Friday, May 8, 2015

A Story of Stories

Do you know how hard it is to live a life of fragility after you have lived a long decades of life of hardworking, functionality and durability?

No, you wouldn't; unless when you grow old and your body just fails you. That's why death becoming endearing - a chance of emancipation of the old casket called your body.

And that's why now you owe it to you old people that you must listen to their stories of their youth. Because somehow the feeling of life never left them - it sticks although the physicality may hamper every aspect if their current life. The stories, and the chances to relive it by retelling the stories are really what makes life worth to struggle to live.

My grandfather is 84 this year and he served the British Army while in Singapore and was orphaned since as young as he can remember. He was there during the Japanese occupation and live long enough to have skyped and facetimed with me when I studied overseas.

He prayed hard - and he even told my parents that he wanted to die while in his prayers because probably those are the times when he felt real. The connection to God is real even though his recitations of the Suras escape his mind. The connection and the thoughts that God is all-hearing and all-merciful even though when we are muted has always been real to him.

I owe it to him almost  every thing I have --but I never listened to his stories (because his stories has to come up organically like when there is a newspaper article or documentaries about it) until last year. Mine was a documentary on Japanese Occupation. The stories started during his childhood (around 10 years old) during Japanese occupation, then tracking back to his early childhood of living as an orphan whom relatives couldn't care less; then coming back to Singapore. There are intermittent silence for him to recall back like an old VCR put on rewind; nevertheless he told the stories to me. I listened to him until it was way past our bedtimes (it's only 12.00 am, but I was jet lagged and he slept at 10.30 pm).

I do not come from a wealthy family. My grandfather did considerably good serving the British army in Singapore. But he chose to live in Malaysia and the money my grandfather sent to his brother in Kuala Lumpur was only enough to build a house in the slum in Kuala Lumpur where my mother and her other five siblings lived for years before he joined them. He was a cook in the army - and a good one. Hotels tried to hire him but, as my mother told me, he didn't want to work dubiously with the wines and stuffs.

Still, he managed a restaurant; then a groceries store while working as general worker in a Sekolah Agama in Bangsar during his latter days when all of his kids are getting married and having their own kids. I was lucky since he just lived next door and he always bring me and my other cousin (whom parents --my aunt, lived next door too) to the Sekolah Agama in the weekends, helping him out. He was pretty famous there too. People called him "Pak Akob" and every time there is a teacher in my Sekolah Agama transferring from the Sekolah Agama my grandfather worked, they would want to meet me. One time, the teachers from that school who supposed to monitor our KL-wide exam, asked the current teacher who is Pak Akob's grandchildren and they helped me out with one question. I realized that time how loved my grandfather is to people around him.

He never told us in the stories about my grandmother (who died 14 years ago) - and he doesn't even remember her face when shown the picture. I guess, he just missed her so much - that even his mind refuses to let him feel the pain. My mother said my grandfather changed a lot after his wife passed away. He mellowed a lot, become quieter but still the same old him. Always hardworking (even though he can barely walk or stand up from the chair by himself) mending my parents' lawn every evening, try to wash his dishes if nobody offers him to just put it in the sink.

I can understand it, having lived his life on how his own since the tender age when his parents whom supposed to look after him had long gone; makes him independent and the thought of getting someone else into the trouble because he is in one is utterly unacceptable.

Everything turned out well for each of my grandfather kids, at least, better than he used to be. My uncle in many of our gatherings will usually "brainwash" us that academic is the most important since it changes your social status. Face it, regardless of how many DEBs, we have social and economic disparity exists and if you don't intend to change it then nobody would. Of course I got jealous when some of my friends have "better" social standing that allows them to do more (and obviously have more) but it doesn't matter because the pursuit of being better (and ultimately being happy) is everyone's right --and subjective.

Looking at my grandfather, I realized that he's content about his life. He doesn't believe in being better than others - as far as I know him, he is always tolerant. He just believe in being better -- for the sake of being better.

I wish I have his perseverance, or have it transferred to me - but I just can't. The only way that is possible is to listen to his stories. 

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