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Why have I been silent on Mr. Lee's passing (till now)?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

So many people have blogged about the passing of our country's founding Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Some asked me why I have not said anything in my blog?

Well, apart from the fact that other bloggers have done such a good job of it, I am really not very good at writing eulogies. I do feel very sad and, actually, it goes beyond sadness. It is a deep sense of loss.

After all, even after he retired as Prime Minister, he was still very active, dispensing good advice and, for a while, it felt as if he would always be there for us.

Anyway, why am I blogging about him now?

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew "wore the same exercise shorts for 17 years. And when it tore, he patched it up, or his wife patched it up for him." 

This was revealed by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. K Shanmugam.

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was a very frugal person.

I might not understand all of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's great wisdom even if I tried but I can certainly identify with his frugal habits.

When I see some of my relatives throwing away perfectly good clothing just because they were out of fashion or children not finishing their food just because they didn't like it, I would feel very sad. I would worry, probably needlessly.

I remember the hard times my family had to go through. I remember being told never to waste food and, till today, I will finish all the food on my plate. When I buy cooked food, I would tell the vendor to give me less rice because I don't want to throw away what I cannot finish.

Once, I actually told my brother in law's sister to finish her food when she left so much unfinished. She looked at me, irritated, and asked if I would like to finish it for her. If I wasn't going to do it, keep quiet. I was surprised. She was quite a few years younger than I was and I probably expected her to listen. Anyway, it wasn't a response I was expecting.

Life is too good now, perhaps.

Waste not, want not. This is something we should all try to remember. Not something to do with meritocracy or good governance, perhaps, but this is something Mr. Lee Kuan Yew would probably want us to remember too.

Farewell, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you for all that you have done for Singapore. We owe you a great debt that can never be repaid. May you rest in peace.

Related posts:
1. Some of my stuff (Part 1).
2. Saving time and money but lost face?
3. An essential habit to becoming richer.


ted said...

Typo: Waste notE, want not.
No need to approve this post.
Just a heads up.

AK71 said...

Hi ted,

Comments like this should be approved, always. I need more to tell me my mistakes. Thanks. ;)

la papillion said...

Hi AK,

I think frugality is a result of the times. If we're not in an environment that requires us to be frugal, it'll really be hard to do. I think it's like asking a person to learn braille when he's not blind. He can learn, and have the ability to do so, but he lacks the motivation and the urge to do so.

Perhaps the only thing that makes one frugal is to experience hard times when frugality is a necessity, not an option. Hopefully it won't be too late.

(I can start to subscribe to your comments on your blog now - it's no longer spamming my email lol) said...

Hi AK,

I visited Sri Temasek Tuesday to bid my final farewell to the Papa of our nation. I may not agree with all his policies ( and I have witnessed how he crushed his political opponents) but I truly respect the man who embodies many of the virtues that I wished our new generation of poitical leaders would have. It is a tall order indeed, for who can emulate such a great man.

Yes I identify, like you AK, with the frugality of Mr Lee.I hope that instead of just merely naming a physical structure after him, we should establish an international award (akin to an Asian nobel prize) that recognizes movements or people who manages to impact lives through brillant policies or cleverly calibrated social actions that unencumber lives, that creates the tipping point in a critical situation that change the tide for the better or something along that line. His legacy warrants that.

Sorry I am just rumbling along and trying to find the right words. lol

thanks for listening !


Ray said...

people who waste food ends up poor.
because wasting food is a symptom of other underlying value about money. My grandma once shared a story with me when I was very young that they were very poor back then and could hardly afford to eat chicken but there was this one time they had a guest over for dinner and gave this guest the drumbstick (supposed to be the best part of the chicken). The guest hardly finish that drumbstick, to the dismay of my grandparents (remember, they hardly get to eat chicken and they thought it was such a wasteful act). According to my grandma, that guest eventually became very poor for reasons I couldn't really remember. But the story stuck with me that no matter how well you do know, always remember not to waste things as being wasteful.

