Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The One Thing We Do Right

I can't sleep so I think I'm going to add another rant at an hour when I should be doing the decent thing and trying to get some sleep. I think, it must be a case of events and perhaps a pretentious desire to sound intellectual that is keeping me in this state of happy insomnia. But since I'm awake, I think I'm going to try and bash out another blog entry in the hope of being able to leave something for posterity.

Perhaps I'm destined to be a cynic but I've never seen married life with kids as an achievement. I've seen the way my Dad had to plow money into my education and I think...for what? I've seen my mother plow her time into her children and I've not seen her get anything out of it. I think pretty much the same thing for my stepfathers. Why do they bother? Kids, contrary to what many people think are an ungrateful bunch. You spend your life devoted to them and in the end, they leave you to rot in a hovel. Of course, in Singapore, it's a little different - they spew allot of crap about Asian values and how much they respect you and then they leave you to rot in a hovel.

For the life of me, I can't see why my friends have been so keen to get hitched and burdened themselves with kids. Every time one of my friends tells me they're better halves are pregnant, my only thought is ...... "Another one bites the dust."

I won't say I became a changed man overnight but I think my attitude to the parenting business is becoming softer and I have a midget Vietnamese girl to thank for it. For those of you who have followed my blog, you will know, Thui as Han Li's daughter. I had the privilege of meeting Thui in 2006, the year that I had a career high of working for the Saudi Embassy, helping them when Crown Prince Sultan visited Singapore. The work was exhillerating but if I have to remember the year 2006 for anything, I will remember it as the year I learnt the value of living beyond myself.

To put it crudely, Han Li, Thui's mum is a hard nut, a tough cookie who, to put it politely would probably break a few arms to get what she wants. I'm told its a typical Vietnamese trait - the men sleep, while the women work like mashines. If racial/cultural stereotypes are anything to go by, Han Li fits into that one. So, I guess when she declared me "Boyfriend" in 2006, who the hell was I to argue. The lady is on a long stay in Vietnam as I type these words. I suspect Singapore Immigration found her a little bit too hard for their liking. As such, boyfriendome is wearing down a bit and I'm slowly but surely reverting to the type that needs constant distraction.

Having said what I've just did about Han Li, there was one thing good about my relationship with her and that's Thui, her 7-year old (She's 9 this year). For two months of my life, I got to take care of a little girl who made me understand the meaning of what it was like to live for something beyond yourself. It's thanks to Thui that I think I understand that although most of us end up screwing up our lives, we have a chance to do something correct, and that usually takes the form of the kids that touch our lives.

As you can tell, I managed to speak to Thui on Sunday. Felt really good to speak to her. She's becoming more articulate in English, which is probably a good sign, especially when you consider the fact that she moved back to Vietnam two years ago. It's a tough line to follow. I got to play by certain rules...namely I must remember that she's not my daughter. As much as it disturbs me, I have to accept that she's Han Li's kid and she has every right to set the tone of how Thui develops. It's not like there's custody to fight over....I'm not providing financial support for the kid. I even remember my mother telling me that I was doing things the screwed up way, falling for the kid instead of the mother.

But what can I say, this is the little girl that made two months of an otherwise dull and jittery existence, joyful and eventful. I don't know what it is about having a midget touch your life but Thui obviously knew how to make mine joyful. What little contact I have with her, is precious and while I can't predict how my relationship with her mother will turn out, I know that I have to make at least a single trip to Vietnam, just to see her.

Human's are funny creatures. We have a talent for screwing up and making our screw ups compound. However, we have a wonderful capacity of getting at least something right and that's usually in the form of caring for a small kid. Perhaps I have two wonderful stepfathers to thank, but I've been very fortunate to appreciate that sparks in your life don't have to be your own flesh and blood.

I look at my friend Bijay, the Nepaleese Naan maker. The guy has a talent for screwing up. We're talking about a guy who enters the USA illegally, strolls out like he's in a park and then tries to get back in through the official channel. The man had a wife who cared for him financially, and yet he left her for a cow of a character who's main function is to whine and bleed him dry. Sometimes you want to slap him. But when all that is said and done, Bijay fathered Puja, who is the most amazingly beautiful child and when you look pictures of the child, you think, thank God, the guy existed to this one good deed.

Perhaps I'm naturally cynical about life but at least I got that bit of time with Thui, just to live a few moments outside the cynical shell. I look at Bijay, and all his idiocyncracies are forgotten when I consider the fact that he had a role in bringing Puja into the world. It's a cynical and cruel world out there and it has the ability to warp us as we get older. But I think, I understand it a little better, now. May be my folks were not that silly after all. May be touching the life of a child and letting the life of a small child touch you is perhaps the one and only chance most of us have of doing something right, something to make our screw ups seems irrelevant.

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