[SGDiaries] The Anxious Bengali Migrant Brother

I have been quite excited since waking up today. Although I am not sure if “excited” is the correct word to describe the rush through my body, my sweaty palms, and slightly trembly hands. I was supposed to assist doctors from the Institute of Mental Health in providing consultation for a Bengali patient.

Why bother

My father had been working his entire life as a Secondary School teacher, teaching Bengali to the future leaders of the world. Somehow, I ended having a very deep, emotional connection with the Bengali language. I believe it is the same with all Bengalis. We had to fight a war and bought our right to speak with blood.

Translation or interpretation to me is a sacred duty. Especially, when it is about helping a troubled soul find peace. When I was talking to a staff member from IMH a few days back, I knew I had to pour everything I had to help.

Hello Bhai!

A zoom call was setup beforehand. It’s funny how we software engineers and the best cloud professionals out there never could get live streaming, online calls working perfectly. Well, can’t blame them for the poor internet quality over at the dormitory. It took about 15 minutes of switching network operators, and positioning mobile phones for reception. And finally,

“[X] Bhai, Kemon Achen?”

(Brother, how are you?)

I could imagine his face light up. He excitedly replied, “Bhai, Bhalo! Apni Kemon achen?” (Brother! I am well! How about you?). I could sense his assurance, he becoming relaxed to find out someone who understands him is finally here to help him out. I could feel a droplet slowly marching, making its way downwards from my eye.

It was a long back-and-forth with [X]. He was rushing to tell me how he had been feeling. It reminded me of myself when I would get back home to excitedly tell my father how I had won a pen fight with a friend, in intricate details. I mean, why wouldn’t he? It’s the first time someone is able to understand his raw emotions, someone being able to connect with his thoughts, worries and anxiety.

I couldn’t be too distracted. I had to convey every single detail, exactly described to the experienced medical professionals here to assist this troubled soul. I underestimated the task at hand by a long shot. I immediately had to bring out a notebook to note down his statements quickly yet precisely. And, translate those raw emotions back to the team.

Thank you Bhai!

The session lasted more than half an-hour. [X] thanked me. I felt that I should’ve thanked him for coming forward, being comfortable with receiving treatment for mental health issues. In Asian culture, mental health is ignored. I was happy to see him well-aware and willing to receive medical attention.


How far would you go for a foreigner, migrant laborer’s well being? The Singaporeans had set a new example for the world. The doctors at the medical camp of the foreign worker dormitory could have decided to ignore the patient’s mental health struggles altogether, but they chose not to ignore it.

The Singaporean Healthcare Workers are probably the most thankful, grateful people I have met in my life. They made the conscious choice to assist this troubled man, who has probably built an HDB home for a family or worked in a ship-yard keeping the economy running, or did a high-risk job to make Singapore what it is today.

Healthcare heroes, thank you for your service.

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