A little bit of nostalgia of forgotten dreams, or old dreams versus new dreams of mothers. My mother’s big dream was for her children to finish the senior Cambridge Examination, the O level equivalent of today, a Grade 3 would be good enough, and become a ‘tua chye hoo’, literary to become a chief clerk. In those days, every govt department or company had a tua chye hoo, the ‘pau kar leow’ administrator for all paper works. Job opportunities for professionals were rare.
An entrepot did not need those talents. The colonial masters were contented that they had their cheap supplies of coolies and clerks to help them run their administration, and the private sectors to run their trading businesses. It did not take the Chinese community long to realise that the colonial masters were only interested in their own glorification and self interests. The immigrants were there to provide the brawns and shuffle a few papers for their convenience. Every female wanted to be a typist or stenographer or a secretary.
They had big charity drives for donations to build secondary schools and the only university in Southeast Asia for their children. They had bigger dreams. They did not have the privilege of raising funds to help the poor, the sick or the aged. The demands were more urgent and more important. They wanted to produce professionals, engineers, doctors, scientists in all professions.
When we became independent, the opportunities opened up for the locals in every sector and needed professionally trained locals to fill those positions. The mother’s dream changed. They wanted their children to get into university. Their vision went beyond tua chye hoo when they knew what were possible with tertiary education. Forget about tua chye hoo. A graduate meant more than just pride of achievement. It meant a better quality of life, with more material comfort through higher income and more secure jobs.
This mother’s dream continues today. Every mother still wants to see their children get into university and become a graduate. The ancient mothers were ignorant when their ambitious dream was a tua chye hoo. Today’s mothers are in a way ignorant of their dreams. A graduate is not going to make their life that much better. Some may end up as taxi drivers, worst than their parents or grand parents who were non graduates and were tua chye hoo, with a much better lifestyle than the graduates of today, with much better incomes.
Many parents still scrimped and emptied their life savings, downgraded their homes, to send their children overseas when they could not find a place in the local universities. Many regretted when their children refused to return. They forgot that on returning, their children would not be good enough to be a tua chye hoo and may end up you know what. Their talents will never be appreciated unless they happened to be foreign talents. The foreign talents, many are not any better, many worst off than our local talents have taken over their jobs. Some say no, these lousy foreign talents are here to help create jobs. I agree, so that locals can rent out their rooms and service them in hawker stalls and foodcourts, and drive them around in their taxis.
The overseas children of our mothers are doing pretty well overseas. Many could find better jobs and enjoying better quality of living that they could not find if they returned. Why should they return to compete with half baked foreign talents and may end up jobless? The ignorant mothers of today must change their thinking and cast their dreams further ashore. There is no place for their graduate children at home. They need to wonder afar to find their pots of gold. It is better that they remain overseas and stay there.
The familiar dreams of having a graduate and all is fine is no longer true in many cases. It is a crumbled dream.