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MICA (P) 106/01/<strong>2011</strong> December <strong>2011</strong><br />

a s p i r a t i o n s<br />

Publication of Young Sikh Association (Singapore)<br />

A Globalisation Comedy!<br />

IN THIS ISSUE…<br />

A Globalisation Comedy!<br />

Play on 'The Doctor is In'<br />

YSA Ministerial Dialogue <strong>2011</strong><br />

Ensuring Singapore’s Socio-economic Success<br />

Supporting a Worthy Cause<br />

SIWEC Flag Day <strong>2011</strong><br />

Certificate Presentation Ceremony for Sikh Graduates<br />

Important Role for All in Nation Building<br />

In the Name of Charity<br />

DSA Football Tournament <strong>2011</strong><br />

Promoting Racial Harmony<br />

The Buddhist Federation Harmony Games<br />

Thinking Aloud!<br />

Youth: Getting to Know Them<br />

Speaking Softly!<br />

Alternative Education Paths to Success<br />

YSA Forthcoming Activities<br />

• Certificate Presentation Ceremony for<br />

Khwaish XI<br />

• 9 th 4-A-Side ‘Racial Harmony’ Football<br />

Tournament<br />

Activities for Other Youth Organisations<br />

• Sikh Sewaks Singapore


Young Sikh Association (Singapore)<br />

Panel of Advisors<br />

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman<br />

Senior Parliamentary Secretary<br />

Ministry of National Development; and<br />

Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC<br />

Mr Inderjit Singh<br />

Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC<br />

Mr Davinder Singh<br />

Chief Executive Officer<br />

Drew and Napier LLC<br />

Mr Kirpa Ram Sharma<br />

Managing Director<br />

Pars Ram Brothers (Pte) Ltd<br />

Young Sikh Association (Singapore)<br />

Executive Committee<br />

Mr Hernaikh Singh<br />

President<br />

Mr Malminderjit Singh<br />

Vice President<br />

(Corporate Relations)<br />

Ms Sheetal Kaur<br />

Vice President<br />

(Administration)<br />

Mr Nirman Singh<br />

Honorary Secretary<br />

Mr Kuldip Singh<br />

Assistant Secretary and Culture<br />

Mr Gurmeet Singh<br />

Honorary Treasurer<br />

Mr Sukhbir Singh<br />

Assistant Treasurer<br />

Mr Satwant Singh<br />

Committee Member<br />

Mr Harveen Singh<br />

Committee Member and Editor<br />

Ms Harsimar Kaur<br />

Committee Member<br />

(Corporate Communications and<br />

Intellectual & Professional Development)<br />

Ms Harjean Kaur<br />

Committee Member<br />

(Intellectual & Professional Development)<br />

Mr Simarnirvair Singh<br />

Committee Member<br />

(Intellectual & Professional Development)<br />

Mr Jovin Hurry<br />

Committee Member<br />

(Conferences and Seminars)<br />

Ms Sithara Doriasamy<br />

Committee Member<br />

(Conferences and Seminars)<br />

Ms Huda Ishak<br />

Committee Member<br />

(Community Service)<br />

Mr Kulwant Singh<br />

Committee Member<br />

(Sports)<br />

Editor’s Note<br />

What a quarter of a year it has been! Steve Jobs passing away,<br />

followed by Dennis Ritchie – both titans of technology. And<br />

then the flooding in Bangkok, causing what seems will be<br />

prolonged suffering. The times we live in are uncertain, and<br />

we seem to be losing visionaries quicker than their ranks are<br />

replenished. There is also a deepening disquiet around the<br />

world with corporate greed. The Occupy Wall Street protests<br />

are gaining momentum in many cities and drawing in people<br />

from mainstream society, coming together around a variety<br />

of causes, not always in perfect agreement, but united around<br />

one thing, that countries need to ensure that their people have<br />

optimism for their future and that people will be given a fair<br />

go to make something of themselves and not have it snatched<br />

away by corporate larceny.<br />

The problems of our time – the really big ones – require visionary thinking to solve. The<br />

same thinking that led us into them is not the thinking that will get us out. Nowhere is<br />

this truer than with climate change. Two big stumbling blocks have been climate change<br />

deniers (increasingly discredited but still influential in the United States, especially in<br />

stymieing policy change that will move the world closer to clean energy) and an inability<br />

for countries to agree on what is a fair price (and who should be paying what price) for<br />

polluting, both in the past and going forward.<br />

I attended the CNBC Energy Opportunities brainstorm on 1 November <strong>2011</strong>. It is part of a<br />

global series that aims to bring together thought leaders and industry players to envision a<br />

future where the problems of today have been solved and to map out paths to that future.<br />

The session focused on the steps needed to get to 25 percent reduction in emissions (key<br />

to combating climate change) from present levels, in 25 years.<br />

The consensus that emerged at the brainstorm, and my thoughts on the session, are as<br />

follows:<br />

• Governments need to think long term to solve the emissions reduction puzzle. Solutions<br />

will involve pain (to people, industry, the economy, etc) that a government focused on<br />

being returned by the popular vote at short intervals cannot push for.<br />

• A fair price has to be put on carbon (pollutants). Correct pricing will allow the market to<br />

incentivise investment in clean energy;<br />

• Much work is required to educate the public and communicate the urgency of shifting<br />

to cleaner energy, <strong>dec</strong>reasing pollution;<br />

• Governments need to fund research into alternative fuel sources;<br />

• Redesign is needed to lifestyle and transport to change the ways and the intensity in<br />

which we consume energy; and<br />

• Micro or distributed energy generation should be encouraged where possible (especially<br />

in large countries with significant rural populations).<br />

Coming out of the session, my other observation was that the most off-the-wall, potentially<br />

far-reaching ideas for achieving emissions reductions did not come from people in the<br />

industry. Most of the thinking coming from longtime industry people in the various<br />

discussions, seemed to me to be constrained by what they felt were limitations, whether<br />

perceived or real, on what was possible. Without expressing any view on the merits of the<br />

suggestions put forward, my big takeaway was the value of outsiders in improving the<br />

range of options for everyone to consider.<br />

In any process, especially where the stakes are high, there is value in having ideas that are<br />

unconstrained by what the present state of play is, that refuse to acknowledge limitations,<br />

or that dream up ideal states to achieve. There are usually the ones that change the world.<br />

