What do Aesthetics and Atheletics have to do with the building of an equitable society? I speak to Singapore’s fastest man, U. K. Shyam to see if I could glean few insights into this.
U. K. Shyam is Singapore’s reigning national-record holder in the 100m sprint event, and is also a multiple sports medalist. He’s also lectured in Philosophy for over a decade and serves as the Honorary Secretary of the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund, which seeks to support under-resourced young athletes. During the pandemic when schools moved into online teaching, Shyam worked with Engineering Good to distribute laptops to needy students.
In this interview, Shyam opens up about the various challenges he had struggled with as a youth, and the integral role that sports had played in helping him to navigate these. The various financial pressures he had had to grapple with as a young sportsman also inspired him to give back later on by seeking to level the playing field and give everyone an equal opportunity to engage in sports and so reap their benefits — character development and values education amongst others.
“As a youth who didn’t really have a father figure and faced a lot of difficulty, I think sports centred me and gave me something to look forward to… It’s given me a lot and I feel it’s an important tool that can be used to educate kids and even adults and for values transmission.”
“Sports can be a microcosm for what we face in life… so I think it’s a very powerful tool.”
We discuss how sports – like the arts – remain an ‘indulgence’ or ‘luxury’ that not everyone is able to afford; athletes and artists alike often find themselves torn between pragmatic concerns and the pursuit of their dreams.
We discuss why it’s so important for both of these to be made accessible to all, and why a holistic education – one that acknowledges the importance of often undervalued disciplines such as sports and the arts—is so crucial. As Philosophy lecturer, Shyam stresses how an exposure to the arts might open up one’s might mind, help one to “appreciate the human condition”, foster greater empathy and potentially build a more equitable society.
Finally, we move beyond philosophizing about social good to discuss a project Shyam’s engaged in, with the help of Team Singapore and Engineering Good: this was an initiative launched during the Covid-19 circuit breaker when lessons had been moved online and the access to laptops became an issue for underprivileged households. This was a project that saw the community donating their second hand laptops, engineers contributing their expertise to repair these laptops, and sportsmen distributing the refurbished laptops. It was, to me, a heartwarming testament of how much can be achieved when people come together to seek a common good.
Aestheletic is a fine art gallery that believes in making art available in to everyone by transforming the paintings from our gallery into street wear and sports apparel. We’re currently involved in an Inclusive Fashion Project where we’ve partnered up with special needs artists to showcase their artwork on our apparel, in the hopes of making art a much more inclusive space for everyone.
Special credit to Engineering Good for the incredible humanitarian work they're doing.