Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sitting in a pottie early in the morning and entertaining herself with self-created songs and acts was the first image I remembered my sister seven years my junior. Even as a young child, Soo was creative and imaginative. With trimmings from the lanterns for the Chinese lantern festival, she had used these colourful trimmings as decorative hair adornments.There she was, on the pottie every morning, talking to herself,she spun yarns to entertain herself and her unseen friends. When she visited elder sister who lived with her newly wedded husband some blocks away, she would be meticulously, arranging the clogs neatly in front of the flat every time she visited them. Neighbours too had often commented on her resourcefulness, bailing scoops of water into pails for use the next day when we had water rationing for the afternoons. In spite of her puny size at six year old, she just climbed up and down to fill up the pails for the next day’s use. Even though she was not quite schooled to write yet, she was already writing pieces of notes to throw into neighbour’s house whenever she had squabbles with her young friends. When she entered school, she was just as enthusiastic in her work. The moment she returned home from preschool which she attended in the evening, she would settle down to do her homework the moment she put down her bag. Neighbours used to call her ‘chilli padi’- the fiery hot capsicum used in preparation of spicy dishes. Her calligraphy and painting were displayed in exhibition in the early years of the primary school. Her creative spirit was further developed when she joined the art house when she was in the secondary school. After a tired day at school, she still had the energy to attend performance classes and was actively involved in rehearsals and putting up public performances. The young people in her group were often involved in raising funds for the Art House. The communal spirit and living together had given her much experience in organization and having an entrepreurnial mindset. In spite of having a Chinese education, she continued to try to improve in English by learning the language on her own. Two years into teaching, she decided that with a Chinese education background, she would not go very far. When some of her friends decided to go over to the States, she too, made plans to explore an uncharted territory. After borrowing money from some big conglomerate organization, she managed to fund herself to go to the States in pursuit of a new and exciting life. My gungho sister worked in restaurants, as babysitters and tutors and other jobs before she graduated from University, majoring in Math and Music. Ever the hope and pride of the family, she left us as she made that journey many would hesitate to take.My aged parents had pleaded with me to talk her out of the whole idea. However, as her elder sister, I felt that what she was doing was really something she should not live to regret if she wavered and changed her mind. My parents had since passed on but I know that they would have wanted the best for my sister who had been brave to pursue her dreams.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Leaving a legacy

My love with the written word began in the earliest part of my life. As a lonely child, I used to spend a lot of time going to a neighbour’s house to devour the reading material available there- mainly movie magazines with juicy news about some movie stars. Later, I assuaged my reading appetite whenever my mother took me to visit her Peranakan relative. As I could not comprehend their conversation as they spoke in Malay, I buried my nose in some forgotten magazines and books. Later, my reading appetite was fed when I went to a friend’s place where lots of reading materials were available as her brother was then in the university. So far, my reading materials were all in Chinese. So when I went to an English school, I had difficulty reading English. It was only later on, when I did my further studies in English Literature that I began to fall in love with the English word. In no time, I was devouring all reading materials in English and the National Library had become my second home. Yet, despite my great appetite in reading, I had not really developed my writing skill. I remembered my secondary school teachers’ comments in my writing assignments. “Have good ideas but unable to write smoothly.” The writing I did over the years was my diary which I started when I started my teaching career at the age of eighteen. I continued to write since then and had accumulated seven to eight volumes. The writing captured my years on this earth but mainly my emotional state as I went from one relationship to another. Another book that I used to keep was my reflections on reading that I have done. Quite recently, I decided to put my past behind me and throw away my diaries. Before doing such a silly act, I managed to condense all these musings into a few pages in my more recent diaries. As I grow older, I have learnt to be more reflective and my interest has also led me to write quite differently. However, I realize that I have mostly recorded events rather than my reflections and learning from them. Furthermore, I realize that I am getting on in age and it is time to capture some of my experiences in print. Perhaps, it could be my way of sharing my experience or leaving a legacy behind. Well, it does not matter if I will ever become a writer and publish my writing but the learning experience has been good. It will be a good way to spend my time anyway as I learn to express myself more succinctly and effectively.