I don't have his picture. I do have a mental picture that is with me all the time. It is a memory of him sitting in front of my old kampong house in Choa Chu Kang.
As a typical Chinese, he was of slim built. He was a bit deaf and always had to ask people to repeat themselves in a louder decibel.
Despite this, he held himself as a learned man. He was. In those days, if you know English and can read and write, you are somebody. Well he was, in his neighborhood. He told me that it was important to read and language was powerful. Still is.
He was practical and did only what was necessary.
There was a time when I wanted to make a kite. I don't know what came over me. Perhaps it was a drama that I saw. The kite simply looked so pretty! I pestered him for a few days, I told him that I wanted to have a kite that flew in the sky. He did not say anything.
Then I saw the kites in the shop. They were made of plastics. My dad eventually got me one but I did not like it. I went to my Grandfather again. This time, he told me to make myself. I replied I did not know how. He said he would teach me.
The following week, he got me the materials.
He showed me how to bend the bamboo sticks to form the basic T-frame. Then we needed glue to attach the tracing paper to the frame. He got some flour and a pot of water. Then he started the fire with the chopped wood. After the water was boiled, he got a bowl. Without measuring the amout of flour, he just filled about half of bowl. He poured the boiling water into the bowl and I just sat there watching.
When he started stirring the flour, I thought that looked fun and I asked to do it. He said no, I cannot do it constantly enough. If I missed a rhythm the glue will not be sticky enough. He did not say no.
Once our glue was ready, he brought over to the frame and sticked the paper. I did my own version.
After the paper dried up, I did another one. In total we made 3 that week.
I had great fun flying those kites, till they decided to rest on top of the trees.
Looking back, he was a teacher. Perhaps it was his age that made him patient. Perhaps it was his wisdom that saw curiosity must never be answered with a short yes or no. Or he was just a kind old man who adores his grand daughter.
I grew up with the impression that one must always be kind to another, no matter what the person is doing. You are what you practice. You do what you want only because you want to, not because you unconsciously react to the other person. As a learned person, you are conscious of what you are doing and who you are.
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