Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Day With My Dad – Lam Chun Chew

1948 photo of me and my dad at a place known as the Tiger Swimming Pool which was located next to the sea near to the Haw Par Villa.
You must be thinking that I am going to blog about an outing which my dad brought me to when I was a kid.
Sorry, you have been tricked. Actually, I want to talk about how I brought my dad out for a day of sightseeing.
Ironically, whilst I can remember dates from more that half a century ago, I cannot even recall the year which this outing with my dad took place. Fortunately, they print the date of processing of the film on the prints and so I now know that it was in May 1992.

One day my father rang me up and asked me to go with him to see the Tang Village at Yuan Ching Road, Jurong. I knew he felt lonely and agreed to take a day off to accompany him to sightsee the place. I told him to meet me at Yishun Central and we went to see a movie, an action one – the Wong Fei Hung type. After the show we went for lunch, eating chicken rice and headed to Jurong.

Tang Village 1

I also cannot remember the entrance fee we had to pay. But apparently my father enjoyed every minute of the viewing the Tang artefacts, streets, brothel, a gambling den, horses and camels, court-room enacted with judge and all. We had tea in a eating house where acrobats displayed their skills. Finally we viewed a sword-fighting display by two actors suspended by wires. The fighting took place along the wall making it looked like a scene from a wuxia movie. That must have been the highlight and my father took many photos of the action. At this juncture of his life, my father loved to take photos and you can see a few of them here.

Tang Village 2

Tang Village 5

Tang Village 3

Tang Village 4

After my siblings and I started working, my father could afford to visit many places in Europe, USA ,Canada, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China and Japan. He was immobilised after having a stroke at the age of 76 and passed away on September, 11, 2001. I think all in all, he had led a full life without much regrets.


Victor said...

Chun Chew - Thanks for the story. The Tang Dynasty Village ran into losses and closed down many years ago. If I am not mistaken, the theme park is still at the same location with all the buildings within it still intact. Anyone knows if there is any plan in store for it?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I remembered Uncle as kind soft spoken. I believed he wrote of his travels and read them once a while. I remembered once he signed up for a trip to Pulau Tioman when he was in his late sixties. However, the organiser is unable to get insurance coverage for him due to his age.. but nevertheless, he went ahead and really enjoyed his trip.

Anonymous said...

Victor - You are very correct on the details. Frankly speaking all of us were busy making a living and sometimes forgot our parents' lonliness, until being reminded, that was how stressful living in the Singapore, but it should not be taken as an excuse. The entrance fees then could have been quite high, but the investors having spent so much in building it, they need public support, which was not forth-coming. With creative ideas, and huge financial back-up, who knows Tang village could one day be resurrected. Having said that, I am not optimistic of our theme parks future basing on local sentiments. May be future influx of tourists would prove otherwise.

Lam Chun See said...

I am reminded on something James Dobson of Focus on Family said, which I think is very important for parents of young children. Yon must spend time with them. Does not have to be big holiday or special places. Just everyday things like going for a walk or thowing stones into a pond, counting caterpillars, teaching them to ride a bike. Some of these moments are remembered decades later. We do not which; so we just have to have as many such moments as possible.

Anonymous said...

On this topic of father and son, allow me to say my piece...

My dad is the kind who believes that life is all about study, work in a big company, get married and bear him grandchildren. When I was young, I did well in my studies and that was all that mattered to him as he would be then be able to 'show me off' to his relatives. I suspected he didn't really care about my growing up process and what I wanted to be as I think he already has this 'fixed' image in his mind of me being some high-level manager in some big company.

To think of it, I can't recall that my dad had really encouraged/support me in anything i do (except studying), taught me any values, or anything in life for that matter, except for a whole list of things NOT to do based on his (many) dislikes/paranoia/over-protectiveness. Some of these incl. pulling me out of school soccer team (I love soccer), asking me to break-up with my then-girlfren coz he felt she's too short for me, against me going on backpacking travel trips (I love traveling) etc.

