Friday, June 17, 2005

A Daughter's Tribute on Father's Day

Father's Day is this coming Sunday. Since I came to UK, I've never celebrated Father's Day with my Papa. When I was at home, Father's Day was a quieter affair compared to Mother's Day. Somehow, the whole family seemed to think that Mummy is more important than Papa. But now I have realised that both are equally important and I love both of them equally. Each of them has sacrificed to give me and my sister the best of the best. We were schooled in the best, we dressed in the best, we ate the best food, we were driven in the best and we were given the best advice and the best love that parents can ever give their children.

My father is a typical China man. He does not reveal his feelings for his loved one. He never tells us his secrets and his past. But one day, I remember very clearly that he did. We were on the coach to KL from JB 3 years ago for the annual Tomb Sweeping Day. It was in the month of April and in another 5 months I was due to be bound for Nottingham. Suddenly, Papa opened up to me. He told me the reasons why he came to the UK to read law and he cautioned me not to make the same mistake that he did.

Many many years ago, when he was still a student at Methodist Boys School in KL, he met a pretty girl called Winnie. She came from a rich family but he did not. His father was a lab assistant in University Malaya and his mother was a washer woman. Life was hard back then. I once visited my father's old home at Salak Selatan. I never could have imagined my father staying in such harsh conditions if I did not see it with my own eyes. Anyway, Winnie was Papa's first love. She went to the UK after her Form 6 to pursue her tertiary education. Poor Papa did not have the finances so he enrolled to study Economics in UM. He told me that Rafidah Aziz, the current International Trade Minister was a visiting lecturer at his faculty. After one year and taking up Tamil (apparently during those days each student was supposed to take up a 2nd language), he decided that Economics was not for him.

His cousin on his mother's side gave him a one way ticket to London to read law. He had to fund himself by working part-time during non-schooling hours. When he arrived at London, it was autumn and for someone who has never been out of the country, the weather was bleak and cold. He took a little piece of paper out of his pocket written with the address of Winnie. He went to her apartment in central London to look for her and also to get a place to stay. Unfortunately, a white man answered the door and Winnie was behind him. At that very moment, he knew that he was on his own.

Papa worked at a cafe at Selfridges frying eggs and washing the toilet. He also worked as a Postboy during the Christmas season. He washed dishes in his hostel. He nibbled his fig rolls bit by bit because they were too expensive to be gobbled down at one go. During those days, there were no photocopy machines so he had to copy down by hand important cases. He could not afford to buy any books, so he borrowed all of them from friends and from the library. He missed home so much but never once did he shed a tear.

He graduated after he married my mother in a very simple affair. My mother who came from a wealthy family married a man with only the clothes on his back. That is what I call true love. Mummy told me that on their wedding day, she had to cook for their guests. That was how hard life was. There was no elaborate wedding dinner, no big diamond ring, just a simple gold wedding band to signify their union for life.

He strived so hard to be what he is today. Life is so much easier now for him and Mummy. They have gone through the worst and pledged not to let their children go through the same road as they did. Papa worked very hard to give us all a life of luxury. None of us has ever felt what it is like to be poor.

Papa may be stern and may be a strict displinarian but I know deep down inside him lies a heart of gold. He loves us all. He just does not know how to express himself. Papa and I have very little to talk about these days. I don't know what went wrong. Instead of talking on the phone with him, we now communicate through SMS or email. Every year I am home, I tell myself to open up and talk to Papa. He has a mountain of advice to give me. He has a wealth of experience to share. But every year, I fail to. We always end up arguing and I will shut myself up in the room. This year, I hope things will be different. This year, he will see his youngest daughter, his little dumpling donning the graduation robe and accepting the degree he accepted more than 30 years ago. I can't wait to see him being proud of me, proud of my achievement, proud of his dumpling who followed his foot steps in reading Law.

Papa, words cannot describe how much you mean to me and how much I love and respect you. I promise, I promise this year will be different. We will talk. We will laugh like we used to. We will share little secrets that Mummy does not know. We will go out and have our Bak Kut Teh. We will have walks in the garden. We strengthen our father/daughter relationship all over again :)

Happy Father's Day!