A few days ago, I embarked on a personal mission I’d promised to go on to as soon as I had enough. It was an excuse to escape from Singapore, yes, but it was also so much more.
As I sat in the minivan and stared out of the window as the places go by, I was swept away by the mass of contradiction that is Batam.
I had prepared myself mentally (or so I thought) for this personal mission but I’d only considered the moment I was going to face the little ones. I didn’t think I was going to be affected by the other things I noticed.
I saw huge stone houses standing alongside crumbling excuses of a house; I sat beside pious men and women who gave such fervent thanks for the little they’ve been given, then walked out to see men clearly disrespecting Ramadhan with their drinking and gambling; I walked around shopping malls with kids arguing over toys then played with orphans who were content with leaves and tree branches.
It wasn’t my first time in Batam, for I always frequent it to go for spa visits and/or short holidays, but it felt like I’ve never stepped foot there.
If I think about it, I never truly have. I’ve only ever gone to the tourist areas and the spas – those definitely don’t make up a city.
I finally understood that we only see what we want to see. We are all living with blinders on – we filter out input that don’t match our expectations of life and try not to recognize or accept what is happening around us. We fear the moment when our neat perception of reality gets challenged.
My heart weeped for the forgotten of Batam.