Thursday, April 19, 2007

Chapter Three - His Lifestory

Chapter Three


Often spending his nights out at joget outlets until past midnight, he used to drink and smoked heavily. Although he was earning a big salary in those days, he would spend most of his money on pleasures.

SEPTEMBER 15, 1932 – A baby boy was born into the family of the late Mr Ng Han Ti, a well-respected chief administrator at the Seremban General Hospital. He was the second son in the family, where the thirteen siblings – seven sons and six daughters – lived in a bungalow in Jalan Tampin, while their father, Han Ti, stayed at the government quarters near to the Seremban Lake Gardens.

Han Ti, my grandfather, a government servant with a heart for the people of Seremban, passed away in 1963. He was a respected person, who would sit around with the common people in the old marketplace in Seremban town, despite his rank in the government service.

Till today, his peers still have high regards for him. “Your grandfather was a very humble man and always willing to offer help any time,” one of them told me. Stories abound about how he was faithful whether rain or shine to cycle to the nearest bank to withdraw salaries for his staff. He, however, died at an early age. My grandmother, Tang Nang, survived him some 30 years later.

The baby boy that was born to the family, who later became my father was named Lay Geok. As Father was difficult to look after, the family decided that he was to be given away to Lau Char, who married Tang Nang’s brother. Lau Char had been widowed from young but adopted several children from her relatives. They were living in Cheras, where my father lived in his early childhood days. Nevertheless, the family name of Ng was still retained. Lau Char, who adopted Father as a son, did not change his name to Tan. Nevertheless, I still regard this adopted mother of his as my Cheras Grandmother, to distinguish her from my Seremban Grandmother who had passed away several years ago. She is the grandmother I refer to in this book.

A Problem Child

Grandmother used to tell us stories about Father when he was a young boy. In those days, she would carry him in one arm and fetch water from the well in another.

“As a boy, your father used to go out fishing and return home very late,” she said. “I have never caned him once. Whenever I scolded him, he would sometimes refuse to return home. It was very difficult looking after him.”

As he grew older, Lau Char could no longer handle him. Both parents in Cheras and Seremban finally came to a compromise. He was to return back to Seremban, where he would attend school at King George V.

“Being a young man, he was notoriously known as an ardent fan of “joget” (an upbeat, somewhat disco-like Malay dance). Often spending his nights out at joget outlets until past midnight, he used to drink and smoked heavily,” said Grandmother, Lau Char. “Although he was earning a big salary in those days, he would spend most of his money on pleasures. There was hardly any money left at the end of the month.”

“It’s time for you to settle down,” his parents in Seremban urged him. They had arranged for him to meet a young lady from Kuala Pilah. So, on Christmas Day, 1955, both Ng Lay Geok and my mother, Lee Yoke Siew tied the knots.

The New Family

After several years in Seremban, the young couple decided to move down to Kuala Lumpur. Their first daughter – my eldest sister, Ng Su Lin – was born in February 1958. A year later, my second sister, Susie was also born. Being the only son, I came into the picture only five years later. My youngest sister, Su Li was born much later. Between Su Li and I, we are nearly eleven years apart.

Father loved all his children. I recall how he practically put me behind the wheels on his laps to go for a drive before going to work every morning. Working as a timber grader, Father earned enough to look after this family. And, I remember we always had enough of everything we wanted. I had nearly all sorts of toys a child could have in those days.

However, one regrettable memory I have of him is the fact that, besides having to be away from home most of the time as he was working in Pahang, he also had the habit of getting drunk practically every time he went out with his colleagues. Sometimes, I would follow him. My little mission in those days was to get him to drink and smoke less. Each time, I would give him a reminder: “Father, please, do not order another drink again.”

I learnt to be persistent at that to ensure that he would end his drinking session. They were not always successful attempts to get him to stop his booze – but it has successfully created in me a life-long resistance to drink and smoke.

His Religious Background

Father was never a very religious person. In the family, I was the most pious child, who would pray to the goddess of mercy at least three times a day without fail. Although he would sometimes follow the family to the temple, Father seldom joined in the temple rites. He was much of a free-thinker, who only wanted to enjoy life to the fullest.

When I became a Christian, he did not object. His very own father, I learnt later, was a secret believer, who faithfully attended a Methodist Church in Seremban. Before he died, Ng Han Ti had called out in a last breath: “God, save my family.” This had never made a strong impact on my father for nearly 30 years after my grandfather passed away. Although I used to invite Father to church, he had only obliged once, but there was little sign of interest in spiritual matters.

There were times, however, when he agreed he would come to church with me. But, when the next morning came to attend Sunday service, he would change his mind. There was at least one such incident that I can recall.

“How come you’re not going to church today?” he asked me one Sunday morning.

“I’m about to go,” I replied. “Do you want to come along?”

“Yes,” he said.

Later, he changed his mind, and going straight into his morning papers, he said: “You go ahead first.”

Father never made any serious commitment for the most part of his life.

Sour Relationship

Through the years, I had been praying that perhaps someday he would come to know Jesus as his personal Saviour. I tried to remain a good son, despite the number of family turmoils that we had to go through due to some misunderstandings arising from within the family.

In later years, there were some quarrels between Father and I, and our relationship had turned sour. Deep in my heart, I felt very hurt by the discrimination I faced in the family.

Nevertheless, I knew I had to forgive him. He was still my father. I still loved him. At least, I should say, I knew the inescapable command from God to children to honour their father and mother. At times, it was hard to imagine how any relationship could work out for us; however, with God, all things are possible. God brought the family together and through His grace, Father’s decision even at the end of his life was a wise one.

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