I am inspired to blog a true life story which happened in 1963, about 2 years after living at a HDB 1-room "emergency flat" at Block 9, Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, Singapore. I was then 15-years-old and have many new things to learn as an immature young urchin of Bukit Ho Swee.
I like to listen to elder neighbors and to learn useful stuff from them. However, not everything we hear are true and helpful. Thus reading good books at the library would increase our knowledge and are gleaned from our experiences to learn to discriminate and judge wisely from what people say. Listen carefully and don't argue unnecessarily.
It was the first time I watched a Chinese wedding ceremony since my last time at the Bukit Ho Swee kampong after the fire in 1961.
This is a blog to share the first person collective childhood memories of a pioneer generation Singaporean and the observations of the way of life in Bukit Ho Swee over 50 years ago.
My former neighbor, "Kan Chia Chek" (Trishaw Uncle in Hokkien which "Kan Chia" refers to the century-old "rickshaw" puller. The modern-day term should refer to "三轮车", the three wheels rider). The previous blog about the Trishaw Riders posted here.
He lived with his wife, a teenage daughter who works at a factory and a young son who was still attending school.
My kind, humble neighbor was very hardworking and plied the trishaw on the roads in Singapore everyday, everywhere. The longer distance he fetched his passengers, the more he earns for his livelihood.
He has a good sense of humor and likes to laugh and joke alot. He is a person with character, strength and perserverance in spite of hazard of traffic accident on the road daily. He communicate and spoke to me in Hokkien with a Henghua accent and we understand one another well. I often visited him in the evening after work and we listened to the news on the Rediffusion.
With his weather-beaten face, he was rugged and tough. Under every weather condition, rain or shine, day and night. Uncle would still go to work when feeling a little tired. He told me that the best time to get passengers would be on raining days and night. He doesn't work on a fixed 9 to 5 office hour routine. At times when he returned home for dinner and there were passengers at certain places, he would still continue to work.
There are many successful Singaporeans today who were brought up by their fathers as trishaw riders. They are as proud and with gratitude of them as those from wealthy families.
Uncle has self-respect and doesn't care if other neighbors knew that he was a trishaw rider. It is a decent, honest, independent work serving the travelling public in Singapore.
Marriage of Ah Huay and Ah Kiat
Ah Huay is the 20-year-old daughter of "kan chia chek" and his wife. This soft-spoken young girl was shy and gentle with primary school in Chinese. She then left school in 13 to work in a factory in Redhill to help to support the family income.
A few months after moving to Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, Ah Kiat was introduced by our neighbor to Ah Huay.
Ah Kiat was a dark-complexioned lanky 23-year-old young guy. He was an orphan and completed his secondary Chinese education. He worked at a factory in Jurong and a well-mannered good-looking guy with a good sense of humor.
Some months later, both youths' love blossomed and Ah Kiat was at the home every night after work.
On weekends, they went for "pak tor" (dating on courtship) with the blessings of both Ah Huay's parents. The parents found that Ah Kiat is a well-behaved young man with good character and respected them.
About 2 years later, Ah Huay and Ah Kiat wanted to ask for the permission of Kan Chia Chek and Ka Chia Soh for their daughter for marriage.
I happened to be in their house one evening when Ah Kiat was discussing with Kan Chia Chek. Kan Chia Soh and Ah Huay were not at home.
As I was too young then to understand about their topic about marriage of Ah Kiak and Ah Huay, I unintentionally eavesdropped into the adults' private conversation and I listened quietly without interruption or disruption to disturb them.
Although Kan Chia Chek did not attend formal school since a child in China, I learned a lesson from a humble trishaw-rider with wisdom. That lesson happened over 50 years ago which etched deeply in my mind to this day. Not exactly in his words, but the gist of Uncle's explanation to Ah Kiat below:
"Ah Kiat, I have observed you for almost two years and found that you have treated Ah Huay very well. The most important thing is for both of you to love one another. I don't know anything about love because my marriage to Kan Chia Soh was followed with traditional Chinese matchmaker. No "pak tor" or talk about love.
To be married is an important journey in life. Never mind if the journey is travelling by big cars, by bicycles or by trishaw. You would reach the place (destination) you want to go safely with your wife and your children. The elders said "nan chi gua, gua chi nan. Ho ho cho nan". (in Hokkien means "People raise me up, I raise others. Live a good person"). [ 人人养我，我养人人。好好做人。]
Don't have to think too much because have faith and trust with Heaven.
Both of us are not wealthy but we need not compare with other people. Whether they are rich with big houses and everyday eat big fish, big prawns. Ah Huay is a simple girl and she did not complain about how much you are earning as a factory worker and did not have very high education.
Whether we are born rich and die poor or born poor and die rich are fated by Heaven (天公) ( Kan Chia Chek's family were from ancestral worship since young). Everything in our life depends on affinity and live honestly. If people look down on trishaw-riders, I earn a living honestly. Don't feel bad (esteem)."
There were many wise advice by Kan Chia Chek which I could not remember everything in the conversation in Hokkien, some of which I could not understand in his Hockchia accent.
Ah Huay and Ah Kiat were married happily on an auspicious date which Kan Chia Soh went to the temple to consult from the medium.
The traditional Chinese wedding ceremony was simple in accordance of the custom and practice of the Hockchia dialect. The neighbors helped in every ways as a community with "kampong spirit".
Their wedding dinner with close neighbors, family and relatives and friends was celebrated in a coffee shop with 3 tables. The significance of the celebration happily and everyone cheered with "Yam Seng" for good health, good luck and prosperity.
Ah Huay and Ah Kiat did not go on holiday overseas after the marriage for honeymoon.
They started work 2 days after their wedding and happily lived in a new HDB 3-room flat in Queenstown.
Some years later, I heard from my former neighbors that Ah Huay and Ah Kiat had 3 children and two of them were university graduates and working in the civil service.
Kan Chia Chek and Kan Chia Soh were at a Chinese New Year reunion with Ah Huay, Ah Kiat and their grandchildren with a contented and happy life together in Singapore, a nation of opportunity with hope and aspirations for the future generations.
This is a short story of a former Bukit Ho Swee fire victim, Kan Chia Chek.
Note: Please see the full set of photos in the original post.
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