My life stories – Part 7

My life stories – Part 7
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams came true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Last updated in August 2015

Though my mother had passed away many years ago, my father still misses her very much. He feels guilty for my mother had passed away in the hospital, alone, without any of us being with her at that moment. He regrets deeply and blames himself for not being there for my mother when she took her last breath. He strongly believes that my mother might have something to say to him before she died. But now and forever, he will never know what my mother wanted to say to him before she died.

My mother was paralyzed during the last two years of her life. She needed special care and attention from my father and my sister to help her in everything from feeding herself to going to the toilet, and bringing her to the hospital and traditional Chinese acupuncture centre for check-up and receiving treatment for a few times every week.

Not long after my mother’s death, my father was paralyzed too and has to lie in bed most of the time. The only wish he has, is waiting for my mother to appear in his dream. Every day and night he just wants to sleep and sleep, hoping that my mother will show up in his dream and talk to him. But he didn’t get to see her. Every time when I visit him, he cries while telling me that my mother didn’t show up in his dream. In great disappointment, he asked me why he couldn’t see my mother in his dream. Another thing that he keeps blaming himself is for being impatient and shouted at my mother when she needed his care and support.

It wasn’t easy to take care of a paralyzed person twenty four hours a day. Everyone became impatient, exhausted and frustrated. My mother had no choice but to depend on my father and my sister to be her hands and legs for everything. It was very hard for a person like my mother who used to be very independent and physically strong, but suddenly she lost all her mobility and freedom to do even the simplest thing. It wasn’t easy for the person who needed help and the person who helped.

I can never complain about how my father, my sister and her two daughters for being impatient and shouted at my mother frequently when they lost their patience being exhausted from taking care of a paralyzed person. Everyone was tired and frustrated. I can understand that. The person who was sick was suffering. The people who cared for the sick person were suffering too.

I felt compassion for my mother for being paralyzed because nobody would want to be in such condition, being helpless and losing one’s strength and mobility. I sympathized with my father, my sister and her daughters, for being trapped in a situation which nobody would like to be in. Nobody would enjoy spending many hours looking after a paralyzed person who needed so much personal care and attention. I commiserated with my two elder brothers who blamed themselves and feeling bad and guilty for not being able to help out financially. I felt sorry for myself for not being able to be there for my mother all the time because I had to be at somewhere else making a living to provide financial support for the entire family.

And now, my father is also having the same difficult condition as my mother had.

Because of the deep sadness from missing my mother, my father refuses to get better. He doesn’t want to go for physiotherapy or receive any kind of treatment. He gave up living from the moment he regained consciousness and realized he had lost his mobility. It’s more than eight years now he has been paralyzed and he is getting weaker and weaker each day.

My eldest brother is taking care of my father. He will bring my father to sit up on the wheelchair for eating and showering, but my father can’t stay in a sitting position for too long. In the beginning, my brother brought my father out of the house with his car, to eat out and to get some fresh air and looking around at the outside world. But then my father became very weak and had to lie down most of the time because his body would be in pain for sitting too long. Since then, he seldom gets out from the house for many years, except when my brother sends him for routine check-ups in the hospital once every three months.

My father was feeling unwell in the morning the day that he got paralyzed. My sister brought him to the hospital for a check-up. The doctor told my sister that my father had to stay back in the hospital until late afternoon for observation and run some tests. My sister went back home to look after her daughters and she would go back to the hospital to pick him up later in the afternoon. During the check-up, a nurse asked him to sit up on the bed to perform some physical movements. Somehow he lost his balance and fell onto the floor from the bed with his head hit the floor first. He lost consciousness and they sent him to the Emergency Unit. He went into a coma. And ridiculously, they informed my sister only after they had sent my father to the ICU. They told her that my father went into a coma and was sent to the ICU. There was nothing they could do, they said. Immediately my sister went back to the hospital while informing everyone in the family. My father regained consciousness many hours later, but half of his body was paralyzed. The doctor explained that there were three blood clots in his head that caused the paralysis. We didn’t know whether the blood clots were caused by the fall, or they had already existed before the fall. We couldn’t undo anything, even if it was somebody’s negligence and responsibility for what had happened to him.

The staff at the hospital didn’t mention anything about why he had been sent to the ICU. It was my father who told us later about what had happened to him on that day.

My sister thought of getting some compensation money by suing the hospital and the nurse. I told my sister that it was needless to sue anyone. It would do more harm to my father than to benefit him, as it would be a very long and stressful process for my father to go through if this went into a court case. I also believed that the nurse didn’t have intention for my father to fall down from the bed. Nobody intentionally wanted this to happen. The nurse might have felt very bad for this incident. Moreover, there was no other witness that could support whatever my father told us about what had happened to him that day, and my father’s memories were a bit confused after he suffered from paralysis. Even if we successfully sued the hospital or the nurse and got some compensation many years later, it still wouldn’t change the fact that my father was paralyzed and wouldn’t get any better. We should forgive and let go. One day this nurse might become a great nurse or a great person learning from this incident. We don’t want to ruin somebody’s life with the possibility for becoming a great person. Someone’s life was already ruined and couldn’t be undone. Everyone makes some mistakes at some points in life. We don’t want the nurse to be unhappy and have no peace for the rest of his life. Even if it was really the nurse’s negligence or responsibility for my father’s unfortunate condition, we would like him to know that we had pardoned him. It was an accident.

