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Ah Moi – woman of grit

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Each time when I go back to Ipoh, I would make it a point to drop by at Gopeng, a small town in Perak, to visit my cousin sister, Ah Moi.

A few years older than me, Ah Moi lost her mother at a tender age and being the only girl in her family, she had to cook for and take care of her diabetic father and two younger brothers who are slow learners. Ah Moi dropped out from school after Primary Six and got married at twenty to a young man from her village. They have three children. He worked as a logger in the jungle nearby.

Life is not kind to my cousin sister. Not long after their marriage, her husband was killed in a freak accident, leaving her a young widow with three children, a sick father, and two brothers to take care. But Ah Moi refused to ask for help from anyone. No loan from the banks, no welfare benefit, nothing came her way.

Determined to feed the family, she operates a stall in the Gopeng Market selling noodles and yong tau foo which she made herself. The name of her noodle stall is Tong Kee. It was named after Ah Tong, one of her brothers. They also helps her out. It was a brothers and sister’s business.

Years later, their father passed away and her children graduated from college. But Ah Moi refused to stop. She wanted to feel useful and to be financially independent. Ah Moi’s motto is “Moe Kung But Sau Luk.” A young widow feeding six people – that is an incredible feat which can even reduced some men to tears but today, Ah Moi could hold her head high. She had weathered the storm marvellously.

In this picture taken last month (Sept 14th) on my visit to the Gopeng Market, my cousin sister could be seen standing inside her stall while her one of her brothers was seen sitting at the table waiting for customers. Ah Moi serves delicious soup noodles, curry noodles, assam laksa, and her signature yong tau foo.

At today’s book reading event at d6 The Refinery. There were six writers reading their books and poems. They were Sukhbir Cheema (The Lost Pilgrim),Tehsin Begum Mukhtar Ahmad (unpublished poems), Aaron Ong (New Town Life – Ipoh My Hometown), Lily Forbes (Growing Up Under A Mango Tree), Tina Isaaccs (Darkness Falls) and Frances Yip Ipohgal (The Scissor Sharpener’s Daughter). We had a lovely evening of sharing and learning. The moderator was Alexandra Liew. The event was hosted by Ben Toh and Frances Yip Ipohgal. This is just the beginning of more reading sessions to be held for the coming months.

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Tehsin Begum Mukhtar Ahmad reading her unpublished poems.

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Sukhbir Cheema reading his short story “The Lost Pilgrim.”

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Alexandra Liew is the moderator for this event.

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Aaron Ong sharing his growing up years in Ipoh in “New Town Life – Ipoh My Hometown.”

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Lily Forbes shares her growing up years in Sentul and India in her maiden book, “Growing Up Under A Mango Tree.”

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My turn to share how it is like to grow up as the daughter of a scissor sharpener in Ipoh.

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The last writer to read was Tina Isaacs who was reading her debut novel in progress, “Darkeness Falls.”

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My book sale at Inspiration @ D6, Sentul East on 10th October 2014.

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The Storm Will Pass

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Four years ago, my husband, the sole breadwinner, came home and told me, a full-time housewife since the year 2000, that he has lost his job. Tried as he did for the next half year, he could not get another job that could give us back the kind of decent lifestyle we were so used to. On top of this, we have two young children to feed and endless bills to pay.

Friends deserted us. Relatives distanced themselves. In-laws began to interfere and provoke. Tempers flared. Tears flowed. Quarrels ensued. Our once tranquil home became hell on earth. Can you imagine how awful life was from then on? If I had wanted to, I could even write a book on all the miseries and indignities we have endured since that fateful day in December 2010.

Depression set in. Suicide did crossed my mind more than once. There were times when I wished I do not have to wake up to face another day. I knew I had lost my sanity one evening when I saw visions of a girl laughing at me from the wall of the toilet.

But I did not go to seek the help of a psychiatrist or a counselor. I knew no one could help me except myself. I think those who know me would now find it hard to believe the kind of hell my family have been through the last four years. After all, we managed to put up a brave front and smiled through the tears and pain.

Then one day, I came across a quote that would changed my life forever – “Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” It was by Siddhartha Gautama. So, husband and I decided to find the blessings behind the pain and humiliations we were going through.

He searched high and low, and finally found a book that could help me. It was not an ordinary self-help book written by some millionaire businessman or a motivational speaker. It was written by a respected monk from Tibet called Pabongka Rinpoche and the book was passed on to another monk called Trijang Rinpoche who later became the personal tutor to the 14th Dalai Lama. It was said that Trijang Rinpoche brought the book along with his young student when they both fled to India after China invaded Tibet. This book has served the 14th Dalai Lama so well and also, millions of other human beings suffering from some kind of emotional upheaval.

