Not easy to empathize

The ability to understand someone else’s feelings as if they were one’s own is not something we do easily and often. It is demanding and thankless. Perhaps that may explain why most of us are mainly concerned with the needs our own self and those of our immediate family. How others feel is hardly our interest. How about considering some empathy?

My exhibition of photos Empathy at KLPac closed on the 8 March. This third collection of images of people with disability doing their own thing in sports and in work, was on display for 7 weeks. During that time there were several write ups about the exhibition and one of the portraits of Siti Aishah made it to the front page of the Sunday People in the NST’s Sunday Times.

This media coverage of the disabled group gave all those people in this small and fragile community a much needed visual profile which they seldom get. The Star newspaper’s writer Tan Karr Wei also wrote about the portraitures with understanding.

Then there was Elaine Lau from the Option of the Edge who also gave a voice to this often voiceless fellow citizens. Ng Suzhen from the Malay Mail was the first to put this story in her CyberSpot page. The Chinese press too especially the writer Chee Nyuk Yan from Nanyang Siang Pau gave this group a center spread in their Sunday edition and this was followed by Sin Chew Daily‘s reporter Ten Yien Hsia’s news of the event. I was also invited to talk about the exhibition on TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini morning magazine show.

After all the effort of first going out to get the cooperation of all my disabled friends to allow me to photograph them, and then to mount and promote the visibility of the subject to a larger public, it had dawn on me that this project of promoting a little more empathy for others, has been all a group effort by everyone who has been involved. This is also a note of thanks to all of you. Now I am beginning to understand.

My sister’s memory of mum

Our mother left us this family altarpiece which we have continue to use after her death. Her tablet inscribed on a brass plate sits on the far left. The Goddess of Mercy sits in the middle. Food offerings and incense are to invite all our ancestors to gather and be with us through our the year.

Swee’s memory of mum

Today is Tuesday 9th December 2008 and marks the 2nd death anniversary of my beloved Mother. There hasn’t been a day that passes without thoughts of my mother. There are still moments when I find it hard to talk about my mother’s death as it seems only yesterday that she was cremated.

Two Sundays ago, I came across a photocopy of a hand-written note left by my mother dated 27th October 2006 detailing her final wishes. I have deliberately kept this piece of momento in my bedside drawer. Although I am not educated in Chinese, I was fascinated to see my mother’s handwriting again and I have learnt to memorise every character. Ms Tham, Mum’s accountant read the contents to my brother and I after Mum’s passing so that we could carry out her wishes.

Our mother’s last letter to us, which she read to use before going into hospital for surgery, 2006.

Although my mother was not highly educated as my grandparents were poor, she self taught herself to read and write. I am amazed Mum’s ability to put words on paper. I sobbed by the time I got to the last character. On hindsight, I think my Mum knew that her final moment was coming as she prepared herself to be admitted for her heart surgery on that fateful 31st October 2006.

Paul was unaware until he heard me sobbing in the bedroom. Paul’s memory of my mother is she was a kind and strong woman with a heart of gold. Although my mother came across as being frugal, many misunderstood her real intentions. My mother was a very generous woman and donated her money, time and effort helping out at temples and giving to the less fortunate.

I may have lost a mother but I have so many beautiful memories of a great and wonderful woman whom only I had the priviledge of calling Mum. I am envious of those who still have their parents.

Last year, my mother’s birthday fell on 25th December (Christmas Day) and this year, my Mum’s lunar birthday falls on Saturday 13th December. Paul and I will have a small offering at the Buddhist Temple in Auckland to remember our dearly beloved Mum.

Thoo Thye : Remembrance

A 1960’s photo of my mother’s family, my mother is center standing back row with her brothers and sister. I must be about ten and is standing first from left of photo with all my cousins.

Thoo Thye: 1930 – 2006

My mother passed away in December, two years ago. She was 80. I am turning 60 next year and I have become an orphan. We shared a house together for most of our lives. Of course during that period of living together we went through all the ups and downs of any typical family. But the mother and son relationship developed.

There had been many times in the last two years that I have felt I needed my mother’s company or just to hear her views on some  matters. Even though I have my own family now and a son is fast growing up, I am still not use to being without my mother. In fact, because I have my own family, at times I long for her presence to share our lives.

When she was alife, she often had strong opinions on many things and we often had heated arguments on big and small issues. There were many aspects about my life, my wife’s manners and how we were bring up our son, that displeased my mother. Sometimes the family situations at home were unbearable but at other times, joyful like any other family.

I guess I have to come to terms with missing my mother as time goes by and have to do without her being around when I needed her. I have to get on with my own life and my family without my mother. Even though she is dead and gone but her presence is often felt at odd moments.  Especially at the end of the year which is also her birthday period.

Chua Cheng Chye (1922-2008)

Chua, in the nursing home, making his point, in his usual expressiveness

Chua went back to his Lord on the 7 November 2008

Chua’s funeral service at Wesley Methodist Church, Malacca, 9 November 2008

The last bugle salute at the crematorium at Melaka Memorial Park, 9 Nov 2008

In Memoriam

Our teacher, Headmaster, choir master, singer, song writer, youth leader, youth counsellor, church lay leader, scouts master, Captain of the Boys’ Brigade, friend and co-conspirator.

Chua died, age 86, peacefully, on 7 Nov. at the hospital due to old age. He died a ‘Bujang Lapuk’, (a song title which he loved by the late P Ramlee) a pennyless bachelor. Though he may have been poor in the normal material sense, living just off his pension, he was rich in spirit. His body is dead but his soul lives on through the memories in countless minds.

His generosity with his time and money (when he had some) was hard to match. Anyone, young and old, of what ever religion, colour and social status, can approach him and if can help, he will always do his best to help. Of course his was not a magician or an angle. He too had his limitations like everyone.

Everyone who came to his funeral has their own stories about their encounters with Chua and we hope those who did not make it to ‘his last journey’ may be able to do so through joining in memory of Chua through with comments in the many internet links which some of us have started. Here is the first one,

http://macsian85.blogspot.com/

Hopefully there will be many others contributors and we can then put the story of Chua’s life on the net.

Ongoing Form & Emptiness

Ayutthaya 11, Victor Chin, 2008

Lee HL talking to a group at Kimi Gallery Cafe

Lucien de Guise’s review of the exhibition

The exhibition Form & Emptiness by Eric Peris and I will continue at Kimi Gallery Cafe, 80 Jln. Burhanuddin Helmi, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, tel 77225585, till middle of September. After that we have been invited to to give a talk about our photographs at the Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival 2008 in October, at Times Square. Later, the pictures will be shown at a Buddhist temple in Brickflelds in November.

Last Saturday, 23, we had a small gathering at Kimi to talk about some technical matters regarding printing digital black and white prints. Mr Lee HL from Applied Imaging gave a vary detailed and interesting talk about his company’s commitment to provide the most up to date and professional services available to photographers by his establishment. Thanks to Lee.

The photographs have been on show for a month now and we had a few write-ups in the local press and we like to share the one writen by Lucien de Guise from the New Sunday Times. His piece appeared on the Sunday 10 August. Eric and I thought that Lucien wrote knowledgeably about our photos and give us a view of his well-informed opinion. Thanks to Lucien.

Photographs has many uses, as we all know, and that is why it is growing in popularity world wide. Of course there is also talk that photographs are not trust worthy documents as sometime it may be made to suit a particular propaganda for its own purposes. Furthermore with digital capabilities today it can cut and past and manipulate images without limits.

But in our views photographs can show us how we have been in the past and perhaps inform us how best to we can use the insights from our history to live for the present.