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Bean-curd has always been a staple diet of the Chinese people. My paternal grandpa used to be a bean-curd maker. He was from the southern province of Guangdong in China.

Unlike most Chinese immigrants who came to Malaya at the end of the 19th and early 20th century to escape poverty, grandpa came to escape the sword.

You see, he had secretly funded a revolution to change China from a monarchy to a republic. Beneath the humble façade of a small sized and soft spoken bean-curd maker, he was actually a revolutionist or shall we call him an idealist? For waiting to replace the old with the new, he had to pay a heavy price for it. Nearly caught once, he was forced to leave his motherland forever.

I think he has no regret for this decision. Life was good to him in Malaya. Like many Chinamen of his era, grandpa had no qualms over the popular practice of “three wives and four concubines.” Indeed, he had three wives but luckily for them, he stopped there.

Grandpa had a very soft spot for all his grandchildren, especially the female ones. Being the baby girl in the family, I was, therefore, the apple of his eyes. He often came to visit me and gave me some money to buy candies. I would not ask for a better grandpa.

Yip Soo, also known as “Tau Foo Soo” was another character being prominently featured in my book, “The Stories of The Scissors Sharpener’s Daughter.” Beside dad, he was the other man who loved me the most when I was a child. Today, his spirit of wanting to change for the better still lives in me.

To be continued…..

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Book order

As a curious girl of five or six and together with a mischievous cousin brother who was a year or two older than me, I would often crept quietly across the wooden floor to where grandma was having an afternoon nap.

The old lady loved to sleep on her hard and square-shaped pillow made from porcelain. Fanning herself slowly with a straw fan in one hand, she would drift off to sleep under the Rediffusion box fixed to the wall.

Afternoons are Chinese-opera and napping times for old ladies.

“Can you see that her feet are so small?” I whispered softly to the young boy giggling beside me.

We gently lifted up her feet and examined them with amused eyes. As little kids, we have no idea why our grandma has a pair of feet as small as ours. It looked strange for an adult to have such small feet. Grandma’s dainty little feet never ceased to amaze both of us.

My cousin brother slowly put her feet to his nose and I followed suit. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! We were almost thrown off by the smell. Her small feet smell like salted fish!

Grandma’s feet brought her a lot of pain and tears but pride too. You can read my book to find out how it was to grow up under the care of an old lady who walked with a pair of dainty little feet in my book, “The Stories of the Scissors Sharpener’s Daughter.”

To be continued…..

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Book order

Some forty years ago when I first started Standard One at Methodist Girl’s Primary School, my class teacher asked me what my dad’s occupation was. She needed this information to fill up some forms for record-keeping.

At a tender age of seven and hardly knowing much English, I do not know how to describe what my dad does for a living.

“Is he a doctor?” she asked me and I shook my head.

“How about a salesman?” she asked again but I kept quiet.

“Is he then a policeman, a taxi driver or a farmer?” Mrs. Victor Doss asked me patiently. I just stared at her with a blank face. She finally gave up.

“Alright, get your mom or dad to come see me tomorrow, I’ll ask them myself,” she said at last.

The next day, dad cycled to my school and went to see the teacher. He told her humbly in broken Malay of his vocation, “Saya asah gunting, cikgu.” It simply means “I sharpen scissors, teacher.”

It was her turn to look lost. I think she had hardly heard of anyone in this profession. In Ipoh’s new town, there was one along Cockman Street but maybe she was not aware of his existence.

Dad also told her our coffee shop had just closed down a few months ago.

“Oh, in that case, I’ll just put it down as shop-owner!” she said delightfully as she could not find the appropriate term to describe him.

That was how my dad was known throughout my school days – a shop owner even though the shop we were staying in does not belong to us as we were renting it from a rich Sikh property owner cum lawyer.

So when I wrote in ipohworld’s world about my dad’s struggles to bring up a big family by sharpening scissors, I decided to coin the term “scissors sharpener.” Of course there was a debate among the readers on this term but I stood by my description.

I am so proud of my dad the scissors sharpener. I am so glad to be his daughter and be able to stand out from the rest. Humble his trade may sound but he was a very decent and resilient man.

For being such an integral part of my life, he was being featured prominently in my first book, “The Stories of the Scissors Sharpener’s Daughter.”

Do read my book to find out why I loved this man so much.

To be continued….

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