Lately, there has been a lot of talk about memoirs. I saw in the news that MM Lee is on a four-day visit to KL and met up with Dr Mahathir. They talked about a good many things, and the Channel NewsAsia clip featured Dr M talking about writing memoirs.
"(We) talked about how to write memoirs. How he, Colin Powell and George Bush did that. I told him I'm very slow. I write in long hand," Dr M told the reporters, referring to MM Lee's much-feted Memoirs.
Strange that I should see this news item now, because yesterday, a friend said to me, "Our history is being systematically and selectively erased."
I am not sure if my friend was being too extreme in his views, but I can see his point. The history of Singapore seems to be coming from a very small group of people.
I am sure MM Lee's memoirs are very important and significant to our understanding of Singapore's past. After all, the man has been there and done that. In fact, he is not done doing. Love him or hate him, he is the Father of this nation, and worthy of respect.
But Singapore was not created by just one man or one party alone. Many hands, both Singaporean and foreign, built this city. My father, who is the Father of me, has many stories to tell. In fact, it is hard to get him to stop when he gets started. He is normally a quiet man, but when you get him to tell you about the time he had to sell curry puffs with his youngest brother, to make ends meet, you see a fire in his eyes. And he doesn't have any two-volume hard-cover memoirs on sale in Borders.
This got me thinking. What if we could record the words of this older generation, so that our kids and our kids' kids, can know, can understand, can remember? Many of our parents and our parents' parents were immigrants, coming in Singapore to make a better life.
If I spoke to your fathers and mothers, what stories will they tell me?
The other thing that has struck me lately was the number of Singaporeans overseas.
I got this email from J:
"Just wanted to thank you for starting the podcast thingy... cos I'm stuck in bangladesh for 6 months.. (ok not stuck, my own free will lah) and being able to hear you all crap and talk nonsense is very comforting haha... I'm very tired of listening to perfect English!"
My first thought was, wow, my little podcast project is touching a fellow Singaporean in a foreign land. Who would have thought a few guys talking cock and making dumb jokes in Singlish would have such an impact? It is a very humbling thing.
My second thought was, what on earth is J doing in Bangladesh?
It seems ironic to me that as a nation built by the hardworking hands of immigrants, and now, even foreign talent, we are beginning to export ourselves to other countries. Perhaps our immigrant genes never really go away.
This then brings me to my second idea.
If I spoke to these Singaporeans overseas, what stories will they tell me?
I am interested in why they have made their journey from our island's comfort zone. Or discomfort zone. I want to know, if they have migrated overseas, whether they found their greener pastures there, or whether Singapore is really where they should have stayed. I want to hear this in their own words, unfiltered by any agenda to persuade our overseas brethren to come home.
So, two groups of Singaporeans, the older generation with their stories of old Singapore, and a younger generation who have left our shores, either permanently or temporarily, to be somewhere else. Both groups with stories I want to hear.
An oral history of Singapore, if you will. Told by ordinary Singaporeans,
Now if that isn't an idea screaming to be done as a podcast, I don't know what is.
I am so going to need a bigger server.