Sunday, February 18, 2007

Of Lonely Old Folks and Migrant Workers Who Built Our Cities.

Its Chinese New Year today but two things have dampened my the festive mood. A Petronas Chinese New Year print ad (the Star 17 Feb.N7) portrayed 5 elderly Chinese in classic rustic genre sharing a CNY reunion dinner. The scene was so meaningful. But it was the caption that tore at me: "Your presence is worth more than a lifetime of angpows." Questions began to pop up: Where are their children and grand children or even great grandchildren? Too inconvenient to make it for the reunion dinner? Are celebrations with friends more exciting and attractive than a meal with the old folks? Don't want to be caught in the exodus frenzy on the expressway? Are our young slowly but surely abandoning this age-old tradition? Are modernity eroding this time-tested filial values? Looking at those five elderly folks you could add in your own questions.

Another Petronas CNY video clip that I probably never saw on terrestrial TV told a similar story that ended with this voice-over: Old folks alone in one place. Maybe you should go home this Chinese New Year. Too late now. But you should next year, huh?

I am reminded of an article read some years ago about a widower who for years faithfully prepared the reunion dinner. But his children never came.

Another online story tells of 4 senior ladies in an Old Folks Home. One said that her son is busy building his business; the second said that her son is a surgeon in Singapore; the third volunteered that her daughter sends her lots of money every three months. "And what about you?" they asked the fourth inmate. "My Ah Keong, is a vegetable seller. Ah, there he is. He has come to take me for a reunion dinner, just the two of us." They drove off in a beat-up Toyota Corrola circa 1969. ( Keong tends a small plot of vegetable that he sells in the town market. He lives in a rented shack, just by his plot, certainly not conducive for his 78 year old arthritic mother.) After dinner he drop his mother at the home to begin his 340km journey home to his plot/home. At least he fulfilled an obligation.

Blogger sklc lifted up my spirit somewhat. He blogged: "I'm about to log off and swipe out from the office. Just thought I'd spare a thought online before my CNY holidays. Tonite a 800km journey awaits me as I drivbe from JB to Penang. I am eager to arrive home as soon as I can, and also all the more eager to see my loved ones. To all other drivers out there, here's wishing you a safe journey and remeber the Ops Sikap. Remember that my life is precious."

Earlier I said two things dampened my CNY mood. I'll blog that tomorrow. The first one still troubling me.


zewt said...

A very good post zorro.

Yeah, it is sad, CNY is beginning to be 'just another holiday'. I have a feeling that this reunion dinner tradition will not stand the test of time. I think the most, it will probably last for another 10 - 15 years. After the 'old folks' are gone, the young generation will be able to conveniently ignore this tradition. It's sad, but it's a reality.

In fact, I think the whole CNY celebration thingy will just fade in time. I plan to blog about this on Chap Goh Mei, hope I remember it... hehe.

Do I sound old? I am not even 30 yeat. And I will be the first to admit that once my folks are gone, I wonder this reunion dinner thing and all the Gong Hey Fatt Choy stuff will carried on.


hi zorro,

how sad, zorro. let's hope that their children/grandchildren have a very good reason for leaving them in the home and not having them for CNY.

Gong Xi Fa Cai to you,Zorro.

shar101 said...

I've got both my parents with me all the time at home. Me looking after them or is it the other way round. With parents, you'll never know sometimes but let's thank God for small blessings and longevity.

I've always liked Petronas 'celebration' ads which somehow tugs at our inner soul for a variety of reasons, mostly, the emphasis on positive human traits. There will be some who will only see what is portrayed on the ad, and there will be others who will see beyond the words and the visuals. With the latter, it's the 'missing' element that will rub us the wrong way as you have aptly written.

And still, for some, the essence of the message is not lost as we live it daily and write on it for others to read. Hence, there's hope for the next generation.

Kata Tak Nak said...

If the generation before this, where values were part and parcel of life, led us to this sad situation, just imagine what the next generation would be like? If in the past a car is a luxury and is now a neccesity, would an Old Folks Home be the same?
I dread to think what it would be like 30, 40 or 50 years from now.

stand-up philosopher said...

Every year my former neighbour invites my wife and me to their home to have makan with their whole family, sons and daughter-in-law and me and my wife..the only outsider. This year the invitation didn't come. We expected this 'cos something happened in their family. I think they didn't want to be in a spot where a non-member of the family is in their midst and so feel the 'disappointment' they are going through.
I don't know if I will do the same, but I guess many are not travelling home to have this wonderful reunion dinner with loved ones simply b'cos something happened along the way, the year, a few years ago. For what ever reason, I think this is the best time of the year to reconcile with loved ones. Hold on to this. Once it slips away, its difficult to get it back.

David said...

I am grateful that in spite of my hectic schedule, I am able to attend CNY reunion dinner year after year. Dunno why it is a problem with those who don't, and I don't want to judge them, I just don't see why not. It is such a blessing to be able to do so, my life becomes complete.

Slimlim said...

I hold strongly to this tradition of reunion dinner. Except for only one year when Son No 2 was due, we did not travel home to Penang for the reunion dinner. I have led by example and it is my hope that both Son No 1 and Son No 2 will hold strongly to this tradition, for what is Chinese New Year without the reunion dinner with loved ones.