By Karun S’Baram

In 2018, while many of us were watching the FIFA World Cup in Russia, we were interrupted by news of another football-related drama.

Twelve young boys and their football coach were trapped 2.5km deep within the Tham Luang Cave system in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

I took a keen interest in this news as I had visited the Doi Nang Non mountain range (where the cave network is) many years back. Called the “Mountain of the Sleeping Lady” by the locals, it is said to resemble a woman lying on her back from a certain angle.

The Wild Boars, as they were called, had been stranded in the narrow network of limestone caves, cut off by rising rainwater thanks to a sudden torrential downpour.

Their 15-day ordeal, and subsequent daring rescue effort, which involved more than 10,000 personnel from all over the world, has been dramatised in several documentaries and movies.

The Doi Nang Non mountain range is said to resemble a woman sleeping on her back.
The Doi Nang Non mountain range is said to resemble a woman sleeping on her back. Image source: Stefan in Thailand

Everyone chipped in. Thai SEAL team members were the first on the scene. Experts flew in from around the world. Farmers volunteered to cook for the rescue teams at the encampment.

This incident reminded me that it is not about how much you can offer, but rather the willingness of the heart to give whatever you can that matters.

Having two kids of my own, I cannot imagine how the boys’ parents coped with the stress, and I knew they could not have done it without the community’s support.

Making choices

Making choices
The boys from the Wild Boars football team. Image source: Facebook

As someone says to Morpheus in the final movie instalment of the Matrix, one of my favourite movie series: “Choice is an illusion. You already know what you have to do.”.

Life is about choices. Whether you like it or not, directly or indirectly, we are constantly making choices.

The reason we don’t realise that we are constantly doing this is because we often cannot connect cause and effect.

The decisions we make every day, small or big, impact our lives and those around us. Yet, even knowing what the “right” choice is, doesn’t always make it an easy one.

In the Tham Luang Cave rescue, rescuers had to make a choice.

There were no usable alternative exits. Even pumping oxygen in and water out of the caves were difficult given the conditions faced by the rescue team.

As oxygen levels fell and water levels rose, the rescuers had to make a very difficult choice. In the end, they decided to pull the boys out using scuba gear — a highly risky endeavour.

The boys, untrained in cave diving, were sedated during the rescue and zipped into bags with full-face oxygen masks. They were pulled out of the caves by divers, often through narrow pitch-black tunnels barely large enough to fit through.

I cannot imagine the mental stress the rescuers went through to make the choices. It was a difficult choice; they could not guarantee that there would be any fatalities.

Fortunately, it turned out, it was the right one.

Making the tough choices

Making the tough choices
Working over the weekend before the launch of one of my businesses in 2017. Image source: Karun S’Baram

In 2017, I was at the peak of my entrepreneurial career. I was running three small businesses successfully. The financial rewards were great; I could afford to buy my family and myself the finer things in life.

Yet, I worked ten to 12 hours a day, over weekends too. I had to travel overseas often as well. During those years, I slowly realised that I was not spending quality time with my family and friends and hardly had time even for myself.

In late 2019, I made a choice. To sell my businesses and choose a career that would give me the work-life balance I needed to spend time with my loved ones.

It was not an easy choice, I made sacrifices, and the transition had many challenges.

With hindsight, I did make the right choice. When the pandemic hit, some friends told me I was very fortunate to make the transition at the perfect time.

One off the bucket list, sledding with my son.
One off the bucket list, sledding with my son. Image source: Karun S’Baram

Perhaps they were right, but regardless of that, I knew I made the right choice already because it allowed me to choose family over fortune.

I spent quality time with my wife and kids. I got to see my daughter, 13, through her tough PSLE year. I even went sledding with my son!

Making the right choices

Ronald Goh and Sajini Naidu star in SKM’s latest interactive video
Ronald Goh and Sajini Naidu star in SKM’s latest interactive video, 3:13. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

Sometimes we make bad choices.

But as my favourite martial arts actor Bruce Lee once said: “Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.”

Have you ever wondered if you could erase your bad choices or like in the movie Tenet, use “reverse entropy” to escape the impact of our mistakes?

Forgiving yourself for bad choices is tough. Moving forward through regret is hard. My way of dealing is to focus on the good — through practising gratitude.

Every morning I list three things I’m grateful for. And if I still have any regrets over something I did, it’s never too late to make amends.

Our choices define us.

In Matt Reeves’s The Batman, the titular hero introduces himself as “Vengeance”. But when he realises that his ideas inspired villains to follow in his footsteps of revenge, he chose to be a beacon of hope instead.

In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader after being swayed by the evil Emperor Palpatine. But in the end, with his son Luke at his mercy, Vader turns on his master, defeats the evil Empire, and finds redemption in death.

Farah Lola and Nora Samosir star in SKM’s latest interactive video
Farah Lola and Nora Samosir star in SKM’s latest interactive video, 3:13. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

We all love stories. That’s why we love movies.

Have you ever wished you could play a part in making decisions for the heroes in movies, like in the interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch?

In the same vein, SKM’s trilogy of interactive movies allow viewers to make decisions for the main character.

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In The Dress and The New Neighbour/s, the choices were clearer as we made our decisions on the path of neighbourliness.

Help Jason solve the mystery.
Help Jason solve the mystery. Image source: Singapore Kindness Movement

But with 3:13, SKM’s latest interactive movie, you get to investigate a mysterious disturbance in the middle of the night that has the residents of an HDB block scared.

You get to make the choices, and choose your own adventures to solve the mystery.

Is it a case of mischief, malice or could it be something paranormal?

Talk to the residents, find the clues, and make the right choice.

You already know what to do.

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