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E Pluribus Unum

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/temasekpoly/4865742164/" title="National Day Celebrations by temasekpoly, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4137/4865742164_5d6ea5b258_m.jpg" width="160" height="240" alt="National Day Celebrations" class="img-right" /></a>Melting pot. You often hear that description used on large cities where people from all over gather, intermingle and merge into a collective stew. There was a time we described Singapore as a melting pot of cultures, and understandably so: we were a migrant population from disperate parts of Asia, all gathered together.
But as I grow older, I begin to realise that it isn't entirely accurate to describe Singapore as a melting pot of cultures. It is much more apt to think of Singapore as a plate of rojak; and I don't mean it in a bad way. In rojak, we have many different ingredients that retain their original properties, placed together in a bowl, and held together by a mouthwatering sauce.
It is in our diversity that we find a beauty so inherently Singaporean. This beauty was on full display this morning at our National Day celebrations held in the Temasek Polytechnic's Convention Centre.
The various items showcased the richness of the different cultures found in Singapore, and together we celebrated with an entire gamut of expression: we danced to our own indigenous dances, Chinese, Malay and Indian and sang in our own languages. Then the programme kicked it up several notches with mashups: Chinese soppy songs with Indian dance, and the highlight of highlights for me was the recitation of the Singapore Pledge in four languages.
The pledge was recited in <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/temasekpoly/4865751354/in/set-72157624541528139/">Chinese by a Malay girl</a>, in <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/temasekpoly/4865750666/in/set-72157624541528139/">Tamil by a Chinese girl</a> and in <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/temasekpoly/4865749746/in/set-72157624541528139/">Malay by an Indian girl</a>, and then <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/temasekpoly/4865748820/in/set-72157624541528139/">everyone recited it in English</a>. These girls showed us the equality of race, language and (did anyone else notice) gender. The idea that Singapore stood for a place where we could be who we were and find a sense of amazement, fascination and respect for each others' culture unfurled before me right there. It was beautiful to behold.
We need so much to taste the richness in each others' culture and realise that we are unique because of the combination, and stronger because we are different. This is my wish for Singapore: that we don't merely tolerate different cultures, we should celebrate it always.

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