Dear Ma,

CLEO (Singapore) - - DEAR SINGAPORE -

Re­mem­ber when I left home to seek for ad­ven­tures? You cried and said I was a quit­ter. “Who was go­ing to put rice in the bowl?” you lamented. “Who was go­ing to pro­tect the house from bur­glars? Who was go­ing to take care of old me?” you sobbed. I re­minded you that you had other chil­dren too.

Ma, though I was far from you, I thought of you al­ways. I miss your cook­ing, es­pe­cially nasi lemak and Aunty Mei’s ang

ku kueh. My home­sick­ness was “cured” when­ever I meet our fam­ily and friends, and some­times, strangers from our neigh­bour­hood. I even drove for four hours to meet Teacher Mo­han’s niece who was study­ing in another part of the coun­try I was in. I tried to keep abreast of news of home. Alas, even our phone calls were never enough.

When I de­cided to re­turn, I thought you would be ec­static. But you seemed pre-oc­cu­pied.

Ma, you said that what makes us spe­cial is how we would help one another in the spirit of go­tong-roy­ong (co­op­er­a­tion). I re­mem­ber how peo­ple would will­ingly work along­side you for a good cause. You also said that no in­di­vid­ual amongst us is as strong as our col­lec­tive selves. But, I sense that the spirit is wan­ing. Please help us find our way back home again, to where our hearts truly be­long.

Where have the smiles and nods gone? What hap­pened to the mama shop sell­ing my favourite gem biscuits? Why is ev­ery­one rush­ing? And where are they head­ing to­wards? Why are things so ex­pen­sive? I sud­denly felt lost.

Your daugh­ter, Hi­dayah

Hi­dayah Amin is the au­thor of six non­fic­tion books and six chil­dren’s pic­ture books. She’s also the pub­lisher of He­lang Books, an in­de­pen­dent pub­lish­ing house. Her most re­cent work is Leluhur: Sin­ga­pore’s Kam­pong Ge­lam.

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