Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Parents and children

The pain of leaving home for the first time

A loving-family source of happiness

Bringing children is never an easy job as many parents will agree. Parents need to spend time, energy and money to provide all their needs from the time they are conceived right until adulthood. The most important need of a child is none other than love which is priceless but the most valuable. Parents in general are very generous in providing this love to their children even without they asking for it.They must be aware that the more love they give the more difficult it would be for them to endure the suffering that comes on separating from them when the time comes.

If only children understand the true feelings of the parents towards them, there will not be many neglected parents at the twilight of their lives. The main problem is when the children grow up they tend to forget the memories of the past which they spent with their parents and other siblings. The past is a lesson for the present and future and if one remembers and cherishes the past he/she will invariably turn out to be a good person no matter what challenges that he may encounter in his life.

A happy young family

A friend of mine just returned after sending his only daughter to college. I was shocked at the state of mind he and his wife were. They were so sad that they could not carry on with their normal work as usual. They break down on and off when talking about their daughter whom they seem to visualise in whatever they do. Another friend is so upset his only daughter would soon be getting married and leave home to be with her husband in another state. Listening to many such friends brings to mind my own experiences of such partings.

Many years ago at the age of 20, when my late father sent me to the university it was an emotional and heart-breaking moment separating from him. I was very, very sad when he left me. I still remember the sad and agonising look on his face which made me cry. I knew he too was sad but I did not understand the extent of his sadness at that time as he managed to remain composed and put up a brave front to reassure me. I knew the separation was temporary and was for a good cause but emotions are hard to control and only time could heal the pain and heartache it causes. My father may not be around anymore but the emotional scene of that first parting remains vividly in my mind, to remind me of his goodness, and it brings a great deal of admiration and respect for him.

Parents with children during happier times

Thirty years later a similar situation reminded of that parting when this time around I was in the position of my father, sending my own daughter to college. It was when I really understood the true pain and agony that my late father would have undergone when he sent me to the university many years ago. It was no ordinary feeling imagining the child who was so dependent on you leaving for the first time to live all by herself.

Can she manage everything all by herself? Will she be safe being all alone in a strange environment? Can she cope with the problems that will crop up from time to time? Will she be comfortable in the new abode? These are some of the doubts that ran through my mind on leaving her on that happy but dreadful day 6 years ago. As usual only time helped to heal the pain in my heart.

Now I am in again for the next separation when my eldest son too left home to pursue his studies overseas. The same emotions of sadness, fear and anxiety are again being aroused which gave sleepless nights. The only reassurance was that he is going for a good cause and time will definitely heal all the pain that it causes.

I only hope like how I understood the feelings of my father 30 years later, my children too would understand my feelings which I have for them today. If they do then I would have succeeded in my role as a father, friend and guide to them.

Lonely at the twilight of life

Looking around I realise that I am not alone as there are thousands of such parents who suffer in silence when their children leave home for the first time. In fact it seems to be the greatest fear of parents in their fifties and sixties. As parents we hope our children will understand the agonizing moments we undergo when they leave us for the first time. If they do, then we would have succeeded in our roles as parents as then the memories of us would become a conscience in their hearts guiding them to do the right thing under all circumstances.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Understanding others a little too late

Arrogance should not underestimate experience

As we pass through and life and grow older we experience the many encounters and challenges in life. Our attitude and opinion regarding many issues in life change with time. What we perceived as the right thing when we were young may not necessarily be so when we are older and we have our children growing up into adults. The experiences with our own children to a certain extent mold our opinion to life later.

This is the story of such a man named Jack who learnt an important lesson in his life with the passage of time. He came from a good and reasonably well to do family. As a young man Jack was highly intelligent and worked hard to become very successful in life. He met success after success and never met any major failures in all the things he undertook.

He then met a young woman, Jill and they fell in love. Soon they decided to get married and the young man approached the girl’s father for his approval. To his dismay the girl’s father disapproved of their love and refused to give his daughter in marriage. Despite trying all means the girl’s father was adamant in his decision.
Never knowing what failure was, the Jack went ahead and got married to Jill without her father’s consent and they left to begin their lives on their own in a far away town. They continued to prosper and soon had their own and only child, a Marie.Jack loved his daughter so much that she became the centre of his world. He gave everything she asked for, expensive toys, gifts, and clothes and took her to luxurious places to visit and dine. Whenever she fell ill he took her to best hospitals and doctors in town.

