Monday, September 20, 2010

Uncle Khoo: When Old Is Gold 许先生,您好 !

A few years back, my family and I accidentally stumbled upon a recreational field in Nicholas Road across the Peel Road Convent School. There was a patch of reflexology stones in this field and after trying on it, we began to love the place very much. Since then, we always used to go over there and ended up befriending some regulars there.

Among the regulars was Uncle Khoo, aged 89. He was very healthy and fit. At his age, he can walk very briskly and remembered things well, especially things with numbers. He remembered the birthdays of his family members and their ages too. He was a very punctual man and a good time keeper too. He can tell what time you are coming and going, accurately. The only fault with him is his hearing; he could not hear properly anymore. You have to speak loudly to him or repeat your words several times before he got what you are saying.

China born Uncle Khoo came to then Malaya in 1945 to work as a shop assistant and earned a few dollars a month to send home. Later, he got a piece of land at Chan Sow Lin area and planted vegetables and reared poultry too. When the authorities demolished his squatter area, he was relocated to the government flats in Peel Road several years ago.

This octogenarian leads a healthy life. He sleeps early and got up early. His past time was to watch badminton on TV and read the papers. His diet was a simple one – Teochew porridge with steamed fish and sometimes chicken drumstick and bitter gourd soup. Liked any other people, he got a weakness too – he loved to drink wine, not any type of wine but Chinese wine which I believed, contributed greatly to his longevity.

Uncle Khoo is a man with a simple and golden heart. He is friendly and can get along with just anybody. He loved to grin toothlessly at anyone who approached him. I wish him continued good health and longevity. He was a rare gem indeed and a real treasure to his family who loved him.

Uncle Khoo, we are fond of you too and may you live to be 100!

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is the worth of an ‘A’? 优等真的那么重要 ?

It is the time of the year again. It is the time for our kids to go to the ‘battlefields’ – the examination halls, to sit for various major exams which they were told, will alter their lives forever.

In those days, I remembered, the fight was not so intense. Back then, our goal was simply to pass the exam with modest results. Enough to further our studies, and the best student in a particular school or a particular state could only manage one or two distinctions at best. The rest of us will make do with a mere credit or pass.

But things were so different now. Now, every kid would want to have a string of A’s or in some case, their parents wanted it more than the students themselves. Most parents are willing to go all out to get these A’s as if it was a matter of life and death for them.

What is the result of this? Tuition centers mushrooming everywhere, students being stressed out and reports of suicide among students increasing. A question that begs for an answer is- is all these worthwhile? What is an A compared to our kids physical health, state of mind and the lost of childhood?

I have read in the papers that some students killed themselves in shame for failing to obtain the desired result. I have seen a relative falling into a state of depression and isolated himself due to constant pressure from his parents to excel beyond his capabilities.

As a parent myself, amidst criticism from relatives, I am more and more incline to let my kids study at their own pace so that they can still find a joy in their childhood which had became a very rare privilege and at the same time being free from this maddening race to collect a string of A’s which I believed will be compromised with their general well being.