An interracial love affair raises the ugly spectre of racism
Couple said they put up video to raise awareness of issue, as poly suspends lecturer while police investigate
They were seated at adjacent tables in a cafe when he plucked up the courage to say "hi", hoping to start a conversation with her.
That was in 2014.
Seven years later, Mr Dave Parkash and Ms Jacqueline Ho are lovebirds who are planning to tie the knot.
Mr Parkash, 26, is of Indian-Filipino descent and Ms Ho, 27, is half-Thai and half-Chinese Singaporean.
Both families had embraced their relationship, and the skin colour of the interracial couple had never been an issue - until last Saturday night in Orchard Road, when they were confronted by a Chinese Singaporean man who made racist remarks, calling them a "disgrace" and telling them they should date within their own race.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Ms Ho, a user experience designer, said that while they have occasionally noticed disapproving glances from people on the street - the couple described it as "subtle racism" - they have never run into a stranger spewing racist diatribe.
"I was so taken aback. I did not expect this to happen in Singapore, of all places," she said.
The exchange was filmed by Ms Ho and later uploaded to Facebook by Mr Parkash, who said yesterday he wanted to raise awareness that racism still exists in Singapore.
The nine-minute video has been shared more than 16,000 times on Facebook.
Responding to queries from The New Paper, Ngee Ann Polytechnic confirmed yesterday that the 60-year-old Chinese man in the video was a lecturer there and has been suspended from his teaching duties while the police investigate the incident.
Mr Parkash, who owns an ice cream store in Bedok, said his parents, who "see Jacqueline like their daughter", were "angry and disheartened" after watching the video.
Ms Ho said her parents had approved of Mr Parkash from the start, and the man's view that they would be "ashamed and disgraced" that their daughter was dating a non-Chinese made her sick.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in a Facebook post on Sunday that while he did not have the full facts of the story, he found the incident "unacceptable and very worrying".
Other ministers and MPs have also said there is no place for such behaviour in Singapore. Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health Janil Puthucheary and Aljunied GRC MP Leon Perera have condemned the man’s actions.
Mr Parkash had said in his post on Sunday that he felt "embarrassed, humiliated and hurt" by the incident. He recalled an incident a few months ago when he was in his ice cream store and a couple who walked in mistook his Chinese waitress as the owner.
"I have dealt with such stigma (before), and I do not want other people to have to go through it," he said, when explaining why he chose to upload the video.
Added Ms Ho: "We did not expect it to blow up, we just wanted to raise awareness that this should not be the way."
Some Facebook users pointed out Mr Parkash was quick to distinguish himself as "half-Indian" during the incident, which could be seen as insensitive to the Indian community.
He admitted yesterday that his comments might have come across as insensitive, but they were made in the heat of the moment, and he had not meant any offence.
While there are a handful of negative comments on their post, the couple is focusing on the positives.
"Many Chinese Singaporeans reached out to reassure us that the man does not speak for them, and other interracial families actually sent us photos of their own families, to share their stories and send support...
"They wanted to thank us for being their voices, and it is all very heartwarming," said Ms Ho.
The pair hope their story encourages Singaporeans to be more socially aware, and as Mr Parkash stated in his Facebook post, to understand that "love has no race, and love has no religion."
Said Ms Ho: "For us, we are still going to lead our lives as normal. If anything, we are going to be even prouder of our heritage after today."