It was 20 years ago today
The Kindness of Strangers
Thank you Singapore
(Sung to the tune of Sgt Pepper’s…..)
It was 20 years ago today
That I came to Singapore to play
I’ve been going round and round in life
Even found myself a wife
So may I re-introduce to you
The guy you’ve known all along
Suresh Shankar’s Happy Hearts club band.
It was the first week of August 1997 that I arrived on the shores of the Lion City. For my first job outside my homeland.
Things started to happen immediately.
A week after I joined Dentsu Y&R Singapore (from JWT), Citibank (my erstwhile client in India) switched their account to Y&R. Entirely my doing, not!
And things have continued through these exciting 20 years.
I started playing cricket seriously again, at the Singapore cricket club. And still play to this day.
I set upon many first entrepreneurial venture, entirely accidentally, in 2000. One that ended well when IBM took the RedPill.
I met my future wife in the place where my family doctor has his current clinic. This is a fairytale that I trust will never end.
My two wonderful four legged kids have brought joy and unconditional love to our lives.
But mostly the last 20 years have been testament to two thoughts:
The kindness of strangers. And the openness of Singaporeans.
Singapore welcomed me with open arms, as a talented professional seeking employment. It gave me the chance to become a PR, a fact that helped me when I became an entrepreneur and had a no-income job. It allowed me to establish a global business with a minimum of fuss. It embraced me as a success story when IBM acquired my first start-up RedPill. Its agencies recognized me as someone worth backing when I set up my second and current start-up Crayon.
The local food is part of me. Being at least a bit ‘kiasu’ is becoming ingrained. Cleanliness and order is now deeply rooted.
Singaporeans of all races and ages have become friends. They have embraced me as one of their own, welcomed me to their homes, made me part of their lives. From taxi-drivers to CEOs and Ministers, they have an open-ness to “immigrants”.
An interesting learning for me, and one that has perhaps been lost in the recent arguments about foreign talent, we seem to have forgotten that this has always been a land of immigrants, an entrepôt meeting place of talent, ideas, trade and capital.
My wife hails from Hong Kong, she is an American citizen, our families are from Chennai, the US and Hong Kong.
But Singapore is well and truly home.
The last 20 years have also taught me about life. And the kindness of strangers. (See this video to know more about my story)
I came here knowing no more than 5 people. It was total strangers who helped me find a job, gave me advice, helped me settle in, introduced me to local habits.
It was strangers who saw something in my vision for RedPill and took a chance. Both here and in Indonesia, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Japan.
It was strangers who trusted me with their thoughts, their lives, their secrets…. and who helped me become a better person.
It was a stranger who looked beyond my temper and chose to leave her city and life and become my wife.
If I do not name any people, it is because there are too many to name. But you know who you are.
But to every Singaporean whom I have met, thank you.
And to every stranger who touched my life, and who became a friend. I owe you an immense debt of gratitude.
It was 20 years ago today.
And I remain grateful to Singapore. And to the Kindness of Strangers, who became friends.
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