Our Model Answer

by Caleb Yong

“Every Singaporean Matters”

–government slogan


The woman at the mouth

of the MRT station

is hard not to notice.

We want to hold her hand,

drift towards her siren-voice

wailing in Hokkien. Her with

the withered white hair,

with crumpled face and clothes.

But we turn away, too

embarrassed to buy her garish

kiddie plastic combs, guarding

faithfully in our heads

the model answer for such people:

That parasite

without money or talent,

without an education,

without the welfare cheque

which we know she would surely abuse,

what good is she to us,

this failure who has robbed the state

of its kindness,

who never grew to become a

useful member of society?

We are the citizens of a regional hub

for excellence in technology and the arts.


*MRT is an acronym for ‘Mass Rapid Transit’, the subway train service in Singapore.

*Hokkein is a Chinese dialect commonly spoken by the old or the uneducated.