Eight Years Old, and All Grown Up

When I was eight years old, I went away to study at a boarding school for the first time–at my own insistence–I might add. My English education began because I pestered my mother to let me study English. The local Chinese school in Tangra, a suburb of Calcutta (now called Kolkata), was the primary school for most of us back then.

My mother relented, and I went away to another city. I had to take an overnight train to get to my school where I stayed for nine months a year with two breaks, summer and winter. Too late…as I tried to get some sleep, half lying on my bedding roll in a crowded train compartment, I was confronted with the reality of what I’d committed myself to. I wouldn’t see my mom for the next four and half months. That was enough to bring some huge tears, and I mean torrential downpours, that lasted for a couple of weeks.

During those early days at school, struggling to learn English, I regretted bitterly being a spoiled kid and getting my way. The truth was my mother probably wanted an English education for me, and when I bugged her to let me go, she didn’t need a lot of coaxing.

Later, when English became more of a first language to me than my own Hakka dialect, I patted myself for being so forceful with my mother…I actually had the audacity to think that my eight-year old self was responsible for my own educational direction.

My mother’s birthday is coming up this week. I dedicate this blog to her for giving me the gift of language.

The Hakka Moral Police

The Hakka self-righteousness was in its full glory, bestowed upon an unlikely victim—one of my sisters, a university professor.

An anonymous self-appointed moral police—obviously the cowardly kind—sent a letter to my sister via her mother-in-law. The writer admonished my sister for displaying inappropriate behaviour in public—the reason, she shakes her leg sometimes when she’s seated. Now I don’t know about anybody, but I often shake my leg unconsciously too. It’s not a jerky movement. Okay really, do I even need to justify it?

Another sister, the one who hopes to write an expose´ on humour in everyday stuff that bugs her, thinks the motions may actually benefit the body if one considers any physical activity better than being inert. Ah… pity…the writer implied that such movements are vulgar and only fit for women who worked in tea and beer houses in the old days in China.

Is there a lesson to be learned here? Apart from giving us a good laugh, the anonymous writer has wasted precious time and energy, especially if he or she is an old…insert whatever you want here. Clearly these people have too much time on their hands. In the writer’s own words, they’ve taken it upon themselves to call out behaviour that is unbecoming, e.g. smoking, drinking, and of course, bouncing legs. Who gave these gossip-mongers the right to sit on the high moral pedestal?