I have been supporting my family financially since I was a teenager. My second elder brother has been suffering from asthma since he was a baby. He couldn’t do much physical activities and didn’t have a permanent job to support his own living. In the past, he would need to borrow money from me from time to time to have food on the table. My sister is in great debt with many different banks, relatives and friends, and needs to take care of her own family with two daughters and three grandchildren from two separate broken families. My eldest brother can’t work because he has been taking care of my father twenty four hours a day. Therefore I have to support my father and my eldest brother financially.

Though my eldest brother loves his wife very much, they have to live separately for all these years because in the past she has to live with her family to take care of her father who was very ill for some time before he died, and now, she has to take care of her old mother too. They can only see each other once or twice a month as they are now living more than 120 km away from one another. It’s a sad and unfortunate life story of our family. But my brother never complain. He takes good care of my father out of love. I am glad that my father has such wonderful son to take care of him, and I’m always thankful to my brother for sacrificing so much for our family.

I need to be able to take care of myself so that I can look after my family. I never worry or regret. Worrying and regretting won’t change anything. It won’t take away my father’s suffering or make my family’s difficult condition to become better. Instead, I use my entire energy to practice and teach yoga to help myself and others, to be free from ignorance and suffering, and have love and peace in our hearts while living in the world of impermanence and uncertainty. My family also needs help. But nobody can help another if people don’t want to help themselves.

More than seventeen years ago, my parents were living with me before they moved out to live with my sister. After my late brother-in-law passed away in a tragic work accident, my sister had moved to Senawang where she found a job as an administrative clerk near where she lives. Senawang is a small industrial town with plenty greenery about an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. She always wanted to live in a house close to the countryside where she could see the mountains and the big blue sky from her house.

Because of her two young daughters were studying in schools near my house in Old Klang Road, she didn’t bring her daughters to live with her. If she brought her daughters with her, she would have to pay someone to take care of the children when she’s at work. Her monthly salary wasn’t much. She couldn’t afford to hire a nanny. She also had to pay back a lot of debts little by little every month. So she left her two daughters with us – my parents and I, to look after them. If she had some money left, she would give a few hundred Ringgit to my parents for her daughters’ daily living expenses.

My sister is very different from me. All I want is a simple, quiet life. She wants to make a lot of money. She wants to have big house, big car and enjoy life. She wanted to invest in property, so she bought a house and a shop lot. She wanted to invest in life insurance, so she bought eight life insurance policies at one time. She wanted to go for holidays staying in nice hotel pampering herself once in a while. And she would use her many different credit cards to pay for everything that she wanted – house instalments, car instalments, insurance premiums, holidays, petrol, grocery shopping, dining, and lots of bills. She didn’t realize that her ambitions were too many and too big, and she ended up accumulating more and more debts. But my sister isn’t a bad person.

She is a very kind and friendly person. She won’t have any bad intentions for anybody. She is a person with great patience and wouldn’t get angry under any circumstances, except when she was too tired from looking after my mother, she lost her patience and shouted at my mother a few times. But I know she would feel very bad afterwards, as she would never want to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. She wanted to provide my parents with a better living condition. She wanted to give her daughters the best that she could give. All she wanted was to have a better quality of life. And it’s totally nothing wrong with all her ambitions, but life was so hard on her all the time.

She was a member of the Red Crescent Movement and had helped many people everywhere while she was still in school. She continued to help many people after she finished school. She lost her own handbag many times, when she tried to help people who were injured in car accidents. She is a very good friend to many people. She was very intelligent and had very good results in school exams. She was one of the last batch students who received Malaysian general education in English medium. She reads and writes and speaks good English. She is a bookworm. She used to sing a lot and played a guitar when she was younger. She is a happy and carefree person.

But, all these good and positive qualities don’t guarantee that she wouldn’t be getting into financial problems.

Her elder daughter was a problem child. We couldn’t blame her. She had a very unpleasant toddlerhood before her father passed away when she was four years old. She had been frequently shouted at and canned by her father since she was just a few months old. One time, he slapped her for crying. He hit her so hard in the face that she permanently lost the hearing in one ear. Her jaw was dislocated as well causing her mouth tilted to one side when she talked. It wasn’t a bad thing for her and her baby sister who was five months old when their father died in the work accident.

Somehow she liked to tell lies and had been stealing money since she was just a little girl. One day, I found out that my one and only fifty Ringgit note had been missing from my purse. I used to count how much money I had every day and knew exactly how many notes and coins in my purse, as I didn’t have much money left for myself after giving most of my money to my family. And I knew for sure that I had one piece of fifty Ringgit note in my purse, but it had disappeared.