If Steve Jobs left us one thing, it was to not compromise on our vision and ingenuity.<br />

Harveen Narulla<br />

Our Mission…<br />

FULFILLING ASPIRATIONS!<br />

Editorial Information<br />

Khwaish is a newsletter of Young Sikh Association (Singapore). Please feel free to forward your<br />

comments and feedback to:-<br />

Mr Harveen Narulla 8 Jalan Bukit Merah, Singapore 169543<br />

Editor, Khwaish Mobile: 9852 9373 / Fax: 6327 2009<br />

Young Sikh Association (Singapore) Email: harveen@ysas.org<br />

No part of this newsletter should be published without the consent of the Editor, Khwaish.


Cover Story<br />

A Globalisation Comedy!<br />

Play on ‘The Doctor is In'<br />

Six years after presenting its maiden play titled ‘Khoj…In Search Of!’<br />

to a sell-out crowd of more than 900 people, YSA teamed up with<br />

KRI Art and Theatre to present another full-house production. More<br />

than 700 people watched ‘The Doctor is In’ at the Alliance Française<br />

Theatre at its three stagings on 15 and 16 October <strong>2011</strong>.<br />

The English-language comedy revolved around an Indian family<br />

that moved back from the United States to Mumbai and grappled<br />

with the various demands of globalisation eroding traditional Indian<br />

family values. According to Lovleen Kaur Walia, the Director, the<br />

script contained “a lot of Indian moments” to which she could relate,<br />

coming from an Indian family herself. The comedy was written by<br />

Shane Sakhrani, a Hong-Kong born Indian with a Masters in Fine Arts<br />

in Dramatic Writing from the University of Southern California.<br />

When YSA was approached by KRI earlier in the year to jointly<br />

present the play, we immediately accepted the offer for two reasons.<br />

The first was that we were buoyed by the success of the first venture<br />

and had been on the lookout for a similar opportunity. Secondly, we<br />

are keen to support the youth in the community in their endeavours<br />

and in realising their vision through projects they are passionate<br />

about. The theatre offers a unique platform for budding artistes to<br />

showcase their talents, so we <strong>dec</strong>ided to be a part of this initiative.<br />

We appreciated that Lovleen had a vision of what was possible with<br />

the play, and the passion and the desire to realise it. At the same time,<br />

the play and the messages it relayed to the audience were appealing.<br />

Whilst it was a comedy revolving around an Indian family, the issues<br />

it raised were real and serious. These included the challenges of<br />

the perceived generational and communication gap within Indian<br />

families, issues of filial piety, inter-racial relationships and prejudice,<br />

and the need for the family to remain united to overcome challenges<br />

in life – all delivered with a good dose of humour.<br />

Feedback from the audience was overwhelmingly positive. Many who<br />

attended were impressed by the level of talent and professionalism<br />

displayed by the cast. Lovleen has well and truly announced her<br />

arrival on the local arts scene with her debut production. She coaxed<br />

very mature and believable performances from the amateur (but<br />

polished) cast, and showed an understanding of how to establish a<br />

relationship with the audience. The cast can also justifiably be proud<br />

of its performances.<br />

As after the first YSA play, requests to stage more such plays have<br />

been made to YSA and KRI. We look forward to bringing you more<br />

such work.<br />

Khwaish<br />

3


YSA Ministerial<br />

Dialogue <strong>2011</strong><br />

Ensuring Singapore's<br />

Socio-economic Success<br />

The Singapore General Elections in May <strong>2011</strong> threw up several critical<br />

socio-economic issues that Singapore needs to address moving<br />

forward. These include affordable housing; transportation; influx of<br />

foreigners; integration of new citizens; helping less well-off Singaporeans; employment and<br />

employability; and economic growth.<br />

YSA organised a dialogue with Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, on 26<br />

November <strong>2011</strong> on ‘Ensuring Singapore’s Socio-economic Success: Challenges and Responses’.<br />

The session came at an opportune time as these factors have bubbled up in recent months and<br />

remain as pressure points within our society.<br />

During the session, Mr Lim stated that the government is concerned with structural unemployment<br />

and he expects it to get worse, given the economic outlook for Singapore. He told some 200<br />

participants that the government's aim is to expand the economy by three to five percent over<br />

the next five to ten years for real wages to keep growing. A key concern though is the mismatch<br />

between workers’ skills and the needs of employers. He added that low-wage workers and even<br />

professionals, managers and executives are vulnerable to structural unemployment.<br />

Mr Lim further stated that the government’s current focus on achieving sustainable and inclusive growth is an extension of this goal, “Simply<br />

put, sustainable growth is to ensure there are enough opportunities. Inclusive growth is to minimise structural mismatch. If a growing<br />

number of Singaporeans is not able to take on these jobs that are being created in the economy, then they will be excluded.”<br />

Mr Lim, who is also the Labour Chief, said the economy needs a mix of local and foreign enterprises to grow. The government’s aim is to<br />

ensure Singaporeans form the core of the workforce, even as it continues to accept foreign workers. The ratio between foreign and local<br />

workers will be kept at 1:2.<br />

The lively discussion session saw Mr Lim deftly fielding a slew of questions from the participants, ranging from inclusive growth,<br />

opportunities by Singaporeans, affordable housing and healthcare and social mobility to integration of new citizens, basic language skills<br />

for foreigners working in the services sector and national service for second generation permanent residents. The discussions continued<br />

into the tea reception with many animated and engaging exchanges over refreshments.<br />

