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Lessons of Life

4 Gems from a Former Refugee

I attended a dinner for Fulbright Scholars in New York last week and met this man, Dr Dastidar, who is now a Distinguished Professor at the State University of New York. He was from a refugee family that lived in India. Determined to make a mark for himself, Dr Dastigar travelled and studied in the United States in search of a better life. We chatted on end about his three decades of struggle. Both of us talked as if we had known each other for so long. His life story was so inspiring and memorable that I would like to share Four Gems from this former refugee-turned-Professor for the benefit of the readers.

1. Do not lament over the Past

The mistakes we have done and the lost opportunities we have had, according to the Professor, should be a source of motivation for us to work harder rather than an excuse to continue to do badly in life. The wrong things we did and the tragedies that befell us should be guides for us to avoid committing the same errors. The sooner we learn from the setbacks we encounter, the faster we move in our journey to success.

2. Family as the Main Support System

The Professor told me that he would not have attained success in life without the help he received from his parents, relatives, wife and children. These are the people that kept urging him to persist in his strive to do well. He would also cheer them on to be just as successful as him. Without parents praying for him and without his wife and children keeping him on track, he would have been a Nobody.

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A stabbing incident occurred at a park just next to my apartment. Armed with a scissors, the deranged and homeless man pounced at joggers and anyone he encountered injuring five persons, one of which is a two year old boy. It was only after a Good Samaritan, most likely trained in some form of self-defense techniques, moved in to pin the assailant that the violence came to a stop.

I used to jog at the scene of the crime and always kept my own defenses low to enjoy the afternoon sun and cold breeze. But yesterday’s incident was a good reminder that no public place – at least in New York City – is safe from gangsters, muggers and persons living in desperation. And this is no exaggeration.

Police crime statistics have it that this latest incident is but one out of more than a hundred violent crimes in New York parks. It is utterly impossible for the police to be on guard at all times. The onus is upon us to keep ourselves safe and secure at all times as and when we chill out for some leisure and fun.

My friends in Singapore may take this issue lightly. Singapore is, after all, known to be the safest cities on earth. But we never know what would happen in moments we least expect. Criminals abound and the best way to protect ourselves is to learn some form of self-defense.

Be it judo, aikido, karate, Silat or what have you, these various martial arts would give us the fighting chance to put off any attacks from inhumane rogues. Here in New York, the City that Never Sleeps, self-defense is the best weapon one could have to survive.

What We Want in Life

We want Everything in Life, usually all the Perfect Things.

But not Everything is Ours to Begin with and Nothing is Perfect even if we Imagine them to be.

The Best among Us are those who are Grateful of the Things endowed to us.

The Best among Us are those whose Souls could see beyond the Veil of Perfection, the True Meaning of Beauty.

Things to Avoid

Never Start Something that You Do Not Intend Finish.

Never Engage in a War that You Do Not Intend to Win.

Never Make Friends with Anyone whom You Do Not Intend to Learn From.

Never Make Enemies with Anyone who Knew Your Deepest Intentions and Your Greatest Sins.

Reflections on Early Life

Unlike most Singaporeans of my generation, I was born not at KK Hospital but in a HDB flat at Eunos Crescent.

My mum was in labour pains one early morning so my auntie had to just double up as a midwife as baby Khairudin was more than ready to take on the world. The story goes that I was plain blue when I came out and everyone thought this boy won’t make it. I did somehow.

We were in a four room flat. But there was seldom a time when the flat had less than 10 people living together. Grandparents, uncles, aunties and so forth were with us as they prepared themselves for the difficult life ahead of them. I learnt from my parents the Virtue of Helping Others no matter how little we had.

But we did well somehow amidst so many difficulties in life and despite the fact that my parents had to struggle hard to raise five children.

Walking by this place brings back old memories of friends and families, of sacrifices and serenity. If we think that our lives are tough and sometimes difficult to surmount, try listening to the stories of the past generation.