I was very upset. I was very sure that it must be her who had taken it, as it wasn’t the first time she took money without asking. I couldn’t control my anger. I was different from my sister. I would get angry and wasn’t a nice person at all. I felt really upset that we had been taking care of her and her little sister, but that was what she repaid us. At that stage of my life, I was very ignorant and unhappy. I was very angry with the difficult financial situation in my family and didn’t have the wisdom and compassion to control my anger and my behaviour. My mind was over-powered by ignorance and unhappiness.

I got really, really angry. I shouted at her madly. I told her that I was going to call the police to send her to jail. She was just a nine year old little girl at that time. I realized later in life that I was too harsh on her. I had to forgive myself as I couldn’t undo what I had done which I shouldn’t.

In the beginning, she kept shaking her head and denied that she had stolen the money.

She was very famous for her stubbornness. One time, her school teacher punished her for something that she did at school. The teacher gave her a stroke of caning on her palm. Other children would have cried in pain, and asked for pardon. But she didn’t retreat her hand, she didn’t cry and didn’t apologize. The teacher became more furious and gave her a few more strokes and hit harder and harder each time. She still wouldn’t retreat her hand and wouldn’t cry. The teacher gave another few more strokes until her palm started to bleed. Then the teacher stopped. She still didn’t cry.

She came home with the injured palm, swollen and bleeding. My parents found out what had happened to her, and went to the school to complain to the school principal. Immediately after that day, the teacher was sent to another school to teach. The entire school knew about this. And she became famous for her stubbornness.

After a few times of questioning with me shouting at her like a mad person, she went out in silence. A few minutes later, she came back with some money in a plastic bag. She already spent some of the fifty Ringgit. She kept the remaining money in the plastic bag and hid it under one of the flower pots down stairs.

I was really disappointed. Immediately I called my sister. I told her that she must came right away to take her daughter back with her to Senawang. I didn’t want her to live with us anymore. I was such cold-hearted, uncompassionate and unforgiving. About one and a half hours later, my sister came. She said she needed some time to arrange her daughter to go to a school in Senawang. I said to her, I could wait for another few days or a few weeks, as long as I didn’t want her daughter to live with us anymore. I didn’t mind that her younger daughter to continue to stay with us and I didn’t mind taking care of her.

My parents were very upset. They loved me very much. They knew that I worked very hard to provide financial support for the family. They didn’t want me to be unhappy. They also loved their grandchildren very much. They couldn’t bear the pain being separated from one of their grandchildren. They sympathized with my sister that she had to look after her daughter on her own while she also needed to work. They sympathized with their granddaughter that she wouldn’t get as much love and attention as she could get from them and also be separated from her young sister, if she would have to live with my sister. And so, my parents made a very hard decision. My father decided to move to Senawang to live with my sister to take care of their elder granddaughter. And my mother would live with me and take care of their younger granddaughter. My parents had to live separately since then. They travelled back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Senawang. And all these were because of me and my bad temper. And yet, my parents never said anything bad about me.

Every weekend, my mother would drive to Senawang to see my father and their elder granddaughter. Sometimes my father would come back to see my mother and their younger granddaughter, and me, of course. This was going on for some time. Two years later, it was time for my younger niece to enter primary school. They decided that the easiest way for everybody, was to send her to the school in Senawang which her sister went to. Therefore, my mother also moved to Senawang to reunite with my father and both their granddaughters for good. And the two granddaughters were no longer be separated from each other and were living together with their mother under the same house.

My sister moved away from Kuala Lumpur hoping for a brighter and happier future, but it seemed like life didn’t want to be easy on her. Now, she doesn’t have the house or the shop lot anymore because the bank had auctioned off both her house and shop lot to pay back the huge amount of debt she owed to the bank.

While living with my sister, my parents continued to help her to clean up the house, and did the cooking, gardening, washing the laundry for everyone and sending the children to school. And my sister thought that she didn’t need to give any money to my parents for looking after her children, but instead, she thought my parents should contribute some money, or pay her back by doing the house works and to serve her and her children, because my parents were living at her house.

I was totally speechless.

This didn’t make sense at all. While her children were living with us and my parents had to take care of them, she would give some money to my parents for taking care of her children and for feeding them. But when my parents were doing the same thing for her, but living in her house, and had to do more house work, and yet, my parents had to contribute money for being the servants of the house? If somebody hired a helper to do some house work, the helper would get to live in the house, would be fed and paid accordingly. It’s like telling the servant, “Since you are living and eating in my house, so you should give me some money and do all the house work in exchange.”

My parents never saw it as working for my sister when they took care of the children and did all the house work for her. My parents love their daughter and granddaughters. Out of love, my parents wanted to take care of them and do everything for them. For my parents, they do everything for us out of love, family love. Family never calculate how much we give and don’t expect anything in return. But somehow their daughter took this love for granted. But yet, they didn’t mind at all. I totally understood my parents’ hearts, what were they thinking and feeling at that time.

