08 February 2008

In My Father's House

Going back to a sleepy small town that has not changed in the 15years that I've not visited, I came to understand the person who is my father more.

It is the town of Parit, an hour's drive away from Ipoh and 7-9hours drive away from Singapore, depending on whether you have pit stops for meals along the way. In that town, there are no cinemas, shopping malls, internet cafes and supermarkets. The neighbours all know one another, the houses and cars hardly ever change, the next generation grows up and leaves but always comes back to visit and childhood friends meet up there like they've never left.

When I was younger (read: 20years ago. good gosh.), visiting the small town of Parit was an annual affair that I didn't look forward to. It was partly due to the long arduous drive back: 7hours from KL, going by the Old Road. Now, with the North-South Highway, the time is halved and the journey is much smoother. We used to have to replace a tire each time we drive back due to the various brick and bracks on the uneven roads. The place is old and not very entertaining for a child, except for little chicks to terrorize and good food. We used to stay for 2 days, maybe 3, and be pampered and doted upon by the relatives throughout. Of course as a child used to indulgences, I took these for granted and never gave it a second thought.

This year, my dad is free during the CNY period for the first time in donkey years and my family managed to take leave from our various commitments to head down after being absent for an embarrassingly long time. We packed books, mp3 players, a sense of impending boredom and drove 7-9hours there. I didn't know what to expect: will we feel out of place, city folks in a small town? will I be bored out of my mind with no internet? will there be anything to talk about?

After a long, winding drive and several pitstops, we finally pulled up into the dark driveway of a dilapidated house that did not change one bit in all the years we've not visited, and my aunty opened the door and welcomed us like VIPs with an affection and sincerity that made us feel so at home. And it was like that for the rest of the days. My aunties and uncles cooked dishes that they've not cooked for years just so that we can have a taste of it. Cousins we've met at most two or three times in our lives treated us like we're long lost siblings. They brought us all over the area and kept urging us to visit more often. By the end of the trip, my family was sad to leave and it was a tearful and emotional parting at the driveway.

I got reacquainted with the habit of driving at least 1 hour to find good food. The 2nd day we were there, my dad's childhood friend brought us to a seafood joint that was 50km away from where we stayed. 50km! It is like travelling the whole length of Singapore, and that's just one way. It was like that for the rest of the meals we had there: 40min is a short drive, 1hour is standard, 2hours is slightly long.

I began to realise that our royal treatment wasn't so much due to the fact that they hardly see us nor because I am so incredibly lovable (which I am, honest. at times. I hope.), but because my dad is incredibly loved in his home, and they love us so much because of him. Kind of reminds me of how God accepts us thoroughly because of Jesus =)

Going back to my dad's hometown and family, I began to understand how he is the person he is--a simple man with simple, solid values of filial piety and being kind and giving to others, because his brothers and sister-in-laws are as such. I understood better why he doesn't enjoy Singapore's landscape when his childhood was spent in a town with a river running by his backdoor and mountain ranges surrounding it for miles on end. I also began to see why he sometimes find the Singaporean society abrasive for his sensitive nature: small town folks are a close knitted community and are incredibly hospitable. Relationships are held in extremely high regards and people appraoch one another without hidden agendas.

In my father's house, the furniture did not change in decades and the toilet apparently is the same since his childhood, making it at least half a century old. The people in there have gone through phases in life, some heart-wrenching, some quietly joyful. The abundant love there reserved always for my father makes it his home no matter his age and his whereabouts.

(Photos of my Ipoh trip are uploaded into my flickr account. Feel free to browse.)


Anonymous said...

why is there a pink bottle of bodyshop lotion on the old wooden table? hehe......


Quirkz said...

wahaha.. that's my mum's :P

*sings: "one of these things do not belong here..."*