Soon the time came for her to go to college and as expected the father sent her to the best college in the country in a far away city. While studying in the college she fell in love with a young man of a different race who worked as a responsible government officer. He was well educated and held a high and respectable position. He was a hardworking man with a very good character and well respected man in society.

After some time they decided to get married and settle down. Marie brought her fiance to meet the father back home. Her father was surprised that his daughter has grown up so fast and even found her own life partner. Although he liked her fiancĂ© who was of a different race but he could not accept their marriage as that would mean his daughter will soon leave him with her husband. He could not imagine his daughter whom he possessed for about 25 years would be soon “taken away” by an outsider. He spent sleepless nights at the thought of his only daughter leaving home with her new partner in life.

After a lot of persuasion by the daughter and other close friends and relatives Jack finally agreed to the marriage. However every night he would get up feeling sad and depressed at the thought of his only daughter leaving him. His wife tried her best to comfort and reassures him that everything will be alright. She reassured him that their prospective son-in-law was a very good man who will take good care of their daughter.

Reflecting on his own actions 25 years ago, Jack admitted the great mistake he had made then when he took his wife,Jill, away from her father without his approval. Despite the father-in-law’s objections he walked out on him with his only daughter. He failed at the time to understand the feelings and anxiety of his father-in-law..Now after 25years later when his own daughter is about to walk out him he began to realize how his father-in-law would have felt when his daughter was ‘snatched’ from him so cruelly with any consideration whatsoever for his emotions and feelings.

This realization brought Jack to his senses and made him repent. He went out of his way to apologise to his father-in law and the story ends with his daughter and her fiancé getting married with the blessings of the elders in both families.

Today when we have grown up children of our own we begin to understand the painful experiences of our parents in bringing us up to what we are today. We understand the pain that they would have endured when we first left home and the agony they would have undergone when we were taken seriously ill or when we met major failures. We begin to understand how they would felt when we went against their advice and pleas to do something that they were strongly against. We also realize the state of mind they would have been when we ignored them in whatever we do.

At the same time we begin to appreciate the joy, happiness and pride in them when we brought them success in school, college and in our carrier. This is the same we expect of our children to bring us but very often they do not seem to realize that as they continue to hurt as by their disobedience, rebellion and gross mistakes they make in their lives. We know they will realize many years later, how we feel about them today but I am afraid that may be little too late as life is short.

This story provides a very useful lesson to us in life in general. It is important to place ourselves in the shoes of those who do not agree with us to appreciate their fears and anxieties. It is important to understand the feelings of our actions that do not please others. If someone objects strongly to what we do or say then it is important to for us to try to understand the reasons behind his objections and unhappiness. In such a situation we should ask ourselves whether we are wrong, if so where and why we have gone wrong.

It is a pity that in many instances we seem to understand the feelings of our adversaries a little too late only when we ourselves experience the same predicament many years later. This should be a lesson for us to heed the advice of the elders who have gone through the challenges in life that we have yet to do so. We should not let the vitality and arrogance of our youth to underestimate the value of the experience of the elders. The past must be a lesson for the present and future.

PS.The names in the story are fictional.

Feedback and comments welcome

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gandhi's Seven Social Sins of Man

Gandhi's Seven social sins

Politics without principles,
Wealth without work,
Pleasure without conscience,
Knowledge without character,
Commerce without morality,
Science without humanity,
Worship without sacrifice.

Where do we stand on the moral scale of the Mahatma?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mother Teresa's prayer

Mother Teresa's prayer

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
... Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
... Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
... Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
... Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
... Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
... Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
... Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
... Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

We can do no great things - only small things with great love.

- Mother Teresa


Very easy to quote this prayer but so difficult to practice.
But the challenge lies in trying to do what we pray.
God will on our side if we do the right things come what may.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Regaining sports' glorious past

Greater commitment needed

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s announcement of a RM2mil allocation for the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to pay bonuses in arrears for its players and coaches is indeed timely that should boost their morale to continue their contribution to sports in the country. It is especially comes at a time when the nation celebrates the recent victory of national shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei in the prestigious All-England tournament. His win was indeed a moral boost and pride for the nation whose reputation in sports in general has been on the decline in recent years.