YSA launched the “Ministerial Dialogue” in November 2004 to enable young Singaporeans gain a further understanding of local, regional<br />

and global issues and developments. Past ministerial dialogue speakers have included Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean; Minister for<br />

Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan; and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr George Yeo.<br />

YSA Forthcoming Activity<br />

Certificate Presentation Ceremony for Project<br />

Khwaish XI<br />

YSA’s Project Khwaish XI team will return from its community<br />

service expedition to Punjab, India, on 26 December <strong>2011</strong>. The 23<br />

participants left for the project on 7 December <strong>2011</strong>.<br />

To recognise the participants’ selfless and extraordinary<br />

contributions, YSA will organise a certificate presentation<br />

ceremony in January/February 2012. As in previous years, the<br />

participants will share their experiences and present a video<br />

show on their project. There will be a dinner reception after the<br />

ceremony.<br />

Please contact Ms Sheetal Kaur at sheetal@ysas.org to secure<br />

your invitation to the ceremony.<br />

4 Khwaish


Supporting a Worthy Cause<br />

SIWEC Flag Day <strong>2011</strong><br />

YSA was pleased to be a part of the Sikh Welfare<br />

Council’s (SIWEC) Flag Day on 20 August <strong>2011</strong>.<br />

This year, the donation drive witnessed an increase in<br />

the total participation to over 760 volunteers. These<br />

included many more volunteers from outside the Sikh<br />

community – an encouraging development which<br />

showed that compassion is not limited by lines of race,<br />

ethnicity or religion.<br />

In addition to participating in the collection drive, YSA<br />

coordinated the efforts of the students from Greendale Secondary School. The other organisations and schools involved in the<br />

island-wide fundraising included Cedar Girls’ Secondary School, Montfort Secondary School, Fuchun Secondary School, Singapore<br />

Sikh Education Foundation, Silat Road Temple, Gurdwara Sahib Yishun, Khalsa Dharmak Sabha and Central Sikh Temple. By the end<br />

of the day, more than S$50,000 was raised for the cause.<br />

YSA has been involved in the SIWEC Flag Day since its inception. We feel that it is important to lend support to an organisation that<br />

delivers welfare services to needy Sikhs in Singapore. SIWEC works in consultation with the Sikh Advisory Board and other Sikh<br />

institutions to carry out regular needs assessments of welfare recipients and to improve the quality of welfare programmes.<br />

If you would like to make a donation or find out more about SIWEC and its activities, please call Ms Dimuthu Sandamali, Administrative<br />

Officer, at 62999234 or email to admin@siwec.org.<br />

Certificate Presentation Ceremony for Sikh Graduates<br />

Important Role for All in Nation Building<br />

Be involved in your own community, and you can contribute to the country’s socio-economic development. Each person needs to<br />

stay connected to his or her community, understand its needs and seek to address them. This was the call made by newly-appointed<br />

Minister of State for Education and Defence, Mr Lawrence Wong, to young Sikh graduates at the Sikh community's appreciation and<br />

plaque presentation for them on 8 October <strong>2011</strong>.<br />

According to Mr Wong, the graduates’ educational achievements must be complemented with a steady character that can be<br />

developed through active citizenry and community involvement. As such, they should seek out opportunities to get involved and<br />

serve, be it in their neighbourhood, community or at the national level.<br />

Mr Wong presented plaques to 31 Sikhs who graduated recently from local and overseas academic institutions. The ceremony was<br />

attended by more than 100 guests, including family and friends of the graduates.<br />

One of the recipients, Dr Jyoti Mayall, who spoke at the ceremony, summed up the message of paying it forward, saying, “Somebody<br />

encouraged you, now take the time and encourage someone else to pursue his or her dreams. Everyone gets overwhelmed at times.<br />

He or she gets filled with self doubt and loses courage. You can make a difference by helping others to keep their dreams alive.<br />

Encourage, and give input and affirmation. It may well be that, someday, someone you encouraged does something remarkable<br />

because you encouraged him or her.” Dr Mayall received a Doctorate in Education from the University of Western Australia earlier<br />

this year.<br />

Organised by YSA and the Sikh Centre,<br />

Singapore, the presentation ceremony<br />

is aimed at recognising the academic<br />

achievements of Sikhs, including those<br />

who pursue post-graduate studies<br />

and continuous learning. It is also an<br />

important platform to engage Sikh<br />

graduates and to impress upon them<br />

the need for them, as intellectuals, to<br />

contribute to the Sikh community and<br />

Singapore society. Over the years,<br />

the ceremony has also provided an<br />

opportunity for graduates to expand<br />

their networks with one another and<br />

others in the community.<br />

Khwaish<br />

5


In the Name of Charity<br />

DSA Football Tournament <strong>2011</strong><br />

It was for a good cause and YSA instantly agreed to be<br />

a part of it.<br />

A group of footballers organised a charity football<br />

tournament at the Indian Association on 9 August <strong>2011</strong><br />

to raise funds for Down Syndrome Association Singapore<br />

(DSA). It invited YSA and nine other groups to lend<br />

support to the initiative.<br />

YSA’s recently-formed Healthy Lifestyle Club took part<br />

in the full-day competition which was played in good spirit, camaraderie and fun. The YSA team did well to qualify for the semifinal.<br />

Unfortunately, it lost in the semi-final and in the third/fourth placing, and finished fourth.<br />

