Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…
(Updated November 2020)
I went to an English medium preschool kindergarten for one year before I entered a Chinese medium primary school for six years. I met and mixed with other children who were same age as me and from multi races. I made some good friends and learned about life from these friendships.
Whether I was born this way, or I was brainwashed and taught to be like this, there is something that I always strongly believe in – truthfulness and honesty. I was always very careful about not committing any wrong or immoral doings. If I realized I did something that I believed was wrong, I would admit my wrong doings and ask for forgiveness immediately. Though during the two years when I was disturbed by unhappiness, anger and hatred, I had intentionally hurt other people through my thoughts, actions and speech, especially to my parents.
Sometimes I forgot to do my homework, I went to inform the teacher that I hadn’t done my homework and gave my palm to the teacher to discipline me with a stroke of caning. When the marked exam paper came back to us, I would go to the teacher and asked for remarking and to deduct the extra points if I found out that the teacher mistakenly gave me more points than it should be. We don’t take what doesn’t belong to us. This might be referred as “stupid honesty” by some people, but it’s a great virtue in the teachings of Buddhism and Yoga.
If I found something left unattended in the school compound, I would bring it to the teacher. When the cashiers in the shops carelessly gave me extra change, I would give it back to them so that they wouldn’t get into trouble for losing money from the cash machine. I wouldn’t take anything that doesn’t belong to me. I wouldn’t accept any gifts or receive help from anyone, unless I knew the person who wanted to give me something or help me was pure and sincere.
I was very self-independent and self-initiative. I didn’t need my parents to wake me up in the morning to prepare myself to go to school. I was always punctual and be responsible for myself and all my duties. I always kept my promises that I made to other people. I would show up on time after I had arranged a date to meet up with my friends, even if the date was months later. I would do what I said I wanted to do for myself or for others. That’s why I don’t simply make promises to anybody unless I know I can do it.
My primary school’s class teacher was aware of the truthfulness and honesty in me. One day, she granted me an honour for being honest – In front of all the classmates, she stood up for me and guaranteed that I am an honest and truthful person who won’t tell lies or steal anything, to defend my innocence because of a little incident that happened in our classroom that day.
Someone in the class had been stealing things from most of the classmates from time to time. Things had been missing from our bags or desks. My colour pencils and water bottle also went missing.
One day, my classmate who sat in front of me told our teacher that his exercise book was missing. And so, our teacher called upon everyone and asked whoever took his exercise book to come forward and return the book. He or she would be excused and be forgiven. But there was nobody stepped forward or said anything. The entire class was never been so quiet. Then the teacher asked everyone to search their bags to see if there might be a chance that the exercise book was in one of our bags. I didn’t know what happened, but surprisingly, I found the exercise book in my bag.
Without any fear or guilt I told the teacher and everyone that the exercise book was in my bag and I honestly didn’t know why it was in my bag. I might have put it in my bag accidentally, or someone might had put it into my bag unintentionally or intentionally. For me, it really didn’t matter because I knew I didn’t take it or steal it. But then everyone had the same reaction of thinking that I must be the thief who had stolen the exercise book. The entire class went from silent to noisy. Everyone was pointing their fingers at me and whispering to each other, as if I was guilty for stealing the book. But because I was always being truthful, honest and straightforward, my teacher immediately stood up for me and defend my innocence. She asked everyone to believe in me that I was innocent and I was an honest and truthful person that I wouldn’t tell any lies or steal anything, and she would guarantee that. And so, everyone stopped judging me, but respected me for being a truthful and honest person from that moment.
Since then, my belief about being truthful and honest became stronger than before. By observing truthfulness and honesty will gain such trustworthy and respect from everyone. If somebody who was jealous of me tried to accuse me for something that I wasn’t responsible for, or if someone questioned about my honesty, the people who knew me would believe in me and stood up for me. That’s the power of truthfulness and honesty.
