Remembering 5 chek

As I left the M80 and started along the Hume, I thought again of the weekend I’d had. It was one of the most event filled weekends since I started work in Canberra in May.

I’d had a long meeting on Friday arvo, with the external lawyers advising us on the new arrangements with the Red Cross Blood Service. So when I left the office to drive down to Melbourne, my mind was still on some of the issues we discussed, trying to process and digest the elements and what needed to be done in the coming week(s).

When I made a toilet stop at the Gundagai Maccas, the restaurant was empty. The long meeting at the office meant the lunch I had planned with some colleagues didn’t happen and I’d only had a cup noodle. The Gundagai Maccas usually has a biggish crowd. With no crowd there, I decided to grab a quick bite. As I sat down to have the meal, I read some WhatsApp messages saying 5 chek – an uncle, Tiat Been – had been admitted to the ICU for severe lung infection. He had had a fall earlier and his blood pressure was critically low.

By the time I made my next toilet stop soon after Euroa/near Seymour some 3 hours later, the WhatsApp messages showed 5 chek had passed away.

My memory of him was shared by my brother in a family event not long ago, I forget the context or when it was exactly. My brother retold a scene in the Kampung Jawa home, where everyone was on their knees praying and many were crying. 5 chek who was in Perth after qualifying as an Engineer in the then Western Australian Institute of Technology (“WAIT”), had been involved in a serious motor accident. I remember seeing a picture of him in a wheelchair as he left Perth with my late grandfather, to return to Malaysia. He was bald, and looked very ill. Ever since that accident, 5 chek has had a range of disabilities. He had severe brain damage from the accident and the result was he couldn’t walk normally and generally his motor coordination skills were severely impaired. His speech was also affected but he was otherwise generally independent.

For many years, 5 chek faced tremendous challenges reconciling himself with his condition and often thought he stood a much better chance of better/complete recovery had he remained in Perth. I believe he was right. I also believe grandfather didn’t necessarily do the wrong thing. He wanted his son to be at home and he wanted to care for his son at home. I don’t know if he knew, appreciated or thought Perth would have been a better option for 5 chek in so many ways but there was a good chance his paternal instincts swayed him – overwhelmingly – to do what he did. The fathers of today may well have reached a different conclusion to grandfather but at that time (mid 1970’s) and given the circumstances then I think I get why grandfather did what he did.

I guess it’s one of those conundrums in life which would remain richly entangled for as long as I remember 5 chek.

Having said that, I believe 5 chek had a wonderful life. I believe his experiences – the immense physical, psychological and emotional challenges he must have faced, probably on a daily basis – gave him a life and experiences which helped shape his relationship with God and shaped how he touched others around him which only he and his enduring circumstances could have made possible. The usual discussions about what constitutes a good life – the definition of good – would no doubt be relevant, i.e good not as in whether, for example, he could have had a family of his own, worked or had a career, provided material things to himself and to his family, and generally live a good life as many would define a good life to be. The usual challenge to this notion of “good” applies. What if a good life means a journey with the Lord which made one see the Lord and His work in ways which made one think in completely different terms? What if he journeyed every single day trusting the Lord for every single action and thought and thinking about what the Lord is doing at large and doing through him, in a way which many/most of us cannot, because we live the “normal” or “good” life? What if that journey touched others around him in ways which his otherwise “normal” or “good” life would never have been able to do? What if that journey provided an alternate benchmark of what constitute a good – wonderful – life?

5 chek always made me think of grandfather. He made me think of what grandfather did for his children and grandchildren. 5 chek helped me think what it means to have a stab at making someone’s life better. Whenever I thought of him I thought about what it means to help someone, what it means to make someone’s life better – not necessarily on our terms alone but also on that person’s terms. The person we think about has his/her own journey and how that journey can be better and what that means. When help is needed, it is often about that journey that person has to make. It isn’t about the helper’s journey – it’s about that person’s. Maybe the helper is right and that person’s journey can be shaped by the helper’s thoughts, actions and contributions but it is about that person’s journey, not the helper’s. As long as that journey is one where the Lord is God, that can be – is – a good and wonderful life.