I felt that it was unfair to my parents to do so much for my sister, but was being treated like free servants, and had to pay for their stay in my sister house for food and accommodation. But, I respect their freedom to do what they wanted to do. They were happy giving all that they could give to my sister. My parents sympathized my sister had lost her husband and had to bring up two young children all by herself. It was very difficult for my sister to work and take care of the children at the same time. I could understand that.

My parents had the freedom on how they wanted to use the money that I gave them every month. I couldn’t and shouldn’t dictate how they should spend their pocket money although it was coming from me. Once I gave away the money, the money didn’t belong to me anymore, and it’s up to them how they wanted to use it. But I convinced my parents that they didn’t need to tell my sister how much money that I gave them every month because I knew my sister would borrowed all the money that they had, and spent the money recklessly. They listened to me. They received the money from me every month without telling my sister how much I gave them, but they continued to help out my sister’s living expenses silently with their pocket money, without letting her knew about it. How great was that family love!

Sometimes my sister didn’t have enough money to get the daily needs. So my parents were using their own pocket money to do the grocery shopping without telling my sister that the petty cash for grocery shopping had finished, because they didn’t want my sister to get stressed out. My parents treat us as a family – we all share the same flesh and blood, and family never being calculative. This is how much our parents love us. They give everything and never ask anything in return.

Though my parents showed lots of love and care to their granddaughters, they didn’t respect my parents at all. They shouted at my parents, especially to my mother after she was paralyzed. They ignored my mother when she asked them for something. When my sister didn’t have enough money to give to her daughters for their schooling expenses and daily pocket money, my parents would give their own pocket money to their granddaughters. But they didn’t know how to be grateful and thankful. Again, my parents didn’t mind at all. Sometimes they would cry in front of me and told me about what happened to them in my sister’s home. That was how I learned about what my parents had been going through while living with my sister.

There was a time, my parents had almost finished using their pocket money and my sister hadn’t been giving them money to buy rice and vegetables for some time. Every day she went out to work in the early morning and came home after midnight because she had another part time job as a guest relation officer in a karaoke night club in Seremban. She didn’t realize my parents hadn’t been cooking for a few days. My parents didn’t want to trouble me and didn’t tell me that they were running out of money. They didn’t want to ask money from sister as well because they knew my sister already had no money to pay bills and all her instalments for months. They didn’t tell my sister that there was no more rice in the house. They gave the scarce money that they had to their granddaughters to allow them to buy food at school, and my parents had been eating stale bread for many days, until I gave them their next pocket money. I had been giving them enough money for their living, but they spent all their money for their grandchildren and my sister. And they had to eat stale bread for many days instead. I felt so sad, so sad for my parents. And angry as well.

Many years had passed by, but my sister’s elder daughter didn’t get any better or wiser. She became worse. She couldn’t stop telling lies and stealing. One day she stole her friend’s ATM card and took out lots of money from her friend’s savings account. She bought many dresses, shoes and bags. She came home with all these new things, and told my parents and her mother that she had a rich boyfriend who bought her all these things. Sometimes she also brought some presents back for my sister, my parents and her sister, to show that she loved and cared for the family. She was only fourteen years old at that time. But my parents and my sister didn’t suspect anything.

Until one day, her friend’s mother found out that it was my niece who had been stealing her daughter’s money and came to see my sister and my father, and threatened to call the police. My father panicked. He cried and knelt down and begged to the woman not to call the police. He was afraid that his grandchild would be filed criminal record and wouldn’t have a future anymore. It’s a huge humiliation for a man to kneel down to a woman and beg for spareness. My sister also made a promise to the woman that she would slowly pay her back all the stolen money. It was a huge amount for my sister as she didn’t make enough money for living and she had lots of debts at that time. The woman sympathized with my sister’s situation and was moved by my father’s love for his grandchild, and therefore she agreed that she wouldn’t report to the police.

I believe that my niece wasn’t really bad. It wasn’t right to steal and couldn’t be excused under any circumstances. But I knew that she did it partly was because she was frustrated with the unfortunate and difficult condition of this family. There was always not enough money for food and for living, not to say to have any leisure and material enjoyments like what her friends had. She had been teased by her classmates for not having a father and living in poverty. She also wanted to be nice to the family and to be able to give something back to the family, to help out financially. But she went to the wrong way to get what she wanted.

My niece didn’t learn from this incident. She ended up getting pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl when she was sixteen years old. She didn’t even know that she was pregnant when she hadn’t been menstruating for more than four months. One day she felt sick and went to the hospital to seek doctor’s consultation and found out that she was pregnant. She broke up with the baby girl’s father not long after the baby girl was born, and went out with some other men. And now, my niece has two more young children from a relationship with a young man who didn’t want to accept her elder daughter from the previous relationship. Anyway, their relationship didn’t turn out well. And so, my sister has to look after these two young grandchildren who were very unhappy being caught up in a broken family.

When my niece gave birth to her first baby girl, my sister was very happy to be a grandmother. So as my parents were very happy to be great-grandparents. They loved this great-grandchild so much. This baby girl certainly brought some joys into this family after they had been struggling with financial problems for a very long time. After her delivery, my niece didn’t know how to take care of a baby. Therefore, my sister became the baby’s full time nanny.

