Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The daughter of a seamstress

*I have not blogged in a long while. I don't know where to begin. So I'll take my colleague's advise and tell the story of my mother.


"Lu beh tak chek, lu eh cho hami?"
(You can't study, what can you do?)
My late grandmother asked her to pick up a life skill. She didn't know what she wanted to do in life but she knew she liked fashion. So, she ended up taking some courses in sewing. That was more than 30 years ago, before reality shows like Project Runway became a hit. Sewing isn't exactly a profession to be proud of at her time. 

Long hours, paid peanuts but enough. Enough to bring up her daughter. The dress she wore on the day she got married was her own sewing. No, not a pretty white bridal gown, just a long floral dress. Simple but I thought she rocked that dress. All she had was a very simple wedding because dad didn't have money. They got married after 7 years of courtship. Their marriage eventually shaped my entire childhood (that would be another story altogether).

Before I was old enough to attend school, I would tagged along whenever she goes to work, which was just down the row of pre-war houses we rented along one of the main streets of Penang. She introduced me to Barbie dolls - I didn't quite fancy dolls or cared very much on the efforts she put in to make different dresses for them. She introduced me to colours - I absolutely loved colouring! Eventually, she taught me to draw. As expected, how to draw people, starting off with female figures. She studied a bit of tailoring after all.

"Lang mana si square eh? Lang toh beh wu body shape eh mah."
(How can people be in squares? People should have body shapes)
Yup, I drew people that looked like Spongebob! I loved how she would make final touches to their eyes, with curly lashes. Growing up, I was planted with the idea that girls with eyes as big as marbles and curly lashes are beautiful. And I - I have small eyes that curved into an inverted moon crest shape when smiling, just like hers.

At home, every single thing that can be sewn, she did them all - bedsheets, curtains, cushion covers, blankets, floor rugs, my school uniforms, my pencil boxes (when those pants-shaped jeans material pencil boxes were in trend. Those born in the 80s would know what I'm talking about!) and et cetera, cetera, cetera. One of the years, she sew me 15 dresses for Chinese New Year. For the Chinese, the actual celebration lasts as long as 15 days.

You see, I took the things she did for granted as a child. Yes, she might have enjoyed sewing stuff and trust me, she's one modern mom. You would WANT TO wear the clothes she makes. But really, she make them because it was cost efficient. It helped a struggling family to save A LOT. She was blessed with a talent. More than that, she was blessed with a spirit of resilience beyond her circumstances.

Hence, I don't believe in paying hundreds for a dress. I know how much seamstress like her is paid, no matter how expensive an evening gown may cost. I believe in dressing to be presentable because if I mismatch my clothing, I think I would not be a good representation of my mother. I like colours because my mom has shown me the wonders colours can do.

And in the work I do today, I see how much a simple life skill such as sewing and tailoring can help bring a certain change to a struggling family. Women across the world, like my mom, if given a life skill and an opportunity to work, can shape the future of their children. I owe a big part of my life to my mother, who could have given up on me but choose to stay. There's only so much I can tell you in this entry, the rest will have to wait. Here, I want to celebrate the fact that I am a daughter of a seamstress and I am very proud to be one.
If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor -Albert Einstein

The dresses she made for her collection of barbie dolls last year

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's been a long while. Life has taken many turns. There's been good changes and yet, there's been deep hurts and disappointments. I am attempting to write but I find myself struggling. Some days, it feels like fear. Pain is so real. There is not one waking moment that I don't think about it. I've been at this spot 10 years ago. It's been 10 years. I hope I'll never have to face it again, I don't want to, I'm afraid I can't. But here I am. Heartbroken once more. I'm struggling to grasp all that this encompasses. A struggle to trust even with a past experience. I find no strength of my own...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kempen "Kebersihan"

Of all the countless videos circulating via fb and youtube, this has finally made me blogged. One cannot watch and be silent, regardless of whether you took part in the rally or not.

Truth that cannot be covered

My Long Walk in KL on a Saturday...

I went with a group of friends on Saturday, 9 July. We walked in pairs and a distance from each other, pretended we were total strangers. We took the LRT near my place, with police already lurking around LRT stations but we managed to get into KL early via Pasar Seni. Found ourselves loitering around, looking for breakfast and finally settled at Subway, one of the few places that were opened. It was also during these 'lepaking' sessions that I had the privilege to bump into "Aunty Bersih", who has created rave headlines and conquered the social media with her passion and courage.

