Book Review – What Was I Thinking?

What Was I Thinking?

By Gurmit Singh
296 pages, Armour Publishing
ISBN 9789814765329

Goodreads rating: 4.20 out of 5

“Don’t play-play!” “Use your brain!”

If you were paying attention to local television some time back, you would surely be very familiar with the yellow boots-wearing contractor, purportedly the best in Singapore, JB and some say Batam. While most of us will say that his brand low-brow humour panders mainly to the lowest common denominator, we would begrudgingly concede that the show is indeed a phenomenon in its heyday, appealing across all races on both sides of the Causeway (one of his catchphrases was widely mimicked on a local Malay radio station). But few know the story of the man behind the fake mole and permed hairdo, and the story of his life.

What Was I Thinking? explores the life and times of the multi-talented Gurmit Singh. Born to blue-collared Sikh parents in newly-independent Singapore, Gurmit tells about his care-free growing up years of fun, friendships, tempered with prejudice and frugality. He tells much of his parents (and even his grandparents) and it is obvious how much he cherishes their love and the values they instilled in him. Just as interesting is his foray into the entertainment industry (ironically by way of his military service) and the events that led to the birth of the iconic Phua Chu Kang. Parallel to all this, laced with his effervescent humour, Singh also tells about his family life and how he came to meet his wife.

Despite his self-deprecating declarations that he isn’t clever (he struggled in school and failed to get into University twice), I have this to say – Singh is, indeed, very clever. Here he writes a book that is true to his irreverent humour, but he smartly uses this to all tackle deeper issues. Despite the funny-man image, Singh struggled with many demons throughout his life – crippling depression (compounded after the death of his parents), low self-esteem, peer pressure, and not mention brushes with death due to undiagnosed medical conditions.

So what has this Singaporean comedian to do with us in PJEFC and our cost of Discipleship?

As some of us may know, Singh converted from Sikhism to Christian in his youth. He doesn’t specifically describes this event, but repeatedly he mentions about his faith and relationship to God, especially in dealing with the crises in his life. He also freely talks about his wedding in church.

While most people will dismiss this memoir as too simplistic, or just a former celebrity cashing in on his fame, I see it differently. Today, in Malaysia, and more so in secular Singapore, there are hardly any local writers who write about their faith in Christ (as a primary focus or as part of their biography). Being a well-known personality lends credence and ease for him to share about Christ through his book while still being funny. Like I said, Mr Singh is a clever guy.


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