Interview: Kanwaljit Soin

I am 71 but feel 50. The older people get, the younger they feel … relatively, of course.

A misconception about aging is that you won’t be happy, but research has shown that people are most anxious in their 40s and after that, from their 50s, they are happier.

You have more control of your destiny when you are older. When you are young, genes determine how healthy you are but when you get older, it is more about your lifestyle.

A younger man will benefit from an older woman, so we need to take away stereotypes. Besides, women live longer lives than men do and people now feel and look a lot younger.

I’m not the best mother, wife, surgeon or activist in the world, but all these roles together are very fulfilling.

I don’t believe in perfection, because if you try to be perfect, you cannot be multifaceted and satisfy all aspects of your interests. That doesn’t mean you mustn’t be good at your career, but it shouldn’t cause too much angst and worry.

We owe a duty to ourselves to be self reliant and find our own happiness.

Feminism is for both women and men. I define it as equal respect and consideration for the other sex, so it encompasses humanism and social justice and is much broader than just women’s rights.

In the last few decades, there’s been less social cohesion.

When I was growing up, everybody spoke in broken Malay, Tamil and Chinese, but there was a sense that we were all Singaporean. There was less talk about ethnicity.

On Orchard Road, 75 percent of the people you see are foreigners. At shopping malls, the cashier asks you what country you are from. So as a Singaporean, I’m sometimes made to feel I am not Singaporean. That’s an awful feeling.

Singapore has changed too quickly and it’s not only dislocated us physically but psychologically. Yes, we are punching above our weight economically but we are doing so at quite a high cost.

To relax, I meet my friends, drink wine and grumble about Singapore.

If I weren’t interested in Singapore, I wouldn’t grumble about it. Most of us who have enough money and a good job would love to be busy doing other things—like trying a new restaurant or going to fashion shows—but if I take the time and trouble to grumble, it means I care about the society. 

Authority doesn’t intimidate me because I look at all human beings as equals.
I was a little afraid of heights so one day, about 10 years ago, I decided to go bungee jumping. I was scared but once I did it, it was so beautiful, just like flying. Many fears are irrational and you can recondition your thinking.

Getting married is the most important decision a woman can make. In many ways, it’s more important than even a career. You’re going into the unknown.

A woman and a man —or woman, depending on which way you swing—should live together before marriage, to see if they want to opt out before children come along.

I’m a little “havoc”. Now people use the words “cool” or “awesome”. But in my day, I was “havoc” in the sense that I don’t like the status quo and like to liven things up with change.

Being alive is in itself a great motivation to me.