When this baby girl came into the family, it brought some reliefs and happiness to everyone, especially for my mother. She felt so happy seeing her great-grandchild. When she was looking at this little baby girl, her sadness from suffering paralysis and being shouted at by her husband, her daughter and the two grandchildren were all gone. My mother would cry when she told me about how she was being treated when I wasn’t there, but she would smile when she talked about her great-grandchild. It was her happiest moments in the last two months of her life.

On the 24th of December, 2006, my sister called me while I was teaching my morning yoga class at home. She told me that our mother had passed away in the hospital. The last time I saw my mother was a few weeks before she died. In that final conversation which I had with my mother in private, I told her that she didn’t need to worry for us anymore, that she should let go. I told her that I love her very much, as well as our entire family also love her very much. I also asked her what she would like to do with her funeral. And she told me that she wanted to be cremated and the funeral should be held in Kuala Lumpur, so that her friends could come to see her for one last time. The last few words that she told me were we should always give without expect anything in return but we must repay others for being kind to us, and always be humble and forgiving.

I told my sister over the phone about what our mother had told me. And we followed exactly what she wanted us to do.

I went to the hospital in Seremban with my brothers and my sister-in-law. I saw my mother’s dead body was lying on a table. She looked so peaceful like she was smiling. I held her hands and gently rubbed her hands, her arms and her face with my fingers. I kissed her cheek and forehead. Goodbye, mother. Thank you.

I didn’t cry. Not until a few months later, I started to cry. For all the love that she gave me and to the family. Her wisdom and compassion. Her patience and forbearance. Her forgiveness and generosity. I realized how much I missed her. But I had to let her go. And she’ll always be with me in my heart.

No matter what had happened in the past, who’s right, who’s wrong, and who’d suffered most, I wish my family love and peace, and be able to forgive and let go. Forgive ourselves and others for being imperfect. Forgive life wasn’t as easy as how we would like it to be. And no matter what, we are family.

Life was never easy for me and my family, but I learned to be grateful, thankful and content. I learned to forgive and let go. I learned to be happy no matter what. And love unconditionally.

READ ON…

My life stories – Part 1

My life stories – Part 1
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Me and my second elder brotherPhotos taken at Kampong Manggis.

I was very fond of music since I was a baby. That was what my parents told me.

When they wanted to put me to sleep, they just had to switch on the radio or the cassette player, and played some music. As soon as they switched it off I would wake up naturally. They said I shook and bounced my body trying to dance any time that I heard music. I think most babies have the same reaction when they hear music. Babies are naturally connected with music. That connection becomes less and less for most people as they grow older. But for some they will continue to stay connected with music. I am very grateful to be one of them. That’s why I love dancing so much when I grew into a young girl and somehow I became an aerobics dance instructor for over twenty years.

Part of the earliest memories that I still remember is when I was maybe 3 years old, my family moved from Kampong Manggis to another village nearby called Kampong Pinang less than two kilometres from where we were. Kampong Pinang was built on top of an abandoned tin mine situated at the borderline of Kuala Lumpur and Southern Petaling Jaya where the older generations named that area Petaling Tin.

There wasn’t anyone living on that land at that time. My parents and some friends spotted the empty land and built their own houses on it. Everyone built a fence with barb wires to marked their own piece of land. My parents built their dream house with the help from some friends and relatives. They also planted many kinds of trees, flowers, fruit trees and vegetables on the land. I still remember some of my memories about my mother spreading the cement over the floor of our house while carrying me on her back by wrapping me in a piece of cloth around her body.

Our house was very big, especially coming from the eyes of a little girl. It was built with bricks and wooden planks and zinc roof. It had two big separate living halls, a dining hall, five spacious bedrooms, a huge open space kitchen, a washing area with a well, a bathroom and a separate traditional squatting toilet with septic tank. The entire compound surrounding the house was very large too.

We didn’t have clean water supply from the government in the house for the first few years. We used the water from the well for washing and showering. We also collected rain water in big plastic barrel for washing. Because the land was a tin mine previously, the water from the well was orange. Our hair and skin became orange from using the well water for showering everyday for many years. We called ourselves the orange people.

My parents built a water filter with a big earthen pot. They filled it with layers of sand, gravels, stones, charcoals and dried leaves. We had to get water for drinking and cooking in buckets and water containers at a communal pipe a few hundreds metres away. We washed all the laundries by hand. There was no electricity. We used kerosene lamps at night in the beginning. But then we had a generator to generate electricity for the fridge and to watch television. After many years living there our villagers got together and applied for electricity and water supply from the government.

Very soon all the other empty plots on the land were filled with other houses and eventually it became a big village. There was a Chinese primary school built by the boss of the old tin mine factory. The school is still operating but it’s in a complete different setting now. It should be more than forty years old at this date. I didn’t go to that school because my parents wanted to send me to a better school in PJ Old Town which was a few kilometres away from our home. I am thankful and grateful that my parents had chosen to send me to that school to spend my early childhood with good friends and great teachers. For me, good friends don’t mean that people whom I like to hang out with and have some happy time together, but people who have good and positive influences on my personal growth and well-being, and people who inspire and uplift me to be a better and kinder person.

