VIDEO

48 Singaporean Seconds: This makcik will take your order in Mandarin

Madam Surina Ismail does not just believe in racial harmony - she practises it. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
Madam Surina Ismail does not just believe in racial harmony - she practises it. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Singapore celebrates its 48th birthday on Aug 9, and to tie in with this, The Straits Times Picture Desk has put together 48 Singaporean Seconds, an audio-visual tribute to Singaporeans who have made this little red dot their home.

We are releasing their stories and videos in the next few weeks. In the 22nd instalment of our series, we talk to McDonald's crew leader Surina Ismail.

Surina Ismail, 48, crew leader at McDonald's

Madam Surina Ismail does not just believe in racial harmony - she practises it.

A crew leader at the McDonald's branch at Sun Plaza in Sembawang, she helps her non-Chinese colleagues serve Mandarin-speaking customers.

She's fluent in Mandarin, you see.

She studied Chinese as her second language when she was in Thomson Primary School in the 1960s. "My father told me it was good for me to study Chinese as I would have more friends when I grew up and no one would bully me too," she says.

These days, she brushes up on her Chinese by watching Hong Kong and Taiwanese drama serials and movies.

"I don't just look at the visuals. I listen to the dialogue, and then read the subtitles," says the chatty mother of five, adding that her favourite Chinese films are the Wong Fei-hong series and other martial arts flicks.

Madam Ismail, whose husband is a technician, says that growing up with Chinese neighbours in a kampung in the Bishan area also helped her understand the importance of interracial bonding.

She recounts fondly how her family would be invited whenever their Chinese neighbours had a wedding or some other celebration.

"It does not matter what race you are. We are all living in one country. It's like living in one house," she says.

- Photos and videos by The Straits Times Picture Desk