Monday, April 7, 2008


Pre-post: My youngest sister wrote this article / biography of my mum not too long ago. A very long, touching post ahead.

22nd March 1956, Mum was born as the 7th child into the Tara Singh family. At such a tender age, you had “kudis” on your head. Your mum used to boil your head to kill the germs and your innocence was portrayed through your pictures, your head,p always wrapped in a scarf. Every morning, you and your siblings will wait faithfully for the bread man to come on his motorcycle, delivering your food to be eaten during recess. It never dampened your spirits to go to school even if it rained cats and dogs or having to carry Uncle Inderjit once while embracing the floods at Kampung Bandar Hilir to school.

At standard 5, while I was still running around playing hide and seek, you had already shouldered endless responsibilities. Not only did you have to do your homework and face such tyrant teachers those days, you had to juggle between folding clothes for what you said was like a “Dobi” or cooking as if it’s for a “kenduri” everyday in between taking care of Rani. You learnt the hard way of life at such a young age. I know now the true meaning of looking at your coarse hands, knowing all the hardships you have been through.

You, Aunty Honey and Uncle Inderjit were infected with chicken pox at the same time. Being quarantine in the same room and skipping school for two weeks, the 3 of you had extreme fun, even if meant having to eat green apples everyday. That would probably explain why you still like green apples till today. Your leadership skills bloomed when you organised your class trip to Penang, Cameron Highlands and KL. It was the 1st time you had ever used a telephone and the trip made you feel like you saw the world outside Air Leleh.

After your HSE, you enrolled yourself into the teacher training college, Maktab Perguruan Jalan Raja Muda. Coming from an all girl school, you found it difficult to get adjust to the boys who seemed so notorious and mischievous in their ways. With the minimal RM150 allowance that you got, you bought a teddy bear for Aunty Cindy, Tiffin carriers and sarong for your Mum.

You adapted yourself so well into your new environment, sharing a house with 7 Malay girls. And because almost everyone was malay, so much so, the landlord used to call you “Sharifah”. But your finishing touch at the college was most memorable when you graduated with your diploma in teaching and was given the title “Graduation Queen”. I still remember how radiant you look in your black baju kebaya with a red hibiscus tucked behind your ear flashing that million dollar smile which we are all sure was why dad fell in love with you.

Uncle Heera sent you off when you had your 1st posting to Sek Keb Air Manis in Kulai. You went up the ladder very quickly and as appointed as Head of Department. Later, you moved in to stay with Isweri. You remembered that faithful day when you were teaching in class and Isweri told you that your mum was very sick. At 21 years of age, on 17 Sept 1978, your Mum passed away. With much grief and sadness, life still had to go on for all the 10 of you... Life wasn’t the same, it wasn’t easy, but it made you stronger.

Uncle Harbans and Mr Kuldip Singh were colleagues at National Semiconductor and little did you know that Mr Kuldip was going to be your husband. Standing tall with a 6 metre turban and speaking English with an Indian accent, Dad swept you off you feet and you were wedded on 7 August 1983. You got your posting back to Melaka and both of you proudly bought your 1st car with the plate number MJ 1717. Mum was then pregnant with Kul.

Over the years, you and Dad are blessed with 3 girls, Kulvinder, Belvinder and I. In between juggling your hectic work schedule and home chores, you never failed to make time for us. You taught us how to read by pasting words on the wall and bought a small table which had pictures for every letter from A – Z. For every word we got right, we received a kiss. And you thought us counting and money using real money, bringing out the coins and dollars from your purse.

You always told us that you wanted to give us what you felt you lacked in your life and music was one of them. That was when you enrolled all the 3 of us for Junior Music Course (JMC) and never once in 6 years you left us throughout the course. You can sing all those songs we learnt even till today and proudly tell people that your 3 girls can play the organ.

It was more than luck when you were offered a scholarship to do your degree in UK, a lot of effort and hard work went into securing the scholarship. I was only 2 years old at that time and banging my head against the wall when I slipped in the toilet just before you left, didn’t make it any easier for you. With a heavy heart and having to answer people who kept asking you how could you ever leave your 2 year old daughter, you bravely faced the challenge and left overseas. At 36 years old, it was the 1st time you sat on an aeroplane. UK was an eye opener for you, being able to learn much more than you thought you could. Experiencing snow for the 1st time, going ice skating and skiing was among the memories you’ll never exchange for.

Life for you wasn’t a bed of roses. Your heart sank when you found out Bel ran through a glass door and required stitches. You heart ached knowing that she screamed “Mum..Mum!!” only to know that you were not there. While everyone was busy finding brochures to find places to travel, you were busy finding brochures for the cheapest flight home. Every letter that you received from home was the most priceless thing you owned. We all missed you very much in those 2 years and somehow your summer and winter breaks always flew in the blink of an eye.

Dad coped pretty well with the 3 of us. Bringing us to the Singapore Zoo, I take my hats off for Dad having to prepare my milk and demanding ethics at the age of 2. Handling 3 small girls at one time alone wasn’t easy. But Dad believes we should have a childhood rich with memories.

Mum, you came back from UK 2 years later. All your family members were there to greet you at the airport. You taught at SMK Seri Mahkota and within 3 years, you managed to bring the English pases to 56% and having 2 students getting an A1. Until today, you still hold the record in that rural school.

You then proceeded to do your Masters at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). You said it was easier than doing your degree and you had more time to spend with us. You made us get the reading habit by borrowing books from the library so much so, it was almost entire children’s book we have read by then. You made the Malaysian ice cream when Kul had to sell those during Sports Day and helped her get sponsorships for her class magazine. You wanted so badly to watched Bel doing her taekwando actions but never had chance since Bel was so shy, so you resorted to peeking in the bushes. You even took the time to make my costume for my fashion show. Painstakingly sewing the sequins and then making my necklace out of roses you planted in the garden.

You felt like you made up for all the lost time when you were away. And mum, you did much more than just to fill in the gaps, you craved our lives and made them so meaningful. Guiding us from step to step just to make sure we got the best. It is so rare to find any mother who tells their children to take a break, or skip school and tuition. But you are so cool about it when you feel we deserve a time-out.

Many people ask you why don’t you just leave the teaching profession. Your answer is simple and honest. You enjoy teaching and feel that every child is entitled to get a good and proper education. You feel you have a calling to give back to these innocent lives through teaching. Politics around work might be different, but the moment you entered class, the passion for teaching burns in your soul. You have made a significant mark in their lives, you have made a difference.

Mum made us believe that we can achieve anything if we put our mind to it and to never be afraid of hard work. Life is full of opportunities and there will be challenges along the way, the ride was not a guaranteed smooth one. But with every up and down, it serves to make us stronger and better. I know you are proud of how far you have gone in life, from a little kampong girl to a great mother and wife and wonderful lecturer, and look forward to continuously develop yourself everyday. Mum tells us to not put a timeline to our dream, persevere and do not lose hope in them, they will all come true when you work at them.

I am so proud to be your daughter. You are a pillar of strength and a source of inspiration to us in the family. And I know no matter how often we say it, it is never enough to tell you how much we love you and we thank you for everything we are today because of an amazing person called Iswander Kaur.


Queer Ranter said...

I don't know where I stopped reading. I can't handle it.

*wipes off tears...

Ohkulala said...

QR: Aawww...

Anonymous said...

Hey.. it's a really good piece that your sis wrote.. I had tears in my eyes at the part where your mum went to UK..

Sob sob. :(