Who is Singa? The man behind the mascot

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17 Jul 2023 | PEOPLE

Who is Singa? The man behind the mascot

Behind the Singa lion mascot at the National Day Parade (NDP): Combat engineer 3SG Arnaav is a survivor of the 2015 Sabah earthquake.

// Story by Thrina Tham / Photos by Kenneth Lin & Amos Chew

English 华文

He had just been hooked onto the line and was making his way across the side of the over 4km-high mountain. All of a sudden, tremors began and the entire mountain shook.

Then 11, 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Arnaav Karan Chabira kept his head down and held on tightly to the rope that was holding him as, all around him, rocks began to fall.

Still in shock, he couldn't feel his injuries when a guide led him down after the quake.

"The painful part of the journey was making the long trek down as it was the only way off the mountain," he recalled, on surviving the 6.0-magnitude earthquake in Sabah.

Spreading the message of resilience

The incident left him with a broken right arm, collar bone, shoulder blade and a blood clot in his ear.

"At the end of the day, I'm extremely lucky to have survived," said 3SG Arnaav, now 19.

3SG Arnaav nows serves a field engineer with 30 SCE.

Recovery was not easy.

3SG Arnaav stopped sports and learned to write with his left hand since his right arm was in a cast. He even took his PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) using his left hand, with some extra time given.

Now fully recovered, the Full-time National Serviceman will be taking part in NDP 2023 as Singa the Lion, as part of the new Total Defence Parade (TDP) segment.

He hopes that his role in the parade helps to spread the message of resilience to those watching NDP.

Singa the Lion making its way to the Padang on the Psychological Defence float, during the TDP segment of NDP.

Recovering from his injuries

Sporty from a young age, 3SG Arnaav first picked up cricket at eight, when his parents enlisted him into a cricket coaching centre.

Following the earthquake, the then-Tanjong Katong Primary pupil lost his ability to play sports.

He admitted that the recovery process was "long and frustrating", as he went through multiple sessions with doctors and a physiotherapist. Till today, he bears a visible scar on his right chin from the injuries.

But he pushed through and resumed cricket training within a year – going on to captain the school team at Anglo Chinese School (Independent), leading them in their C-division games.

3SG Arnaav (batting) represented Singapore at the ACC Uunder-16 tournament, held in Thailand in 2019. [Photo courtesy of 3SG Arnaav]

In 2017, he joined the national youth developmental squad; and two years later, represented Singapore in the Under-16 Asian Cricket Council (ACC) tournament and Asia Under-19 World Cup Qualifier.

He then took a break from cricket to focus on his studies and has recently resumed training.

Serving the nation

These days, he plays cricket when he has some free time, usually on Sundays – as he balances his NS training at 30th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers (30 SCE) with NDP training on Saturdays.

A Section 2nd-In-Charge, 3SG Arnaav looks after his section's needs, such as preparing for outfield or field engineer training.

3SG Arnaav (centre) setting up a concertina wire (top pic) and carrying out training on the Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicle (below) with his section mates.
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While he enjoys missions with his sections – where they clear routes to provide combat support in defending or attacking an enemy – his most challenging days were during his finale exercise in Specialist Cadet School.

"We were left to ourselves with no one guiding us, while being evaluated. I was given the role of section commander for one of the missions and it was very high-pressure at times because you have to make on-the-ground decisions while things are thrown at you on the spot," recalled 3SG Arnaav.

"But these tougher parts are also interesting because it keeps you on your feet," he added.

Despite the long hours, 3SG Arnaav looks forward to his weekly training for NDP – which he is taking part in for the first time.

As Singa the Lion, 3SG Arnaav hopes to spread the message of resilience to others.

"It's a unique role, and even though it can get hot in the suit, it's fun to be in it; to walk around and interact with the crowd," he said.

Encouraging others

His Singa the Lion mascot will be standing on the Psychological Defence float – one of the six floats that represent the six pillars of Total Defence – during the TDP segment.

On what his role means to him, he said: "I hope that people can see that I have displayed a sense of resilience.

"And that if it's possible for me to come back (from trauma) that young, others who are in a bad situation can be encouraged by that and keep moving forward."

 

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