Poetic Legacy: S. Rajaratnam, 1915-2006

coverNo, I’ve not written a poem. I was thinking about the Singapore Pledge.

It is with his passing that many have subsequently realised S. Rajaratnam was the one who penned it. Some have recited this for 12 years in their early school years and not known this fact till now. Better late Not too late, I suppose.

coverI learnt of it in my 20s, when I read The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Those who wish to learn more about the circumstances in which the Singapore Pledge came to be ought to read the book (an engaging one, btw).
This morning, I woke up and realised that the Singapore Pledge is a poetic work in itself, both in form and context, forged out of the chaos and unrest in the mid 1960s. Thank you for this, Mr. Rajaratnam, Sir, and for everything else.

The Singapore Pledge

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.

Source: Singapore Infomap (the bottom of the page has links to audiofiles on the pledge recited in the four official languages)

To learn more about Mr Rajaratnam’s ideas and beliefs, here are some references:



Poem: What is it that we share?

“What is it that we share?”

Just what is it
That you share with me
From those weeks at sea?
Stomachs, queasy
From rhythmic rolls atop blue waters?
Memories of euphoric music
From our smiles and laughter?

Or perhaps
We are connected,

Because we share a loss
Of strangeness,
Now that we are strangers
No longer.

Published in Poetic Voices in their May 2005 issue (look for the 3rd poem from the bottom up). See also: Libraries as platforms for Community Publishing (May 8, 2005)

Poem was inspired by my experience during SSEAYP 2001. The motto for the Singapore contingent was “Be Connected”. We had a theme song and logo.

The 2001 voyage was marked by a tragic road accident in Brunei which resulted in some deaths. The programme was cut short. But I guess we made the best of the time that was spent prior to the accident, and after as well. Friendships and goodwill remains among Participanting Youths (PYs).

I wrote this piece in response to a call for contributions to a SSEAYP article that was being planned (I’m not sure if that was published). Was thinking of what to write when it occurred to me that we,  the PYs of 2001, started off as strangers and then we lost something due to the accident. Yet, the concept of loss was not entirely negative. 

We started the voyage as a bunch of youths bearing unfamiliar names and faces. Then we found ourselves strangers no longer. Whether we realised it or not, we were all connected by a shared experience, for better or for worse — more so the former.

Podcast Experiment – Poetry Recital “Self Pity”

[Originally posted in Rambling Librarian blog, Dec 4, 2005]

Title: RamblingLibrarian reads D. H. Lawrence’s “Self Pity”

Length: 00:19

David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930) — “Self-Pity”:

I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

Here’s the MP3 file.

Legend of Bukit Merah

For a background of why I drew this, click here. And then a few months ago, my colleague from Children’s Library Services asked for contributors for a Storytelling Kit. I showed my colleague the artwork, she liked it, and I agreed to write my own version of the local legend.

The kit has now been published and available for sale to the general public (selling for under SGD$11 and contains other stories all written by NLB librarians). I’ll post my story here, perhaps as a series… if I can get off my procrastinating butt.

[Images reduced from original A4 size]

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 01

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 02

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 03

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 04

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 05

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 06

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 07

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 08

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 09

Legend of Bukit Merah Page 10

Originally posted at Rambling Librarian: The Legend of Bukit Merah (or How Redhill got its name): Part 1