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I Will Soar Again…..

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I Will Soar Again......

One of the most famous quote by Helen Keller was: “The worst calamity: To have eyes and fail to see”.

This is one of my most loved quotation. To this day, this quote still rings clear in my ears when I first heard it from a blind lady university student over 33 years ago while I was doing my first degree in a local university.  That brief encounter has a profound effect on my life and at that time it lifted me from a deep abyss of pain, hurt and self-recrimination when my first love left me and in her words (which incidentally I still could remember to this day), “I have never knew that our love would bring me so much trouble.  I want a respite to think things over.  So see me no more.”  Quote unquote.

And with that she walked away and never come back.

It was always the first cut that was the deepest.   Peripherally the wound had healed, the scars long gone but over the years there were still flashbacks, occasionally the nightmares came and periodically sweet dreams lingered on to the morning break of the happier times we had together.  It was my first romance, my first love and my first relationship with a woman.  Being such a sentimental fool, I indulged in self-pity, kept asking myself where had this gone wrong, why did she spurned me for no apparent reasons, why was fate so cruel to take away my happiness and how long could I keep my sanity.

Our story was not one those great love tragedies that involved star-crossed lovers, two-timings betrayal, deceit and unfaithful, rich girl and poor boy, different skin, faith and culture and a host of other reasons where the two shall meet, love and break apart. It was just an ordinary mundane tale not worthy of mention at all for she spurned me for the simple reason that her parents just did not like my face.  Or this was what I understood at that time.

Then in the darkest of the dismal days that followed when she walked away, I encountered a blind lady when she opened up my reach to the world beyond where there was always love, trust and sincerity, when she opened up my eyes to the struggles of the blind and when she opened up my heart to give me a true understanding and meaning of life.  That was when I became interested in the welfare of the blind.

Helen Keller

I went to the university library to learn all about Helen Keller and I re-read “The Story of My Life” written by her for the umpteen time.  I learned about Louis Braille.  I learned about how the blind cope with their lives in their world of blackness and not of darkness. I learned that the blind never wallowed in self pity, drown themselves in self sorrow and loved the unreachable world of light but hated the people with sight.  I learned to treasure the little things that I still have rather than the things that I have lost.

Louis Braille

That night I cried myself to sleep and sleep did not come easy.  When morning dawn I was up and going and I knew what I had to do.  I will soar again…..

Enough for today.

(Please read the continuing story in my up and coming post.)

Ref: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html,

http://www.firstschoolyears.com/history/people/Braille/braille.htm, http://cache2.artprintimages.com

All In A Day’s Work As A Jewelry Sales Associate

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Jade At US$2 A Piece At Hong Kong Under The Bridge Jade Market

Knowing a lot on a subject can be ‘dangerous’ but not when you can think fast on your feet….

Occasionally if you are working for a boss and you have a little bit more knowledge on a subject and the boss is not aware of it, you may be troubled by your conscience when the product you are pushing is not what it seems to be.

But you are working hard for the money and all the boss wants is sales, sales and nothing but sales.  So what if he asks you to peddle a fake product of which he thinks you have no knowledge of it.  And he mimics the Nike slogan with a slight change, “Just Sell It”.

Now I am not going to argue about the morality of it.  Morality is a function of circumstances, maybe, depends on how you interpret it.  You might just have to do it when you are earning some small dollar change per hour especially when you are just an order taker and the boss say so.

My daughter was 17 when I packed her off to New York City to do her Graduate Gemologist at GIA.  Let us called her MoneyLena.  Now ML is not your usual girl next door, thinking of proms, of boyfriends and of Saturday parties.  She had a tight fist for money and a real hardworking girl.  She had traveled to many countries before and was wise to the ways when strangers accosted her.

On a cold January morning in 2001 she landed at JFK Airport in NYC and was picked up by my long time friend.  On the second week she was knocking on doors in Chinatown at Tribeca looking for part time jobs as school had not started yet.  Not long after, she was busing tables at a Japanese restaurant, shoving envelopes at a mail order company and taking down orders at a Chinese take-away restaurant. She spoke Mandarin, Cantonese, English and Malay fluently.  Then she found a week-end job at a small Jewelry company owned by an ABC whose family originally was from Hong Kong.

ChinaTown Of New York City

There were already some part time sales girls.  Over at the Big Apple they were called Sales Associates, big honorific titles but paying some peanuts.  After acquainting herself with the shop’s jewelry products she was the star sales lady as she had the gift of the gap and could talk the hind legs of a donkey. Walk-in customers were naturally attracted towards her because of her fluency in languages.  Now the boss was not aware of her background.  She would not have gotten half her foot through the Jewelry Shop if she told the boss that her old man was in the jade trade.  She had been sorting jade when she was 8 years and she could tell you a fake from a genuine one when she just held onto the jade piece.

She wore a beautiful green bangle, of course a genuine one.  It was one of the quirks of customers that they wanted the same type of jewelry that the boss wore or the sales associates wore as they related it that they knew best.

Before long customers were asking for Jade bangles….

Her shrewd boss was quick to see the demand and immediately FedEx-ed a consignment of 30 jade bangles from Hong Kong.

A Pair Of Beautiful Green Jade Bangle

On a fine Saturday morning, a quite well-to-do Japanese tourist lady came in, saw the jade bangle that ML was wearing and immediately wanted one for herself.  On display at the retail counter were 3 of the most beautiful vivid colored bangles – 2 apple green and 1 lavender.  Now the boss only displayed 3 pieces as putting up more on the retail counters were a sure put-away when customers had too much choices.  There was also an acrylic sign that announced loudly that there were Genuine Burmese Jade Bangles.

