Learning > Inspiration

Advocating social causes keeps her young

Benson Ang on 27 May 2018

The Sunday Times


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For this Singaporean civil society activist, fighting for a more caring and compassionate society has kept her looking vibrant and feeling young.


People who meet her at events often think she is in her 60s.


She says: "I love the surprised look on their faces when I tell them my real age."


The former president of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) says advocacy has energised and invigorated her.


The former teacher, who has a master's in literature, says: "Advocacy keeps me intellectually engaged. I am constantly thinking about the world and how it should be - one where everybody is equal, respected and valued."


She adds: "Compared to the rest of my generation, I am not an exception. In general, people in my generation age very well."


Ms Singam, whose father was a senior architectural draughtsman and her mother a housewife, has seven sisters and a brother.


She got her first degree - an honours degree in literature - at the age of 46 and her master's at 60.


She says: "I have been very privileged to have been born at a time when science has allowed me to live longer and society has given me the opportunity to be educated and surrounded by a supportive community.


"But there are people less fortunate, who are underprivileged or discriminated against, and I hope to help them get access to the same opportunities I enjoy."


Ms Singam, who goes for walks at least once a week and usually eats only home-cooked food, shows no signs of stopping.


She recently edited a book, titled The Art Of Advocacy In Singapore, together with former journalist Margaret Thomas.


This 344-page book, released in November last year, features essays by local activists relating to advocacy in Singapore.


And this is not her only book.


There is her 2013 autobiography Where I Was: A Memoir From The Margins, about the people, places and events that have created her most powerful memories.


She also penned the 2016 non-fiction book, Never Leave Home Without Your Chilli Sauce, which contains stories of food, family and travel, as well as recipes of dishes such as Kerala fish curry, chicken vindaloo and flourless orange almond cake.


Apart from writing, music and art are her other passions.


She used to play the violin in her younger days, but stopped for 30 years, before picking it up again in 2010, at age 74, for a charity performance to mark Aware's 25th anniversary.


She says: "Aware had asked me to perform and I had to go for refresher lessons because I had not performed in so many years.


"I am glad that I did it. I think seniors, and even young people, tend to limit ourselves, but we should go beyond these self-imposed limits."


Nowadays, she takes regular art classes and invites friends over for meals. She gets excited whenever there is a big election, such as the Malaysia general election earlier this month.


She says: "Watching such events gives me hope that what we do as activists can contribute to a meaningful, positive change."


Source: The Sunday Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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