Passport to Freedom

4 June 2019 (Last day of Ramadan)

My day began with catching a ride from a friend to the ICA Building on Lavender Street to collect my mom’s new passport. He had a class on in town and wanted to spare me the cab fare. Grace!

At the ICA counter, the officer attending to me wore a dark blazer and spotted a pair of gold rimmed spectacles. Her surname was “Angullia” as shown on the name plate sitting solidly on her desk.

I told her this was my very first encounter with an actual person bearing her surname. I wondered if she was one of the descendants of the builders of the Angullia Mosque in Little India (opp Mustaffa Centre)

The Angullia Mosque in Little India, Singapore. Courtesy of Holidify

“Yes, that’s our family mosque,” she beamed as she answered. Her ancestors were Gujarati merchants who built the mosque. I could feel her pride and happiness about her Angullia ancestry.

After she cleared the administrative protocol she handed me my mom’s new passport.

“What happened to your leg?” Mdm Angullia asked quietly. There was a look of genuine concern and interest on her solemn face.

I explained to her how I had contracted childhood polio despite having access to vaccines. But I was quick to add that I bore no resentment for what happened. Polio had already crippled one of my legs, and the last thing I needed was for it to cripple my soul as well.

On my way home on the MRT I recalled how my childhood disease had divided my family and put my mother & late grandmother on a constant blame battle & guilt trip.

When misfortune strikes, feeling bad or sorry, attributing blame and to some extent, seeking compensation or apology can trap us in a state of eternal victimhood. It is as if an invisible cord ties us to the cause of our suffering, and in my case, the disease that has brought much grief.

So while the adults were still fretting over how to disguise my limp (as if it could be done), or to protect me from comments, I actually had to face the world all on my own, on one leg. Alone.

In retrospect, this isolation has given me lots of practice to be unafraid if I don’t fit in.

But precious time had been wasted on pitying me. Precious tears were shed for not looking normal. And precious efforts were squandered on overcompensating for my disability as I lived in fear of not being good enough.

Thus forgiveness, for whatever wrong or tragedy one has endured, even without the promise of an apology or hope of justice, is really the passport to freedom.

Cat siblings, Bella & Topaz lost their mother when they were still nursing, saw their brother, Amber, and a fellow community cat, Silver maul to death by dogs. Who could they have sought justice from, having no speech and being just animals?

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