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Reading the news lately on the introduction of PAP’s new candidates brought back memories of my own personal experience 5 years ago. I still remember the exact date – 7th April 2006.

Grace Fu, Baey Yam Keng and I were the sixth batch of new candidates introduced in the run up to the 2006 General Election.

Watching the new PAP candidates introduce themselves and relate their own life stories highlighted a very important fact – the meritocratic system in Singapore.  Many of the candidates came from humble background, benefited from the system, worked hard, attained great achievements and now, giving back to the society.

My story is no different, some may even call it cliche but whatever it is, each one is our own “Singapore story”.

Born into a family of 4 children, I am placed No.2 – sandwiched between 2 brothers, and a younger sister.  Being number 2, though, had many drawbacks.  I had the “good fortune” of inheriting many things from my elder brother, like old clothes, old shoes, old pants, old socks and old textbooks.  I hated it most whenever the new school year began.  I always had to ‘re-cycle’ the second-hand textbooks handed down from my elder brother.  What made things worse were the many pencil marks left in the books!!  I would spend the whole evening erasing the pages clean, wrapping the books with colored gift wrappers so that the books looked presentable. Occasionally I would be extremely overjoyed to know that there were changes in the syllabi as it meant that my mom would have to purchase new textbooks for me!

I grew up in one of the earliest HDB flat in Tanglin Halt Road.  It was a 3-room HDB flat – 2 bedrooms and 1 living room.  Although there were 2 bedrooms, the whole family would squeeze into the master bedroom at night because it was the only bedroom that was air-conditioned.   My siblings and I would pack ourselves like sardines on sleeping mattresses on the floor with hardly any walking room left.  It was very cosy, kind of fun then.  As a child, I had lots of fun playing with my neighbours.  We did not have sophisticated toys or gadgets like the computer or hand-held games.  But we got by… amusing and entertaining ourselves with simple pleasures like “5-stones”, hop-scotch, “zero-points”, “line-catching”, catching spiders and flying paper kites, just to name a few.

My dad was the sole breadwinner as my mom stayed home to look after the four of us.  He worked hard and my mom was thrifty and careful with the expenses, saved up enough to see all 4 of us through university.  For that I am always grateful to them…