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Father's life was very hard. Just a few months afer he was born there was
a drought in Da4 Bu3 county (a Hakka county) in Guangdong province.
Whatever could be eatened in the house had been eaten. His biological
parents, without other options, loaded him and the few other little elder
brothers into the vegetable baskets which swung from the two ends of a
shoulder-pole and carried them to the market to sell. They were sold off
just like selling pigs and dogs.
My father was bought by an old lady. Her purpose of buying my father was
to send him to Nanyang (Malaya) to become the son of her only and unmarried
son who was doing business there. The old lady was not sure if her son ever
wanted to get marry and if he would have a heritor. Her son, that is my Ah
Gong or grandfather, was over thirty years old and she longed to carry
grandchildren. In order to accomplish her wish she bought my father
without Ah Gong's consent. Having bought my father she, that is my Ah
Tai or great grandmother, was certained that the Kuang family had a heir.
The year when father was two years old the successful Ah Gong returned to
the ancestral village and took father and Ah Tai to live in Seremban
(present day capital of Negri Sembilan, Malaysia). A year later the
ambitious Ah Gong went alone to Sandakan in North Borneo (present day
Sabah Malaysia) to establish his entertainment business.
Father was brught up by Ah Tai who was a typical Hakka village woman.
Although Ah Tai was quite old yet she was busy with herself by growing
vegetables to sell and rearing a few pigs. Ah Tai believed in
selfsustaining and selfsuffient. Not to say that Ah Gong did not send her
any money, but she saved up every cent that Ah Gong remitted. She loathed
to spend money unneccessarily.
Ah Tai was very strict on father. When he was caught for being lazy or
did something wrong Ah Tai would punish him by not oly spanking but also
by denying of food for a whole day which was the worst part. After the
punishment father was not allowed to show any remorseless. If the day
that father wanted to follow Ah Tai to town he had to work specially
fast on his daily chores like, fetching water, spliting firewood, cook
the rice and tidying up the house etcetera.
Although Ah Tai was an illiterate country woman she knew the importance
of education. When father was six years old Ah Tai sent him to study in
a village school. Father was smart and intelligent and he picked up the
lessons easily. Whenever the teacher craved for a smoke of opium he would
tell father to supervise the class and he hid himself in another room
and smoked opium.
At the age of fifteen father left Ah Tai and followed Ah Gong from
Seremban to Sandakan. Ah Gong had established a cinema in Sandakan. As
an owner Ah Gong trusted no one and he had to do very thing by himself.
The arrival of father would give him a helping hand to run his business.
Ah Gong arranged father to study English in a missionary school during
the day and helped him in his cinema at night. Father had two jobs.
Before the show father had to sell tickets in a room. As soon as it was
time to start the show father had to stop selling tickets and rush quickly
to the projection room to help. Every night after the show father had to
clean up the cinema hall. Usually it was past midnight when he returned
Father usually did his school homework in the hour between one and two
AM. Due to his lacking of sleep, many a time father dozed off while he was
in the class. At first the form teacher warned him. However, after several
days and seeing him showing no sign of changing the teacher reported him to
the principal who was an European. The principal reprimanded father who
under such circumstances had to tell the truth. The principal sympathized
with him, but had to stick to the rules of the school. He would not allow
father to sleep anymore in classes. He advised father that if he wanted to
study he should stop working and if he wanted to work he should stop
Father went home and told Ah Gong what the principal had told him. Ah
Gong, putting out a long face and without saying a word for a long time,
said coldly to father:
"You better decide for yourself."
It was very hard for father who thought that the reason for Ah Gong to
bring him here was to help him in his cinema business since he needed a
relative to give him a hand. If father were deciding to continue studying
he wondered how Ah Gong would react. Ah Gong was not father's biological
father. Father could not sleep that night as he was thinking what he
should do the next day: to study or not to study.
The next day father, as usual, went to school. However, he did not attend
classes, instead he called at the principal's office. He told the
principal about his predicament why he could not continue studying.
Father was very sad.
All the time father was assisting Ah Gong in the cinema business. Ah Gong
always felt indifferent towards father. It could be that father was not
brought up by Ah Gong.
Father got married and moved out to live. By that time Ah Gong already
married Ah Po (grandmother). Ah Po was a barren woman. Due to Ah Po
barrenness Ah Gong adopted Ah Gu Zai (little aunty) and Ah Shu Zai
(little uncle). When I was a kid we, my brothers and sisters and I,
loved to visit Ah Gong's house. Ah Gong had a big house with a large
lounge. There were all kinds of imported chocolates and various types
of fruit on the tables in the lounge for us kids. Oh, how we loved Ah
When I was six years old Ah Gong had a heart attack. He died before the
doctors could operate on him. Ah Gong died without a will and therefore by
law all his properties were bequeated to Ah Po. Ever since she married Ah
Gong Ah Po never liked father. After Ah Gong's death Ah Po afraid that
father might fight for Ah Gong's wealth. So Ah Po was very careful over
father's way of doing business. Finally Ah Po engaged some one to manage
the cinema which father had been administering for over ten years.
Although father was poor and had to support our family of ten he did not
ask Ah Po for a cent from Ah Gong's wealth.
After leaving the cinema business father was unemployed for sometime. With
a few friends he established a business, but it went bankrupt within a
short time because father did not known how to run a business. Eventually
father went back to his old profession and became a projection opreator in
a newly opened cinema.
Since then father had been working as a projection operator for over
twenty years until he retired. Father knew that cinema business was not
the profession for his children. So he would not allow us his children to
follow his footsteps.
Father loved children, it was because he had no parents since he was a kid
and no one cared for him. Even though we were poor father had never
thought of selling us off or allowed us to be adopted. Father not only
reared us but he also gave each one of us a good education. It was because
father had only a few years of education he valued education. He always
encouraged us to study hard. His ways of loving us were based on the
results from our schools. He rewarded those who were good in studying and
punished those who had bad results. He always reminded us that:
"With a good education you are going to have a good life.
Without a good education you are going to be a labourer."
Father became a father when he was twenty three. He had been a father for
fifty years. Through out his life he worked so hard. He saw each of his
children completed his study, got married and had a family. Among his
children, there is an electical engineer, a doctor, a mechanical engineer,
a manager in a marine company, an accountant, a division one officer in
the government and two bankers. Why shouldn't father, a semi-illiterate
and a projection operator, be proud of himself? Now he has more wealth
than the properties that his adopted father left behind. He did not
get a cent from his adopted father's properties.
By Kuang Feng-sha in Chinese
Translated by CHUNG Yoon-Ngan.