M Ravi has been on the receiving end of a lot of bad press in the past decade. And I think its about time that we bust some myths and take a closer look at this man.
Ever since he embarked on his human rights mission with the case of Vignes Mourthi back in 2003, more often than not he has been presented in a bad light. And many people remember or recognize him for the wrong reasons, despite all the work he has done. In fact, it was these things that prompted Ravi to write his auto-biography ‘Kampong Boy.’ For him to let his own voice be documented and heard. I recently bought Kampong Boy at a recent dialouge session with M Ravi organized by Ethos Books. Ravi signed the book for me too! I’ve just finished reading the book and I must say Ravi is indeed a good writer. I like how he can add a twist of humour to dark scenes and even take a light-hearted view at many things. Above all, his frankness and humility is what connects with me. Sometimes halfway through a chapter, you really wonder if you’re reading a book written by a Lawyer.. because it is definitely not a mundane and monotone book filled with jargon. It’s a book for all, not just activists and lawyers, it gives you hope, it kindles the flames of justice, it makes you smile. Ravi has nothing to hide in this book, from his mother’s suicide to his own bi-polarity, he comes clean. His honesty is brave and admirable. I would like to share 10 Quotes from Kampong Boy which I personally find very memorable in chronological order.
Think you know M Ravi? Think again.
1) “So when the school day ended, I left the school grounds and set out to have justice done: I went to the local police post and lodged a complaint of robbery with force. The policeman on duty started to take down the details but halted abruptly and looked up, a startled demeanour on his face, when I replied to his question of weather I had any idea who the assailant might be. “Yes,” I answered, with all the righteous ire a recently wronged 9-year-old could muster, ‘my own father‘
– A 9 year old Ravi lodging a Police Report against his own father (Ravi’s passion for Justice sure has deep roots)
2) “MP Jeyaretnam happened to be there at the time I dropped by and he readily agreed to see me. In fact, he seemed amused by this young fellow who had come bustling into his office so energised by his passion for students’ rights. Not only did he agree to give me a copy of the Hammer, the actually autographed the newspaper for me.
– Ravi meeting the late JB Jeyaretnam at the age of just 17
3) “I told him (Ravi’s Sergeant) that if I didn’t get a proper diet, I would go on a hunger strike. At first, he didn’t believe me, so I sat down right there and refused to eat. My hunger strike had started.”
– Ravi on his successful hunger strike during his National Service
4) “I came to see, even back in those days, that those Law people were too serious and had little sense of humour. Altough I was just starting to entertain the idea of moving into the practice of Law myself, I knew that I would never want to be one of those stiff, dour types I saw at the university’s debate clubs
– Ravi predicting his own future after a Debate with the Law Students at NUS
5) “Here’s my epistemological postulate of my spirit: Your firm is one amongst 700 law firms here in Singapore. Singapore is but one small dot in a modest-sized planet. This planet is but one minuscule dot in the universe. The whole universe is one dot in the vast stretches of space. And my spirit, like yours, is larger than the universe.. So the larger question is. how does your firm fit into my universal set -up”
– Ravi in 1998, after being asked “How do you see yourself fitting into our firm?” and treated in derogatory manner during an interview for a law firm.
I confronted DPP Bala Reddy and asked if his position meant that an innocent man could be hanged in Singapore because of procedural matters. The first time that I had posed that question, DPP Reddy had artfully evaded the issue. This time he looked like I had caught him but still he was hesitating when suddenly, the Chief Justice himself replied: “Yes; the answer is yes.”
– Chief Justice’s chilling response during Ravi’s first Capital Punishment Case
7)“At some point, my mother woke up, turned and saw me on the floor next to her. She stirred me and asked why I was sleeping there. I replied that I felt better there, next to her. She then looked down at me and said, “My son, you look like you have been transmogrified into a baby.” Soon thereafter, I slipped back into sleep and somehow managed to sleep contently for the rest of the night. I guess I felt I was back in my mother’s care and protection.”
– Ravi sleeping alongside his mother on the night before she plunged to her death
Lee Kuan Yew: You’ve run out of questions, then
M Ravi: Mr Lee, please don’t challenge me. It is not necessary.
– Ravi’s exchange with MM LKY during the defamation suits against Dr Chee Soon Juan
9) Through these talks and these conversations, I have come to see the important human rights issue at the heart of this case. As long as 377A continues to stay on the books, it says to local gays, “What you d0 – indeed, what you are – is wrong, is illegal, and altough we now say that we won’t arrest and imprison you for that violation, you and your ways of expressing your love and your sexuality remain illegal”
– Ravi’s take on Section 377A and his personal mandate to get rid of it.
10)I think of bipolarity as actually being a gift. But it’s a gift that we must work to realize before we can fully appreciate it. Thinking of bipolarity as an unfortunate medical condition is just attaching a misleading name to a force that we often can’t understand because we don’t wish to understand. Or we’re afraid to look at this condition with clear eyes and open hearts. It’s almost as if there’s a fear that it’s contagious and that if others look too closely, with too much sympathy, they may themselves “catch” bipolarity. And the saddest thing is that this negative attitude to the gift runs counter to channelling this energy in a positive way
– Ravi on his Bipolar Disorder
These 10 short peeks into Ravi’s life sure show us a different side of him which most of us didn’t know earlier. I hope more people will read Kampong Boy to gain a more holistic understanding of M Ravi. I believe there will come a time where he will be given the due respect and recognition that he deserves. Thank you for fighting on behalf of all of us, Ravi. You truly are a warrior.