My last interaction with 5 chek was in February this year, when Tress and I returned to Klang for a short holiday. Tib organised a bah kut teh and tuah kor, 3 chek, mum, and several others were there. 5 chek sat near me. He had lost so much of his motor coordination by then and had tremendous challenge serving himself at that meal. Yet he persisted at being independent, was extremely courteous and polite when I tried to help him with his food and tea and he was having a red hot go at enjoying a good meal with the family.

Soon after I moved to Canberra, I was back in Melbourne for a weekend (end of May) and spent a day with Ruth, Jonathan, Micah and 6 chek and 6 chim. We talked about 5 chek’s care and wellbeing. Driving back from Maribyrnong to Forest Hill that night, I wished I could see 5 chek again, to tell him what his life had taught me.

5 chek was probably 67 years old. If he was, he would be at the same age as my late father when he passed on. Dad was a few weeks shy of his 68th birthday. I imagined 5 chek being greeted by our Lord with dad, grandfather, grandmother, kor tiu, chek kong, chim poh and others – all as part of the welcoming party – as he walked through the pearly gates. He is free now from his disabilities. Someone said as a younger fellow 5 chek was agile and moved quickly with taut muscled limbs. I imagine him moving freely again as he walked past those pearly gates. May you find the Lord’s rest as He promised. Goodbye 5 chek.

PS (thanks to Liza and Tuar Kor):

  1. 5 chek was 68 years old, 2 months shy of his 69th birthday.
  2. Grandfather was unwell and couldn’t stay to accompany 5 chek on his return from Perth to Malaysia. A Dr Lee and his Aussie wife later accompanied 5 chek on that return journey.

Bersih in Malaysia

Bersih is a movement in Malaysia which in recent years sought reforms in election laws and processes there.

In recent months Najib Razak the Prime Minister of Malaysia has been embroiled in alleged corruption scandal involving huge sums of money. Some USD700 million was said to have been deposited into his personal bank account, which weeks later he said were political donations. This was after he shut down a local financial newspaper, sacked the Attorney General who was a member of a task force set up to investigate the allegations, and messed with a Parliamentary Audit Committee by promoting some of its members to his cabinet, thus disqualifying them from continuing on as members of the Committee. He also sacked, transferred or suspended persons in the anti corruption body.

As these actions fomented, they brought public sentiments to a boil – thus “Bersih 4.0” has gathered momentum. In spite of turmoils within the Islamic party (PAS) which had previously been a key component of past Bersih events, the current Bersih appears to have lost little interest or momentum in carrying out public rallies to protests against the Najib Razak administration. Idiotic mind numbing statements by some of his sychophantic cabinet members have poured fuel onto the fire and judging by the volume and tones of private family group chats of mine, ordinarily docile Malaysians are fed up and are ready to rumble. Churches will open its doors to protesters in case authorities play rough, and scores of private doctors have volunteered to provide medical services. Local food vendors have offered free pre-rally lunches. In short ordinary previously uninterested Malaysians are itching for a fight.

Tress and I, along with some friends and family here in a much quieter setting that is Melbourne, will attend a Down Under version of the event at Federation Square. If I weren’t heading to Melbourne this weekend, I would have headed to the Canberra chapter too, such is the momentum of disgust now building up. Actually I’m quite excited. After years and years of feeling angry and frustrated at how Malaysians are reticent to speak up against wrong doings, I think the country has turned the corner and has had enough. I left Malaysia in 2004 – finally in 2015, I see the frustration, anger and disgust which drove me out, now fomenting among those I care about.