It is disturbing that the Prime Minister has to personally involve himself in granting allocations to pay bonuses in arrears for badminton players and coaches when it should have been done so efficiently at lower levels of the administration of sports association.

Such inefficiencies seem to be not just confined to BAM but many other sports organizations in the country. It has resulted in the low morale among the players and officials. How can we expect to excel in the sports when even basic remunerations for players and coaches are not paid in time?

Of late there has been a lot of emphasis on improving sports in the country especially in schools. Apart from payments many other factors need to be addressed in order to regain the past glory of badminton and other sports which we once excelled. It may be timely for those involved at the highest level to seriously commit themselves to arrest the declining standard of sports in the country.

Today we are extremely short of badminton courts and playing fields. Schools are built without adequate provisions for even the basic facilities for sports. Malaysia may be a world power in badminton but we do not have enough proper badminton courts in most schools and districts all over the country. Haven’t we reached a state where every school must have a proper badminton court? In fact every school, or at least every district, should not only have badminton courts but a small sports complex within its premises.

Even open fields that were easily accessible to the young are hardly available in most towns. Many existing open fields which used to be favourite places of recreation for our youngsters have been eliminated in the name of development. In their place today stand high rise condominiums, shopping complexes and parking lots, many of them redundant and really not necessary.

Politicization has marred the selection of sportsmen, sportswomen and even sports officials to represent school, state or country. These should be purely based on merit not by colour, creed,social status or political affiliation. Every effort must be made to tap the potential of every young Malaysian without any form of discrimination whatsoever.

The majority of sports heroes come from the masses and not from the elite segment of the population. The single most important means of developing a sport and players is to take the game to the masses. Unless we tap the great potentials that exist in the masses we will not succeed in selecting the best to represent the nation.

Football and hockey tournaments and athletic meets at school and district levels that used to be very popular in the sixties and seventies were effective ways to select talented young players for the state and national teams. These competitions are unheard of in most small towns these days thereby eliminating one of the best means of identifying potentially talented national players.

To start with we do not need high-tech sports complexes, sophisticated gadgets or advanced technical training but simple venues and basic facilities and above all a committed team of officials and coaches to manage the sports organizations professionally and fully dedicated to seriously improve the standard of sports in the country.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Education is not all about collecting ‘A’s

Glorify the few and encourage the many

These days each time a public examination results are released we are in a dilemma whether to congratulate those students and their parents who did extremely well but fell short of the maximum As. Students who scored 8 or 9 As in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) do not seem to be happy at all so are their parents who expect nothing less than the maximum 10As.This is the result of our education system that is purely examination oriented with little or no emphasis on any other factors for a wholesome education.

Although there has been great deal of discussion to adopt a more holistic attitude to education but no concrete measures have yet been implemented towards that end. In fact the Education Ministry’s implementation of the new grading system for SPM last year, whereby the grade A was further subdivided into 3 categories namely A+,A and A-,may be counterproductive as now students and parents will be pushing to score not A (distinction) but A+(super distinction) in every subject.

The practice of listing top students in the SPM which was stopped some years ago to avoid its unfavorable consequences among some students, who fared poorly, seems to have come back this year when the Education Ministry announced the top 10 scorers. The Ministry may have its own reasons for doing so but many are skeptical of its benefits on the students in general.
However we must congratulate these top scorers whose excellent performance were undeniably the result of long hours of hard work and sacrifice. We should really appreciate the zeal and determination of these high achievers for which they must be rewarded accordingly.

According to the new grading system A+ is the highest possible grade, which is awarded to a student who scored more than 90% in the subject. From the statistics released only 1.7% of the students obtained grade A and only 0.05% grade A+.However hard we may push our children less than 1% will obtain maximum super distinctions(A+).The vast majority are average scorers are ignored in the midst of all the jubilation and glorifying the handful of super elite students.

We should not overlook this vast majority who obtained just average results and a equally large number who just managed to scrape through with a pass. There are also many who miserably failed their examinations outright. How do we cope with these large number students who will also want to further their education in the limited number of places in institutions of higher learning?