For the first three years in the primary school, I was very bad at Mandarin, but I was good at Malay and English. This was because I had went to an English medium kindergarten. I was good at mathematics and science too. I always paid attention in the class and would asked the teacher immediately after class if there was anything that I missed out or didn’t understand. I seldom study after school, but I could get good results for the examinations. Unintentionally, all my subjects in Mandarin started to improve significantly from the fourth year onwards.
I was never being close to my two brothers and my sister. We seldom played together when I was growing up. I guess one of the reasons was because there were many years difference between me and them. It’s also because they went to English and Malay medium’s school. They didn’t know Chinese at all. And so, they couldn’t help me in my homework and study, as all my subjects were in Chinese. Anyway, I didn’t need anyone to help me in my homework and study. I never needed to go for extra tuition classes like most of my classmates.
I also had very good image memory to remember what I had read. I didn’t need to revise what the teachers taught us in school every day. I just needed to go to sleep early on the night before the exam, and got up at three in the morning. I browsed through the text book while listening to some music. I would remember page by page of what I had read and could answer the questions exactly like a print out from the book. Though I never bothered about the results and placing in the class, I often had very good results from the examinations. Maybe it was because my parents never pressured us and we didn’t feel that we needed to compete with other people or among our siblings. I never felt that I needed to be good enough so that I would receive love and attention from my parents. My parents never tried to bribe us with things or presents to encourage us to get good results in school examinations. They just told us to do our best. Even though my parents never pressured me to achieve good results, I was self-initiated to do well most of the time, not that I needed to prove to my parents or myself, but naturally, I just did well because I wanted to. My parents loved us the same even though my brothers weren’t very smart and always failed in most of the subjects in school examinations. I am really glad we have such parents.
On one of the celebration days where everyone cooked and ate glutinous rice dumpling, my family had come together to tease me. The lesson I learned from that incident was we shouldn’t eat too much glutinous rice dumpling at one time no matter how delicious they are, as eating too much glutinous rice is indigestible and will cause drowsiness. When I came back from school that afternoon, I ate a few of the dumplings my mother made for the family and they were really delicious. Not long after eating, I felt really drowsy and I went for a nap which turned into a deep sleep for a few hours.
Then my mother came to my room to wake me up and told me that it was time to go to school. I was still in a very drowsy condition. I was blur-blur. I didn’t know what was going on and I believed what my mother said to me. I turned to look at the clock, it was six something. Usually the school bus came around that time in the morning to pick me up. At that moment, I heard the bus went passed our house.
I panicked. I was never late for anything. I quickly jumped off the bed and ran to the bathroom. I washed my face and brushed my teeth, ran back to my room and changed into my school uniform, took my school bag and ran out to the gate, and stood there waiting for the school bus to come back for me. I remembered that I was telling myself, “I haven’t done all my homework yet!”
When I was running to the bathroom which was located at the back of our house, I passed by the living hall and the kitchen. I saw my brother was in the living hall pumping the kerosene lamp for the house. Our house didn’t have electricity supply yet at that time. Meanwhile, my mother was cooking in the kitchen. Usually they wouldn’t be awake and do all these things in the early morning. When I ran out to the gate I also saw some children were talking and playing around. Usually nobody would be playing and making noise in the early hours. It all didn’t make sense, but I didn’t suspect anything because I was panicking about being late for school. I still hadn’t a clue what was going on. I was so blurred by the drowsiness and so naive to believe what my mother said to me – “It’s time to go to school.”
I was standing in front of the gate in my school uniform with my school bag.
A few moments later, everyone started to look at me and laughed. My mother came out from the house, grabbed me with her strong arms and carried me back into the house while telling me the truth that it was evening time, not morning! It was dinner time. That’s why there were children playing out there! That’s why my mother was cooking and my brother was pumping the kerosene lamp to light up the house! And the school bus that I heard was sending school children from the afternoon session back home.
Until now we still remember what happened that day and we would have a good laugh about it.