Hadi Awang at the Bersih rally
Hadi Awang at the Bersih rally (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mish Mash, Bersih 4

The weekend started in an unpleasant way, as Hawthorn struggled and then lost to Port Adelaide. The final Test match at The Oval in London went well however so I guess that was a bit of a salve.

On Saturday Kiddo had a whole day writing pilgrim of sorts in a friend’s place at Hackett, a few suburbs away from our Turner home. So she was up early (earlier) and after she left home I read a little bit, then went for a slow longish run. I trekked up Marcus Clarke Street, headed to Constitution Avenue and did a lake circuit of sorts by going on the Kings Avenue bridge to get back towards Marcus Clarke Street, to head home. After a long shower and laundry I went for a sticky beak again in Forde and looked at a property there before heading to Belconnen for some grocery shopping and lunch. Back at Turner, I spoke to Tress on the phone for a bit before heading back to Lake Burley Griffin – spurred on by an unusually balmy day  – for a casual bike ride.

I toggled between the very exciting St Kilda v Geelong game (ended in a draw) and the Oval Test (Michael Clarke’s final test) that night before Kiddo came back home. She headed for bed soon after, saying Sunday would be a repeat of sorts for a writing extravaganza. I too went to bed when The Test rested for lunch.

Sunday morning I offered to drop Kiddo off at her friend’s, she made brekky and after dropping her off I went home, got ready for church and after church headed to Fyshwick Markets. I had a very nice pho there, bought some fresh foods and went back home. Later I went to the Mitchell Resource Management Centre to drop off the old printer and an old radio, then went back home and cooked dinner for Kiddo and Mic.

Through the weekend, I received a stream of messages (on WhatsApp) on the coming Bersih rally (Bersih 4) in KL. It looks like this would attract massive grassroots support and the turnout is likely to be huge. It is potentially a monster rally and I hope people stay safe, especially family and friends who have decided – like so many Malaysians – to show support and demonstrate against a Malaysian government that has continued to plumb new depths. Tress and I are planning to attend the Melbourne version in Federation Square. I hope we lend our small voice in some ways.

The new intolerance

Notwithstanding some derisory columns published on this man, I find his telling of my concerns of the past 1-2 years, very focused and well articulated.

I recall in a morning coffee run a couple of years ago back in Superpartners, we were chatting about families etc and I threw a casual remark saying I’d be concerned – worried sick – if my daughter came home saying she was dating a lady. The reaction I got was telling. I was made to feel like I have said the worst, most inappropriate thing. I could not make that simple statement which expressed my personal hope for my own daughter to be in a heterosexual relationship as opposed to a gay one.

See this: Brendan O’Neil

Foggy Canberra

It has been an unusual week so far.

Some time between 7am and 8am on Monday, I must have entered a space (or exited from the here and now) which caused me to “lose time”. I could not recall what happened. I had no recollection of doing the things I usually did at that time. I could not remember having my breakfast smoothie, my coffee or getting ready to come in to work. All I recalled was speaking to Kiddo about not being “all there”. I could not recall why I didn’t have the scarf on me while I parked my bike, which of the 2 walking shoes I normally use I had on when I hopped on my bike – till it was time to head home at the end of the day and what I had packed for lunch, till it was time for lunch. I could not recall preparing the bread to go with the soup.

It has gotten a bit better now, and I am more “here” but it was that momentary (albeit prolonged) amnesic episode which continues to leave a hazy trail.

So last night I decided to leave the apartment and go out a little. I had spoken to a colleague who said there was an Aldi in the Jamison Centre between our Turner home and Belconnen. I drove there, walked around that place and decided that it would be a “last minute grocery” place I could go to. The Coles is large and the Aldi is well stocked. I came back feeling maybe a touch more “here” but the haze, while clearing, hovers still.

