23 Sept 2019 (Autumn Equinox)
My late maternal grandfather rarely spoke, but he was always writing or reading.
He would read the Chinese Language newspaper in Hokkien (Minnan) aloud while I giggled at the strange sounds.
Each year after I had purchased my new school supplies, I would put my new textbooks and exercise books on my grandfather’s desk.
He would spend the entire afternoon wrapping the covers of my textbooks and exercise books meticulously.
The whole book wrapping process was done in meditative silence. It felt like an elaborate ritual involving measuring, cutting, folding & pasting.
And if the wrapped book was a chinese language book, he would dip a brush in black ink and write my name in Chinese characters (王淑贞) on it.
By the way he protected my books and in the manner he wrote my name, my grandfather showed me reverence for knowledge and respect for a child.
And without using any grand gestures, my grandfather, a pig farmer and later on a temple caretaker who fed cats, ignited in me a love for animals, books and penmanship.
Half a century later, I would meet my First Tutee, a Malay child who would express interest in Chinese character writing even as I tutored him in English.
As my grandfather taught me to care for cats, First Tutee also learns to befriend them.
As I was taught to revere knowledge, First Tutee learns to celebrate Wisdom too.