Ah Mummy, what is a Singaporean?
I pause. Blink. Clear my throat. What do I tell her? Which of the many possible answers should I give to that simple, innocent question?
I take a moment to think. Why do you ask?
She looks around the cafe, as if it's obvious. Well, everyone speaks different languages, people wear different clothes, and we all eat different food but what makes us all Singaporean?
Rather humbly, I realise that I can't give her a quick answer. How do you sum up a nation of few million people for a child?
Her curiosity, however, must be nurtured; her sense of wonder and openness preserved. I must think of an answer.
So, I talk. I begin by telling her of the many peoples that have shaped our landscape, the religions that have waxed and waned, of the laws that have been passed. I describe the influence of the British and how we almost had a merger with Malaysia. I speak of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the nation, who taught us that strength and resilience were the main thing to move everyone forward, and taught us the need to live in harmony with one another.
As I delve further and deeper into the influences on being Singaporean, I find myself sharing my own memories of the events that have shaped our history.
After all this talking-talking, I ask her, gently: So, now, Charlotte what do you think being Singaporean is?
And she answered: Mummy, it is us and everyone else.
We are one people, one nation, one Singapore!