A Love Letter to my Hometown

Vedika

My first two weeks in Singapore were spent looking at a dilapidated by-road from the constraints of my 14-square-metre SHN (Stay Home Notice) room. My third week felt like that episode of The Office where Kevin said the least words possible for anything, filled with ‘huh’s and ‘what’s as I tried to transcend the accent. And just before I celebrated my one-month anniversary, I discovered Singapore’s obsession with bubble tea, a phenomenon that still confuses me. Learning all the little nuances of a vastly different culture from the one I grew up in made me feel like a foreigner. 

The hardest part was figuring out how I fit into the city and how these nuances of the city fit into me. From Googling lah and sia to being surprised at myself for using ‘can’ naturally, however much I felt like an imposter for doing so, I could see the city growing on me. 

After the initial excitement of freedom and buying things my mom wouldn’t let me buy wore off, I felt pangs of homesickness that grew more frequent as time passed. I told myself the usual: Be brave, Vedika, no one comes halfway across the globe for nothing. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop thinking of every sensation that made home, home. For me: the warmth of my Delhi bed, the smell of my father’s mutton biryani, the sound of my mother waking me up on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or the nervousness in me running home when it was past the curfew.

I’ve been in Singapore for almost 5 months now. Although I am grateful to my hometown for raising me and never want to let go of the homesickness. However blue it makes me feel, I’m hoping I’ll be able to call Singapore my home one day. 

 

Ruijia

It’s been a year since I last returned. COVID-19 swiftly robbed me of any chance to go back for Lunar New Year 2020, summer break, winter break, and then Lunar New Year 2021. My friends occasionally ask me when (or if) I’m travelling back to China anytime soon, to which I sigh and say, “Don’t think so lah, the quarantine and SNH will take up the entire holiday already.” They nod in sympathy, and we move on to other more pertinent topics of discussion like school, current affairs, or gossip.

I came to study in Singapore in 2014, and all these years have been punctuated with regular holidays and flights back home, as if drawing rhythmic breaths between the lines of a poem. But the past year has been one long unrelenting sentence. I’ve never been away from home for this long. In fact, it scares me that I can be away from home for this long.

The city has grown on me. Or rather, I have grown into it. I order my kopi o kosong peng with ease at the coffee shop, seek out cheap student-price buffets with friends, and insist on standing on MRT trains even when there are empty seats right in front of me. I’ve become so conversant with the habits and quirks of Singapore that more and more people have started telling me that I “don’t seem very, uh, like, China.” I was living my life in Singapore, doing all the things I never would’ve done back home and meeting all the people I never would’ve met.

Yet, as my existence gets increasingly interlocked with Singapore, I find myself longing for home like never before. I long to hug my parents and listen to their voices directly instead of through an electronic medium. I long to hold Grandma’s hand and walk with her down the street filled with small vendors and noisy restaurants. I long to return to the landscape, the sombre river and grassy hills and winding rugged roads which, although less refined than the perfect garden of a city that Singapore is, will quietly embrace me as who I am, instead of who I may have the potential to be. 

I’ve been in Singapore for almost 7 years now. Not so long ago I obtained permanent residency and my IC turned blue. I’ve built relationships here that I will genuinely treasure for life. But at times, I do wonder if my connection with Singapore thus far, no matter how intimate and deeply important to my personal growth, would ever qualify for me to call it home. And I know that however far I drift away from my small hometown, I will never truly leave.