Madam Halimah Yacob on Hari Raya and that presidential rumour
Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob talks about her mother, breaking fast with residents and her packed schedule
Madam Halimah Yacob's fondest festive memory comes from a time when she was a secondary school teenager, living in an HDB apartment on Selegie Road, near Tekka Market.
"There was a canal there, so there was one year when it rained very heavily, before Hari Raya. It was near the end of fasting month and the water started rising," said the 62-year-old Speaker of Parliament, gesturing how high the water level was.
"So you had to wade through the water and there were all these dead animals floating about like rats, chicken, fish. It was rather yucky, but it was so memorable."
The unionist-turned-politician spoke to The New Paper last Sunday in a interview before she broke fast with over 100 residents in one of her constituencies in Marsiling.
With eight constituencies and many invitations from different organisations to break fast, Madam Halimah said her days have been packed all the way till Hari Raya, and time with family has been hard to come by.
The mother of five children, all in their 20s and 30s, said she is thankful her family "accepts" her schedule.
"I've broken fast at home on only a few days, all the rest of the days have been out," she said.
"There were a few days that they could catch me at home. That is something that's always good, but they've come to accept that this is part of the duty for me."
She was quick to add that she does enjoy breaking fast outside, particularly with her residents.
Madam Halimah said: "Iftar with the community is actually quite fun, because you see all the different races and religions among my residents coming together."
Madam Halimah said that sometimes she does not even have time to have a proper meal between events.
During such moments, she shared that she slips into nearby mosques "incognito".
"The good thing is that every mosque here provides something to eat, so it's quite interesting to break fast and then perform my maghrib (evening) prayers before I go off to my event," she said.
In 2015, on Polling Day, Madam Halimah's mother died as she was doing her rounds. This year will be the second Hari Raya that she will be celebrating without her, but it never gets easier.
Said Madam Halimah: "What I miss about mum is her presence. Sitting there, she used to sit on the sofa, just having her there would mean tremendous comfort because she's been the pillar of strength for me all the while."
Hari Raya is not just a time to celebrate family, but to also remember the loved ones lost, as she pointed out.
"The absence is deeply felt, but what I am even more fearful of is in case the memories start to fade," she said softly, wiping a tear.
But almost immediately, she smiled and added: "But everybody remembers mum, so that's a good thing."
Her mother was an "excellent cook", and preparing food is one of the ways Madam Halimah remembers her.
Her signature dish?
With a laugh Madam Halimah said: "I cook lontong for breakfast every Hari Raya morning. So the children have asked me this year if I am going to cook and I told them I will see how.
"But no lah, I will make it this year, every year I will cook it."
Other than lontong, Madam Halimah is looking forward to having time for herself this festive weekend.
"That's the wonderful thing about Hari Raya, at least the first two days will be off limits," she said.
When asked if she sees herself becoming busier in the future, on account of the upcoming presidential election which she is widely rumoured to be considering, Madam Halimah laughed, reiterating that she had a lot on her plate.
"I've been very busy actually. My time is really packed and, of course, in Parliament as Speaker the last few years have been very packed," she chuckled.
"Our Members of Parliament have been pretty active filing motions and so on, so that has kept me pretty busy."