“I was 15-years-old when I went to the Singapore Boys’ Hostel for substance abuse. Three months before that, I had to serve what the juvenile court calls a detention order at the Singapore Boys’ Home to detox my body and flush the cannabis from my system.
I then served a 12-month probation at the hostel and another 15-month probation in the community. It wasn’t an easy experience for me.
I remember crying on my first night at the Boys’ Home because I really missed my mom and grandma a lot. I used to go out every night because I thought that friends were everything, but when I was inside, I realised that family was the most important thing in life.
I started hanging out with the wrong company when I was in secondary two. I joined a gang and started taking drugs and getting into a lot of fights outside school. I even had to undergo a guidance programme because of my involvement in a stabbing incident.
My friends and I were at the void deck one night, and a group of guys who were much bigger and older asked what we were staring at. The next thing I knew, I took a knife from my pocket and stabbed one of them. I wasn’t even thinking at the time; I just did it.
I actually enjoyed getting into fights with my friends when I was younger. It might sound strange to a lot of people, but I didn’t just enjoy beating them up; I liked getting beat up too. I found it boring when my friends didn’t punch me back.
I’m a competitive amateur boxer with Legends Fight Sport now, and when I first trained under (Singapore pro boxer and Legends fight team coach) Ridhwan, he would ask why I smiled every time he punched me in the face during sparring.
I never really thought about it, and I wanted to know why too. It was only when I met my case worker Mr Narash from (non-profit youth organisation) Trybe that I understood why.
When I was 10, I was physically abused by my dad a lot. He’d beat me almost every night, and one time, he even burned me with a spoon that he had heat up on the stove. After a while, the beating stops becoming painful, but I’d still pretend to cry so that he would stop.
You know how as a kid your parents are supposed to love you and be gentle with you? It was the complete opposite for me. That’s why I didn’t like coming back home and started becoming rebellious and mixing around with bad company.
I never knew why he hit me as a kid. I never asked, and I don’t even see him anymore because he’s in jail now, but Mr Narash explained that over time, I equated physical abuse to love. I’ll never do that to my own kid. I want to be a father who doesn’t hit my children.
I’m very grateful Mr Narash came into my life. If it wasn’t for his guidance, who knows where I’d be today – probably in prison or something. But when I first met him at the Singapore Boys’ Hostel, I was deemed the highest-risk youth and I didn’t really trust him.
He slowly won my trust and convinced me that there are a lot of good qualities in me. I wouldn’t say he changed me, but he did polish me up and helped reveal my true colours. I didn’t know the value of my life in the past, but now I’m very focused on my future.
With his help, I studied hard and retook my ‘N’ Level exams. And because I love cars, I’m now studying as a technician at ITE. I’m on attachment as part of on-job training these next two years, and after that, my plan is to go to poly and eventually get a degree.
Boxing was also something that Mr Narash got me into. He asked what I was interested in, and I told him I like fighting. So he did his research and brought me to Legends to meet Ridhwan. I didn’t plan to be competitive, but Ridhwan invited to join the fight team.
It’s been good so far. My amateur debut was an incredible experience. I wasn’t really expecting a knockout win. I was very happy of course, but I was also worried for my opponent. I didn’t know if he was going to okay, but I was relieved he eventually got back up.
Yeah, I’m a different person now. I used to be rowdy and misbehaved all the time, but now I’m a more compassionate and empathetic person.
Compassion is important because it helps me connect with people. I was at my worst when I felt like people didn’t understand me, so now I want to feel what others feel.” – Muhamad Narish, 19
Interview by: Arman Shah