I’m glad winter is nearing an end. I have been in Canberra for just over 3 months now, and would be spending the whole of this winter in this very cold city of Australia. It is not a city which I’d find difficult to like but with no clarity of what lies ahead, I have no laid down roots with as must gusto as when we first settled in Melbourne. Reticence to lower the tent pegs more permanently in church and building friendships here, as well as the frequent trips back to Melbourne are symptoms of that overall fog I guess.

Waiting on the Lord gets like that, probably. He knows where I’m heading, even if I don’t. In that sense, the “early signs of Alzheimer’s” is less worrying.

Connect Grow Serve. Should have been that simple.

It was a very cold day yesterday. At lunchtime, it snowed and the office got excited as everyone headed to the closest window to catch the scene. It was still hovering around 0 deg when I quickly headed home just after 5, to avoid the predicted rain/thunderstorm.

There was the second of three “Connect” meetings at Crossroads Church last night so cold as it was, I headed to the church office where the meeting was to be held. The simple notions of connect, growth and serve and growing followers of Jesus were reiterated and I wondered again, why I had done practically nothing in recent years, in terms of sharing the gospel with others. I left the meeting wondering what I had to do.

The frog lurking in my throat got busy last night and in trying to keep it at bay, I kept drinking loads of water so it was a busy night with not very good sleep. It felt a touch better after I did some exercises this morning but it was/is still lurking. Leigh the big boss here, had been sick and a few others have been fighting the bug so I’ve been cautious about not catching anything myself, Hopefully the frog/bug stays away.

Old friend visiting

I was at a workshop at the National Convention Centre yesterday. I rode in, and parked right outside on Constitution Avenue. It was the only bike there the whole day. The day is inching longer now and when I was riding home there was still light.

Later that night I caught up with a mate who was in town for meetings. I met him at the Rydges where he was staying and went to a joint nearby, known as Bambusa – a Chinese/Malaysian restaurant which was very nice. I had looked up places to go and it was either Bambusa or Abell’s Kopi Tiam. Bambusa won the day simply because I wanted a place where we could actually have a conversation and catch up.

After dinner I took him somewhere to pick up a couple of staples down at my local IGA after which we stopped by the apartment and he caught up with Kiddo and Mic.

After dropping him off back at his hotel I headed home and found it hard to go to sleep, having finished the biggish meal just on 8pm.

It was good catching up with Jason again.


Being alone without being lonely is an attribute I have acquired over many years. I am comfortable being alone. I often revel in it. This is probably contrary to what Christian ought to be but I am far from being righteous, humble, loving etc anyway so while not pursuing fellowship is a flaw of being a Christian, it isn’t one which requires priority of attention, I think.

So this past weekend was very much that – being alone without being lonely. And yet so palpable was the truth of God’s Eden statement that man is not good alone, that last night as I sat alone in the lounge of the apartment in Turner, the discomfort almost became physical. It isn’t just discomfort of being alone, for reasons I already mentioned. I guess I miss Tress and our home at Vicki. Quite a bit. So very early – about 8.40pm, I went to bed, read and fell asleep. I guess I have had a good afternoon of tiring myself out.

After church yesterday morning, I went to Civic and walked around a little bit and picked up some milk and butter from Aldi. I then went home, unpacked my riding gear and shopping, had lunch with Kiddo and Mic, and did some ironing. It was just 3 shirts so it was done pretty quickly. Kiddo and Mic then left for Tilley’s and since it was a sunny arvo I decided to go for a walk. I said to Kiddo I might drop by Tilley’s.

Around 1.30pm I left home and walked, first heading towards ANU along Watson, then turning at North Oval, cutting across the oval to catch some uni students having fun kicking a footy around. I meandered around, with no destination but armed with a camera, took pictures randomly – birds, paths, trees… after 45 minutes I came to Tilley’s joined Kiddo and Mic for about 10-15mins and then headed off, again meandering through parks across Lyneham, O’Connor and Turner. I got home just before 4pm, and the thought of being alone in the apartment for the next 4 plus hours was, unusually, unattractive. So I jumped in the car and drove towards Belconnen, being one of only a couple of places I could drive to without turning on the GPS.  I walked around in Belconnen Westfield for a bit and then got home around 5.30.

