or shares if­tar din­ners dur­ing Ra­madan or lights sparklers for Deep­avali or counts down to Christ­mas.

Some call you the Dis­ney­land of Asia but you are a mi­cro­cosm of what Asia can be, if all the mem­bers of your ex­tended fam­ily sat down at the same ta­ble. Sin­ga­pore, you are 53 and truly prime – you are in­di­vis­i­ble by any ex­ter­nal fac­tors. Long may that con­tinue. With love, Ak­shita

Ak­shita Nanda is an Arts cor­re­spon­dent at The Straits Times. Her first novel,Nimita’s Place, is pub­lished by Epi­gram Books. It’s avail­able at book­stores and at­gram­

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