Many of these students come from financially disadvantaged families who could not afford the luxury of best tuition and special coaching when in school let alone pursuing their studies in private institutions. Their mediocre performance does not in any way reflect a lower level of intelligence. We should not only sympathize with them but also go all out to encourage them by offering help and guidance in whatever way we can.

All that matters in our education system, that overemphasizes academic excellence, is the number of As, whereas the personality and character of the person is irrelevant. Despite acknowledging these flaws little is being done to correct it. There are calls from all quarters for reforms in education but these remain very remote at the present as the political will for change is lacking. Until real change comes our students have no choice but continue to strive for straight As and our schools remain as places to collect them and nothing more.

Are our students, including the top achievers, really prepared to face the challenges of the global world where competition is based purely on merit? Are they instilled with the values of moderation and tolerance of inter-ethnic relationship that are so vital for the peace, harmony and prosperity of the nation? Are they instilled with the right passion for whatever career they may take up? These are some pertinent questions for our policy makers, educationists and most important we, parents.

We offer our heartiest compliments to those who have done extremely well; they must continue to maintain their high performance. Those who did not do that well and fell short of their expectations must not give up but strive a little extra and they will be there. Those who did badly they should not lose heart but remember many great men and women were failures in school. It was the failures that made them rise up to become great later in their lives.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Party hopping an act of betrayal

Anti-hopping law timely

Of late it has been deeply disturbing to read of elected representatives resigning from their political parties on whose platform they were voted. They say they want to be independents which they expect the people to believe.It are common knowledge that they would soon cross over to party which the people rejected. As there are no laws forbidding such defections and cross-over, our elected representatives have only been too willing to do so with the slightest excuse thereby leaving their constituents in limbo.

The widely proclaimed takeover of the federal government by the defection of Members of Parliament (MP) to the opposition soon after the last general elections, the collapse of the government in Perak by defections of state assemblymen and now the present spate of resignations from their parties are all examples of such willingness of our elected representatives to cross over from one party to another across the political divide for their own benefits.

Many would say it is an act of betrayal of the voters and others as morally wrong. These may be debatable but what is definitely true is that such defections leads to great political and economic instability in the country which is the last thing we can afford.

This party-hopping is nothing new in Malaysia politics. It has been practiced before and will continue to be so in the future if left unchecked as it is legally not wrong. Political changes may dictate the need for an elected representative to leave his party but for the sake of the people who had placed their trust in him he should continue to serve them in accordance with the manifesto presented to them until the next elections when he can re-seek the people’s mandate on a new political platform.

In Malaysia, MPs and state assemblymen are voted based mainly on the party to which they belong and less so on their individual qualities and merits. This practice may be far from ideal and has to change which I think it will with time. Crossing over to another party after being elected as a representative of one is definitely not the right thing to do as it amounts to going against the wishes of the voters.

Of greater wrong is buying-over of defectors from other parties. Such money politics is an act of corruption that must be condemned. The MACC must investigate these defectors for the possibility of material inducements as the reason of such crossover.

It is timely to introduce laws to declare a seat vacant and call for fresh elections once its MP or state assemblyman crosses over to another political party. Such a law would not only help check defections but also put pressure on the party leadership to be more stringent in the selection of their candidates. It will ensure that only those with loyalty, integrity and credibility are selected thereby the people would be the ultimate gainers from such an anti-hopping legislation. The political uncertainties in Perak could have been avoided if only there was such a law that forbids party hopping.

MPs and state assemblymen are lawmakers who represent the people’s interests in the highest legislative body, Parliament and state assemblies. Their deliberations and debate on policies to be formulated will decide the present and shape future of the nation and its citizens. It is therefore of paramount importance that only those with high integrity and credibility are selected. It is unfortunate that Malaysians are being led by representatives who lack the conviction to serve the people who elected them under difficult times.

Elected representatives should place the interest of their constituents above theirs when deciding to leave for a different party. Political parties, both the ruling and opposition, should respect the verdict of the people. They should work to fulfill their pledges and strive to win over the hearts of the people by their commitment to serve them better and not be focused with gaining power through the backdoor by inducing defections and crossover from other parties.

There are no short cuts to winning the hearts of the people other than hard work, dedication and sincerity,which sadly many of our wakil rakyat lack.

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