I was an outgoing girl who liked to ride my bicycle and went everywhere. I danced most of the time, climbed up the trees, and played with the boys and fought with them playing ‘kung fu fighting’. I played football, basketball, baseball, badminton, flying kites and catching butterflies. I also played rope jumping, hide and seek, slippers throwing, hopscotch, ‘five stones’, and etc. I liked to hang out on the sand hills and the wood factory on top the hill opposite our house. Sometimes I hung out at my friend’s house. I was the leader of the gang of our friends in the village. Among them were two sisters named Ya Li and Ya Fang. They lived further inside the village closer to the Klang River. There was a Sikh family who had a small cowshed near the river. They bred some cows for fresh milk and sold it in a big milk can placed on top of a bicycle going around the village. I liked to organize games like playing court case, where each of us played a character in the court. We also liked to sing in the school bus. Because of my energetic activities, I had several scars on my knees coming from falling onto the ground while playing and fell off the bicycle many times.
One day, I went to sleep over at my friend’s house. I brought my own pillow and bolster with me, and walked to her house which was about 200 meters away from our house. I was seven years old then. I was so embarrassed that day because I peed on her bed in the middle of the night. I apologized to her parents the next morning. Everyone knew about it and teased me for that incident and laughed about it for some time. Though this childhood good friend of mine whose name was Lye Wan didn’t go to the school that I went to, she and I had spent so much time together as we grew up together in Kampung Pinang. We lost contact for more than 23 years after the village was demolished. However, one day, she found me on Facebook in 2009.
I befriended a few other kids who were living in the same village, but not from the same school or taking the same school bus. I was a good friend to a girl named Shi Huey who was five years younger than me and her house was right behind our house. She always came over to my house to play with me. She fell down on our terrace and lost two of her front teeth on my twelfth birthday’s party. I also knew a girl named Sally who was one year older than me. She came from a Catholic family. I spent lots of time hanging out with her for many years. She became a hairdresser and had her own hair salon near Old Klang Road. I even rented a room in her hair salon to set up my first aerobics dance studio when I was eighteen years old.
There was a Punjabi girl named Sonny who lived opposite my house had picked up Cantonese from being friend with me. We spent lots of time together cycling in and around the village. Sometimes I went to her house for Punjabi meal and she also came to our house for Chinese meal.
I was good friend with a brother and sister too. They were Ah Sang and Ah Fong, who were a few years younger than me. They lived next door to our house and we have the same surname. Our surname ‘Lai’, was not a common surname. In the Chinese tradition, those who have the same surname will treat each other like brother and sister even though they might not relate to each other. They always came over to our house and we liked to climb up the big cherry tree in our garden.
I even organized a ‘bank saving account’ game. I was the banker and a few of my friends would save some coins with me every day. I kept a note book and wrote down the amount of money that they gave me, or took out. Sometimes we would use the total savings to buy some snacks and shared among ourselves. Those were such happy days.
All these childhood happy days disappeared when my family suffered from financial problem for some reasons related to my sister and her late husband, which made me very angry, and continuously being greatly unhappy for more than two years. Anyway, he died from a horrific work accident years later.
During the financial difficult moments in our family, I had shut myself off from everybody. I was full of anger and hatred and I was very depressed. I cried every day. I didn’t want to talk to my family for a long time. I locked myself in the bedroom and danced every night for a few hours to release my unhappiness. I developed a very special affection for small insects during that time and would prefer to talk to little insects especially bugs, than talking to people. I went out in the middle of the night and sat on the hilltop by myself watching the stars in the sky. I was not afraid of anything.
It is true that a person who is full of anger and hatred will not be afraid of anything, not even God, Devil, Hell or Death. When a person has intense anger and hatred in the heart, he or she doesn’t believe in anything at all. And so, what is hell and what is God are meaningless to this person. I prayed to Devil when I was very angry and I cursed everything and everyone, including my parents, my family, the people on the street, the sun, the moon, the stars, and God, even though all these things, people and the universe has nothing to do with my unhappiness. I was so unhappy, angry and full of hatred.
