MP Indranee Rajah: A Life With Many Portfolios

I wasn’t a particularly interesting kid. I did the normal things and mum started me off reading very early. I inherited both my brother’s and sister’s collection of books and comics, so I grew up reading both boys’ and girls’ material.
My dad died when I was five, so my mum was a working mum. A lot of my time was spent alone at home and I had to exercise a certain amount of discipline. There was no one to tell me to do my homework, so I had to do it myself. As a child, what you know is that one parent has gone away, and you know that the other parent is upset. Instinctively, you feel that you have to do your part. That generally involved not getting mum angry.
The ability to communicate with young people is important, and that comes only when you remember what it was like to be in that position. It’s important to remember how to be a child.
All the major turning points of my life seem to be accidental. I went through the first two decades of my career focusing on law, and in 2001 I bumped into Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, who was Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs at the time. He was a contract tutor at law school so he recognized me. He asked me how I was, and then he asked the strangest thing: “Are you married?” I said I wasn’t, and he said “Okay” and went off. “What was that all about?’ I thought, and then I got invited for a tea party.
For the very first time after the 2001 General Election, there were three single women MPs. That was the time that the People’s Action Party realized that there was a growing constituency of single women and that it’d be good to get representatives of that demographic. Before that, the profile was always “married with two children;” it was a significant departure from the usual PAP quota.
If you want to have policies which get the support of women, you need the input of women. One of the reasons I agreed to stand was that I felt it was important to have women’s voices in Parliament.
In a typical week when there’s a Parliament sitting which lasts about two days, I’ll be at work in the morning and I’ll be in Parliament in the afternoon. Every Friday I have a meet the people session, and on Saturdays and Sundays there are constituency events. You have to try and juggle everything.
You learn to make pockets of time for yourself and make do with two or three hours. I try to exercise in the mornings and in between events, even a half hour break helps.
I’m happy having an active career. It’s enjoyable because it keeps the mind sharp. What I find in all my different portfolios is that you learn every day. I don’t have a particular goal in mind, but what I do want is to learn new things.