Things came to a head when one day I decided to quit my job to set up my own business. Till this day he still couldn't get over it and we're not on very good terms since then. I suspect he's upset that he has nothing to 'show off' his son to relatives now.

I often envy people with parents who are open-minded and respect the thoughts and ideals of their children, rather than impose their oft-narrow views on them. I also fully agree with what Chun See said about young parents spending time with their children, just take my case as a negative example.

Sad to say, I feel that my dad has not been a positive example to me throughout my life and of cos he's feeling his son is not a good son that listens to him anymore. Problem now is I can't really feel much 'love' between my dad and me (not to mention there had been many happy times in the first place).

Maybe you feel I'm taking things too hard, childish, immature, unfilial or whatever. But there's only so much I can write in this miniscule comments column. I sincerely hope to see what are the views of readers here, since I think most of you are around my dad's generation.

Victor said...

Anonymous of 16 Mar 07 - First thing first, it would be nice if you could at least attach a pseudonym to your comment, so that we won't be talking to a faceless and nameless person. (Oh, at least you've said "father and son" so you are probably a man and not sexless as well.) Then when you "return fire", we will know who shot us.

I don't know whether you are a parent yourself. If you are, you will understand that whatever restrictions your parents impose on you are with good intentions. (I know that this is a tired old cliche.) The way that the measures are carried out may be harsh or insensitive to your feelings but I'm sure that your parents meant well. If they had done more explaining than scolding, then maybe the message would have been understood better.

Frankly speaking, it is not easy being a parent. No one ever taught us how. Well okay, there are tons of parenting books out there but come on, how many of us really bother to read them in order to become a better parent?

So we mostly learn parenting from watching how our parents did it. The smarter children will learn how to avoid the mistakes that their parents made. The not-so-smart will just follow blindly. I hope that you don't follow blindly.

Usually one parent is strict and the other is not. (Good luck if you have 2 strict parents.) You didn't mention about your mum. I guess she's okay. Even if she's not, think about children who grow up in single-parent families and I think you'll appreciate both your parents more.

I can't even do that now because they are both gone.

Unknown said...

That was a beautiful post Chun Chew and it made my eyes moist. It really struck a chord with me and reminded me how little time I spent with my own dad and mum, especially now that I have my own family. Perhaps it is time for a family outing?

I realise one thing in life. The things which matter most are not the number of accolades you get at work, how high up the corporate ladder you climb, or how big your paycheck. The most important things are the relationships, memories, and time spent with the ones who matter most to you. This is an important lesson and one that I must remind myself to heed.

Incidentally, I have just tagged you in my latest post here.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Anonymous. I think your father's type of 'parenting style' was quite common for my parents generation. But quite rare for mine.

For my parents' generation, it was not uncommon to find very harsh and strict and even cruel parents. I have heard of kids being strung up and caned. Others had to kneel on durian shells.

So maybe some of them learn and emulate this harsh attitude. Others go the other extreme and spoil their kids.

But whatever the case, you have to try to forgive and reconcile. It is for your own good and YOUR CHILDREN's good. I have seen it happen before and the 'forgiver' found peace with herself; and gained the respect of her spouse and children. Life is too short to hold on to bitter memories.

Hope that didn't sound too 'preachy'.

Lam Chun See said...

Aiyah Walter, it's so convenient for you. Just bring them to visit the museum lor; esp. all the old photos and postcards. I bet their eyes will moist with pride to see what a great job they had done with their boy.

Lam Chun See said...

I think I shared this before, but never mind. Oldies like us are allowed to be long-winded.

The most 'memorable' time I had with my son was 'suffering' together in Ipoh. Whilst the girls went shopping, the 2 of us went fishing. For 1 whole afternoon, we caught nothing, whilst people to our left and right brought up fish after fish. Next day we went again, and guess what? The whole tragic story repeated itself.

I bet my son will remember this episode of father-and-son bonding long after I am gone.

Anonymous said...

