Thursday, March 01, 2007
BOLIVIAN BEAT HITS A 100!
I dedicate the Bolivian Beat's 100th post to my father, JWD Samuel and mother, RubyYesudian (lady on his left)
Dad was a male nurse. He was born in Penang but returned to India, as a boy, with his parents and siblings. His father had made some money and was determined to make it big in his homeland. The great depression however wiped out the old man's savings. He had no means to care adequately for the family. My father, the eldest son, had no choice but to return, as a teenager, to what was then called Malaya. He studied, worked and sent money back to help his dad.
It must have been tough because he probably lived on on the generosity of relatives and friends in Malaya.
My father, because of his own experience, was sensitive to the needs of the downtrodden. On more than one occasion he helped the poor and needy at the expense of his own family. My mother was annoyed at his generosity! We used to call him Appa - a term of endearment amongst Indians only reserved for fathers. A voracious reader with a social conscience, dad was a self-made man. He worked his way from a rural setting to the emerging urban centres in Malaysia and Singapore. Appa saw it all - the Japanese occupation, liberation, independance, merger, racial riots, separation between Malaysia and Singapore. Dad was a verbal historical archive who passionately believed that Singapore and Malaysia were one country, Malaya.
In terms of faith, he was, as a high church Anglican, totally convinced of the eucharist's power to mediate God's saving grace. Long sermons made him bristle. It was my priviledge to serve him the sacrament a month before he was called home. He loved football and was an ardent Liverpool fan.
Sam, as he was affectionally called by his friends, was 82 years old when he passed away. One day he slipped, fell awkwardly and broke his hip; there was no one in the house. He crawled to the phone and rang for help. An ambulance took him to hospital; complications developed. 3 months later he went to glory. As he was slipping away I was preaching a sermon in Bolivia on laying everything aside and carrying the cross.
My mother, Ruby, was born and raised in Singapore. We call her Amma. Her father was proof-reader in a big publishing house; his wife was a strict homemaker; they were both first generation immigrants. I have 2 uncles and 1 aunt from this side of the family. My mother stilll scares us with stories of our grandmother rubbing chillie powder in their eyes if they misbehaved.
Mum kept home and raised 4 children (I was the youngest) in some very difficult circumstances. She fed and clothed us with the little that was available. Education was important: she tried to help us by engaging tutors. They don't come any better than my mother. Her diligence and perseverance in the face of trials have always inspired me. Amma introduced me to the joys of reading by buying 2nd hand comics for her children. And most importantly was her gift of a Bible for my confirmation. It was a life-changing gift. This little bible triggered a process which saw me through everything - from my conversion through to the call to serve in Bolivia.
In her early 50's, we were all taken by surprise when mum was filled with the Holy Spirit; her life changed dramatically. She took several courses, learned to play the guitar, sang choruses to old folks and worked as a social worker and counsellor. The hours were long and draining but she felt fulfilled. My mother, blessed with an innate ability to empathize, is a highly gifted listener. The years however have taken its toll in her retirement; she is frail but not ailing and looks forward to seeing her grandchildren and her great grandchild.
Were my parents fallible? Did they have weaknesses? Yeah of course...but that doesn't really matter; they were great parents and continue to inspire me on many different levels. In difficult times, and believe me there were several, they simply stayed together.
Thank you Appa and Amma!!
God bless both my parents!!
The black and white photo above is ancient (thanks to my cousin David for sending it to me):
On my mother's left is my elder brother Reuben; on my father's right is my elder sister Rebecca; next to her is Rachel - the eldest in the family- on her left is my Aunty Ranee.