“Putri & Amanah


The crowd is in their full, feverish swing by the time I reach the parade. The street is awash with whites and reds from the cacophony of Singapore flags. Mothers and fathers tug at their children, excited women and men chattering away. It starts to rain, and everyone huddles underneath their umbrellas. The military contingents are marching now, as the band and its fanfare beat resolute to the crescendo.

Image Credits: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore. (Source)

I slip underneath the crowd, the wall of horns and drums gripping my lungs. Soon I am by the roadside, the men in green khakis marching right in front of me. All of them look forward with so much intent, like they’re beaming the nation’s purpose against the onslaught of the light morning rain.

The music roars louder, so I cup my ears on each side with my hands. And with it, this thought reverberates inside my skull: it’s easy to look ahead and see where you want to go, but what happens when you want to look back, to look at where you come from? 

When I was applying for Singaporean citizenship two years ago, it felt hopelessly easy. It only took me an hour or two to fill up the form. I was hoping that there would be a little more time to wait, because I heard that
UMNO (entity)
United Malays National Organisation
was offering land to the
bumiputera (adjective)
a term used in Malaysia to describe Malays and Orang Asli or indigenous peoples of Malaysia or Southeast Asia
, that Malaysia would be a better place for the Malays. But in that short afternoon, I switched sides. Just like that: in one door and out the other, I am a Singaporean.

The only gripe I had is the section where I had to choose my race. I never understood it—is
Kelantanse Malay (adjective + grammar)
Of or pertaining to the state of Kelantan in Malaysia.
considered Malay? On what grounds? My mother spoke of our northern ancestors to me before—Thailand, I think. The Malay I speak is already so different from the Malay spoken here. I was so surprised when the Malays here couldn’t understand what I was speaking, and I’ve yet to find other Kelanatanese Malays here. So, am I ‘Other’ then? What does that question even mean? In the end, does it even matter?

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