To err is human, as the saying goes. We may have some grudges against our parents, and similarly our own children may have theirs against us. My mother used to tell us, we receive forgiveness from others, so similarly we must forgive others that are perceived to have done us wrong. One PSA officer said very pointedly to me: " Our parents' love for their children is unconditional" How right is this statement. My personal belief is that: we, our siblings and our parents come to this world, as a family, only once. Let us cherish this special bond.

Anonymous said...

I remembered my Father 'put lang sui' when I said I wanted to be a chef. I can still remember that incident very well.
At times I wonder how will my life turn out if he had supported my dream.
But now after so many years, all is forgiven.

I read this from somewhere :-

'Sometimes in the dark, you see what you want to see".

"A Father is a man who expects his son to be as good as he meant to be"

Chris Sim said...

My dad used to be a forklift driver. When we were younger, we didn't have much money and my dad's idea of a family outing was to bring us kids to Clifford Pier to watch the ships sailed by and to the aquarium near the National Theatre (?) But he's a good Dad, still is. At 78, he's had a mild stroke years ago, but is still pretty alert ....

Anonymous said...

Chris - Loving memories were actually simple things that your dad did for you, reflecting his love for the family. The previous generation had gone through tough time, many could not afford luxuries like parents nowadays can spare for their children, flying here and there.

There was this scholar who penned a poem discribing that he peeped into a court-yard and saw a lovely maiden with cheeks as red as the flowers of the nearby cherry blosom tree. The following year we went again to the court-yard, the lady was no more there, but the tree and its flowers were still smiling in the Spring air. This message teaches us to value what we have, as life is short and fleeting.

Lam Chun See said...

I think Zen (ChunChew) is referring to this Tang Dynasty poem:

题都城南庄 by 崔护


You can find an explanation here.

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to say whether parents are at fault or we were at fault. I came from a generatiobn where my father believed discipline must come with a cane (he saw that during the Japanese Occupation, there were few social problems). Then he saw his younger siblings turning into bad hats, refused to go to school and always asking for money.

The only thing I did was to pick up the good points from him and decided to create my own parenting style. So my children got a more liberal approach (non Asian tradition) but when it comes to discipline, I enforced it not through the cane but through reasoning. If that didnt work, then the cane came into the picture (after 3 attempts).

Just for the record, I only caned my 2 boys only once in their life. And that was because they quarrelled over silly things like "he pinched me". To me if I dont understand the problem and if I apply the wrong strategy in delaing with the problem, it's my fault as a parent. I treat them like adults (from a young age).

I am at ease with them chilling-out at Mohd Sultan pubs until 4am in the morning. Only I tell them if your academic results fall into the "failing" category, you need to do something about it soon. Then curfew comes into the picture.

In fact on reflection I did everything opposite to what my father did to me. My father sometimes boast to relatives that my boys are doing bwell because I was strict. I told them "That's not the case". I think to become a parent, one must use his/her head to think first.

Anonymous said...

Peter - Every parent knows their own children better than any outsiders, e.g. their strengths and weaknesses. I would like to share my experience in parenting of my two daughters, though my wife did most of the disciplining. When my elder daughter, on one occasion, did very badly in her primary class, almost at the bottom of the class (school: PL MGS). She was so shattered emotionally and nearly lost her self confidence. My wife and I consoled her not to take things too hard. We told her: "Wendy you must realise that you are completing in a top class of talented students. Being in the bottom of a top class, doesn't qualify you as a poor student. What about comparing to the lesser classes students ?" We know our daughter could not handle pressure, hence we tried to motivate her to regain her self confidence first before other things. It worked and she slowly worked herself up. When the o-level exam was announced, she got 7 As, including Chinese language. She breezed throught Jnr college, and NTU. Today she was quite successful in her banking career, beaming with confidence. The message is that only you know your children best.

Anonymous said...

I think some of the complaints levelled against parents are on the non-academic issues. There is a belief that parents do not understand their teenaged children and still treat them like babies. Or as the Cantonese say: "I eat salt more than you eat rice".

