not alone

August 30, 2009

Don’t you find it interesting how you go about daily life and everyone walking around you each has a life story to tell?

Everyone has unique experiences in life, and just when you think you’ve heard the worst, you hear another story even more heart-wrenching.

I meet all sorts of people from all walks of life, each bearing a life story. Funny, sad, happy, heart-breaking, all our lives are coloured with wonderful experiences, whether we realise it or not, whether we want to remember it or not.

This weekend I spent a lot of time at home catching up with my grandma. She told me stories that made me want to cry, stories that made me laugh so hard, stories that I couldn’t believe.

Looking at her, I just couldn’t believe how anyone would have the heart to see her suffer. I just couldn’t imagine her being poor or sad, I felt angry at the thought of it. Even though she is living comfortably now, she still went through so much and each wrinkle on her face, arms, neck…they all tell a story.

I was just relaxing with my maid in the room, both of us playing with my sister’s kids and after a while, we surrendered our bodies flat on the floor, arms spread out, tired of the screaming kids. They soon fell asleep, and while lying down, we both started talking about our lives. I told her my stories, and they pale in comparison to what she told me about hers. She has gone through so much pain back in her hometown.

We talked and laughed for like an hour, and afterwards I felt so insensitive and ashamed of myself. Everyday, I only see her cleaning and cooking, I never really sat down and asked her how she was, how her kids were, how her village is like. It doesn’t hurt to listen and lend a shoulder.


I realise life as a maid is pretty sucky. You live with another family, some who think they’re so superior and treat you as if you have no feelings. I want this, I want that, is all they know. You do so much, but get so little money for it. You have no one to talk to, no one to communicate with, no one to make you feel like you belong.

Talking and joking with the maids, and taking them out for occasional mamak and pasar malam sessions made me realise they are human too, not robots. They each have a life of their own, a life they left behind in piercing hope to make it better.

Of course, if you’re unlucky, you’ll get really bad maids.

But if you’re privileged enough to have good ones (or lucky enough to even have one), treat them well.

I realise this weekend that you can learn so much from other people.

All you need to do is open your mouth and care.

I’m lucky not to feel any hardship or suffering, and I hope you are the same too. But life is a cycle. So if ever we do encounter it one fine day, other people’s stories help to remind ourselves that whatever we’re feeling is only a fraction of what some people go through.

It helps us to feel the ground and not only think of ourselves.