In addition to helping to raise funds for DSA, the event provided the opportunity for members of YSA Healthy Lifestyle Club to<br />

participate in a sports activity to promote a healthier lifestyle.<br />

The event raised close to $13,000 for DSA which was presented to its representatives during the dinner reception at the end of<br />

the competition.<br />

Promoting Racial Harmony<br />

The Buddhist Federation Harmony Games<br />

The annual Harmony Games, organised this year by the Singapore Buddhist<br />

Federation, were held at Sentosa on 20 August <strong>2011</strong>. The Games aimed to<br />

promote racial and religious harmony and understanding among the different<br />

communities in Singapore. The YSA team was led by Rasvinder Singh, with<br />

Dannis Koh, Desmond Poh and Mark Phua as team members.<br />

The participants were each given an orange t-shirt and Sentosa monorail tickets<br />

two days prior to the event. However, a surprise awaited all the teams on the<br />

day of the event - all the participants were re-grouped with different teams.<br />

Rasvinder joined Human League, Dannis and Desmond teamed up with Fivestar<br />

and Mark joined Wham! The event was a race round Sentosa that featured<br />

landmarks in Siloso and Pahlawan Beaches, and Imbiah Lookout. The teams had to complete eight tasks as well as answer 12 questions<br />

on the religious beliefs, significance of different festivals and the cultures of the various religious groups.<br />

The event was flagged off by Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, Chairman of the Organising Committee. After an exciting and fun day under<br />

the blazing sun, Rasvinder’s team, Human League, came in eighth, finishing its challenges much after Mark’s, Dannis’ and Desmond’s<br />

groups. Dannis' and Desmond’s team, Fivestar, finished in fifth place which came with a consolation prize of S$300 in cash. In total, 13<br />

teams took part in the Games.<br />

Dannis shared his experience of taking part in the Games, “I feel that my team and I tried our best and it is great that we were in<br />

the top five”, while his team-mate and fellow YSA representative, Desmond, said, “It was definitely a unique experience as I do not<br />

participate in scavenger hunts often. The Games were well-thought out and it was a fun and interesting day where I learnt about<br />

other religions.”<br />

On representing YSA for the first time, Mark said,<br />

“It felt great and it was a new experience for me to<br />

represent a different ethnic association because I<br />

usually represent my own racial and religious group.<br />

Doing this, I got to know about the Sikhs.”<br />

6 Khwaish<br />

The event was graced by MG (NS) Chan Chun Sing,<br />

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth<br />

and Sports, and Minister of State for Information,<br />

Communications and the Arts, who presented the<br />

prizes to the winners. The baton for organising the<br />

next instalment of the Games has been passed to the<br />

Singapore Jain Religious Society, which looks forward<br />

to welcoming the communities next year.


