Throughout all these years even when i was growing up, i only regarded him as a distant relative, someone i never knew.. until recently. A couple of months back, as i was clearing dad’s place after his funeral, i came across Ah Gong’s photos. For some reasons unknown to even me, i took dad’s black & white old photos and amongst those, this photo of Ah Gong.
Grandfather was originally from Chaoyang district in Shantou city, Guangdong. Born to a poor Teochew family, he and his 2 other brothers (there were five of them) left home to find their fortune in Nanyang (South East Asia). That was in the early 1900s and he was only he his late teens then. He settled in Singapore while his brothers settled in Malaysia and Brunei respectively.
I was told that he was an industrious, ambitious and extremely hardworking man. He started his Chinese rice wine business from scratch. Although a teetoller and a non-smoker, he created his own self concorted rice wine which he sold to anybody and everybody who wanted to drink. Every morning, he started at 6am to sell to all the merchants in Chinatown and more often than not, would end his day around 10pm.
Dad said he was a tyrant – a stern, autocratic traditional Chinese businessman who would not hesitate to cane his children if they play truant from school or if they refused to do their calligraphy writing. Like most of the successful Chinese merchants before the 1960s, he had a few wives – 3 to be exact, and many children – 2 adopted sons, 6 sons and 6 daughters. (How he managed to rule his big household and maintained family harmony, i certainly have no idea but he must be a darn good manager and head of the family)
Ah Gong, although we have never met, i must tell you that I am very very grateful to you because whatever you achieved have lasted through your next 2-3 generations.
Ever since we took away your ancestral tablet after dad became a Christian 20 yrs ago, we stopped worshipping you… but this year, for some reason, God wants me to get acquainted with you again.
Ah Gong, I pay my respects to you. i hope i will do you proud and i make sure i will take care of Fourth Aunt for you and for Dad.
Have a good New Year.