The name of this book is “Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand.” From this book, I learned that no one could help me out from my miseries except myself. I learned not to rely on others but myself for salvation. I learned to take charge of my own life. I learned to depend on myself for true happiness.

Slowly, bit by bit, I began to remove layers of anger that had built up over the years. I have also learned not to hate my life anymore, or the people who have been so unkind and hostile to me in my darkest hours. Now, I see them as my teachers or gurus – they taught me not to be like them. I learned not to be greedy for things which were not meant for me. This in turn, teaches me to be contented, to be satisfied with the little things I still have with me, and they are things money cannot buy. The book taught me not to be egoistic. Instead, I learned humility. Anyway, how proud can one be when life is impermanent?

You are not suppose to read this book in a jiffy. You won’t learn anything that way. You should read it very slowly, contemplate on Pabongka’s lessons, and practice what you have understood from him. That way, you will become a better human being, and a more peaceful individual. I have found peace at last, and I felt I have grown up too. I have found the blessings behind all the tears we have shed and the pain we have gone through.

For years, I was called degrading names like potato, stupid, lazy or useless. In-laws said I only know how to eat but do not know how to earn money. I wanted to prove them wrong. Today, I am no longer just a housewife and a mother. I have become a writer too. I have written a book, and another one is coming up soon, after I have finished putting in some final touches to the contents and am satisfied with the cover design.

Am I ashamed of having gone through all these “lows” in life? Not at all. Now, I am comfortable enough to share my pain without a tinge of self-pity or resentment.

We have been knocked down very badly, but we have learned to stand up again, and continues with the journey called “life.” My husband is building up a new career again and we are beginning to see the fruits of his labor.

If anything, I am grateful for having gone through such a huge storm and came out from it unharmed. I have no regrets. I would not have it any other way.

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Last night, around 9.30 pm, I was sitting at the computer table updating my Facebook status when someone knocked furiously at my door. I quickly got up and rushed out to see who it was.

I saw a shirtless young man with a cat struggling in his hand. “Hello, is this cat yours?” he asked shyly. It was quite dark outside my door but I could still recognized Marble’s familiar face. My heart leaped with joy and all I could mumbled was, “Yes, yes, oh thank goodness, Marble, you’re still around!”

I immediately took the cat back and thanked the man profusely before he disappeared into the dark stairs. My children who were in their study rooms rushed out when they heard the commotion. They too, were very excited to see Marble again.

Marble dashed happily into the house and she was greeted by her three brothers (Puss, Kid and Blondy) who took turns to smell her face and rub their heads against hers. This is the first time I saw with my own eyes how animals missed each other and how happy they were at being reunited again. The sight brought a lump to my throat.

“Quick, call your Daddy, he is still around the neighborhood looking for Marble. Get him to come home at once and give Marble a bath!” I instructed my daughter but to our dismay, Marcus did not bring along his hand-phone. It had run out of battery and was left lying on the table.

“Never mind, wait for him to come home then,” I said.

Alexandra, ever the witty one, suggested mischievously, “Let’s give Daddy a surprise when he got home. Let’s hide Marble somewhere!”

I smiled at my daughter and told her, “Do whatever you like. Your Daddy won’t mind.”

An hour later, while I was brushing my teeth and washing my face, Marcus came home.

“Daddy, did you find Marble?” Alexandra asked him playfully.

Marcus’ face looked sad and he shook his head, “Sorry, I still couldn’t find her but I won’t give up yet.”

“Daddy, close your eyes please,” our daughter pleaded laughingly. He obeyed.

“Now, open your eyes,” Again, he obeyed.

In front of his eyes were Marble, the cat he was so desperately looking around the whole neighborhood since Sunday morning when he could not eat or sleep after learning the disappearance of his ” little daughter.”

Can you imagine how happy my husband was that moment?

“Oh Marble, Marble, you know how hard I’ve been looking for you? Oh, Daddy is so happy to have you back, little darling girl!” He said before breaking into laughter. “This is better than striking a lottery! I made a good sale today and having Marble back means I have two reasons to celebrate!”

Marcus then pressed some money into my hands and said happily, “Go buy supper to celebrate, Mommy!”

Half an hour later, on my way back with the packed supper, I mounted the staircase and saw a female cat nursing her babies inside a storeroom next to the staircase. They have been there for the last two months. We used to call her “Mommy Cat.” We always feed her whenever she mewed at our door for food although we did not take her and her babies into our house. We thought they could manage on their own. Anyway, we already have four cats at home now.

