Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Just came back from a darn good evening at the Raffles with Joe, Luke and Hadi. It was an evening filled with decent company and nice food at Doc Cheng's in the Raffles Hotel. Didn't drink but each of us had a 5-course meal, which was very nice in its own peculiar way. The evening's festivities were a curtesy from Jean-Phillipe, the F&B Manager of the Raffles Hotel - got this in return for helping him get an interview on 938 Live.

I've been doing quite a bit of pro-bono or non-cash related work in the last few months. It's been interesting. On one hand it does not seem logical for a cash-strapped person to get involved in non-cash work. But I think its been exceedingly enjoyable to use what little that I have to offer to add value to people's lives. I read somewhere that the universe has a way of keeping score for people and you get what you give. Tonight was one of those moments. This was an ad-hoc project and although I didn't get cash, I managed to get something valuable from it, which is something money can't always buy.

More importantly, creating value for other people is healthy for the brain. I've been through the spells of unemployment and I can speak from experience when I say that the worst thing about being unemployed is the boredome. It gets pretty gaulling when you sit there day after day hopping for something to happen. I think I have Vincent to thank for encouraging me to go self-employed - I was unemployed and was searching for a job - which was something quite hard to do back in 2001, when Singapore's economy was somewhere in the toilet. He suggested that rather than spend scarce resources looking to work for someone else, I should just go direct to the client and get the money in my own pocket.

Now, 7-years later, I'm still mooching along in some silly sort of way. I think I'm probably no good at employment but it does not mean that I can't create ways to make myself useful. OK, I'm not much good at doing charity work but there are other ways of trying to be a useful digit in society.

Of course, in Singapore, we have National Service. I've been accused of being something of a critic of the Singapore system in recent months, but I think I draw the line when it comes to doing National Service. Say what you like about this institution, but I think its probably the most educational in the life of a Singaporean male. Yes, it does put as at a disadvantage when it comes to initial phases of entering the job market, but I also think it helps us to understand the world as we live in it.

Like most Singaporean men, I bitch and moan about the institution at every available opportunity. However, I'm greatful for the experience of National Service. It helped me to discover some of the best people I've meet. It helped me discover myself. I'm greatful that National Service helped me realise that the Singapore of my folks (Artsy, well-to-do media people) was in many ways a mirrage - the real Singapore remains a rather rough but decent place.

I've been accused of being arrogant about high-society, particularly in Singapore. But then again, it was National Service, that made me realise that many of the people living in high-society are pretty awful people. Anyone who has been through National Service realises that it's your fellow 'educated' people who will sell you at for their own glory. The guys with less education will help you out when things get rough - as they often do during National Service. I think it was this realisation that made me realise that the major difference between the activities in Geylang and a high-society event is price and packaging. Of course, packaging is very nice and I love feeling the glitz and glamour but at the end of the day, human emotion with all its faults remains the same.

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