There is never a right or a wrong way to solve such problems. The generic answer: It all depends. I think if parents show respect to children and vice versa (like not raising one's voice, cursing...) then mutual respect and tolerance will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Peter - You hit the nail on its head. I also believe that a person should not look at things either black or white. It could be greyish. Older fellas always thini that they are know-all, not realising that younger people could teach them a thing or two. It is experience that older people, who have gone a further down the road than the younger set, have the edge. That is why I always admire the Tengku, Bapa Malaysia, for his wisdom. He was able to see through all those politiking, and with one stroke, detached Singapore from Malaysia. The result, Singapore is able to march forward forcefully, despite being a red dot.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks to those of you who have responded. I'm the anon of 16 Mar. In response to victor I've now given myself a (suitable) name to 'return fire' :)

First of all I would like to state that my dad was never strict with me, certainly not to the extent of being cruel and forcing me to kneel on durians etc. He pretty much let me be (probably cos I was then very interested in books and reading all the time). Despite my good grades I was quite a naughty kid in school and my parents were often called to see my principal/teacher due to my misdemeanours. However they were ok with anything AS LONG AS I maintained my grades. Even when I got into a fight, they are fine with it as long as it was the other guy and not me who got injured. Looking back sometimes I wished my dad was actually more strict with me as I may have actually learnt some things from him.

Despite the impression I might have wrongly portrayed, my dad is really quite a mild person who has a paranoia about getting into any trouble. However he has VERY STRONG views toward having a successful career and all that typical jazz. Anything that is not contributing the cause of being 'successful' (in his sense) is quickly dismissed as 'waste of time' and 'stupid'. These include all my interests and hobbies. He is also very quick to look down on other people that do not subscribe to his 'commandments' - labeling most of them 'stupid' in the process as well.

Sometimes I feel like he treats us (I have a sibling) like trophies. Not trying to sound too corny, I feel like a girl who feels that her boyfriend loves her only for the sex. Oh and I didn't mention how my dad felt when my sibling decided to become a teacher ...

My writings here might seem like I'm trying to push all the blame to my dad. I just wanna to say that everyone is human and like most of you said nobody is perfect. But has he realized this and changed for the better? At his age this is unlikely to happen and I still feel that in his mind the onus is for us children to change to suit him instead. Deep in my mind I ask myself what has he done to me that warrants me to change to suit him? And what can I do to change myself? Change career???

I sense accusations of being selfish, uncompromising etc. flying my way now ...

P.S. When I was younger, I really wanted to impress him with the stuffs I do and the knowledge I gained (things apart from my studies) and all I got was 'waste of time', 'what for???' etc. etc. But one fine day I realized that all these ain't worth it.

Anonymous said...

Everyone, without exception, is getting old by the day, and I just celebrated my 64 yrs of my existence, with my sister pat planning her big bash on her forth-coming 60th birthday in August 2007. One thing I am quite sure is that the human mind-set is the most difficult to change, come rain or shine, old or young. That is why there is this saying: A leopard cannot change its spots. A country can change, but not a person's innate nature (Chinese saying). It is as though our mind-sets are casted in stone, and could easily be the 11th commandment. After saying all these, do not be too hard on yourself, or on others, when coming to the question of mind-set changes. Every family has a difficult sutra to recite.

Chris Sim said...

Prodigal Son
"As long as you do well in your exam, you can have anything you want." Guess what? This old refrain resonates to this day! I am guilty of telling my kids the very same thing.... Having said that, I guess, like what Zen said, it's difficult to change the mindset of pple. Only time will heal all wounds... I'm sure your Dad wants you and your siblings to be happy, like most parents do. Perhaps he juz never really show it. You know how we Asians are. We're never really the touchy sort or to show our love and affection openly....

Anonymous said...