KL was almost like a ghost town and the idea of a flashmob kept popping into my head! I had this imagination that suddenly, the supporters of Bersih would just break into a dance routine and we would be the most creative nation in our fight for a fair democracy and the police would have to think twice before firing anything at dancing citizens.

Okay, that aside, we proceeded to Starbucks Kotaraya to wait for BERSIH 2.0 to start. After getting lost into some misguided instructions, we found our way into the rally at Puduraya --- one of the hardest hit groups and the largest, by far. My friends and I were teared gas at least 4 times! This was when we told each other, we will stay together as much as we can and looked out for one another.

I remembered during one of the tear gas fired, it was probably just 100ft away from where I was. It HURT. Very much. I felt like my face was burning and eyes, swelled. I was struggling to grapple my way, coughing and choking on the chemical. Although equipped with a wet towel, it didn't help until strangers offered me salt. The remedy was almost immediate, salt made tear gas more bearable.

God intervened. It rained. HEAVILY. I never felt so good walking under the rain. It helped to clear the tear gas effects. Those who were Muslims were seen praising the name of Allah out loud, some even went down on their knees. I thought that was pretty admirable. "If God is with us, who can be against us?" came to mind.

We ran, into Tung Shin hospital. I remembered telling myself, "This is a hospital, they can't fire here." I was wrong. The FRU continued to fire. We were trapped. A Malay lady covered in her tudung held out her palm with salt, offered to anyone nearby. Again, a stranger made the tear gas more bearable for me. After the tear gas wore off, my friends and I were reconciled and we decided to just take our chances to climb over a slope behind the hospital. Our escape route. Somewhat adventurous. Again, there were some Malay dudes helping us in our escape, especially making sure the girls are safely pulled out from the mini-jungle.

We walked, to Jalan Alor and stopped for drinks at a mamak while checking Bersih and traffic updates. It was here that we celebrated Patrick, my housemate's birthday! The group sang a modified birthday tune - "Happy Bersih To You!" It was here we found out the rally was over and we can disperse. We also got news that someone died and that the police started arresting people at Tung Shin.

We walked to KLCC but to our surprise, the entrances had barricades, preventing people from going in. Suddenly, some firemen and police trucks just drove us by with sirens that I believe, were turned on to its maximum volume to scare protesters. We managed to get into the mall via the side entrance of Mandarin Oriental, briefly questioned politely by the security guard, "Where are you going?".

To our dismay, the KLCC LRT was closed. People were sitting around like refugees waiting to go home. We joined in after a while and finally, it opened around 6:10pm. I was extremely tired that evening but that was one of the best walks I had on a Saturday.

Pieces of my mind...

What I experienced and saw that day have left me with thoughts and questions to ponder on. The fact that thousands of people marched despite all the obstacles have shown that we have won that day. United we stand --- our voices to call for a fair election is stronger than ever. Not forgetting those who turned up in Korea, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and even Sweden! We are Malaysians. Period.

That rally was a civilized one --- no looting, no rioting and Malaysians looked out for each other. Maybe with the right leadership, we are not very far from Japan --- how the Japanese showed the world what a civilized nation meant during the recent tsunami. Maybe, we are ready to be a first world nation given time and guidance by the right government.

What I cannot believe are the ways the mainstream media spin and twisted the truths. How can anyone just lie through their teeth in the modern world of technology, where almost everything can be captured on phones? How can a Prime Minister's speech be a stand-up comedy?

Some may remarked that it is pointless to be a part of the rally. Both sides are also corrupted and questioned whether going for rallies can change anything. But it is our responsibility isn't it? If we see that something isn't right, we try to make things right, don't we? Sure, things don't change overnight and just like how far we've come till this day, we will surely get there someday. If you can envision a better world, then be a part to build it. Change has to start somewhere and usually, it starts with ourselves.

I did not register as a voter back in 2008 and did not vote when my country went through change. But in 2009, I registered and in 2011, I rallied. The experience being a part of the rally has stirred an awakening within me to be more conscious. I can no longer remain where I am, I must move forward and I want a better country.

I am a Malaysian and in the words of Elroi Yee, "I wasn't there for the ride, I was there to take some ownership of my country."

