During my visits to the hospital in Ah Yan's final days (Ah Yan being the endearing term that was used to address my paternal grandmother), she would hold my hand and wistfully plead that she doesn't want to live with the pain any more.
The life of a once... strong-willed, robust woman has wilted away in tears, anguish and misery. Despite my assurance that she's going to get better, Ah Yan didn't. When I promised her that I'll visit one evening, I decided to delay it till the next day as I was tied up with other commitments. The visiting can wait, I told myself.
The very next day, Ah Yan died- and because I was too caught up in work, I missed her by a few mere minutes. When I finally get to see her, she was wrapped in a shroud of crisp white linen from neck to toe. I held her hand one last time and had never felt more remorse and regret in my life.
I never spoke to mum and dad about what happened, but we talked about other things during the wake. Mum cautiously approached the topic of me wanting to go overseas for my education, and that how much she and dad has saved up. Despite being a failed grandson, I felt it was Ah Yan's blessing that propelled my parents to talk to me about my future.
Seven months later, I left Singapore with a small box of old coins in my luggage. Ah Yan wasn't very well-to-do and didn't leave much behind- except for the box of coins. But it was more than enough for me to survive three years of university life on unfamiliar shores. But the lingering regret of not being there where Ah Yan died alone never crept away.
There were so many "if only"s and "what if"s- but they will only remain hypothetical because I'll never get the chance to say goodbye to Ah Yan. The unfortunate thing is that regret isn't about something you can do to fix it- it's a done deal. And it was precisely the word 'regret'- in my opinion an immensely powerful word- that got me all riled up and forced me to look at the recent events in a different perspective.
The flashpoint: a young politician from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has declared that the biggest regret she ever had was not bringing her parents to a local theme park (when her folks are clearly still alive). But if there's still a chance for you to right a wrong- surely you cannot call that a regret. But the technicality and the inappropriate usage of the word is besides the point. What concerns me is that this young politician represents a part of the society which I find increasingly dominant.
These people appear in the form of members of parliament (MPs)- largely ignorant of the things that are taking shape in the lives of commoners like myself, and like to claim that they understand how we feel, when clearly, they don't. Simply walking among us doesn't mean any thing. By introducing energy saving light bulbs to a sea of people who are worried about where their next meal is from is hardly useful. By offering an anecdote about mushrooms and trees isn't going to solve the crippling transport system.
The governing party is at best defensive, condescending, arrogant that has blatantly asked the voters (the masters of the country, mind you)- to repent if they vote for the opposition.
The comic book V for Vendetta has correctly pointed out that '[p]eople should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people'. What we see today is the stark opposite.
I am surprised, if not saddened, that a much-respected elderly statesman has resorted to such deplorable threats and fear-mongering. Tell me why I should continue to support the ruling party when I still see elderly and frail seniors collecting used cardboards and cans while our ministers give themselves a huge pat on the back and get rewarded with huge paychecks.
Tell me why I should be grateful to our ex-Home Minister for stupidly placing a few smoking cars in the city so that he can turn around and accuse us of being complacent.
Tell me why I should support a minister who gives absurd reasons for banning bar-top dancing and use slime tactics against his opponents. Has he no credibility himself to speak of?
Tell me why I want to have a MP in the parliament who had infamously said that the reason for identifying 'White Horses' in the military is to prevent preferential treatment- then why even identify them in the first place?
Tell me why the ruling party are sending bus-loads of senior citizens and offering them cash and free food to their rallies when they clearly know these are despicable methods to drum up their embarrassingly low attendance. And the very same government that promises a fair and equitable election uses the state-controlled media to propagate poisonous and twisted half-truths.
After moving from being nation-centric to self-centric, the PAP today is a far cry from what it was fifty years ago. But there is hope for now. The voters now have an opportunity to turn the tide.
But whoever you choose on May 7, do not live to regret it, for we are at the turning point of our young nation and never before has so much been wagered on our country's future.
You can't unlike a government away after May 7.
After my grandfather died in the early 1950s, Ah Yan had made the conscious but difficult decision of bringing up five kids single-handedly in the then-tumultuous Singapore. She had never once complained about rooting herself in this country.
While she may not live fully to enjoy the fruits of the nation's success, it was clear that she wanted to leave all of that to her future generations. So don't let the country be hijacked by the overwhelming greed for more power and money that our founding fathers have so painstakingly warned us about.
Let May 7, 2011 be the day that you will not live to regret. Vote wisely.
By: Gavin Moey