It reminds me of those who seek fortune in a distant land away from their origin hometown. Having found their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they grow old and ache for their place of “origin”. They then decide to go back and retire to their hometown or ‘roots’ to seek rest and solace having fought and reaped abundantly in their younger days.
It is human nature where we would prefer to go back and die in our place of birth! This innate desire transcends all creeds and cultures.
It reminds me of an old farmer in the mid 70s. I lived in a kampung next to the present Paya Lebar airport near to Kaki Bukit area. This old farmer planted vegetables, reared chickens and ducks. He worked tirelessly from morning till dusk on his plot of land. He even planted his own tobacco leaf and cured it for his own consumption.
He had another family in China. He would remit money back to China regularly and go back once every few years. Every nite he would reminisce his other family in China even though he had a few children and a wife here.
When he retired in his late 70s, our China born farmer decided to board a ship back to his poor village in Kwangsi to reunite with his family there. He packed up whatever possessions he had in few wooden crates and headed back to his birthplace.
One of his four children who was very filial pleaded with him not to return to his poor village in China cuz in the 1970s, China was still in extreme poverty. He refused to listen. After he was gone, he is heard no more.
Even those older generation Indians living in those bygone days where they operated little corner ‘mama store’ round the clock along the five foot way also retired back to India to reunite with their family having made their fortune here.
When I was a little boy, I used to hear adults talking amongst themselves who and who – Indians or Chinese neighbors going back either for visit or retire to ‘唐山’ (tang shan, pronounced as deng shua in hokkien). It loses it’s meaning in Mandarin. It literary means ‘long mountain’. Maybe there are ranges of mountain in their villages in China and India where we don’t have any here.
Even they were here, they still kept track of developments in their hometown. If there was any flood or drought in their home village, they rally their compatriots to donate used clothing or utensils to send over via shipping. Their heart and soul still greatly attached to their place of origin. They didn’t identify with their adopted country.
The Chinese idiom 落叶归根 (luò yè guī gēn) English translation here holds special meaning to those older generations not born here. Only my parents, myself and children who were all born here will never behave like them. Unlike them, we will live and die here. We will 落叶归根 (luò yè guī gēn) here. Our umbilical cord is here not attached to there.
Even the sea turtles knowing that there are predators waiting for them, they still go back to Trengganu beach to lay their eggs. It’s a built-in innate instinct for those sea turtles from the deep South China sea to 落叶归根 (luò yè guī gēn) and lay their eggs there when the time comes. It’s programmed in their genes. It just can’t be logically explained.
It is rather naive to assume that getting 25,000 new citizens yearly over the next 5 years will bind them here? No amount of money you pump in on ‘social integration’ programmes will alter this fact. It’s akin to those instant trees found all over the island where their roots are not deeply entrenched. They easily got uprooted in a strong tropical storm! Just click here to take a look at those uprooted trees.
Do they understand this innate nature of yearning for one’s roots that is universal and timeless? Is it not an exercise in futility?
Dr Toothfully, Thank you so much for this wonderful yet moving MTV video which strikes a chord with me! A sombre rendition of a story in a song. The story of our life as we grow old and melancholic towards the end of our lifespan.