You Are Reading


My parents came from Ipoh, Perak. I can't say that my parents were born in that quaint little village in that charming little town. Back in its heyday, Ipoh was almost like an industrial town - famous exports of tin and peanuts ensured a large swarm of immigrants from China kept it going. My maternal grandfather came from Fuzhou (I think). When the British still ruled, Ipoh was the second administrative town after Kuala Lumpur. It is the capital of the State of Perak. But yes, as I am sure in almost any Asian town in those days, my parents grew up climbing trees, eating shaved ice balls and catching all sorts of insects and fish for rearing and fighting. My mother grew up tapping rubber trees after ending her education in Primary 2 - the fact that she now speaks broken English to my Indonesian sister in law is an amazing feat. My father was luckier, having attended one of the better schools in town, which my paternal grandfather slogged as a carpenter to put him and his multiple brothers through.

They sought independence, as much as it was required of them in those days, and left their village - the biggest village in Ipoh at that time with more than ten thousand residents - to be with my father's eldest brother in Singapore. My dad took up a job in an electronics factory and my mother did sewing in a textile / clothing factory. They had a son first, and my brother was born (with much difficulty, as my mother often likes to remind us) in Ipoh, with him holding the record for the heaviest baby for a long time. My sister followed in Singapore, and then me. We grew up with the cane in my father's hand, who strongly believed that without education, we were destined for a life of poverty. I remember assessment books, a lot of it, and according to my siblings, I had it the easiest because my dad mellowed then. Being the youngest (and incredibly cute - I KNOW RIGHT?!) helped.

But I realise that my dad taught us more than that. Perhaps it was by example because I don't remember my parents spending a lot of time with us, but I remember he thought us respect, hard work, persistence, and yes, how to suck thumb. And I think it was because that they had to fend for themselves, and they taught us the need to fend for ourselves. 

I think I might have been different if my parents never left. I could be a happy barefoot (never did it because my dad says I will cut myself and die), tree climbing (never did it because my dad says I will fall and die), shaved ice ball eating (never did it because my dad says it's not clean and have food poisoning and die), river swimming (never did it because my dad says OH MY GOD ARE YOU NUTS YOU WILL DROWN BUT BEFORE THAT YOU WILL FREEZE and die), kampung (never lived in one because well, HDB was efficient) girl (my dad told someone that he was hoping for a boy. Who says that? In front of their own spawn?!). And I can be a happy barefoot, tree climbing, shaved ice ball eating, river swimming kampung girl because my dad is the same guy that told me stories of his barefoot, tree climbing, shaved ice ball eating, river swimming days. He is that same guy that likes expensive watches (we have lost him shopping before, finding his face plastered to the glass display outside a watch shop) but gets ridiculously content with tasty neighbourhood bakery bread. He is that same guy that taught us to be ambitious but content, that found it amusing that I called him in Hong Kong (his first overseas trip with my mum without us ever) when I failed Mathematics in Sec 3 and feared a lashing but did not hesitate to actually lash me when I did not pay attention or try my best. My parents tried their best to prepare us for the future in the way they thought the best, always putting us ahead. 

And I believe this is the reason I work as hard as I can. I am not self-made. No one is. My parents have never reminded me of their sacrifice (besides my mum often reminding my brother of the pain of her labour), and they have always, in fact, asked me to cut myself some slack. But knowing that they have given everything so that I can have anything I wanted as long as I worked hard at it... means I should, because I now have the opportunity to. Do I regret certain choices they made, and then some that I made? Yes, but I've also learnt that life is a series of Sliding Doors - and the life not lived is sometimes the perfect one because who imagines difficulties? - and you make your own choices and live with them.

And you know what? While I often lament that I would love the chance to relive certain portions of my life (I would love a time machine), I thank God for what I have today. And I thank you.

Comments for this entry

Teddy Kong

haha! it's funny how u think u r the cutest when u r the total opposite of that! ^_^ i always thought u were and always will b 'garang'! hehe!

The OldLee

I have different faces. Of course to my loving father, I should always be the sweet little girl right?!

Leave your comment


Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

RSS Feed. This blog is proudly powered by Blogger and uses Modern Clix, a theme by Rodrigo Galindez. Modern Clix blogger template by Introblogger.