The feminist rallying cry – “the personal is political” – rings on every page of this memoir by a distinguished citizen whose ideas and ideals galvanised the women’s movement in Singapore.
The word “margins” in the title refers to the multiple ways in which Constance Singam found herself marginalised: as a woman, an ethnic Indian, a widow and a civil society activist.
Her answer to each kind of marginality was to rewrite the prevailing terms of discourse so that her femininity, her Malayalee-Indian culture, and her political disquiet became sources of self-empowerment, not of self-denial.
“I am who I think I am,” she declares defiantly. “I am what I believe. I am what I do.” The personal could not be more political.
Born Constance D’Cruz in Singapore in 1936, she got married at 24 to the scholarly journalist N.T.R. Singam.
Widowed at only 42, she obtained her first degree – an honours qualification in literature – at 46, received her master’s degree at 60, and stopped work as a part-time lecturer at the National Institute of Education at 67 in 2003.
At each stage of her life, she sought new beginnings instead of being carried along by the momentum of the past towards the inertia of the future.
A writer, social activist, teacher, restaurateur and blogger, she embraced and engaged the world around her with an endless and seamless commitment that left neither time for recriminations nor space for regret.