This morning, on our way down, the children and I saw “Mommy Cat” lying motionless inside the storeroom. Beside her stiffed body was a pool of her vomit. Her babies were hiding behind some planks piled at a corner. They looked lost and fearful.

I rushed up to inform Marcus who quickly ran down to see what had happened.

He shook his head and slapped his forehead crying, “Oh no, how can she died now when her babies were still so young?”

After sending the children to school, Marcus and I conducted a simple funeral for poor “Mommy Cat.” We recited prayers for her before burying her under a tree near the bridge behind our house. Tears flowed. We worried for the babies she left behind.

“Mommy, I think we cannot leave them on their own – they are so defenseless and fragile. They might get knocked by passing cars. I can’t bear to give them up for adoption as this means they will be separated. I wish to see them grow up together as brothers and sisters even though their mommy has died. The only way we can cherished Mommy Cat’s memory is to take good care of her babies for her. What do you think?”

I understand Marcus’ sentiments. To us, each life is precious, even though they were mere little animals.

“We just have to work harder, I know it is going to be okay!” I told him and gave him a pat on his shoulder.

We already have  three cats and a kitten waiting for us at home….. and now, we are going to be adoptive parents to another four kittens who have lost their mother this morning – which means, there will be eight felines altogether!

There will be a lot of hard work but a lot of joy too waiting for us both….

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Marble (Lost and Found)

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Blondy (little naughty, sofa destroyer)

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Kiddy (the third brother, homely cat)

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Puss (the big brother)

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Nelson (the second brother, friendly and soft, still missing since 2 months ago)

May you be reborn in the Blissful Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha.

Namo Ratna Trayaya Namo Bhagawate Amitabhaya Tathagataya
Arahate Samyaksam Buddhaya Tayata Om Amite Amitobhawe Amita Sambhawe Amitabitrente Amita Gamini gaganakirti kare sarva kaleshaksha yam kari svaha

Om Ami De Wa Hri x 108 “

Grant blessing to accomplish this mantra without interruption.
“TADYA THA PENTSA DRI YA AH WA BHO DHA NI SVAHA”
May I send forth manifestations to guide beings without exception.
May all Beings benefit

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Mommy Cat when she had just given birth to four kittens…

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Mommy Cat was found dead in the storeroom next to the staircase but the good mother looked peaceful in her death.

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Mommy Cat was buried under a shady tree next to the bridge behind our house… Farewell, you have been a good mother to your babies.

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Dedication of merits ~ May the merits and virtues accrued from this work, adorn the Buddha’s Pure Land, repay the Four Kindness above, and relieve the sufferings of those in the Three Realms below. May those who see or hear of this, bring forth the Bodhi mind, and live the teachings for the rest of this life, then be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

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Miracles happens everyday!

FOUND!

Lucky Marble has been found just now! She has sneaked up to another floor and was caged up there for the last three days. A good Samaritan who found it decided to return the lost cat to us, as she is still under medication. We were so thankful to have our little girl back into our arms. I call this a miracle. Simple things such as this makes life so meaningful for us.IMG_4198 sIMG_4220

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A month ago, my husband Marcus found an abandoned cat shivering near a drain at the Kenanga night market. She was weak, injured, cold and hungry. Seeing no one stop for her, he decided to bring her home as she was in a pitiful state.

Once home, he gave her a warm bath and some cat food. We named her Lucky Marble. So far, we have taken her to the vet twice due to her fragile health. With lots of love, food and the right medication, Lucky Marble soon got stronger and healthier but her cough and flu persists. We planned to take her to the vet again tomorrow as her medication has ran out.

Taking care of a cat like Lucky Marble is not easy. You will need a lot of patience with and compassion for animals to be able to take care of a cat who loves to cling to you like a newborn baby.Giving her medication twice a day is a daily struggle as she could not keep still and refuses to be fed with those bitter liquid. But we persisted and were richly rewarded. Lucky Marble is a very grateful cat. She always lick our face, head or rub her head against our legs – that is her way to show her gratitude.

Besides being grateful, Lucky Marble is also a friendly cat. She got along very well with her three brothers and always plays with them whenever she was in the mood to do so.

But the unexpected happened this morning. Lucky Marble has disappeared from home. She had never stepped out of the house before. We checked every nook and corner of the house and combed the entire neighborhood but still, there was no sight of our beautiful little girl. It was as if she had vanished into thin air and this really baffled us.

We have lost two cats in three months and it was painful to bear for we see them as part of our family.

Please, Lucky Marble, stay safe wherever you are and come back home. We all misses you and look forward to see you again…..

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Marble the lucky gal

The two elder brothers

The two elder brothers

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The naughty little brother

Blondy the little naughty

Blondy the little naughty

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