And being a Christian, don't ask me what's so Christian about going for a rally or being too political about things --- which totally missed the point. You are placed here in this country, you have a responsibility. This is your most basic right. How can you close the gaps of poverty or inequality of resources when the leaders are not doing their jobs right? Where is justice when the voices of the people are not heard? Let this speech by John F Kennedy be an inspiration to us all
"Ask not what can your country do for you, but what you can do for your country"

Dear Mr Prime Minister, I urge you to humble yourself and please do not forget who you serve and why your role exist in the first place. You cannot fight the people, you should not. You are supposed to protect them and help your country thrive.

Be transparent and grant us a fair election. We'll decide who should run Malaysia.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Japan stint

Being the lazy blogger I am these days, here's a little something I wrote on my recent Japan stint via World Vision Malaysia's blog.

It was my first actual disaster response. More than 2 months later now, I begin to miss the whole experience. There were moments I wish I could have done better. I think Japan is and will be the highlight of my 2011.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My nasi lemak story...

"Nasi lemak again?! Haiyo...", exclaimed my colleagues to my almost, daily routine. But, we get used to a certain familiarity after a while, so they got used to me having the little packet of RM1 nasi lemak at the start of my day, although some may beg to differ with the health hazards I'm signing myself up for.

I like nasi lemak. (amongst many other 'unhealthy' foodie I enjoy)

After all, it's one of Malaysian's favourites. But this post is not about Malaysian food. This is a story of why nasi lemak is not just close to my appetite but also, to my heart.

It used to be how I saved money by having two packets for dinner, when I was still in the early stages of my working life. Two packets means only RM2, a full stomach and a satisfaction to my appetite.

Don't get me wrong, life wasn't that hard then. But when you are just starting out and having to fork out from your very own pocket for everything, there has to be some calculation to where your salary goes to.

So every week without fail, for at least twice on weekdays, I would drive to the nearest little roadside DIY stall in front of KFC in TTDI - with just an umbrella, a stool and a basket, a malay lady sits, awaiting for cars to stop and call out for her nasi lemak. It's almost like a drive-thru!

I remember when I gave thanks for food back then, I literally gave thanks that I have food, could still have rice for dinner, even if it's just nasi lemak. Rice means I can be full. I was thankful that I can get a cheap dinner despite the living cost in PJ, which sometimes could be a struggle for a young graduate.

Fast forward the time to a few years later, where I have moved back to Penang and now, back to PJ once again, guess what I lookout for when I first got back here? Whether the nasi lemak is still there? Whether has the price increased? Whether has the taste change? To my delight, some good things stay the same :)

Today, I still buy those little packets. Same price, same taste, only different location. I guess you could say they have 'franchised' it (term used loosely here). I live in a different area now but it never fails to bring a smile to my face whenever I see that little DIY stall somewhere. I find the "Taman Tun Nasi Lemak RM1" a familiar taste to my stomach...and my memory. I no longer buy them for the reason of saving up for a meal but for enjoyment of simply just, nasi lemak.

Each time I take a bite, I remember the time when that used to be my dinner when pockets were tight. I remember where I came from. I remember how thankful I was. I remember how simple things can bring smiles. I remember how money is spent.

This is my nasi lemak story. A story of helping me to remember that good things in life comes in small packages. That small packet humbles me. It filled my stomach.

I hope when I give thanks nowadays, I don't just utter it because it has become a practice but that I am truly thankful, there's food on the table.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2011 - Keep on hoping

It's been a while. I haven't forgotten this space where I used to share pieces of my life and thoughts. Penning down my thoughts seemed to be a struggle of recent months, both finding the time and finding where to begin. FB has become my 'quick fix' most times. So here I

New Year is here. There's been some glitches. A rough start. Not quite the way I expected it to kick off. But in everything, we must see what we can do about it right? So after the downcast of my soul, here's the me to get better at things I'm not so good at or perhaps don't agree with or finds some of them hard to digest. Is that pride? Perhaps so. But only I hope that it's put into good use called Determination.

We can always hope for better things. Hope, can sometimes be, the essence that keeps us alive. However, hope cannot be just an airy feeling of just waiting for something good to happen. We carry on doing things we believe in, we carry on loving one another through thick and thin, we carry on even when our prides are bruised, we carry on despite the uncertainties that lie ahead of us.

