A tribute to my father

It’s Cheng Beng season again.

I would like to pay a short tribute to my father this Cheng Beng.

My father taught me a few things through example of which I will forever be grateful.

He was a man of very, very few words. But by being who he is, he taught me to love all animals because he loved animals. He filled our household with music from records (those black vinyl round discs which spun round to play music), ranging from jazz, western classical to keroncong and local Malay artists; he inculcated a love of music in me from a very young age and that’s something money cannot buy. Music has enriched my life in so many, many ways. He filled our shelves with books of all genre. We even had holy books from various religions. My father was a very avid reader. Since he had come from a deprived childhood, he made sure we had an abundance of books, toys and whatever we needed for as long as I could remember.

My father was also a very generous man. When I came home from school with letters requesting donations to the school, while other children brought RM1 or RM2 (which was a lot at that time) from their parents, my father would give RM10 even though he was only a government servant. My classmates would wow at the red coloured RM10 bill I brought, but I wondered why – this is what my father always gives to all donations and charities. My mum always said he gave too much, but that did not stop him. He was a very generous man with a no-nonsense (even fierce) demeanour but he had the softest heart.

He stressed the importance of education and the mastery of English and Bahasa Malaysia. He made my brother and I keep “meanings books”  – these were thick exercise books where we had to write down the vocabulary that we learnt from all our reading and translate them from English to Bahasa Malaysia and vice versa. Every now and then, he would check our “meanings books”. Keeping quiet means he was satisfied with our work. I got ticked off quite a bit every now and then for insufficient words in my books!

My father was incredibly loyal to King and country; he was the epitome of “Berkhidmat kepada Negara”. In his work as a technical assistant in JKR, he was in charge of workers who were mostly Indians and Malays at that time. There was absolutely no racial discrimination in how he carried out his duties and responsibilities to them. He looked after all the workers under him and they often visited us at our house too. Because of the workers, we attended ceremonies in Hindu temples, even participated in some (!) and attended kenduris. In his work with contractors, he was well-known (and even feared) because he was “the government officer who won’t even accept a cup of coffee” from anyone.

We grew up in various small towns in Perak because my father’s service was limited only to the state of Perak. I remember when I was still in primary school, one day, he went away to KL for 2 days (my father had never left home overnight before). We don’t know why he went, but later, I found out from my grandmother that my father was offered a high-paying engineering job in KL. The private company that wanted to hire him had already even set up his office with his name-tag on the door. My father stayed overnight in a hotel at the invitation of the company and the next morning, he saw young school children queuing up to wait for the bus to take them to school when it was still dark. He came back home and he never took the job. My father sent us to school and back every day, rain or shine.

For all the valuable silent lessons that my father had taught me, I am forever grateful. He made me what I am today.

Thank you, Papa. 





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