Thinking Aloud!<br />

Youth: Getting<br />

to Know Them<br />

Mr Sarabjeet Singh<br />

Safe to say, in Singapore the public<br />

imagination that was previously dominated<br />

by accounts of youth inadequacy and<br />

apathy has started to erode. This still begs<br />

the question, what explains the behaviour<br />

of youth and why do they act in the ways<br />

they do? These questions, as posed from<br />

the perspective of adults, can be deemed<br />

judgmental even as they inquire. They rest<br />

on expectations of the ‘proper’ socialisation<br />

of youth in which they are to be made ‘fit<br />

for’ or to ‘fit into’ the adult world. 8<br />

I am not young enough to know<br />

everything.<br />

Oscar Wilde<br />

In recent years, it is almost striking the<br />

extent to which youth are featured and<br />

covered in discussions on society. This<br />

could not be any closer to the truth than<br />

during the course of this eventful year for<br />

Singaporeans, in which both the General<br />

Elections and Presidential Elections were<br />

held. Irrefutably, youth continue to feature<br />

and remain a salient subject in many<br />

discussions, especially on the shifts and<br />

changes felt in our national contexts now<br />

described by the proverbial ‘new normal’. 1<br />

Recent events and developments locally<br />

show that there is no denying the<br />

importance of youth in our society, or any<br />

society for that matter. This is felt in many<br />

ways: in economic terms, where a glaring<br />

and chief concern for many policy-makers<br />

is the lack of a youthful segment in a<br />

population in context of the general ageing<br />

of populations in developed countries; 2<br />

socially and culturally, where youth provide<br />

that oft-sought vibrancy deemed essential<br />

to attract people to places – Singapore’s<br />

hosting of the inaugural Youth Olympic<br />

Games was no mere coincidence by this<br />

measure; 3 and even politically, where youth<br />

can be cataclysmic agents and movers of<br />

tremendous change. 4<br />

I endeavour to examine some of the<br />

roles of youth in Singapore society and<br />

glean impressions from this outpouring<br />

of attention on the youth. In doing so, I<br />

hope to uncover some contrasts between<br />

society’s expectations of youth with<br />

youths’ own expectations of themselves,<br />

all the while remaining attentive to the<br />

extents to which each of these depictions<br />

are accurate. Finally, I also delve into<br />

some of the opportunities youth readily<br />

recognise as available to them, and some<br />

of the challenges they feel confront them.<br />

I hope to put across a message to the<br />

youth to have ideals, passions and goals,<br />

and to continue to remain engaged in<br />

society. In doing so, they should also<br />

aspire to contribute to their communities<br />

and society, with space made available for<br />

them. In part, this article also provides a<br />

personal reflection of my experiences as a<br />

youth in Singapore.<br />

I want to begin by unravelling the label<br />

‘youth’ that is applied rather loosely and<br />

problematically in some instances, to what<br />

are, in fact, various, heterogeneous and<br />

diverse segments of people in society.<br />

We should ask who the youth are; how<br />

we can begin to describe them; and most<br />

importantly, what excites and engages<br />

youth; alternatively, what is it that makes<br />

them tick?<br />

In his first speech as Prime Minister,<br />

Mr Lee Hsien Loong described Singapore’s<br />

youth as those belonging to the ‘post-65<br />

generation’. 5 This delineated the psyche of<br />

segments within the nation, with reference<br />

to those who did not have to endure the<br />

throes of its initial struggles upon gaining<br />

independence. This categorisation of the<br />

youth is too broad and risks ‘failing to<br />

connect with youth (which is ironically)<br />

what the government – the adult world<br />

generally – always thinks it needs to do’. 6<br />

Hence, while youth is marked by shared<br />

experiences, it is also a period where<br />

individual growth and development is<br />

important. Dr Kenneth Paul Tan, Assistant<br />

Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of<br />

Public Policy, elaborates:<br />

The challenge to socialise youth in a<br />

particular image has been the cause of<br />

much anxiety in the adult world. 9 As a<br />

result, in Singapore and with the labelling<br />

of the youth as the post-65 generation,<br />

‘conservative opinions often articulate a<br />

disproportionate yet deeply embedded<br />

lack of faith in the next generation’s<br />

capacity to sustain the achievements of<br />

their pre<strong>dec</strong>essors’. 10 There is nothing<br />

inherent in this generation of youth, be it in<br />

Singapore or elsewhere in the world, that<br />

makes it more or less worthy of criticism<br />

than the last, or the one before that. It<br />

follows that some of the ‘current concerns<br />

with youth are exaggerated through a<br />

historical insensitive comparison with<br />

some imagined previous generation where<br />

everything and everyone were better’. 11<br />

To contrast this, Professor Kishore<br />

Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew<br />

School of Public Policy, attributes much of<br />

Asia’s recent revival and unprecedented<br />

rise to the youth in their respective<br />

societies. He emphasises that in order<br />

to appreciate the roles of the youth in<br />

the burgeoning development of Asian<br />

societies, their motivations and aspirations<br />

must be framed and evaluated not in terms<br />

that are diametrically opposed to some<br />

sense of the past that is antagonistic.<br />

Rather, it is relative to this past, with its<br />

sense of community and national history,<br />

with the resources and opportunities that<br />

youth now have available to them, that they<br />

have been able to find within themselves<br />

newfound optimism and confidence.<br />

Further, this optimism, confidence and<br />

drive to succeed does find its inspiration<br />

in the past, but is crucially tuned to<br />

current contexts and contains a view of a<br />

promising future. 12 Tremendous potential<br />

The strategy of connecting with<br />

youth is not an easy one to pull<br />

off...and failing to connect has<br />

been the source of much anxiety<br />

and often also resentment that<br />

then gets transferred into a<br />

vision of youth as inadequate<br />

and therefore a common – even<br />

national – source of worry and<br />

disappointment. 7<br />

Khwaish<br />

7


and opportunities abound for the youth<br />

if such positive perceptions gain greater<br />

currency and acceptance!<br />

I now discuss some of the expectations of<br />

youth of themselves and the challenges<br />

and opportunities they perceive. In a recent<br />

photo-essay feature on youth for the<br />

National Geographic magazine, Mr David<br />

Dobbs asserts:<br />

Hard as it is to believe, youth today<br />

are more cognisant of the fact we<br />

enter a world made by our parents.<br />

But we live most of our lives, and<br />

prosper (or not) in a world run and<br />

remade by our peers. 13<br />

Many of today’s youth also demonstrate<br />

zeal to confront the world with foundationshaking<br />

energy and freshness. We need<br />

look no further than Mr Mark Zuckerberg,<br />

Harvard dropout, but creator of Facebook,<br />

which revolutionised the ways in which<br />