2011 - Keep on hoping

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be the Glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen"
- Ephesians 3:20-21

I will have a great year ahead of me, not because all is going to be a smooth sailing journey but because I know God is good. Here's to keep hoping in Him who can do immeasurable things. I hope you'll have a great year too!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Happy Together

It's been quite a journey since I first met him . But I have never been happier than where we are at now. And I hope it grows on us as we continue to journey along.
Imperfections has taught me much on Love. Do I really love him? Ask me a thousand times and my answer will still be Yes.

Many more birthdays, photos and dreams together, dear?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


"I walk not because I cannot run.
I laugh not because there are no pain.
I keep going not because my will is strong.
I am learning. To be Thankful. Especially this day.

It's not just the moments. It's the whole of life.

Philippians 4:8 - 20 July 2010"

When I was younger, I only wanted to live up to 60. And that, would make this day my half way mark.

Being thirty.

Its just a number, some would say. But it is really, just a number? Perhaps not. It's a number to remind me that 30 years have gone by --- and it has been quite a ride. Let's hope that the next 30 would continue to be quite a ride, better than the first half. Because I am now, older...hopefully a little wiser, to make decisions for a life that matters.

So here's a toast to the ONE who decided to bring me to life and sustain me as long as I still breathe --- Jesus Christ. You gave me a 'perfect' family...perfect for me despite the early years. I remembered I once prayed, rather innocently then, that I want to give You my best years. We are all, at some points, oblivious to what we are praying for, don't we? :)'s been wonderful and I wouldn't have it any other ways. 11 years and counting..

And how can I come so far without those who have journeyed with me at different phases --- F.R.I.E.N.D.S --- Thank You for coming alongside me, accepted me for my quirkiness and made my paths more colourful. Thank You for allowing to make mistakes and still, believing in the little good I might still have despite all the flaws you've seen. Life will always be challenging but you, friends, made it so much more bearable.

I hope when I'm gone, I can leave this world a better place then when i first found it.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you"
-Phil 4:8

Monday, June 07, 2010

To Mummy

This entry should have came in last month. Albeit a lil late, I still want to write this because she is an important figure in my life.

One thing rings afresh in my memory is this "I really thought of going away after you were born but there was no place to turn to and you were still so young. I cannot leave you."

That's my mummy.

There was once I remember waking up from a nap and find her gone. Few hours later, she came home. I asked her where did she go. She said she tried cycling to the bridge and wanted to jump off but she came back when she thought of me. I barely remember how old I was then but I know, I was young.

That's part of my story growing up. And of late, I have begun to realised who I am today is shaped a lot by the last 29 years of my life - what took place, the lessons learnt, the people who sacrificed for me and mostly, the strength drawn from pains and of course, later on...the encounter with Jesus Christ that transformed my worldviews and how I understand life itself.

Without mom, I wouldn't be where I am today. She made tough choices for me. She endured a lot of hardships, trust me. The worst would be my dad's furious tempers. Mom isn't someone who is highly literate but she taught me more than what a Degree could possibly offer. She taught me resilience. Keep going, stay positive and we can make a choice for ourselves. We must. Do you know I have never seen mom cry growing up? Perhaps she did but I don't remember it was ever in front of me.

She thought marrying dad was an unwise choice and often reminds me, never to make the same mistake. I understand why, because family suffers. She regretted that as a child, I had to endure the things a child shouldn't have to. As a young child, I was always living in fear and self confidence took years to build, mostly only after I encountered Christ.

This entry is dedicated to my mummy - for all that she has done for me and the family. The worst days are over and I am more than thankful for where we are today. Mom too, has met Christ. And as all my friends who have met her, they just love her because she is bubbly and friendly. That's mom, she has always been even when times are rough.

For my life has been bought with a price - a price that mom paid, sticking through to make sure I grow up well, preventing me from mixing with the wrong company, be educated to help us out of poverty and being educated means I can think better, make wiser choices..

My mom will probably not be able to read this entry but she is really my HERO. Without her sacrifices, I wouldn't be the way that I am. I hope I can be a good daughter to you even though I cannot offer you luxuries. I hope I will be as strong as you have shown me. I hope you will spend the rest of your days happier that when you first had me because both Mei & I have grown up now. I hope you will continue to bring joy to the people around you. I never regretted that you married dad because I grew up stronger with higher resilience in the face of challenges. I learn forgiveness in depth through hardships. I LOVE you mummy. I always will. I am glad God made you my mom.

Happy Mother's Day.