Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tak Si Chek, Bei Si Shu (Read Dead Books) Part 2

I love languages. It is interesting how some phrases in a particular language can never be adequately translated into another language. Somehow, the translated version, though retaining the meaning, would somehow lose the essence and beauty of the original version. Consider "Tak si chek or bei si shu" for example. It sounds so beautiful in Hokkien and Mandarin. Direct translation is "read dead books". What? Dead books? How can books be dead.? The closest translation would be "learning by rote".

Through the years of growing up, I began to realise why "Tak si chek" has got on the nerves of many an intelligent, albeit illiterate person, like my neighbour's grandmother, whose grand-daughter, Ah Nee, was still unable to take a bus on her own to school or town at the age of 15.!

I am grateful that my beloved papa, though extremely busy, always found time to talk to his children. As I am the youngest, I followed papa almost everywhere, and hence was the most privileged amongst his five childen, to learn from him. Perhaps this is the reason why apart from being a voracious reader, I was also encouraged by papa to think through issues and not just memorise what I had learnt. This has put me in good stead and helped me in my career.

As a secretary, I shone brilliantly in my workplace, because I often came up with good suggestions for the legal firm I worked in. As a result, my boss' father, the late Lim Cheng Ean, awarded me with a bursary for my tertiary education in Canada.

I dislike the traditional method of teaching English. I remember how I used to hide story books in my text books while the teacher droned on and on with her boring lessons. I was terrified of the Geography teacher, Miss Ho, who made us learn everything by heart. It was hard to memorise things which we could not quite understand. Hence, when I became a teacher, I refused to teach in the traditional way of making students learn things by heart! My lessons had to come alive and meaningful for them, so that years after they leave school, they would still remember the literature books and interesting lessons. More importantly, to apply what they have learnt in their life, work, etc.

Now that I am a real estate agent, I am successful because I am not "tak si chek".
I will not just sell because my clients ask me to sell. Usually I would explore their reasons and help them with the best alternative. Once a client asked me to sell his property. Since there was no urgency for him, I asked him to wait for a year as I believe that prices would still go up, and he could at least make some profit. He had $430K more for his condominium which I recently sold for him.

On another occasion, a client asked me to sell his executive flat. He would only be able to break even. He thought he wanted to sell his flat so that he could transfer all the CPF monies to pay off some of the mortgage on his existing semi-detached house. I was surprised that he was renting the flat at only $1,000 when he could get at least $1,800. He and his wife brightened up, for the $1,800 would be more than enough to pay the monthly mortgage for the flat.

Yes, it would be lovely to earn some $7K to $11 for the flat if I were to sell it for the client, instead of just getting $2,600 in commissionon for the rentals. However, as an agent, I have to tread carefully, for I am dealing with clients' hard earned money. For me it would be just a difference of a few thousand dollars, but for my clients, the amount could run into hundreds of thousands. Hence, it is imperative that I give them the best professional advice. I believe in long term relationship. Our intergrity and sincerity will motivate our clients to refer cases to us.

Recently I had a bad tooth ache. I thought I would have to extract the tooth which was quite loose and badly infected, because this was what happened to me in Penang many years ago. To my surprise, my dentist, Dr. Lee, said, "Why must extract? No need lah. Will give you some antibiotics to try first. The gum should heal and firm up." True enough, my gums healed and my tooth was saved! I am glad that Dr. Lee did not "tak si check" or I would be one tooth poorer!

Ah! Dear readers, I hope you can identify yourself with my article. For those of you who have been "tak si chek", it is still not too late to change. Let the books in you become alive! :-)

Gan Chau

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