over 800 million people interact. 14<br />

Arguably, youth in Singapore spend much<br />

time in ‘training for adulthood’. This entails<br />

a disciplining process through modern<br />

social institutions like the school system<br />

and mandatory military service 15 (for male<br />

citizens). A corollary of this has been a<br />

‘prolonged plasticity of youth-hood’ 16 or<br />

elongation of the growing up period. 17<br />

This is especially so amidst an increasing<br />

speeding up or ‘time-space compression’ of<br />

the world around them. 18 This may frustrate<br />

youth bursting with energy to achieve.<br />

This point particularly resonates with me. I<br />

recall, by my second year in university, I was<br />

itching to be done with school and to apply<br />

all that I had learnt out in the real world.<br />

A second point on youth’s expectations<br />

is that youth value rewards more than<br />

consequences. 19 Through current scientific<br />

and social scientific research, 20 youth are<br />

seen to display greater tendencies to see<br />

incentives in what they consider to be direct<br />

gains. These can include material benefits<br />

and also intangibles that are significant<br />

to them such as social acceptance<br />

among peers. Hence, an eagerness to be<br />

employed, or even active participation in<br />

social causes seem perfectly justified to<br />

youth regardless of trade-offs.<br />

In retrospect, what I have come to realise is<br />

that youth (me included) need to manage<br />

these expectations. Youth need to realise<br />

and appreciate that many of these modern<br />

social institutions also serve as ‘living<br />

laboratories’. As microcosms of broader<br />

society, these institutions present crucial<br />

stages for youth to immerse themselves<br />

in, learn, and truly grow. 21 They add to<br />

the repository of tools and enriching<br />

experiences that can make youth more<br />

complete, resilient and successful in their<br />

later adult lives. 22<br />

Seen in another perspective, the eagerness<br />

to get into the real world and make viable<br />

contributions by applying all that is<br />

available to them is yet another function<br />

of the success of Singapore. Singaporeans<br />

have worked hard to gain and have now<br />

grown accustomed to this success. Striving<br />

for success plays a role in Singapore’s<br />

national identity from which youth are<br />

not exempt. 23 However, success cannot be<br />

viewed in static terms: what it means to<br />

succeed can take on new definitions.<br />

In this article, I have canvassed some of<br />

the concerns and issues surrounding the<br />

youth in local contexts. I hope it adds to<br />

our understanding of youth, and will, in time,<br />

foster greater dialogue between youth and<br />

other segments in society. I implore all youth<br />

to seize as many opportunities as available to<br />

them – there has never been a better time for<br />

them to strive and meet their aspirations! Also,<br />

they should have the resolve to overcome<br />

challenges that come their way. As Hamilton<br />

Wright Mabie once said:<br />

Don’t be afraid of opposition.<br />

Remember, a kite rises against,<br />

not with the wind.<br />

The views presented in this article are those of the<br />

author and do not necessarily represent those of<br />

Young Sikh Association (Singapore).<br />

1 Notable activities by youth, their aspirations, expectations, and<br />

their role in redefining and building upon the success Singapore<br />

has achieved thus far, were raised as points for discussion by many<br />

Members of Parliament, including the President and Prime Minister,<br />

during the opening of the first session of the 12 th Parliament (10<br />

October <strong>2011</strong>), and debates on the President’s Address (17-21 October<br />

<strong>2011</strong>). Speeches by the President and Prime Minister available from:<br />

http://www.istana.gov.sg, and, http://www.pmo.gov.sg, respectively).<br />

2 See Fishman T C (2010), Shock of Grey: The aging of the world’s<br />

population and how it pits young against old, child against parent,<br />

worker against boss, company against rival, and nation against nation,<br />

SCRIBNER: New York.<br />

3 See then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports<br />

Vivian Balakrishnan’s blog entry, ‘Why the Youth Olympic Games in<br />

Singapore was a Success’, at: http://vivian.balakrishnan.sg/why-theyouth-olympic-games-in-singapore-was.<br />

4 Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public<br />

Policy (National University of Singapore), attributes much of Asia’s<br />

recent unprecedented rise to youth in these societies. See ‘Chapter<br />

2: Why Asia is Rising Now’ in Mahbubani K (2008), The New Asian<br />

Hemishpere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East, Public<br />

Affairs: New York.<br />

5 In his first speech as Singapore’s third prime minister, Lee Hsien<br />

Loong (12 August 2004), called upon Singapore’s youth – the ‘post-65<br />

generation’ – to come forward with new ideas and contributions as<br />

citizens and possibly even future political leaders. (Speech available<br />

from http://www.pmo.gov.sg). 1965 was the year that gained political<br />

independence.<br />

6 Tan, K P (2007), ‘Youth: Every generation’s moral panic’, in Tan K P<br />

(ed.), Renaissance Singapore?, NUS Press: Singapore, pp219-230.<br />

7 Ibid.<br />

8 For interesting scientific perspectives on behavioural trends in youth,<br />

see Dobbs D (<strong>2011</strong>), Beautiful Brains: The New Science of the Teenage<br />

Brain, in National Geographic Vol. 220, No. 4, Oct. <strong>2011</strong>.<br />

9 Ibid.<br />

10 The gist of such conservative opinion, according to Kenneth Paul Tan,<br />

is, “A pronounced claim that today’s youth are too comfortable in<br />

their material affluence and they have not experienced real hardship<br />

or struggle of any kind that could implant the drive to succeed.” Tan,<br />

K.P. (2007), ‘Youth: Every generation’s moral panic’, in Tan K P (ed.),<br />

Renaissance Singapore?, NUS Press: Singapore, pp219-230.<br />

11 Ibid.<br />

12 See ‘Chapter 2: Why Asia is Rising Now’ in Mahbubani K (2008), The<br />

New Asian Hemishpere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the<br />

East, Public Affairs: New York.<br />

13 Dobbs D. (<strong>2011</strong>), Beautiful Brains: The new science of the teenage<br />

brain, in National Geographic Vol. 220, No. 4, October <strong>2011</strong><br />

14 For a fascinating account of the ‘facebook story’ and Mark<br />

Zuckerberg, see Kirkpatrick D. (<strong>2011</strong>), The Facebook Effect: The<br />

Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World, Simon &<br />

Schuster: New York.<br />

15 Tan, K P (2007), ‘Youth: Every generation’s moral panic’, in Tan K P<br />

(ed.), Renaissance Singapore?, NUS Press: Singapore, pp219-230.<br />

16 Dobbs D (<strong>2011</strong>), Beautiful Brains: The new science of the teenage brain,<br />

in National Geographic Vol. 220, No. 4, October <strong>2011</strong>.<br />

17 Henig, R.M. (2010), What is it about 20-Somethings?, available from:<br />

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22Adulthood-t.<br />

html?pagewanted=all<br />

18 Massey, D (1995), Spatial Divisions of Labour: Social structures and the<br />

geography of production, (2 nd edition) Macmillan: London.<br />

19 These are the results of Neuroscientist B J Casey cited in Dobbs D.<br />

(<strong>2011</strong>), Beautiful Brains: The New Science of the Teenage Brain, in<br />

