By Tek ChongMy mother was born in a village in China. She came to Malaya at the age of three. Her father put her in the Melaka Methodist Girls Primary School. In her first day in class she could not understand a single word of English but within 6 months, she managed to master the language and was promoted up three classes. By the end of the second year she finished her primary school and went on to secondary school. By the third year she was able to carryon a heated argument with her American geography teacher on a topic of whether the gangsters in Chicago were worse than the bandits in China. When she felt the teacher was unfairly demeaning the Chinese in China she walked out of the class. This incident resulted in the headmistress and the teacher going to her house to apologise. We children listened in awe at her courage to speak up, even against authority: she was our hero. I believe this has instilled into us to stand up for righteousness and justice. Above all we always aspired to do well in school.
Mother used to embarrass us as children. She was too overprotective of us. Her children are never wrong. When we were punished in school we learned never to let her know, for we wanted to avoid her turning up at the school to challenge the teacher for ill- treating us. This resulted in our ‘reputation’ that no neighbour kids would dare to touch us for fear of the wrath of our mother. Also, this has made us a very united family. I recall how one day I had to fight the neighbourhood tough kids. The gang of bigger boys was defeated by us eight siblings, our sisters joining in the fight with their wooden clogs as weapons.
Building a foundation
Mother was from a rich family; her father had done well as a hardworking overseas Chinese and he wanted his eldest daughter to help him run his many businesses. She was sent to Shanghai to study business management. In the university she fell in love with my father who was from a poor family. Over the objection of her parents, she married him. She worked hard to help him start their own business in Melaka. At one stage she had to look after a pawnshop in a small village town with no electricity or running water. She had to stay alone dealing with a lot of customers who were mostly Tamil rubber tappers. She mastered some Tamil and was respected and loved by her Indian customers. I used to go and stay with her after my Form 5 examination. I remember strolling with her in the semi- dark and lonely village street every evening. She would tell me of her childhood days in the village of China, her subsequent days of helping her father in his businesses and the struggle of starting from scratch with father. Inevitably the conversation would be directed to me, “Tek, it is the desire of your father and me for you to study medicine in the university. At this moment our business may not be doing well…. but I assure you if you get into university we would see that money would be sent to you to complete the course.” And she kept her promise. When I was studying in Hong Kong University Medical School, money would always come on time, albeit in small sums.
She wrote to us her children almost every day in her beautiful hand writing and her Chinese style unique English. I knew that she had to work hard to raise the money for us for by then there were five of her children pursuing different courses overseas. Business was not good, due to father over-ambitiously extending his businesses. I am always grateful to my sister Ming who decided to do a free nursing course in Australia thus helping two other sisters to join her in Melbourne. My brother Wai got a government scholarship to study engineering in the University of Malaya, thus freeing our family of much financial burden. Eventually my parents could send Yuan to US, Tart to Taiwan and Siew to London for higher education.
Unity and love
Mother’s great love for us has always been the big factor in encouraging us to love and be proud of our family. All our siblings value family love as we know her self-sacrifice and her loyalty to father and her family. I realise that because we love our mother we love one another. Besides, because we have tasted love from her we can understand God’s love more.