ML was serving the customer then.  The Japanese lady picked up the green one and it fit her small waist snugly.  The price tag was $1,200.00 and she quickly got a real bargain at 50%.  It was a matter of closing the sale, taking the money or credit card, issuing receipt and they were done for the transaction.

She enquired from ML: “Is this a real genuine jade bangle?”

Now ML was caught in between a hard place and a rock.  She knew these bangles were ‘faked’, polymer-impregnated jade worth about $20 a piece in Hong Kong or China. Her old man had admonished her before that if you sold a fake jewelry it might come back to haunt you even after many years.  Though she was just a low hourly paid sales staff far down the food-chain, she had to make the call.

Her quick thinking saved the day.

“Hi Boss, this lady customer enquire whether the jade bangle is real?” she called to the Boss sitting at the cashier’s counter counting the day’s take.

Her Boss answered confidently: “Of course, the jade bangle is real.  100% guaranteed.”

“Yes Ma’am, boss said the bangle is real”

Transaction done, sales closed at $600, cash paid, receipt written as ‘Jade Bangle’ and the lady was happy with the jade.

The boss got 6 Ben Franklin greenbacks while ML received $30 as her commission.  Another bangle was replaced and the Boss looked forward to another mark.

All in a day’s work as a sales associate……

Grandfather, Father, Son Dies

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I have heard a Zen anecdote……..

A very wealthy Mandarin in the city of Suzhou was throwing a grand banquet for his patriarch father to celebrate his 91st birthday.  As a way to flaunt his wealth as well as to show his filial duty to his patriarch father, all the scions of the society, rich and powerful landlords and important Imperial officials were invited to the feast.

The Mandarin also invited a Zen monk, a famous calligrapher and who was very much revered for his Buddhist teachings in the city, to give

 

 

 

A Banquet Festivity

blessings to his father and to the continued well being, happiness and wealth for his family.

At the banquet the Mandarin requested the esteemed Monk to pen a calligraphy of prosperity, longevity and happiness to commemorate this great and auspicious occasion.

With the scroll of rich red vermillion rice paper laid out on the beautifully crafted antique rose wood table, the Monk rose to the occasion, his countenance now serene, tranquil and with a single-minded focus to the task on hand.  The whole banquet hall suddenly fell into pin-dropped silence and everyone waited expectantly for the delivery of his great masterpiece as most of them would be the first time witness to the works of this legendary calligrapher.

With elan and flourish the Monk rolled up his right golden saffron sleeve to his elbow, dipped the thick paint brush onto a jade inkpot filled with black scented ink and with elaborate penmanship of a single, bold and powerful stroke the calligraphy came up thus:

“Grandfather, Father, Son Dies”

As the Mandarin looked on aghast, the Monk ordered a serf to hold up the scroll, turn and pan it slowly round to the audience. The audience of the whole banquet hall grasped in horror. How could a reverend Monk do such an incongruous and demeaning act to the gracious host on such a happy and joyful occasion as the celebration of the great patriarch birthday?

 

 

 

 

 

Death

 

This was insulting and might bring calamity and misfortune to the family for the whole year round.

However, the Mandarin being a well learned and wise man realized the palpable tension and the volatile atmosphere might turn unpleasant if he reprimanded the Monk.  The Mandarin would lose face and appear as uncouth in front of all the societies honored guests and his subjects.

He smiled and politely requested the Monk to interpret his calligraphy.

The Monk said, ”For us to enjoy peace, harmony and happiness the events of birth and death in a family should happen according to nature’s sequence order of natural death.  This way the older generation would not moan over the death of a younger generation.  Would it not be bliss then?”

The audience broke into a thunderous applause.

 

I have on a number of occasions attended funeral wakes where grieving parents sent off their sons or daughters who died suddenly in car accidents, of ill health and freak accidents or simply been caught in the wrong time and wrong place.

Their initial reaction when faced with the sudden departure of their loved ones is one of shock and disbelief, yesterday the son was alive and well and today he laid stiff in a casket coffin laced with lavender and white lilies. Lying serenely in the tight confines of the wooden elongated octagonal box with a rectangle glass opening, his cadaverous face still smiled impishly, the eyes closed in a perpetual state of eternal rest and the body covered in soft white satin.  Kith and kin, relatives and friends from near and far came to say their last goodbye and tears flowed in their eyes as well as in their hearts.  Such heart wrenching scenes will leave one numbed and one would realize that a life can be as fragile as a gossamer’s thread, suddenly broken and never to be joined again.

The grieving parties will not have the space and time to grieve during the wake as they have to attend the rituals of the religious ceremony of sending off the dead.  When the funeral wake is over, when their friends go home, when all one carried back from the funeral home is the photograph frame (and a few days later the urn containing 6 or more pound of ashes, if the deceased is cremated) and when one is at home then the full import of the loss suddenly dawns on them. It is really painful when one has the luxury of time to grieve.

At first it is self-denial, refusing to accept the situation that the loved one has left us. Then one will take numerous guilt trips, blaming oneself for the sudden death, imagining and creating a number of ‘ifs’ situation where the deceased would not be in such a place when he met his death and the whole nightmare will not happen. After a long while, time still heals but it will never be the same again.  Most parents never recover from the death of their children.

My cousin passed away a couple of years ago when he was 49.  His mother, my father’s sister, was 87 then.  At that time she was still sane.  At the funeral wake she refused to acknowledge the death of her beloved son.  She sat outside with friends and talked normally but refused to go inside to view the coffin.  Her mind actually has snapped and she was in a state of denial.  It was so pitifully to see an old lady in such great pain.  One year later she died of grief.

My parents also have sent off my eldest brother in China and a sister too, but they were infants then and the wounds healed faster.

So in my daily prayers, I pray that my parents do not outlive me and I do not outlive my children.


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