National Geographic Vol. 220, No. 4, October <strong>2011</strong>.<br />

20 This includes psychiatry, among other cross-disciplinary research.<br />

An extension of this train of thought is that behavioural tendencies<br />

displayed by youth are increasingly considered part of the evolutionary<br />

and adaptive processes of our species. In other words, such behaviour<br />

is considered and expected to make youth smarter in their later adult<br />

lives! Ibid.<br />

21 Ibid.<br />

22 Ibid.<br />

23 Chong T (2010), ‘The Role of Success in Singapore’s National Identity’,<br />

in Chong T. (ed.), Management of Success: Singapore Revisited, ISEAS:<br />

Singapore, pp.1-20.<br />

8 Khwaish


Education is important as it prepares the<br />

person with a set of skills to relate to and<br />

deal with other members of society. There<br />

is a very strong imperative in education to<br />

also make it consistent for various reasons<br />

so that people gain the same instruction as<br />

their peers for conformism or simply for ease<br />

of administration. One of the results of this<br />

desire for predictability is the individuality<br />

and specific learning needs of the individual<br />

often end up under-addressed.<br />

Growing up, and also in my time as an Allied<br />

Educator at a secondary school, I saw many<br />

students who were branded as disruptive<br />

or inattentive in class. Yet when they were<br />

channelled to things that interested them or<br />

the teacher made the effort to engage them<br />

with examples that got their interest, I saw<br />

transformations happen. Automatically, the<br />

hunger to learn and the attention returned.<br />

It was an important lesson to me as a<br />

student and also when I was an educator.<br />

It is hard for mainstream education (which<br />

is fairly narrow) to cater to all the range of<br />

interests that children have. I understand<br />

that non-academic activities have, in recent<br />

years, been elevated from Extra Curricular<br />

Activities to Co-Curricular Activities at<br />

schools, and the range of CCAs offered has<br />

also expanded, but how much change has it<br />

really achieved for children whose interests<br />

are non-academic?<br />

It is in our common experience that<br />

comparisons are made in any social circle<br />

between children of friends or relatives,<br />

using criteria that are in vogue. It is a norm in<br />

our society for us to hear of parents gloating<br />

Alternative<br />

Education Paths<br />

to Success<br />

Mr Rasvinder Singh<br />

over the fact that their son or daughter is a<br />

lawyer or engineer or doctor or pilot, while<br />

parents of the so-called less successful ones<br />

keep quiet and nod on with a smile, often<br />

wishing they could have something to boast<br />

about their children to others. The problem<br />

lies in the fact that these parents get caught<br />

up in the competitive world and they often<br />

overlook their children’s real talent and<br />

potential in a different field. Instead, they<br />

often (destructively) end up pushing their<br />

children into in a field that is perceived as<br />

one that brings success, monetary rewards,<br />

pride and status but leads to mediocre<br />

results and achievements.<br />

My perception is that CCAs are still looked<br />

at as something extra offered by the<br />

school. Parents would rather their children<br />

do well in school than in their CCAs. One<br />

suggestion is for there to be a continuation<br />

of the CCA into post-secondary level,<br />

providing a route into a profession or career.<br />

For example, having photography offered<br />

as a professional certification course at<br />

polytechnic level and entry evaluations that<br />

use performance in a photography CCA at<br />

secondary school level may open up viable<br />

career options for students so inclined.<br />

Aside from the practical value, it could also<br />

make for more happy and fulfilled adults.<br />

A varied education makes for creativity<br />

Even within the academic subjects, it is<br />

encouraging that the range of subjects<br />

offered has widened. Music, accounts,<br />

physical education, design and technology,<br />

and home economics are among the<br />

subjects that are offered in schools in<br />

Singapore. Collectively, it enriches a person<br />

Speaking Softly!<br />

even if they only acquire basic knowledge<br />

of the subjects being taught. The lack of<br />

depth in the subjects taught is balanced out<br />

by the fact that we get a population that is<br />

more exposed to a variety of subjects. Many<br />

studies on creativity show that creative<br />

people synthesise knowledge from a variety<br />

of areas to come up with solutions that are<br />

unconstrained by silo-type thinking.<br />

Talents emerge at different times<br />

Another issue that is increasingly being<br />

recognised is the need for allowing children’s<br />

talents to shine through. A child could be a<br />

late bloomer and develop competence or a<br />

unique talent later in life. Stan Lee (creator<br />

of Spiderman) began drawing his legendary<br />

cartoons at 43. Andrea Bocelli did not start<br />

singing opera seriously until 34. Colonel<br />

Sanders did not franchise Kentucky Fried<br />

Chicken until he was 65. When Oscar Swahn<br />

won a gold medal for shooting at the 1912<br />

Olympics, he was 64! And he competed in<br />

the next two Olympic Games, winning a<br />

silver medal at the age of 72 in 1920! So life is<br />

replete with examples of people who attain<br />

high achievement much later than at age<br />

12 or 14 years, when our schooling system<br />

tells us that we know enough about their<br />

ability to make <strong>dec</strong>isions about what they<br />

are allowed to achieve later in life. There is<br />

enough evidence to motivate a rethink.<br />

One size does not fit all<br />

Everything about our experience with life<br />

must tell us that people are varied and that<br />

trying to fit everyone into the same mould<br />

will not work.<br />

Albert Einstein made possibly the most<br />

profound statement on this, “Everybody<br />

is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its<br />

ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole<br />

life believing that it is stupid.”<br />

It is encouraging that more courses are<br />

being offered in Singapore polytechnics but<br />

avenues where alternative careers can be<br />

pursued at a high level beyond that are still<br />

lacking here, for example, in the field of arts,<br />

music, sports and many more. There are so<br />

many different fields and sub-fields one can<br />

get into depending on a person’s individual<br />

Khwaish<br />

9


talent and inclination. For example, in the<br />

field of arts, a person can get into dance,<br />

acting, become an artist or venture into<br />