I learned about the basic humanity of morality, truthfulness, honesty, humility, responsibility, discipline, initiative, tolerance and respect from the Chinese primary school which I truly appreciate. I also learned about all these qualities from my parents whom had allowed me and my brothers and sister to have absolute freedom to do whatever we wanted to do, without abandoning the traditional Chinese cultural values, such like self-control, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, forbearance, generosity, forgiveness, gratefulness and appreciation. We were allowed to do whatever we liked to do, but we were not allowed stealing, speaking harsh words and telling lies. Once, my brothers were punished by my mother rubbing hot chilies onto their mouth because they had spoken bad words. We were free to go anywhere by ourselves. We could have any ambitions and we were free to express all our thoughts and feelings. Though my parents only earned enough for our living, they did their best to provide us with everything they could possibly give to support us to pursue all our dreams.

Nothing is perfect. There are pros and cons in this type of complete freedom parenting. If we don’t know how to utilize this freedom wisely, we could end up with lots of unnecessary problems in life. But then there is nothing wrong about it as well because we will learn from our own mistakes and grow wiser eventually.

I grew up in the village house until sixteen years old. The government wanted to demolish all the illegal squatter houses in and around Kuala Lumpur to turn it into a modern city with high rise concrete buildings, shopping malls, flats, apartments and condominiums.

I remember during the twelve years we were living in Kampong Pinang, there was no such thing as petty theft or crime happening in our village. Everyone knew each other and were nice to each other. We looked after one another. We let the doors, windows and the front gate wide opened throughout the day and night without the need of locking the doors or closing the gate. My parents had no fear of letting us went out with friends to play outside the house at the nearby sand hills, the riverbank and the fields in the village. Sometimes they left us at home by ourselves.

Nowadays, it isn’t the same anymore in the big city. There is so much fear in everyone whether at home or outside their homes. Everyone locks themselves in with thick metal grills on all doors and windows. There are very few people who know or have interactions with their neighbours, especially those who are living in the modern high density apartments and condominiums with higher security.

People don’t feel safe to hitch hike a ride like what we used to do in the past. Drivers don’t feel safe to stop their cars to pick up strangers, or if they see someone needs help at the roadside. Children are not allowed to go outside to play by themselves without the supervision of the adults.

The children have very little freedom to do what they like to do, or choose what they want to become when they grow up because their parents have already decided for them what they shall become. The parents who have better income will arrange their children to attend extra tuition classes and activities that the parents think are good for the children’s future, hoping that they will become successful people in the society, or in another term, to be able to find a secure good income job and attain a higher standard of living. But, how many people are truly happy with themselves and what they do, or in harmony with the world that they are living in? Why do some people need to depend on doping or drugs to relax themselves, or to feel good, or to escape from something that they aren’t happy about?

Some parents send their children to dance and music lessons even though the children aren’t interested in dancing or music because the parents want to revive their own childhood unfulfilled dreams that they hadn’t accomplished when they were young. They want to fulfill their own dreams through their children. Of course there are children who love to take up dance and music lessons, but the parents can’t afford it. Most children don’t have enough playtime like what we used to have in the old days, especially outdoor activities in the nature, as the children are too busy with studying the school text books preparing for exams because of so much expectation coming from their parents and from themselves, so that they will be able to compete and survive in a competitive materialistic society when they finish study.

I really loved that old house very much. When we saw the house and all the fruit trees and vegetable garden were all gone after the housing developer sent in the bulldozers, I felt so sad, and cried. My parents couldn’t hold their tears too.

We had big area inside and outside the house to play and run about. There were trees surrounding the house and beautiful garden with colourful flowers. We had a vegetable garden and lots of fruit trees – durian, rambutan, mango, chiku, guava, papaya, custard apple, pineapple and starfruit.

My father built two concrete fish ponds beside the house. He loves fishing. Sometimes he brought me and my brothers with him, and we went fishing at the big pond not too far from our house. The big pond was part of the abandoned tin mine where the garbage trucks and the villagers threw the rubbish at. There were lots of Tilapias and cat fish in the pond. If we were lucky we would get a few Tilapias, my mother would cook them for dinner on that same evening. If not, my father would keep the fish that were still alive in the two little fish ponds beside our house. There were more than a hundred of Tilapias and cat fish living in the fish ponds before we moved to Pantai Dalam long house.

I still remember the Tilapias tasted like mud. My father said it was because they grew up eating the mud in the rubbish pond. It is so expensive to eat fish like Tilapias nowadays, but back then they were just a common food on the table for poor people.

There was a big carport for my parents’ cars and a big open store room beside the house. Though my father only worked as a mechanical fitter, my parents could afford two Ford Cortinas when we were living in the old house. One was white and the other one, blue. One for my father and one for my mother. There were not many women who could drive around at that time. Once my father had a Volkswagen Beetle which we called it the frog car in Chinese. My father adored all the cars like his family.

