Passports

8-8-22 (National Day Eve)

“You have trekked so far, Bhaktaprasad, and today you may have understood you can travel far and not arrive, and not travel at all, but still arrive.” –

– Adventures of a Nepali Frog by Kanak Mani Dixit

In secondary 3, I was the only student in my Art Club ECA who couldn’t go on a school trip to Baguio, Philippines, because my dad couldn’t come up with the $300 required to pay for the already subsidised trip.

I don’t recall feeling very sad about it but I think it must have hurt my dad. Years later he would tell me lacking the means to let us take overseas trips like some parents did, made him feel inadequate as a provider.

With my dad at Westlake Chinese Restuarant when I was in my 30s.

In my early 20s as a working adult, when I made my first ever overseas call from Europe to Singapore, it was my dad picked up the call. He reminded me not to spend money on souvenirs but to keep my luggage light so that I could move easily and take in all the sights.

Recently the news of ICA rejecting passport photos of smiling applicants prompted me to check my old passports.

And among the expired little red books, there was my dad’s passport. He was 58 years old when he made that passport to visit Malaysia with my mom and her siblings. I am now his age as I get ready to renew my passport for the 5th time.

In his passport photo, my dad wore a blue & white batik shirt which I bought with my first teaching paycheck. Tucked within the passport’s protective covers were currencies that he had collected from years back. A wish to visit these countries one day perhaps?

Passport and notes

The fear of being called a frog in the well may have prompted some of us to look to travelling to broaden the mind. But travelling without knowledge or due preparation can also reinforce pre-existing prejudices.

So I hope my dad knows that even though he couldn’t afford to take us overseas when we were kids, his lifelong interest in books, music, plants, cultures and documentaries would influence my future travelling choices which money cannot buy.

And today as we look to Singapore’s 57th birthday celebration tomorrow, and enjoy the travelling ease which our red passport brings, may we also honour the foremothers, forefathers and the ones who have made sacrifices and remained island bound, so that others can go farther. 🙏

A $3 per head day trip to local places of interest organised by the Residents’ Committee was all it took to make my late dad happy. My mom continues to delight in her temple jaunts and visits to Chinatown on a regular basis.

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