Sunday June 17, 2012
Learning about fishing and life from Papa
By SOO EWE JIN
EACH time I use the Penang Bridge, I would point at one of the man-made islands and remind my boys that my father “founded” these.
When the bridge was being built, these little islands were created as artificial barriers to control the flow of small boats underneath.
We had a sampan then and would go fishing in the surrounding waters.
It was just a patch of sand but it was a welcome refuge for us to take a rest or when the seas got rough.
It was on one such visit that my Papa proudly proclaimed himself as the founder of the island – and we all cheered.
Of the many memories of my father, the ones that stir the most emotions are about going fishing with him.
Sometimes we went on the sampan, but most of the time, we just fished from the infamous Jelutong sewer bridge, which was walking distance from our house.
We preferred to fish at night, with the hurricane lamp by our side and a carpet of stars above us.
I was young and impatient and would reel in my line at the slightest tweak while Papa just waited for the fish to truly get hooked. He obviously caught more fish than I did.
The amazing thing about him was that he knew what fish would come up just by the way the line tweaked. Not bad for someone for whom fishing was a hobby.
“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a meal but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him a lifetime.”
I never thought much of this saying back then but now I realise that the many, many things Papa taught me about fishes, crabs and the sea hold lifelong lessons for me to this day.
I remember a time when the sea was extremely rough and I was really scared, but Papa just rowed with the flow.
This could be one reason why I face trials and tribulations with the perspective that all things will pass, and that even in tough times, we can enjoy the ride.
Our fishing trips allowed us to discuss a lot of things besides fishing. We spoke about politics, about life and our dreams.
The conversations were possible because he made sure we read the newspaper daily to understand what was going on in the world.
Papa taught me to live simply, so that others may simply live.
He taught me to love and to forgive, and to always see things with the heart.
Some 25 years ago, my Papa passed away. I was at his bedside and I watched him breathe his last. I felt a sense of relief when he finally lost his battle to cancer. How else could I feel back then, having watched how he suffered through those difficult days? He was a young 70.
Today, when I look at my two boys, one of my biggest regrets is that they never got to know their Ah Kong. They would be his only paternal grandchildren, since I am the only son among his eight daughters.
He would have been a wonderful grandfather to them. And he probably would have taken them fishing.
Today being Fathers Day, I dedicate this column to my Papa and to all fathers who truly understand the real meaning of fatherhood.
Being a good provider of material things is only a small part of our portfolio. We need to help our children grow emotionally and spiritually, so that they can make the right decisions when they come before the crossroads in their lives.
And we must share our time with them, not only on purpose-driven trips like ferrying them to tuition, but in quiet moments as well.
> Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin likes the saying: “Fame is a vapour, popularity an accident and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.”