Not just any bowl of rice…!

Extracted from Navy News

Dreams are what make life all the more worth the living and striving for. While some may just dream on, others realise them. Navy News recently met with a retired Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) officer who belongs to the latter. LTC (Ret) Nicholas Koh had served the RSN for a sterling 21 years, before rounding off his Navy career as Deputy Head Naval Logistics in Jan 02.

Having recently retired, LTC (Ret) Koh embarked on his dream of publishing books and to answer the Government’s call for more entrepreneurs. With the current economic downturn, he felt that the children of today would not be able to relate to the hardship which he and many of his peers went through in Singapore’s early years of independence. His debut entitled “My Bowl of Hei Bee Hiang Rice”, relates much of his adolescent life in candid detail. From his troubled childhood days to his academic achievements, even to the most personal of matters relating to pubescence, the book gives a refreshing, if daring, insight into the life of an “ordinary” boy growing up in the Singapore of yesteryear.

LTC (Ret) Koh’s inspiration came from child-beggars while he was on an overseas trip. He wanted to share his adolescent hardships as the son of a humble lampshade maker. “I wanted to relate the pains and joys of growing up as a Singaporean. Would children now understand hardship?” he wonders.

“You have written with great feeling, sincerity and passion for the future of young Singaporeans.
They can make the grade if they are as resolute and determined as you have been.
The book deserves to be read especially by the young.”

Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, 2003



“Awak buku tulisham yang baik boleh berikan belajar utok muda singaporean, degan faham da gunakan buku ini yang baik di-belajar pada muda.”

“ဒီစာအုပ်ဟာ စင်ကာပူကလူငယ်တွေရဲ့ အနာဂတ် အတွက် လေးလေးနက်နက် ခံစားချက် နဲ့ အားတက်သရော ရေးထားတာ ဖြစ်တယ်။ သူတို့သာ ခင်ဗျားလို ရည်ရွယ်ချက်ခိုင်မာပြီး စိတ်ပြတ်သားမယ် ဆိုရင် အောင်မြင်ကြလိမ့်မယ်။ ဒီစာအုပ်ဟာ အထူးသဖြင့် လူငယ်တွေ ဖတ်သင့်ဖတ်ထိုက်တဲ့ စာအုပ်တစ်အုပ်ဖြစ်တယ်။”

“Do they have the experience of eating Hei Bee Hiang with plain rice everyday?” making reference to the title of his book. Hei Bee Hiang is a local dish of dried shrimp with chili.

The 188-page memoir is a touching chronological recount of his early days, including his journey to become a Naval Technical Officer in the RSN. It also includes some 20 poems and commentaries after each chapter.

On his experience in the Navy and his transition to the public sector, he believes that the Navy had groomed him well, giving him a strong foundation for life. “The training and experience in the Navy has prepared me well to start out my second career in the brave ‘new’ world.” he said with a glint of pride in his eye.