“ My late mother was a keen horticulturist, and the whole family would be involved in tending to the garden and fruit trees. Those moments are some of my fondest childhood memories.”
SIMPLE CHILDHOOD. I was born in London, and then the family moved to Singapore when I was still a toddler. I suppose what was perhaps slightly unusual for someone growing up in Singapore was that I had a relatively rural upbringing—the early years were on campus at Nanyang University (my father was a lecturer there), where it felt like we lived in the rainforest. And then we had house in Bukit Timah with durian, avocado, rambutan and coconut trees. My late mother was a keen horticulturist, and the whole family would be involved in tending to the garden and fruit trees. Those moments are some of my fondest childhood memories.
GROWING UP. I went to Joo Long (Rulang) Primary School, then The Chinese High School (Hwa Chong Institution). I studied Aeronautical Engineering and graduated with a PhD in Fluid Mechanics from the University of Cambridge. It was there that my professor really thought me how to think. It was more an exercise in the philosophy of science than engineering!
ON CULTURE AND ROOTS. My last name is a function of a colonial administrator’s attempt to spell the Hakka pronunciation of our family name (é¥¶ rao) when my father was born. I am very much Singaporean. It’s where I grew up, it’s home. The intimacy of the local culture, the heartwarming wit and humour that can only be understood with a decent grasp of Hokkien; these are things that mean a lot to me.
I also think that some Singaporeans take it for granted that the city is effortlessly cosmopolitan. It is a place with a global outlook, and you are not restricted to parochial views. Being able to grow up in such a society, I don’t make wine in the context of a particular subset of the global culture and that is liberating.
LIFE EXPERIENCE. I have travelled extensively, and cross-culturalism is important because it lends itself to a broader perspective on everything we are dealing with. For example, you realize that the respect of craftsmanship is universal, and different cultures will bring their views on what matters, views on cultural heritage and that can influence how you will enjoy a glass of wine.
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