In my previous comment, I forgot to add that to forgive is divine. Our parents are like us, and also our children - all are humans, capable to making mistakes. Who doesn't ? As Chris aptly mentioned, time heals all wounds. As time rolls by, we getting old, wisdom will set in after much reflection. In short, we have to accept what life offers us, that includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Nothing is perfect unless it happens in the movie.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this Uncle See. I only remember Gong-gong from some of the stories he told me and him always waiting for me patiently, as I had my piano classes.
And I always remember when Po-po once, (when I was about 15 or 16 years old) told me about how she fell in love with Gong-gong watching him play badminton with her brothers. She must have been 80-over then, and must have been married to gong-gong for more than 40 years.
All I distinctly remember was her telling me about how she had seen gong-gong and fallen head over heels in love.

I never shared that, but seeing your story, reminded me of that afternoon at farrer court.

And to Anonymous: Someone once told me that parents are not thrust with a book, upon giving birth to their first child. No matter what their intention or their actions are, I think every parent strives to be the best parent that they can be. It's a lifelong contract which one cannot back out of.

I am not a parent yet,(and am onluy in my early 30's) but I am sure someday when I am. (And when you become one), you will also try to be the best parent that you know how to be, just like your dad.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Sherli for that nugget of info about how my mum 'fell in love' with my dad. I don't recall anyone telling me that.

Make sure you tell your grandchildren about your story OK.

Anonymous said...

One Japanese teacher once told a young man who was complaining bitterly against his wife this: "How is that there are millions of ladies in Japan, and you chose to marry her ? and now you are complaining so vehemently about her". This teacher believes in destiny which no one can avoid. He advocates solving of personal problems rather than complaining about them.

Anonymous said...

I think it is important to remember what your parents did for you rather than to remember the harsh treatment one got. I never shall forget the times when they stood for me in my moments of need.

My father is on his last lap as I write this. Parting can be painful but we all need to go home one day but the problem is why does it need to go through a certain route.

In order not to regret about my parents, I organized a session where my father gave me details of his early childhood to a young man who got married and started a family. The reason I did this is a) to honour my parents (however I was not able to do that for my mother who dies at a very early age) and b) my children will be in touch with that generation of their grandparents; to better understand life and to learn valuable lessons for their own good. Hopefully when it's my time this practice of documenting our fmaily heritage will carry on and on.

Anonymous said...

Years ago I watched a discovery programme showing an old but cheerful lady going about preparing for her death. She booked a place to store her ash when the final day came. In other words, she left no stone unturned as far as preparing for impending death was concerned. Why ? I believe she didn't want to burden her children too much when the day came. My parents did the same thing. I suppose when our turn comes, we would do likewise. This is life. This also shows that we parents do concern for our children.

Catlover said...

Thank you for sharing about the drive in cinema in Jurong!
I stayed at Yung Kuang Rd during my sec school days - shortly after my Dad got a job at Jurong after working for the British Air Force during my kindgergarten and pri school days.
My Dad drove us in his Mini Minor and we would enjoy a movie complete with pop corns and drinks served by people walking around the cars while watching the movies in a humid sultry night. The speakers were portable types that were hung on posts from the floor and taken into the car for the audio.

Actually, I wanted to find my old home before I moved to Jurong Town. If you have an old road directory (may of the 70s and early 80s), you might be able to find a road called Jalan Bungah (I don't think it is the same as Jalan Bungar). It was a place full of beautiful childhood memories and a short walk to a main road of 10th mile or Choa Chu Kang (with a Shell Petrol Station) near the main road. My Dad used to work at Tengah Air Base - I recalled a day when a helicopter or plane crashed into one of the kampung houses. We all ran to the location (where the loud boom was heard) and it was in the news I think. I was too young to know but it was a sort of 'lightbulb' memory that one never forgets!

I also recalled the various churches along Corporation Road including Presbyterian Church (now JCC). Please let me know if you can help me trace the whereabouts of my old home in Jalan Bungah (near Tengah and Chua Chu Kang/10 th mile area). Thank you!