In Singapore, there are no strangers

Recently, I sat in a taxi driven by a 65-year-old Malay man. He told me that he used to be a Malay wedding chef who cooked for hundreds of guests.

In response, I told him that I grew up in a Malay kampung, and the best food I ever had was at a Malay wedding feast.

We chatted throughout the whole journey. Before I got off, he told me: "Take care, brother." I replied sincerely: "You take care too, brother."

On another occasion, I was queueing for a plate of fried beehoon and mee for breakfast at a famous coffee shop in Beach Road.

But as I got to the front of the line, I noticed that only beehoon was available, and the stall had run out of the thick black noodles which are very popular with the customers.

However, when it came to my turn to order, the coffee shop decided to replenish the noodles. Looking at how happy I was, the Indian man behind me in the queue said with a smile: "Brother, today is our lucky day!" Smiling, I replied: "Yes, it is our lucky day, brother!"

Some people dismiss it and think nothing of it but for me, I feel this is the spirit of Singapore, that we are all brothers and sisters.

I have many similar stories with the same message of warmth and unity.

In Singapore, wherever you go, whether it is a hawker centre or a shopping mall, and whoever you are, there are no strangers. We call each other by the dearest of terms, "brother" and "sister".

We renew this special relationship day after day, year after year, through our daily interactions.

As we celebrate National Day, perhaps we can also celebrate this special bond with pride and heartfelt emotions.

Tan Boon Kok

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2019, with the headline 'In Singapore, there are no strangers'. Print Edition | Subscribe