By The Way

Growing up, photo envy, good reads and partying on: What politicians are talking about

(Clockwise from top left) Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng with a shell worn during radiation therapy, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung's new Facebook profile photograph and Yio Chu Kang MP Yip Hon Weng with his son. PHOTOS: BAEY YAM KENG/FACEBOOK, ONG YE KUNG/FACEBOOK, YIP HON WENG/FACEBOOK

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to, in this new series.

All grown up

Monday (Jan 3) was the first day of school and social media feeds filled up with posts from parents wistful about how their children have grown up too quickly.

Leader of the Opposition and Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh, Yio Chu Kang MP Yip Hon Weng and Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo were among parents who posted on Facebook about their children starting primary school this year.

Mr Singh, whose oldest daughter just entered Primary 1, revealed that he was just like any parent in Singapore who frets about how to give his child the best without overdoing it.

"I dread overcompensating her educational journey the way many loving parents do - and in doing so, unwittingly boxing her as a reflection of myself and my educational journey," he said.

He concluded that he would let his daughter learn, experience and question, and give her more exposure without resorting to crash courses or overloading her with enrichment classes.

Meanwhile, Mr Yip wrote about his son's grit, taking pride that his fourth child had insisted on carrying his own school bag all the way to school.

"Can't say that of the other boys," he remarked wryly.

For Mr Choo, the trip with his daughter to Ai Tong School was both surreal and also a trip down memory lane.

He credited Ai Tong, his alma mater, with instilling in him values 36 years ago and said that he hopes his daughter too would "find the first steps to her own dreams" there.

Then there were others like Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng, whose son marked a different milestone - enlisting in national service.

Sharing a photo of a recruit's schedule, Mr Baey said that the lunch breaks were now 2.5 hours, longer than they were in his time.

Many of the young men had also chosen to shave their hair beforehand, while those from his generation saw enlistment as "time to get a free haircut".

He added: "It's a rite of passage for every Singaporean man. While I was not fit at all during my NS, I still found the experience very meaningful and nurturing."

The face that launched a thousand quips

A new Facebook profile picture for Health Minister Ong Ye Kung sparked the online equivalent of catcalls from hundreds of netizens, who commented on how great he looked. One even compared him with a Korean star.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin also commented, asking Mr Ong which photographer shot the picture for him.

With both politicians in fine shape, netizens naturally started comparing their looks.

Some joked that Mr Tan would look "as handsome as (Mr Ong)" if he was photographed by the same person, and said Mr Ong would not want to help a "rival".

But if Mr Tan was basking in the praise, he was soon sent crashing back to earth with others telling him that "the subject matters too" and "it isn't always the photographer".

Mr Tan asked the netizen to "be kind ok?" and said "#WhenIGrowUpIWantToBeLikeOYK".

Turn the page

The start of a new year is often a time to turn the page - literally so, for some bibliophiles.

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin, for instance, was among those who spent the New Year break reading a book that her friend had sent her.

In a post recounting how as a child she used to prop a book up against her plate to read during mealtimes, she said one thing she hoped to do this year was to "make a little space for the love, learning and knowledge in books again".

She may or may not be able to do it, with Parliament sittings starting next week, but she has already read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, a self-help book on how to unleash one's creativity.

Aljunied GRC MP Leon Perera's book recommendation was Why Most Things Fail by economist Paul Omerod.

Himself an economist, Mr Perera said reading the book - which compared the failure of businesses with the extinction of species - got him thinking about what is needed to ensure Singapore thrives in the long term.

His takeaways: trust in the wisdom of crowds, ensure diversity in power, invest in openness and never give in to hubris.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Education Sun Xueling, meanwhile, kept up her reading aloud of children's books on Facebook Live.

Her picks were a Chinese book that looks at what happened to the hare and the tortoise after their life-changing competition in the famous fable and a Chinese book written by her - What Ants Do On Rainy Days - about different pathways to success.

The party must go on

Mr Baey may be ill, but that is no reason to miss a party.

Mr Baey, who revealed in a Facebook post on Friday that he had been diagnosed with stage 1 nose cancer last November and has been undergoing treatment, told The Straits Times that he intends to keep to his daily routine as much as possible and that includes the monthly Zoom birthday parties he hosts for residents.

While the radiation therapy he is going through may make him more tired and may affect his voice and skin, Mr Baey said this should not keep him away from the regular Zoom gathering for his Tampines North ward residents.

Mr Baey, one of the pioneering social media users among politicians here, said while he may get more tired from his radiation therapy, and may not be able to attend as many physical events, he would still be able to keep up online.

Saturday's Zoom birthday party will not be cancelled, he added.

"The doctor has also advised me that I should carry on with my daily routine as much as possible," he said.

"I'm not on medical leave, there is no need for medical leave, and it's also good to keep my mind away from the condition."

He said he will take care of himself, and ensure he does not tire himself out unnecessarily.

As he said in his Facebook post: "Life has thrown me a curveball, but I will be fine!"

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