(TL;DR) A rare chance to peek into the very private life of our Deputy Prime Minister.
In an intimate interview with Tabla, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam shared details about his childhood, his family, and his hopes for Singapore. Tharman’s always been popular as a capable minister, but little did we know that he was also a confused kid, an avid sportsman, and had the makings of being the ultimate dad.
If only to vent our feelings of jealousy towards his four children, here are 10 reasons why Tharman would make the ultimate dad.
1. He remembers what its like to be a confused, aimless kid
Way before Tharman joined politics and lost all his hair, he was just an average Singaporean kid, who knows that school sort of sucked and was pretty much aimless. While his father became a renowned medical professional, Tharman shared during the Tabla interview that he pretty much scoffed at the idea of following in his fathers footsteps.
“Studying medicine would have required time and academic effort, and I didn’t have that at the age of 17 or 18. I was completely disinterested in my studies at the time, and was put off by the fact that medicine would require six years of hard study.”
“In those days we didn’t have a lot of career advice or career counselling. I had done economics in A levels and although I did double mathematics, I decided I wasn’t going to go into engineering. But I never had a job in mind, no ambition in terms of career.”
One thing that he was into was sports. He did everything: hockey, football, cricket, athletics, volleyball, sepak takraw and rugby. He’s be the last father to tell us to spend less time on our CCAs and more time hitting the books.
2. He’ll teach you valuable lessons about overcoming obstacles and achieving goals
While he started as an avid sportsman, his dream of sports faded when he was diagnosed with a severe case of anaemia at 17 years old. At one point, he had to take 25 pills a day just to make up for the nutrients his body was not absorbing. It took him 4 years to fully recover.
However, it was at that time that he picked up a new interest — reading — that developed his interest for social issues and would eventually encourage him to join the field of politics.
“I had a strong interest in social issues after my pre-university years, so my reading was mainly about society and politics. I became quite driven by an interest in society.”
Having been through so much, you can be sure that Tharman would have some amazing life lessons to impart on his kids. For example, he’s been known to emphasise about the importance of life-long learning, even after we’ve joined the workforce.
“As we go through life, everyone is going to require some renewal in skills, and to refresh ourselves. That’s what SkillsFuture is about. […] that’s an exciting possibility: to maximise the potential of every citizen through life. You can’t just achieve it through education in the early years.”
SkillsFuture is now taking off in Singapore, and NTUC members can even use those credits in conjunction with our NTUC Union Training Assistance Programme (UTAP) to get even more out of them!
3. He believes in our dreams
Most Singaporean parents already set those ideal dreams out for you — banker, lawyer, or doctor, any of the three will do. However, if Tharman was your dad, he’s basically tell you to follow your dreams and do whatever it takes to get them.
“The signals we send our children are extremely important,” he said in the Tabla interview.
“Respect the things they want to do, and are enjoying. That is how we can develop people who are imaginative, who do something different.”
He’s practiced what he preaches — his children have been left to decide on their interests by themselves. His daughter Maya took up Indian classical dance when she was younger, and they all found a common love for sports.
4. And he trusts us to get there ourselves
Use the force, young Padawan.
Tharman grew up with parents who have let him make important decisions in his life, and despite having been uncertain about what job he wanted or what goals he had, they never pressured him into choosing a career path. He’s since applied the same parenting style with his own children, saying that a way to help your children is to basically trust them to reach their full potential.
“I just trust them to find their own way, and make the most of life. We cannot force them in one direction or the other.”
“Encourage them in whatever they are doing. Let them do what they enjoy. Encourage them to take it seriously, whatever it is they enjoy, and trust that they will find their own way in life. You have got to trust them.”
5. He’s got a secret sensitive soul
While Tharman takes on the role as DPM, and looks to be a serious man, he actually has a sensitive side that he keeps mostly secret. Four of his poems were published in a 1978 collection called but we have no legends, and co-edited the book with KC Chew and Yeoh Lam Keong when all three were in National Service and part of the Young Writers’ Circle at the National Library.
One of the poems was even shared by Mothership. Who knew he had such a deep and introspective soul.
6. He’s not afraid to have a little fun
Remember that time when he decided to water some kids instead of plants?
7. He’s caught up with the times
It’s tough being a politician and a dad, and as expect, he’s a very busy man who has many late nights. As a result, he finds it hard to find time to spend with his family — wife and lawyer Ms Jane Rumiko Ittogi, and their three sons and one daughter.
But it seems that he’s up to times, as he shares in the Tabla interview that he and his children all keep in touch via WhatsApp, sharing “jokes, pictures, and messages”. Technology and parents don’t always mix, so it’s nice to know that Tharman is well-versed with the art of texting, and is less likely to send you WhatsApp rumours and chain mail that asks you to “forward to ten friends or wash away your bad luck”
8. He’s already mastered the cute Dad look
No, we’re not talking about a Dad bod, but with his baggy pants, thick glasses, and approachable smile, you have to admit he’d be a pretty cute dad to have.
Admit it, you’re pretty jelly.
9. He’s pretty much a dad to Singapore already
Sure, he already has his kids, but if you think about it, Tharman pretty much is like a dad to Singaporeans. From working with the community and grassroots leaders, he’s all about serving Singaporeans, and even openly delivers hard truths, even about his own political party. However, he doesn’t do it for the fame or glory, but for the sake of Singapore’s future. He is notorious for avoiding the media as much as he can at grassroots events.
“The way we do is is that we do it,” he said during a PAP media press event. “Do things on the ground. Do it quietly, do it without show, do it without cameras. Do it with a heart. That’s our stance.”
10. He’s a force to be reckoned with
Everyone knows you don’t mess around with Tharman. A member of G30 (Group of Thirty), an international body of leading financiers and academics, named Finance Minister of the year by Euromoney, and “intellectually brilliant (…) humble and open-minded” according to Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large, Tharman is a serious force to be reckoned in Singapore.
The international media even described him as a rising star, and has been teased as the citizens’ favourite as the next Prime Minister.
What more could we ask for in a dad?
And of course, everyone should watch DPM Tharman’s fantabulous showing at St Gallen’s last May. Here,