Thursday, March 01, 2007

Appa and Amma (edited 14/10/2019)

I dedicate the Bolivian Beat's 100th post to my father, JWD Samuel, and mother, RubyYesudian (lady on his left)


My dad belonged to an extinct group of high-grade nursing staff called "Hospital Assistants". They did the combined work of general practitioners and nurses. He excelled in his job, took on more administrative responsibilities and before long, his superiors appointed him "Chief Hospital Assistant"

I told my friends he worked as a nurse because many of them didn't know the difference between a hospital assistant and a hospital attendant. Dad looked dashing in his uniform - a white 4 pocket cotton safari suit and pants. His well-ironed starched uniforms smelt of medication most of the time and he never failed to take his flask-filled coffee every day to work. He served diligently at the clinics as an administrator but his first love was to dress the wounds of those ridden with injuries.  I can't remember him ever taking leave from work.

His parents migrated to Penang, Malaysia, from India, in search of a better life. His mother gave birth to him in Penang as her firstborn. He returned to India, as a boy, with his parents and siblings. His father had made some money in Penang and so he decided to return to Tirunelveli, South India.

My grandfather, a farmer at heart, bought land and grew crops in India. His business flourished but a serious economic recession wiped out the old man's capital and savings. He had no means to adequately care for the family. And so my grandfather sent my dad back to Malaysia to earn a living for himself and to send back money for his siblings.  My father, the eldest son, had no choice but to return to his birthplace, Penang, as a teenager. He studied, worked hard, and sent money back to help his dad and his siblings.

It must have been tough for him because he probably lived on the generosity of relatives and friends in Malaya.

My father, because of his life experiences, helped the downtrodden and championed the underdog. On more than one occasion he served others at the expense of his own family, much to the annoyance of my mother!

We called him Appa - a term of endearment amongst Indians only reserved for fathers. A voracious reader with a social conscience, dad grew to be a "self-made" man. He worked his way from isolated rural areas to the emerging urban centers in Malaysia and Singapore. My dad saw a huge chunk of significant history - the Japanese occupation, liberation, independence, merger, racial riots, the separation between Malaysia and Singapore. He kept a mental note of critical events and never lost sight of those who made an impact on Malayan history, he stubbornly believed that Singapore and Malaysia were one country, Malaya. 

In terms of faith, his high church Anglican instincts convinced him of the eucharist's power to mediate God's saving grace. Long sermons made him bristle but he loved to sing the hymns - in the church as well as in the streets!  . He loved football and supported Liverpool and Arsenal.

Sam, as he was affectionally called by his friends, lived to celebrate his 82nd birthday before 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 immediately rushed him to the hospital; complications stalled his recovery, and 3 months later the Lord took my father to Glory. I served him the sacrament a month before he was called home to the Lord. My sisters, Rebecca and Rachel together with Reuben my elder brother took care of my dad's funeral arrangements.

The distance between Bolivia and Singapore made it difficult for me to return to be a part of my father's funeral. He began to pass away on a Sunday morning and on that same morning I preached in Bolivia to the congregation on the challenge to carry the cross.


My mother, Ruby Yesudian, born and raised in Singapore, witnessed the calamity of the Japanese Occupation during WW2 as a young girl. We called her Amma. Her father worked as a proof-reader in a big publishing house in Singapore and epitomized the educated middle-class Indian gentleman; his wife, a strict homemaker, disciplined her children and struck fear in them. My mother scared us with stories of our grandmother rubbing chili powder in their eyes if they misbehaved. My mother admired her father and distanced herself from her mother. My grandparents on my mother's side were first-generation immigrants from India. They passed away in Singapore unlike my grandparents on my father's side. I have 2 uncles and 1 aunt from this side of the family.

My mother kept it all together at home with the help of my Aunty Rani; they raised the four of us (I was the youngest) in some very trying circumstances. She fed and clothed us with the little of what was available to us in the 60s and 70s. She put a lot of weight on our education and engaged tutors to help us get better grades. They don't come any better than my mother. Her diligence and perseverance in the face of trials and setbacks continue to inspire me. Amma introduced me to the joys of reading; she regularly took us to Bras Basah road to buy 2nd hand comics for her children to read. Her gift of a Bible to me for my confirmation changed my life. She urged me to read it but also warned me to not become a fanatic! The daily Bible reading habit motivated me to grow in my knowledge of the Lord and poised me to receive Christ as Savior.

In her early 50's, my mother experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit in St Paul's parish; her life changed dramatically. She studied the courses on the bible, learned to play the guitar, sang choruses to old folks and served with the Anglican Welfare Council as a social worker and counselor in the prisons. Her mentor and friend, Mrs. Felicity Carter encouraged her to and opened doors for my mother to exercise her gifts and talents to the glory of the Lord. She kept long hours and on more than one occasion she returned home looking very tired; she never gave up but her sense of fulfillment in ministry kept her going. My mother, blessed with an innate ability to empathize, possessed great listening skills.

The years, however, took their toll and she left the Anglican Welfare Council. The years passed quickly and she suffered from Alzheimer's. She finally succumbed to a stroke after having spent an extended period of time with my sister Rebecca in the US.

My parents struggled to give us a good education and sacrificed gave up the comforts of life for the greater good of their children. They never claimed to be model parents in their struggles to raise us. I regret not doing more for them. And I speak for my siblings when I say how blessed we were to have them as our parents. Sam and Ruby, that's how they were called by their friends, continue to inspire me on many different levels. The Lord loved them deeply in their tribulations. They hit rough patches also in their marriage but they stayed together in His love. Yes, I'm deeply grateful to the Lord for having given them to us as our parents.

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 mother's sister, our Aunty Ranee.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful legacy your parents gave you. That's an interesting bit of family history. You are a real chip of the old block, only with a Spirit-filled, and Spirit-educated, vision of God and his church.

Anonymous said...

yeah...I think you maybe right

Anonymous said...

That's a truly beautiful story. I am sure your Appa and Amma are extremely proud of you.
You must wish, sometimes, that they were both physically close to or beside you, just to hear what they have to say, or just, being beside you.
Sorry, I referred to your mum as Judy. (in one of my emails to you) least i was close.
Have a good day.
Sierra Quebec.

Bolivian Beat said...

yes..sob.. I miss them both...terribly and regret not expressing love for my father when he was around.

Tis the same with my mother..coming to Bolivia has been a very costly experience for her. I should be grateful for the time that I still have with her.

Judy and Ruby sorta rhymes.

The Lord is somehow in control of it all.

Anonymous said...

What to do???.....Raphael, life still has to go on. Even if sometimes, during your weak moments, you want it just to stop.
I am sure your dad must look down from heaven, and be so proud of you..and say "....look, thats my little boy...see how well he has come along."
What more, our Father, who even if, we take the wings of the morning...yet He is there.
Hang in there...Raphael!!
Warmest regards to your mum.
Sierra Quebec.

Anonymous said...

My mother learned how to use the computer and we exchange emails.

Rachel said...

Hi Raph. That was a neat write-up about our parents. Dad would have been so proud of you. By the way, i don't know if he would have accepted the label 'male nurse'. In our part of the world, 'Chief Hospital Assistant' carried more weight. If there wasn't a doctor around, you can safely trust the hospital assistant to deputise him. Do you remember ever going to a doctor? I can't because appa had all the remedies. People said he had 'kairasi' ie healing hands!

Bolivian Beat said...

Great to hear from my sister eldest sister Rachel

yup..he was chief hospital assistant. Problem is that many don't know that hospital assistants were inbetween doctors and nurses not attendants. To avoid confusion I have had to use the humbler but more understandable term "male nurse".