My second elder brother was three years older than me. He was also greatly disturbed by our family financial problem and became very cold and rebellious. He couldn’t forgive our parents and our sister and her late husband for many years. I left school a year before the secondary school final year, which was a pity, but I never regret about it because in the end, wisdom and peace and happiness are not coming from school education, but it’s coming from within ourselves through learning from life experiences and self-realization towards the truth of suffering. No doubt that school education is very important to learn how to read and write and communicate, to learn about different languages, cultures, religions, sports, morality, geography, history, mathematics, science and professional skills for making a living, but how many schools teach us how to be happy and have peace, or teach us how to transcend suffering and be free from ignorance, unhappiness, hurt, anger, hatred, greed, fear and worry?
We may have read a lot of books, have many talented skills, know and speak many languages, know about many things, have been to many places in the world, and have many friends, but it doesn’t guarantee that we will be free from ignorance and the suffering of hurt, anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, doubt, fear and worry, and will have peace and be happy in life.
I was lucky to be able to transform myself and came out from misery that had kept me in darkness for more than two years. I started to talk to my parents again and showed love and care for them. But my brother was continuing to be very unhappy for many years. Only until recently he forgave my family and started to care for my parents again just a couple of years before my mother died, which was good for him and my parents. Or else, he would regret for the rest of his life, if he hadn’t forgave my parents before my mother died, and she wouldn’t have peace as well.
Though I wasn’t a sociable person at school, I made a few true and sincere friends at school. After spending six years together in the same class at the primary school, I made a long term friendship with two of my classmates. One of them was always on the top of the placing in the class, while the other one was always at the bottom placing in the class, but we became good friends because we didn’t discriminate one another. We continued to be friends and kept in touch with each other once in a while after we finished primary school. Sadly, one of them killed herself in 2004 just before I went to India for the Yoga Teachers Training Course. Her sudden death gave me a great reflection about life, suffering and happiness.
She was born into a broken family. Her father was a wealthy businessman. Her parents were forced to get married as her mother was pregnant with her at young aged. They were separated when my friend was just a few months old and both of them had formed another family after their divorce. Both her parents abandoned her. Her grandmother took her in and looked after her. She was very grateful for that and she loved her grandmother very much, which was also the reason why her depression became more serious when her grandmother passed away. She was one of the top graduates of higher education. She worked as a marketing manager in a big advertising company, and smoked at least 2 packets of cigarettes a day.
Her first marriage lasted for one year. She married to the man whom she thought she knew very well after being best friend for 10 years. The husband was well-educated and had a high income nine to five office job, just like some other well-educated men.
Not long after they were married, she then realized her newly-wed husband was like a complete stranger to her. She started to discover many things that she didn’t know about him. She was so shocked with the truth of his real personality and was deeply disappointed with their relationship and marriage. She didn’t know that he was such an irresponsible man until they lived together sharing a life under the same roof. She found out that her husband was addicted to gambling seriously. She knew he gambled occasionally just like all the other Chinese community, but she thought that was just one of the leisure activities that most Chinese like to engage with. He liked to go to Genting Highlands Casino for gambling. Unfortunately, he lost a lot of money and started to borrow money from the loan sharks money lender. He lost all the money borrowed from the loan sharks and didn’t have the money to pay back the loan. He secretly went to her father and borrowed a lot of money from him. He lied to her father about why he needed to borrow so much money and convinced him not to let her know about it. He took all the money borrowed from her father to Genting Highlands again for more gambling hoping to win back what he had lost, but instead, he lost everything he had. He couldn’t pay back the loan sharks and was in debt with the father-in-law. And so, what he did? He ran away without telling her and went missing for many months without any contact from him.
What worst was, he didn’t just run away. He also took all her savings in cash which she kept in the house. She didn’t want to keep money in the banks. She said she didn’t trust the bank. She taught she could trust her husband, but she was wrong.
She only found out the truth about her husband when the loan sharks came to her house looking for the husband, and threatened her to pay back the money borrowed by her husband who had ran away shamelessly. She also found out about the husband had borrowed lots of money from her father. She was completely heartbroken.