Happydoggy said...

Hi AK, my first comment on your blog. As a singaporean, i think the departure of Mr Lee Kuan Yew is indeed a deep loss to the nation. No doubt on that. I came from a generation where we are already enjoying the fruifs of his contribution. No war, peace and racial harmony are already in place, low employment rates since i joined the workforce, every child gets at least 10 years of decent education etc. All these cannot be achieved without Mr Lee and his team's contribution.

Well, i came from a low income family. I remembered during those days, my family taught me the importance of saving. For every $1 of my pocket money, i will save it my piggy bank. I will eat my breakfast at home and after school, i went home to have home cooked food for lunch. Each month end, i will excitedly take out my piggy bank and deposit my pocket money into my posb. Yes, my mom knew the importance of savings and had already open a posb account by the age of 6 when i started P1. Life back then is so simple. I also remember that my parents said it is important to finish up all the food on our plates. Firstly because we are poor, we cannot affort to waste any single grain of rice. Secondly they used to tell me how hard the farmers had to work before we can have a decent plate of rice in front of us! Thirdly, my parents told us stories about children in africa, how unfortunate they are having to fight just to survive. Lastly, my parents also told us, the scary consequence of not having to finish up our plate, i.e the appearance of your future husband or wife will have something on their face if we had the remainings of the food on the plate. A clean plate will symbolise that the face of your future wife / husband is free of pimples. Im not sure about kids today and as time change, the values that today's parents want to instill in kids might have change.


AK71 said...

Hi LP,

I cannot quite agree with the analogy you came up with. While frugality should serve us well whether in good times or bad (i.e. it helps in growing wealth), learning how to read braille is not useful unless we go blind. Having said this, I do get your drift. :)

I am happy that you are subscribing to my blog's comments section again. I guess a lot of activity has been transferred to my FB wall since I started to be active on FB almost 2 years ago. Time does fly.

I guess, before long, it would be my turn to say bye bye to this world.

AK71 said...

Hi Elsie,

There are so many things that we can remember regarding Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. History books will, no doubt, do a rather good job of reminding us.

However, I do agree that we don't really need another building or structure named after Mr. Lee. They don't encourage people to live by his principles which have allowed Singapore to carve a niche for herself in the world.

Creative ideas like the one you have suggested would do a better job of honouring Mr. Lee and reminding us of his many contributions. :)

AK71 said...

Hi Ray,

That is a good story to share with the young ones. :)

Well, my brother in law's sister is doing very well, financially. She is highly educated and has a very good job. I certainly hope that she has changed her ways and is now setting a good example for her young children. That is so important, I believe. :)

AK71 said...

Hi Happy,

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I can certainly identify with your experience.

How to get around the issue of possibly having an ugly spouse with a pimply face? Solution: stay single and stay happy. ;)

I hope Mr. Lee doesn't visit me in my dreams tonight for saying this. Bad AK! Bad AK! ;p

Rebel said...

LC said...

I agree with one comment posted that frugality is a result of the times.

My parents were poor and they worked long hours under the harsh weather in their vegetable farm way back in 1983. I am the eldest among the the three siblings. I wasn't deprived back then. I had my education, food etc but life was tough. My parents had hardship and I witnessed. I was young but I remembered what they went through. I understand the importance of frugality and this stays with me. my the other two siblings have a better and comfortable life and I could see that things are taken for granted by them.

Like you, Ak, I always ask for lesser rice. Colleagues often commented: "diet har?". I don't bother to explain especially I see how much wastage of food from them. One last point i want to make: Frugality should not be confused with stingy.

Must be today's weather making me emo! Oh! I so miss my parents now!!!!

AK71 said...

Hi LC,

Actually, it wasn't so long ago when the Asian Financial Crisis caused much hardship for many common Singaporeans. Those who were financially less prudent during better times suffered badly.

The Global Financial Crisis was bad, of course, but I feel the AFC hit us harder. Just my feeling.

Those were hard times but what I am trying to say is that it would be a mistake for people to think that hard times will not hit us again.

