Long long time ago, before my family moved to the flats, we used to rear chickens. I love playing with the chicks more than the chickens. Those weeks-old chicks were so adorable to chase around - to play with. However on some days, my feet was too fast for those chicks
When my family moved to the flats, I had no chance to play with the neighbourhood boys at the void deck. My cousins who lived in the same block (and their neighbours) were the closest "budak blok" friends I had. It was probably the boys at my immediate block were much much older. My parents never encouraged my siblings to mingle with the neighbourhood kids nor discouraged any casual friendships we may have had with the budak blok. Staying in what used to be the *red zone* of my estate, my parents did well to protect my siblings from mixing with the "wrong" company. Thus we never got into any serious trouble, except for the 3 cm cut I had across my forehead while playing jumping rope on the slippery common corridor right after the rain.
I went to study at a very. good. school at Bukit Timah. I hung out with the affluent kids and I made friends with many of them. Initially I was in awe of things these kids had, ie the overseas holidays, the houses they lived in (yes they were kind enough to invite me home) and the school bags they carried their fancy stationery in. They seemed loud and boastful when I first met them but later I realised these was how privileged lower-secondary wealthy kids (from that very. good. school) spoke. It was normal for them to talk like that. For many boys like myself from "humble" background, we had the tendency to be mindful of our words when we speak to any body - at least that was how my parents taught me to do. Beyond that, we were just typical, boisterous boys.
I think my classmates learnt a lot from one another. I aspired to study hard and break away from my blue-collar cycle. To the privileged classmates that I made close friends with, it was the first time that many had stepped into a 3-room HDB flat. I think it was also the first time that a handful had actually made friends with a Malay person who was not their father's personal driver or their mother's housekeeper. So we learned a lot from each other from that very. good. school.
I got to where I am today by not using my past as an excuse to get out of that circumstances to be in a position with certain privilege. I am still staying at the 3-room flat that my family stayed in when they moved into the newly-built estate. I embrace my background, my neighbourhood and many of the first-generation families who are still staying in my neighbourhood. I remembered I actually felt safe coming home any time of the day - because the "kids" in the neighbourhood were good to me, although I chose not to be in their company. I got used to the way these kids express themselves. People are people. And they care enough to know that I had chosen to take a different path from them. We are still friends.
Coming home to this part of Singapore always reminded me to get back down to earth, however well-connected I may be with the establishment.