Met up with former minister Bow Tan Mah at McDonald’s on Saturday to thank him for his help 12 years ago. In 2004, my dad owed multiple loansharks money, and we were chase out by the landlord. With no place to stay, I had to find a shelter for my parents. Renting a flat would cost over $800 back then. Government rental flats? There was a long waiting list.

So buying a flat was the ‘cheapest’ option in terms of monthly payment. But I was only 22, and just started my studies in NTU. I didn’t have the money for down payment. I was desperate. I went to approach Mr Mah, then an MP for Tampines GRC, for help. He didn’t refer me to his colleague, even though I went to the wrong MPS — another MP was in charge of my area.

With Mr Mah’s help, and assistance from a HDB lady officer, as well as from the real estate agent (who convinced the seller to allow me to move in immediately while waiting for the sales process), I bought a three-room flat.

Being a house owner at the age of 22 was like having a battlefield commission forced upon you. Suddenly, I had a new identity as the head of a household. I am now answerable to the welfare and morale of my family.

I had to be enterprising, to make sure that I earn enough to pay the bad debts, monthly mortgage, utility bills, groceries, allowance for parents, and their medical bills. I struggled with my studies. But this tough time was good training for adulthood.

Twelve years on, my flat is fully paid up. Time to chase another rainbow! In a few days time, I will start my one-year sabbatical with Charmaine Wu
Before that, I thought it’s important to show gratitude to the people who helped you when you were down and feeling hopeless. So thank you Mr Mah, and of course the HDB lady and real estate agent!

There are many others who have also helped me all these years. Friends who opened their homes for me, teachers who made sure I complete my studies (and even bought a washing machine for my family), the provision shop owner who ‘closed one eye’ when a kid (me) took packets of instant noodles without paying…

During our chat, Mr Mah suggested that I should share and write about my life stories. So I will pen more in the coming months… Meanwhile, happy new year, and I wish you great health and happiness!


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