Meanwhile she found out that she was pregnant, which the husband had no idea about it. She was supposed to be very happy for having to be pregnant because she always wanted to have her own children ever since she was a young girl. She strongly believed that a woman’s life wouldn’t be complete until she had her own children to form a perfect family. She was very worried for her unborn child to have such an irresponsible, selfish and shameless father. She made a very heart-breaking decision. She went for an abortion out of great anger and disappointment. She felt guilty for that afterwards and had regretted it for the rest of her life. She filed a divorce after her husband’s disappearance for many months. He showed up one day to sign the divorce paper, but seeing him again was like putting salt onto the existing wounds.
Few years later she met another well-educated man also with a decent high income job. She fell in love and got married again. Not long after they were married, she got pregnant not once, but twice. She was very happy to have her own children that she always dreamt of. She was determined to quit smoking while she was pregnant for the sake of the baby’s health. She continued her two boxes of cigarettes every day as soon as she stopped breast feeding.
She suffered post natal depression after the first baby. She recovered, but not for long. She wanted another baby to fulfill her wish to have a few children to complete her perfect happy family life. She was pregnant again two years later and gave birth to another baby boy. We went to her house to visit her and the baby. She didn’t talk about her problems. She seemed happy with her wishes came true and was very loving towards her new born baby boy. Her husband seemed like a good gentleman.
A few months later, one of our classmates called me in great distressed and told me that she had passed away about a month ago. The three of us used to hang out together frequently before her second marriage and the two pregnancies. We didn’t know what had happened to her or how she died. Nobody knew anything about her sudden death, not any of our classmates. The husband didn’t inform anyone of us about her death and the funeral. I had called her and texted her many times before and after her death, but there was no reply. Then only I knew why she hadn’t returned my calls and messages. Because she was dead. We couldn’t keep in the dark and wanted to find out what had happened to her.
My friend called her husband. The husband didn’t want to tell her anything about her death, but just said that the two boys were living with his parents in Penang. We were looking for an answer. Finally, we found our answer from an old newspaper dated November 9th, 2004. It was really heart-breaking and painful for us to read the article about her death. The article was about how she had jumped from her 15th floor apartment’s balcony and fell to her death instantly in the morning about 10.30 a.m. on November 8th, 2004. The neighbours told the reporters that they always heard arguments from her apartment about money issues.
We knew about her death in December 2004, and I went to India in early January 2005. I was very sad about her death, but I was more determined to find out the truth about suffering and the path of liberation from suffering. She had chosen what she wanted to do with her life. I respect her decision.
That was the past. I continued my journey in search for real peace and happiness.
I also made a long term friendship with a pair of twin sisters in my secondary school, who both worked as flight attendant for more than eighteen years. We were in the same class for our first year in the secondary school, but then we were separated in different classes afterwards. They looked after me knowing that I had financial difficulty at home. They brought me gift from everywhere in the world that they flew to, and brought me out for a coffee and/or meal when they were back at home. They are both happily married and have beautiful children who are grown-ups now. They were very understanding when I renounced social life more than ten years ago. Good friends don’t need to meet up and connect with one another frequently, and still being friend and understanding towards one another.
Thanks to the Dhamma, Madonna and everyone who had inspired and helped me to come out from miseries. Thanks to my parents who didn’t question me for my bad behaviour and they didn’t abandon me and were very patient with me, and continued to love me and care for me, gave me their supports to pursue my dreams in dancing, and having the opportunity to become an aerobics dance instructor teaching aerobics classes making a living to support myself and my parents.
My mother was the driver who sent me everywhere to teach aerobics classes. She waited patiently in the car park until I finished teaching and then sent me back home because I hadn’t learn how to drive yet, not until I was thirty three years old. I had fear of crossing the road and fear of driving in the past because I was involved in a few car accidents as a passenger when I was a child. It would take me very long time to cross over the road. I would wait until there was completely no cars in sight to cross the road. But now it’s a different story. I love and enjoy driving very much. I’m free from fear. After I learned how to drive and bought a small car to travel in and around Kuala Lumpur, I managed to teach a lot more aerobics classes which led to a higher income that allowed me to have a little bit of savings for myself after giving money to support my parents’ living every month.
And thanks to myself, who had initiated to uplift and love myself, and saved myself out of the ocean of ignorance and suffering.