Once my mother asked someone to build a big chicken cage behind the house to breed live chicken for sale and for our own consumption. I remember my mother had to watch out for Monitor lizards as they like hunting for chicken. She also needed to monitor the temperature inside the cage so that the chicken wouldn’t get heat stroke. She would spray the ceiling of the cage with water from time to time when the weather was hot. She kept the cage as clean as possible to keep away diseases. Some of the chicken died of heart-attacked during new years and other kinds of celebration days because of the loud noise coming from the villagers playing the firecrackers. My mother buried those dead chicken at the back of the garden. She said that dead chicken were not good for eating as chicken had to be slaughtered while they were alive. I watched my mother many times when she slaughtered the live chicken. After my mother tided the chicken’s legs with string and hanged the chicken upside down, she gently hold the chicken head back with one hand and she used a knife cutting just a little of the chicken’s throat with the other hand, to allow the blood drained-off completely while the chicken was still alive.

My parents also grew beansprouts to sell at the local vegetables market. They bought a few big earthen pots with several holes at the bottom of the pots to allow water-draining. They lined the bottom of the pots with a hemp sack and place the mung beans over the hemp sack. Then they place another layer of hemp sack over the mung beans to give a little bit of pressure on the beans, so that they wouldn’t grow long and thin, but fat and short as the texture would be much better and crunchier when eaten. My parents needed to water the beansprouts every two hours, even during the night, as the mung beans wouldn’t sprout nicely and evenly if they didn’t get enough water, and the sprouted mung beans would rot from the heat built up under the hemp sack, if they didn’t get watering on time to cool down the temperature.

Our living was close to a self-contained way of life. If it wasn’t because of my sister and her late husband needed money for starting a business and had failed in every business that they ventured, as well as the government had taken away our house and the land we lived on, we wouldn’t have financial problems later on.

My father was a mechanical fitter for Avery weighing machine company for forty years from sixteen years old until the day he retired. He was the longest working employee for Avery Malaysia and was very loyal to the company (that’s what he told me) and never work for any other companies. He was very passionate about his job and he was very thankful to his English boss who had employed him when he was only sixteen years old and without any educational background. When I was little, my father told me that he always felt indebted to his English boss for being very kind to him. The boss trained my father for his assigned job and also taught him how to read and write in English. That was also the biggest reason why my father never left the company because he treated the company like his home. But during the last ten years or so after the English boss had retired and went back to England, my father was very disappointed and unhappy with the new Malaysian boss whom my father said that he was a very arrogant, selfish and unthoughtful man who never care for the welfare and well-being of the employees.

My father was born in Johor and grew up during the Japanese war time in Malaysia. Like many other children who grew up at that time, he didn’t receive any formal education. His widowed mother brought up six children by washing clothes for the Japanese army quarters somewhere in the Southern Malaya at that time. My father said he had studied Japanese at the Japanese army camp for two weeks when he was a small boy, but he didn’t know why he was sent there to study Japanese.

My mother was born in Perak. She was the eldest daughter and had to her her parents to take care of her six younger brothers and sisters when she was growing up. My mother told us that she went around a few wealthy families to wash their laundry everyday helping out my grandparents financially when she was just nine years old. She said that she had to bring her toddler brother with her and carried him on her back while she washed the laundry.

Like my father, she didn’t receive any formal education, but both my parents learn to read and write in Chinese through self-effort. My parents first met each other while attended Chinese language class at a night school in Kuala Lumpur for a few months when my father was sixteen, while my mother was fourteen. My father had just arrived in Kuala Lumpur to find a job at that time. My mother’s parents house happened to have a vacant room to rent. And so, my father was renting the room from my grandparents and my parents were fond of each other. My grandparents had no objection and were very happy when my father told them that he liked my mother very much and asked for permission to have a relationship with my mother. My grandparents also liked my father very much as he was a very down to earth and hardworking young man. Whenever my parents went out for a movie, my father would take my mother with his bicycle to the cinema first, and then came back to take my grandmother. When the movie finished, he would send my grandmother back first and then went back for my mother. On the way back, they would take-away fried noodles for my mother’s whole family for supper. That was their love story that my parents told us.

My mother was a good house wife. She was very talented and independent. She did many types of small business to help out our family living expenses. She was a tailor, a driver sending children to school, a hawker selling many types of local delicacies, a vegetables seller, a chicken livestock seller and some other works. She was an active member of Amway and was very active participating in local community activities and services. She was a very good cook. She made most of our clothes and school bags. She also cut the hair for the entire family.

Even though my mother never went to school, but she had a huge collections of books written in Chinese about cooking, tailoring, parenting, healthcare and medicine.