fields such as automobile design, fashion<br />

and culinary excellence. Many Singaporeans,<br />

hence, go overseas to pursue these passions<br />

at higher level. As a result of this exodus, we<br />

lose a lot of talent. Yet others <strong>dec</strong>ide to give<br />

up their passions, channelling their energies<br />

less satisfyingly into ‘safer’ fields.<br />

If we start opening up to the idea of<br />

alternative education, as a society, we will<br />

take steps on roads less travelled. Initially,<br />

Singaporeans may have to be educated<br />

overseas in these niche areas or be<br />

educated locally by foreigners who come<br />

from places where these industries are<br />

more established and have produced more<br />

successes. It may also require Singaporeans<br />

to go overseas to establish themselves and<br />

find opportunities in their alternative paths<br />

before government support and private<br />

sector participation may be unlocked. Once<br />

that happens, such pathways might be<br />

considered viable options for Singaporeans<br />

to take and be encouraged to take.<br />

Optimism?<br />

At the moment, the future for alternative<br />

pathways to success in Singapore looks<br />

bleak. For all the support from the<br />

government in the field of arts, music and<br />

sports, namely, there has been little support<br />

forthcoming from the private sector and the<br />

public. Every time a talented Singaporean<br />

quits the country to go abroad and pursue<br />

a passion as a career, we lose someone who<br />

could have increased the vibrance of the<br />

community here. I can only hope that things<br />

start looking up and more is done by the<br />

government and the private sector to help<br />

advance prospects in alternative pathways.<br />

When we get more local success stories in<br />

alternative pathways for Singaporeans to<br />

emulate and draw inspiration from, those<br />

considering non-traditional careers will<br />

have a greater sense of security in pursuing<br />

such fields.<br />

The views presented in this article are those of the<br />

author and do not necessarily represent those of Young<br />

Sikh Association (Singapore).<br />

YSA Forthcoming Activity<br />

9 th 4-A-side 'Racial Harmony' Football Tournament<br />

Guest-of-Honour<br />

Mr Michael Palmer<br />

Speaker of Parliament and<br />

Member of Parliament for Punggol East<br />

Categories<br />

• Open<br />

• Veteran (3 players above 35 years and 3 players above 40 years of age)<br />

• Junior (Those born in or after 2000)<br />

• Ladies<br />

Cash prize and trophies for top four teams in the 'Open' category and<br />

for top two teams in the 'Veteran', 'Ladies' and 'Junior' categories; and<br />

souvenirs for all participating teams.<br />

Date : Saturday, 11 February 2012<br />

Venue<br />

Time<br />

: Uber Sports Football Courts<br />

1018 East Coast Service Road<br />

(Next to Burger King and Long Beach Seafood)<br />

: 2.30pm – 8.30pm<br />

Registration : $56.00 per team<br />

(Participation is free for YSA members)<br />

Registration forms and rules and regulations are available at:<br />

• YSA c/o Sikh Centre (6th Floor)<br />

• YSA website at www.ysas.org<br />

For enquiries and registration, please contact:-<br />

• Mr Kulwant Singh at 90265910<br />

• Mr Gurmeet Singh at 93896190<br />

Registration closes on 4 February 2012.<br />

10 Khwaish


Activities by Other Youth Organisations<br />

Sikh Sewaks Singapore<br />

Monthly Youth Kirtan Darbar<br />

In the spirit of attracting youth all over Singapore, Youth<br />

Kirtan Darbar has been held at various locations over<br />

the past few months. These include all gurdwaras in<br />

Singapore and outdoor locations as well as neighbouring<br />

Malaysia.<br />

To find out about the next Youth Kirtan Darbar, contact<br />

us at youthdarbar@gmail.com.<br />

Sewaks Soccer Club<br />

In its effort to reach out to Sikh boys, Sikh Sewaks<br />

Singapore formed the Sewaks Soccer Club in early 2010<br />

and has been organising weekly training sessions for<br />

around 20 young boys. Regular friendly matches are also<br />

arranged to hone the skills of these young lads.<br />

To join the Sewaks Soccer Club, contact Narin at 90177885<br />

(mobile).<br />

Mighty Khalsa<br />

Mighty Khalsa is a fortnightly<br />

programme designed to inspire, coach<br />

and unite young Sikh children, that is,<br />

primary school kids. At these sessions,<br />

Sewadars from Sikh Sewaks Singapore<br />

engage the children with inspiring Sikh<br />

stories and sing-along sessions with<br />

melodious Kirtan, as well as organise<br />

a games session where kids can just<br />

be kids.<br />

For more details, contact the Sikh<br />

Centre at 63272007 (tel).<br />

YSA Appoints Fourth Advisor<br />

YSA is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr Kirpa Ram Sharma on its Panel of Advisors.<br />

Mr Sharma joins Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development and<br />

Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC; Mr Inderjit Singh, Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC;<br />

and Mr Davinder Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Drew and Napier LLC, on the YSA advisory panel.<br />

Mr Sharma is the Managing Director of Pars Ram Brother (Pte) Ltd. Established in 1937 and registered as a<br />

private limited company in 1973, his company has a lineage that runs to more than a century ago.<br />

Mr Sharma holds a number of important appointments. He is a member of Tripartite Panel on Community<br />

Engagement at Workplaces, Ministry of Manpower. He is the President of the Arya Samaj Temple, Charkula Arts Academy, DAV<br />

Hindi School and Shree Lakshminarayan Temple. At the same time, he is the Chairman of the School Advisory Committee of Pasir<br />

Ris Primary School; Vice-Chairman of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry; Treasurer of the Tong Eng Building<br />

Management Corporation; and Committee Member of the Audit Committee, Hindu Endowments Board.<br />

Mr Sharma brings with him a wealth of experience in business, and in public and community service. YSA looks forward to his<br />

contributions on the panel and in furthering YSA’s mission and objectives.<br />

Advertise In Khwaish!<br />

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For advertisement and enquiries, please contact:-<br />

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Tel: 9852 9373 Email: harveen@ysas.org<br />

Seasons Greetings<br />

YSA’s Executive<br />

Committee wishes its<br />

Christian members Merry<br />

Christmas, its Chinese<br />

members Gong Xi Fa<br />

Cai, extends compliments<br />

of the Diwali season<br />

to its Hindu and Sikh<br />

members, and hopes for a<br />

wonderful 2012 for all its<br />

members.<br />

All the best!<br />

Khwaish<br />

11


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