I was born in India but I’ve lived in Singapore all my life. After completing my Bachelor’s degree in London, I furthered my education in Israel.
For most of my life, I’ve taken the tried-and-tested path. But I’ve realised that success and innovation cannot be achieved through formulaic living. Day by day, I’m learning to embrace risk in a sensible manner.
That’s why I chose to study in Israel – to be like the young chick that falls out of its nest to fly. The out-of-classroom learning experience was truly invaluable. Even the most mundane activity seemed like an adventure, like jostling with old Israeli grandmothers in the supermarket, bargaining with Arab salesmen in the Old City of Jerusalem, or arguing with the landlord about utility bills. Add to that the fun of balancing English, Hebrew, and Arabic, and you’ve got a real balagan of an experience!
Of course, being in one of the most controversial countries in the world, I also struggled with difficult questions about Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, and the compatibility between the “Jewish” and “democratic” identity of the state. But I had to grapple with difficult questions relating to Palestinian society as well, such as the deficit of democracy, their inability to produce a coherent peace plan, the anti-Semitism taught in many schools, and the duplicity of their politicians.
Thankfully, I never witnessed the tragic violence experienced by both sides. Though there is interminable debate over the actions of both sides and the labels used (Terrorist? Freedom Fighter? Jihadist? Occupation? Liberation?), it is undeniable that both Jews and Arabs are victims of violence and burdened with fear. And the sad reality is that the conflict and confusion in Israel/Palestine pales in comparison to the immense tragedy in Syria, just a few hundred kilometres to the north-east.
During my stint in Israel, my response to these perplexing questions was to focus less on taking sides and more on understanding narratives and searching for answers. I hope I succeeded in this. You can be the judge of that.
I’ve returned to Singapore to complete my National Service. I will try to keep blogging, as long as I have the time and energy to do so!