Some things we don't want to have to learn from experience but, unfortunately, in certain things, experience is the best teacher.

BP said...

At least he doesn't kill his opponents.

yeh said...

today me and hubby are discussing about lee kuan yew frugality too:)

my hubby popped out a funny question: why poor people seem like to waste money to buy unnecessary?

well, i do not now to understand him. is it they anyhow spend so they are still poor at now? i wonder.

although i am not local, but i do respect Mr Lee very much. RIP

maybe i am getting older, i realise something. try to live as simple as possible. eat as simple as possible.

well, so if i keep this lifestyle, means i do not really need a lot for my retirement? then, back to question for myself, i still need to work so hard n save so hard?


AK71 said...

Hi yeh,

I have shared this many times before and that is to keep our needs simple and our wants few. If we can do this, then, we will find contentment more easily in life. :)

If we work hard because we enjoy what we do, I think that is a form of happiness too. If we work hard just to save more money like you have put it, I think we might want to question if we really need to do so especially when what we have is already more than enough. ;)

Siew Mun said...

From 40-48, I spend a lot on my hobbies. I went to cooking school to learn and bought lots of accessories. Japanese chef knives are my weakness which cost $400-$1000.Brand new unworn clothes, I hoarded plenty. I have since changed last year. It is not easy road, now I lived simply with ~$150 monthly. What did I do with all I hoarded? I begin selling them away on Craglist and Carousell since last month. So far I got back $500. Waste Not, Want Not, Hoard Not, Sell All

Rebel said...

How ak71? I'm really really sad =( and at the same time, so proud to be singaporean. . So proud that we are taking care of our fellow citizens!

AK71 said...

Hi Siew Mun,

Thanks for being so open about your transformation. Your sharing could possibly give a nudge to some of us here to take another step to change for the better. :)

Change needs time and some changes are easier than others. To change our lifestyle and habits is probably one of the harder changes to make especially when we have grown much older. However, you have shown that it is possible although it is not an easy process. That's inspiring!

When we met on the 23rd, I said that you and your wife are great examples of good parents from what you have shared here in my blog from time to time. Now, I think you are also setting a good example for your children. They are very lucky. :)

AK71 said...

Hi Rebel,

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was a giant of a man with a very big heart. He wasn't perfect but who is?

Similarly, we are not perfect but if we do our best to help make Singapore a better place in any way we can, I think we would be honouring him and his lifework. :)

Dividend Chaser said...


Sad Sunday on 29 March 2015.
Heavy downpour.

Mr Goh Chok Tong at the CC memorial service yesterday said .. MM Lee would not allow a new toothpaste until he is done with the last squeeze.. his old toothbrush kept as shoe brush when it cannot be used effectively anymore .. such a frugal leader .. he refused to get new furniture for his office or to live more comfortably or fly premium because he wanted to tell the world that Singapore will be prudent with managing investors money and every cents would be carefully spent ..

AK71 said...

Hi DC,

There are many things that we might never understand about being the outstanding statesman that Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was. However, we can most certainly learn from his frugal habits.

I have no doubt that Singapore is where we are today partly because Mr. Lee was financially prudent in running the country. A statesman who was not financially prudent in his personal life would have found it hard to do so. It is a habit, a habit which is worth our time cultivating. :)

yeh said...

hi AK
very sad that some of auntie/ uncles doubt about cpf system.

and because of this, they write off all the good things Mr Lee has done for the country.

AK71 said...

Hi yeh,

For the more senior amongst us, it could be too late. For the younger ones, even those who are my age, I believe that there is ample time to make the CPF work for us. :)

AK71 said...

Watched a 5 minutes video clip on our country's first PM and felt the deep sense of loss I felt last year. I hope our country will not have an event like BREXIT or a leader like TRUMP because they are symbols of racism and a step backwards. For all our wealth, Singapore is very small and very vulnerable. Big countries might be able to survive taking a step backwards but Singapore has no room to do so.

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