Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lessons from Singapore - The Red Dot

I am close to completing the book "Up Close with Lee Kuan Yew Insights from colleagues and friends"; the book was gifted to my husband by the team of Singaporeans who visited Bhutan last March. I am very much enjoying the book and getting to know, in bits and pieces, the person Mr. Lee was.

The first time I ever heard about Singapore or Mr. Lee was not very long ago (pardon the 'other' world I was living in then!). 

This is what I had heard: 
1) You can't chew chewing gum in Singapore or be prepared to go to prison (sounded so absurd...and wondered where in the world this place is); 
2) The leader of Singapore (must have been Mr. Lee) built a nation with the conviction that "rich must get rich so that they can bring along the poorer section of the society". I guess I was too naive to find out more than what I heard...until...

I visited Singapore, for the first time, in March, 2015 for a week long program. The visit was good enough to get a glance into the much hyped about city/ country in Asia. I was able to meet my friend Rima and her family - even got to visit her house in Punggol. I returned being fascinated by quite a lot of things in Singapore.

In October the same year, I was able to attend a Singaporean Cooperation Programme's training. This time around, the program included good mix of cultural exposure, history and "amazing facts about Singapore". I returned even more fascinated - to know that a small country can exist itself so prominent and well advanced. What I liked most was, no matter which ethnic person you met, each spoke as "we Singaporeans" or "our Singapore".

The Book. When my husband showed me the book, I jumped at it. I wanted to know the Iron Man who built Singapore to the current form; for some reasons Singapore continues to hit my favourite list of countries - more for the discipline and honesty of people. Oh yes, safety is another attribute. So, the man behind the story.

The insights shared by his colleagues and friends are evidences to the best efforts asserted by Mr. Lee in bringing up a country from (almost) scratch. Following are the top THREE "insights" I have gathered as I read the stories in the Book:

1) Mr. Lee's commitment and discipline, besides his vision for Singapore made him work tirelessly. His leadership skills are world-class - as much as people feared working for/ with him, they learnt life-long lessons from him. Especially the interesting testimonies from his Principal Private Secretaries (PSSs) bear facts to substantiate the leader in Mr. Lee.

2) After reading this book, I have begun to assess my relation with my husband from a different angel - indeed, a positive one. Here was this man who gave his cent out of cent to the development of the country - primarily because he had a "wife" in Mrs. Lee. How sweetly the writers refer to Mrs. Lee as a comfort, describing her gentle ways and motherly nature. I quite like the way she is said to sit in a corner in Mr. Lee's office knitting or reading. How sweet :)

I have asked myself, "When Mrs. Lee could stand by her husband for all the good causes, why shouldn't I be able to support KP in the few endeavours he takes on?" It makes me want to feel young and all enthusiastic about relationship.

3) A man's legacy is not only the greatness he exhibited but the parts of himself he left with each person who crossed his path. Mr. Lee was certainly that man. A true legacy. Each story had a part of him in the writer - something the person had learnt from Mr. Lee, be it a pleasantry exchange or policy matter or family concern. Salute!

And in all, the line "Singapore doesn't owe its existence to anyone" made total sense. Singapore - the red dot. Very much the real dot.


  1. Finally you finished reading it! I've been wanting to read any book related to him but so far I haven't gotten one on hand yet. I believe there are so many things to learn but not sure if it's applicable for people whose goals are to be happy (instead to be rich) like me :P

    1. Are you kidding me? The National Library is just round the corner!

      You are right. We have our own ways of making life worth.

    2. It's too popular to borrow! Always being lent! ^^

  2. I have been seeing a smiling sir invigilating the exam these days. I know the reason now. :P

  3. Want want to read this! Josephine Chia's MIL was the spark you ignited in me for Singapore aue(of course there's Rima which is a total different story :P). I hope KP sir will be kind enough to lend me this book. Thank you!

    1. Why not? KP's MD (ahem ahem) intends lending this book to whoever has huge intention of disciplining, in the best sense. Will meet you soon.

    2. Hahaha... What do you mean by me being a totally different story hah Madam Rekha??? :P