Wanted: Singaporean stories on living through the pandemic

The public is invited to contribute their own stories in pictures, video and audio, to the newly launched Stories Of Us website.
The public is invited to contribute their own stories in pictures, video and audio, to the newly launched Stories Of Us website.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - The surreal sight of supermarkets thronged by panicky buyers after it was announced that Singapore would enforce "circuit breaker" lockdown measures. A husband who has not seen his wife since then. One lifelong dream of taking to the skies put on hold, with flight school suspended indefinitely.

These and other memories and experiences of Singaporeans against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the world can be viewed on the Stories Of Us website, which was launched on Friday (Jan 15).

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) is also inviting the public to contribute and submit their own stories in pictures, video and audio, to the site, a shared documentation of Singaporeans' struggles and triumphs.

From the country's first recorded case on Jan 23, 2020, through the circuit breaker from April 7 to June 1, and over a progressive reopening leading to phase three from Dec 28; the pandemic has affected all Singaporeans, said MCCY.

The Stories Of Us website offers a chance to reflect the different ways that living through a pandemic has meant to each individual, and a glimpse into others' experiences as well.

The site also contains entries from other existing platforms for Singaporeans to share their coronavirus memories - including the National Youth Council's "Dear Covid-19" and the National Library Board's "Documenting Covid-19" projects, along with submissions collected at the National Museum and during the National Day Parade last year.

Stories are categorised by emotions spanning happiness, hope, empathy, gratitude, sadness, frustration, anxiety and "sian", a Hokkien term used here to indicate the feeling of being caught in a bothersome situation.

As of Friday, stories filed under "happiness" form the highest proportion - 34 per cent - of submissions. One of these was a screenshot of a Zoom call between several households celebrating Hari Raya in May, submitted by Ms Hafizah Jainal.

"It was nice to see everyone even though a screen but this will never replace the warmness of physically meeting each other," she said in an accompanying caption.

Another "happy" story was contributed by Ms Mahendran Rudrarani, who described how her 81-year-old mother immersed herself in gardening during the pandemic - growing vegetables like ladies' fingers, chillies, brinjals, lime and fruit like bananas and papayas.

Ms Rudrarani wrote: "My mother is able to prepare and share many traditional dishes, including using the stem and the flower of the banana. My family members are very proud of her efforts."

But the fundamentally sobering nature of present times was captured in an entry by Ms Yvonne Cheng on giving birth during the circuit breaker, tagged under "frustration".

"This meant that skin-to-skin contact upon his birth would be hindered by a surgical mask," she said. "The post-partum period has always been a time when family and emotional support is important, yet we can only connect virtually and be there for one another in a very different way than we have imagined.

"For now, we can only wait for the measures to loosen and trust that eventually we will prevail over the pandemic."