Ancestors

I've been thinking a lot about my ancestors lately and how much they sacrificed so that their children and their children's children could go on to have better lives. I think about the wars they fought, the threats they faced, and the pain they endured when separated from loved ones for geographical, political, or economic reasons, and it's these thoughts that remind and encourage me always to do the right thing and never to compromise myself in any way. After all, it's because of my hardworking, selfless ancestors I am here today. Failing to live up to my potential or not fulfilling all the expectations I have for myself would not only hurt me, but it would be doing a terrible disservice to my ancestors' memory, and that's something I just won't do. 

I’m very proud of my mixed heritage and feel blessed to be a product of both the Malay and Indian cultures. I greatly admire my paternal grandfather, who was a disciplined man of few words and a role model for me to this day. Frugal and hardworking, he rarely missed a day at the office and exercised daily— even exercising the day he died at the age of 86. Like many before and after him, he left his ancestral home in Gujarat for Malaysia in search of a better life. My grandfather and grandmother were not only hardworking people, but they were selfless, often eating just white rice and curry for dinner so that my father and his six siblings could share the only piece of fish. Later, my father's older brother sacrificed his own education by leaving school to help my grandfather in the family wholesale business to help support my father in his studies overseas. My father studied chemistry, and the family had high hopes of him becoming a doctor one day. In the end, he switched majors and ended up graduating with an international business degree. Ironically enough, after a ten-year stint in banking, my father left it all behind to join the family business.

 

My mother's family is Malay. Like me, my mother was drawn to music, and as a girl asked for piano lessons, something my strict, no-nonsense grandfather saw as a luxury they could not afford. A week later, an old rusty grand piano arrived at their home. Although my mother didn’t get the lessons she asked for, her father could see music was important to her and did what he could, which I found very touching. Incidentally, not only did that old rusty grand piano wind up in my childhood home, but I received the piano lessons my mother never got and played that old piano daily; it was that very piano that introduced me to the world of music. My mother may not have gotten what she wanted, so she made sure I did, and I feel honored that I was able to follow my mother's dream in a way.

 

When our elders talk about the family's past hardships, it's not to make the younger generation feel guilty, but it's so we will understand the sacrifice that went into making a better life for their children; this helps us to appreciate better what we have and not to take things for granted. Whenever I'm reminded of what my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents went through so that their children would not only survive, but flourish, I can't help but feel a deep humility and a sense of duty to carry on and do good in the world so that the hardships they endured will not go in vain. Looking back and honoring what our ancestors have gone through not only helps us to appreciate what we have today but also pushes us to keep fighting so that our children will have a better tomorrow. So, I'd like to say to my ancestors: Thank you for everything you fought for and for all your sacrifices. It's because of you that today I can go for my dreams and fulfill my calling, and for that, I am eternally grateful.



Amirah