Brekky and lunch was fixed very quickly and I tried to do some work but gave up after a mere 15 minutes or so.

Sleeping so early last night meant I woke up fresh this morning but some parts of my legs still felt stiff.

I had wanted to go for a run on Saturday morning but it was several degrees below zero so I slept in, then went for an early property inspection at Forde, in the Gungahlin area. That was between 9.30 and 10 and there was another at 11.30 so in between I’d dropped into the Gungahlin town center and walked the town 2-3 times. Then it was off to the other property inspection/auction, this time at Lexcen Avenue, Nicholls. This had a lot more interests and there were 5 bidders who went at each other quite determinedly. The final duel between 2 parties saw an older couple winning out at $720,000. A beautiful 4 bedroom house less than 20 minutes from the CBD would have easily sailed north of $1.5 million in Melbourne but I guess this is a different market.

Back home at Turner after some grocery shopping at Belconnen, I went for a run after 3pm. I took my time, and did an easy pace as I had not run for over 3 weeks (I think). After about 20 minutes it felt better and I decided to keep going when I was at ANU, and headed towards the South Oval (where a full on footy game was being played) and came to the National Museum, having run along the edge of north/northwestern Lake Burly Griffin. An Indian family saw me taking a drink from a fountain outside the Museum and asked if I could take a picture of them as a family. The couple with their parents and young kids look very happy and I hope my sweaty hands didnt spoil what should have been a very beautiful family picture on a gorgeous sunny winter arvo in Canberra.

Picture taken, drink drank, I resumed my run, heading back along the lake, back past South Oval – where I stopped for a few minutes to watch the game – and got home just after 4pm. I was tired but it felt great. I suspected the aches would come (and they did). I showered, and because I had that drink in that fountain I didnt feel parched so made the cardinal mistake of not topping up my fluids as I sat on the couch and tried to do some work. Kiddo then came back and while she cooked dinner with Mic, I started to feel unwell. At dinner I didnt feel like eating but the tall glass of water I had helped and I felt much better.

I had thought the Hawks game against West Coast would be on but just before 7.30 I realised TV in Canberra would not have that game on, so I rugged up and walked first to Hellenic Club and then to PJ O’reilly’s. Neither had that game on so I headed back home and at home, toggled between the Swans v Cats game and Spider Man, with Kiddo and Mic. Eventually Tress skyped, and I could follow the game between her beaming that telly in Melbourne to Canberra via Skype, and the AFL app on the iPad. Hawks eventually triumphed, I was glad and by that time Kiddo, Mic and I had decided to watch the Return of the King (go figure, but it was fun). As I went to bed just before 12, I realised the long run and the walks to the pubs had made the legs stiff and a touch sore.

As I sat in the lounge last night, as I nursed the remnants of soreness of legs, pains of a different sort seeped in. God always knows. It really isn’t good for man to be alone. I’m looking forward to this coming weekend, when hopefully I would be in Melbourne again.

Eaglets flying

Taking Time to Grow


‘Mamma! mamma!’ two eaglets cried,
‘To let us fly you’ve never tried.
We want to go outside and play;
We’ll promise not to go away.’
The mother wisely shook her head:
‘No, no, my dears. Not yet,’ she said.
‘But, mother dear,’ they called again,
‘We want to see those things called men,
And all the world so grand and gay,
Papa described the other day.
And – don’t you know? – he told you then
About a little tiny wren,
That flew about so brave and bold,
When it was scarcely four weeks old?’
But still the mother shook her head;
‘No, no, my dears, not yet,’ she said.
‘Before you see the world below,
Far bigger you will have to grow.
There’s time enough to look for men;
And as for wrens – a wren’s a wren.
What if your freedom does come late?
An eaglet can afford to wait.’