The TV

We lived on the 11th floor of the 14-storey high Templer Flats – Seremban’s Twin Towers – a welfare project for low-income families.  11 of us (9 kids plus our parents) crammed into a tiny 2-bedroom apartment.  Each night the mattresses would be on the bedroom and living room floors to accommodate everyone. There was one toilet, which doubled as » Read More

Bob is Sexy

‘Oi, tukar, tukar!’ (Oi, change! Change!) yelled the Odeon cinema usher as he banged on the counter at my Dad’s canteen.  He needed some change for whatever reason, and forgot to say please.  I was furious; I’d had enough of his BS. At 15, I’d had a personality transplant; from a mild, soft-spoken and obedient kid, I’d turned into a » Read More

Yin Chee

This is our ‘san goong yan’ (new maid) – I whispered to the neighbourhood kids – as we sneaked our heads over the doorway to our flat.  We wanted to stealthily check out the lady who was washing our clothes in the bathroom but she spotted us immediately. Yin ‘Chee’ (‘sister’ Yin) was only about 17 when she started working for us; she still » Read More

The Odeon

Throughout my time working at the Odeon, I had at best a love-hate relationship with it.  It wasn’t always that way.  When I was younger, I stayed at home whilst all my older brothers and sisters were out all day and night working.  I wanted to join them, but thanks to my position in the family – 8th in a family of 9 kids – they didn’t really need » Read More

Choong Fee

It would seem in hindsight that he never stood a chance, even from the moment he was named as a baby.  All the girls in our family have the middle name ‘Min’ and all the boys, ‘Choong’.  His name was Choong Fee. Shortly thereafter, my mom saw a fortune teller.  He told her it was a bad choice for a name.   The Chinese are superstitious about » Read More

The Car

This is my mom in our first car.  In the early years, my parents used to get around on a scooter.  Road safety laws have come a long way since those days when several of us would pile on top of each other on the scooter to get around town. Anyway, one day, my mom rode the scooter to the butcher’s to buy some meat for dinner. She saw his prices » Read More

The Fortune Teller

According to my dad, mom planned on having four kids.  This pic shows the four oldest kids - and that would have been it - neither I nor half my siblings would have existed. Then my mom visited a fortune teller. He told her he could see her husband marrying a second, younger wife in the future.  That enraged her.  She decided there and then, that » Read More

Mom’s Smile

Found a pic of my mom smiling today.  That’s rare.  She usually looks wistful, stoic, maybe a bit weary.  I don’t know if that was just how she was, or whether she was ill without yet knowing it. I know that just before she found out she had cancer, she had travelled back to China on a boat to reconnect with her parents.  They had given her up » Read More

The Funeral

All my parents' martial arts friends were there.  A large group dominated by housewives my dad taught Tai Chi to.  There were one or two who remained life-long family friends, but I never cared for the majority of them.  Even at that young age, I saw them as a bunch of privileged, mean and gossipy women with too much time on their hands. A few » Read More

The Hospital

I remember clearly the day my mom had to pack her bags to be admitted to the hospital. At 5 or 6 years of age, my understanding of the difference between illness and death was that if you were ill, you went to the hospital, stayed for awhile, then you came back. If you died, it meant you went, but never returned. We were waiting together at the » Read More