TL;DR – Come on, Singapore, we can do better.
I came across a Facebook post that’s almost heartbreaking to read. I’ll let the OP’s words speak for themselves.
I saw an incident on the train. The seats were all full. At one of the stopping, one person stood and left the train.
This guy, John, went to sit in the opening in between two person. The lady next to him took one look, stood up and walked to the other side. There was an opening on the other side, she immediately sat down although she was siting in between 2 other men.
I could see it in John’s face. I could feel what he was feeling. This brought back a lot of painful recollections.
I had just showered that day and I was taking the train to school. I sat beside this old lady who immediately put her hand on her nose and moved as far away as she can from me. She turned her leg away and was sitting in a really awkward position. At first, it did not occur to me what was going on. She remained in that position for a few stops. It must have been painful for her. I realised what was happening. I remember feeling so bad. I alighted the train and went back to shower. I was afraid of sitting on the train for a long time.
We traveling for a family dinner on the train. My parents asked me to sit but I refused to sit beside this stranger. The stranger said its ok to sit. That was the first time I sat in a train in 6 years.
I was on the train with my mother when she sat beside this young lady. She had accidentally rubbed against her because the train jerked. My mother apologised. The lady picked up the phone and started speaking very loudly about certain people. It was so abnormally loud that a lot of people in the compartment were looking at her. I quickly understood. I asked my frail mother to stand and we walked to another compartment to sit. I felt sad because I could not understand.
I remember my friends pointing at me and laughing when I was in primary school. I looked funny? I had the same number limbs and same number eyes. Why do I look funny?
My shoes were torn from playing soccer the day before. My parents bought me a new pair but I wore my torn shoe because I was getting late from school. I had a crush on this girl. God was on my side because we were project mates. Yay! It was our first meeting. My other team mates talked about me and my shoe in another language. They were laughing. They thought I did not understand but I could understand because I grew up here in Singapore. I could not understand why am I and my shoe so funny? When I saw my crush laughing with them, I was crushed. I was sick for the next few weeks. When I met them for projects, I felt something weird in stomach. I did not understand.
I was in JC when I liked this girl. She was quite pretty and a friendly person. One guy asked her to be his girlfriend. She rejected him but they were still friends. I told her that I liked her too. She gave a look of digust. She told her friends and they started looking at me with disgust at me. Her friends would laugh whenever I came into their sight. I would hide during breaks and sometimes skip recess to avoid. I could not understand why.
I had a best friend. We got in trouble together. I like to disturb him and he liked to disturb me. I protected you when the teacher scolded you. I stood up for the mistake I did not do and almost got expelled together with you. Why did you laugh at me together with my class when we were at night safari? I did not understand but that was the first time I cried, not because of the class or you laughing but because I just could not understand. Why can’t I understand?
There were so many more scenarios.
I still experience similar experiences that John face even till today. It is even more crushing because they don’t say it openly. The subtle actions does so much more damage then someone blatantly saying it. It makes you feel a sensation that cannot be descibed but only felt. There is no way to deal with it. You cannot open challenge it because no one did anything wrong. But one thing is very real, the feeling that John felt.
I wanted to go to John, pat on his shoulder and tell him that it is alright. It is not his fault. I too do not understand. You are not alone my friend.
Here’s the original Facebook post in case you want to read the responses to it.
And now, repeat after me:
We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity
and progress for our nation.
(Featured image from Chua Chin Hon via)