My parents were down to earth, honest and modest people. They were very generous towards other people and had helped countless people who were injured in road accidents. They sent the injured people to the hospital in their car. It didn’t matter to them when the car seats were tainted by blood. They also helped many of the villagers countless times. May it be someone needed a car ride to somewhere, or there were emergency cases and someone had to go to the hospital. There weren’t many people had cars in the village those days. Because of my parents’ generosity, there were many people always came to them for help and to borrow tools, food or money, even though my parents weren’t rich.

I remember there were snakes frequently coming into our house or the neighbour’s house. Every time our neighbour came to ask for my mother’s help to chase away the snakes. My mother was a fearless woman. Sometimes she had to kill the snakes. This was something that she regretted when she got older in life. That was what she told me before she died.

My parents never asked anything in return from the people they had helped. When people wanted to give them some presents to repay their kindness, my parents didn’t want to accept the presents at all.

These were the values my parents had showed to us. My grandparents taught my parents about living everyday life with enough food on the table for that day, and needless to worry about tomorrow. We must always live in the present moment and be grateful for every little thing. They also taught us to stay humble all the time and be grateful for other people’s kindness and generosity and never forget to repay them. My parents insisted that we must repay other people’s kindness to us, but we should let go of what we had done for others.

We learned from our parents about the practice of letting go of our ego. We don’t ask to be credited or be acknowledged after we have given something to others, or have done something for others, or have helped other people in actions or speech. This is exactly the spirit of the teachings and practice of yoga. Nowadays, in the worldly society, most people expect other people to show appreciation and be thankful, and they expect to be credited or acknowledged for what they have done for others, or else they will be disappointed and unhappy. They will only be happy to give or do something for others only if other people say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ to them, or else, they aren’t pleased to give or do something for others. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of worldly social ethic and cultural practice, but it is not what yoga practice is about. We don’t need anyone to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ for us to give or do something for somebody. We don’t need to be credited or acknowledged for what we have done. We renounce the fruit of actions.

We were satisfied and contented with simple life and weren’t greedy to make lots of money or to have any material enjoyments.

Before the financial crisis, my father liked to bring us to the beach in Morib or Port Dickson to have picnics and enjoy the sea breeze on the weekends. But then we couldn’t afford to have such leisure anymore during the financial crisis.

Though my parents made just enough money for our living, they still managed to bring up the four of us and provide us with enough basic education and some other moral supports that money couldn’t provide. They loved us so much. Though my mother would discipline us if we did something really wrong, which I appreciate very much. My mother didn’t have to discipline me at all, as I was very self-disciplined and be careful with my actions and didn’t want to commit so called ‘wrong doings’. My father never scolded anyone of us even when we were playful and broke something in the house. Only once I overheard my parents arguing over some money issues after we all had went to bed that night. I still remember I felt very sad and cried under the blanket as I never saw or heard my parents arguing before.

Although our family had went through some financial difficult time and everyone was very unhappy and frustrated, but we were fine. We didn’t steal, or rob, or cheat anyone.

There were days that we didn’t have any money left for food. We were in debt because of some other people’s selfishness and greed. One day, when my father sent me to school, he was crying with tears down his cheeks telling me that he didn’t have money to give me to buy food at school because we have no more money left. It was the first time I saw my father cried. At that moment, I was very sad and very angry as well because we didn’t do anything bad to other people and we were always kind to others, but somehow all the bad luck and hardship came to our family. That moment had inspired me to do well in life, so that I could look after my parents and my family. Those few years of hardship was the reason why I am not a fussy health food freak. I am always grateful to be able to have food on the table everyday, that I don’t have to suffer hunger like some other people out there.

There aren’t many Chinese families that have such openness to allow their children to have the freedom to do whatever they like to do and make their own choice to be what they want to be. Though I was very angry with the financial problems in my family because I was ignorant at that time, I am always glad to be born in this family. I didn’t understand about life and suffering at that time. But when I realized the truth about life and suffering, I surrendered my ignorance and unhappiness to forgiveness, acceptance and compassion. Since then I was very glad to have this family and was grateful to have such parents to love me, to accept and support me as I am.

My mother passed away in 2006 on the day before Christmas. She loved me so much and gave me the freedom and guidance to grow and to be what I am now.

Most of the conservative Chinese people from the older generations might think and believe that dancing is something bad and evil for girls, that we must be bad girls if we dance. It’s because dancing is usually being associated with night clubs where there were ladies who wear sexy clothing and heavy make-up, and they would dance with any men to make a living. And in many artistic dance performances, dancing is a form of bodily intimate expression of feelings and emotions. And hence, for the people who have conservative thinking, dancing is something immoral and indecent. But my open-minded parents had no problem with my enthusiasm for dancing and they encouraged and supported me to pursue my dreams to dance and taking part in many dance competitions.

Dancing was something very spiritual for me. I felt like I was dancing for life, for nature, for the whole universe. I danced from within. There’s no specific steps, or rules, or styles. It didn’t matter what types of music I heard, I just moved and danced to the music. Even when there was no music, I danced in my own rhythm in silence.

This is part of my scattering memories about my parents and the old house that I grew up in. A childhood in a village called Kampong Pinang from 1974 – 1986.

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