Dr Vai’s traumatic canning experience


During our weekly fellowship meeting last Saturday, our most charming Dr Vai as usual was entertaining us with his jokes and anecdotes one after another. All of a sudden, he declared that he has a tendency towards “masochism!” Definition of masochism: pleasure in suffering. Alamak!

I wasn’t paying attention to his repertoire of endless anecdotes and jokes but this description caught my attention. We asked him what he meant by that statement? Dr Vai then went on to relate his traumatic childhood experience.

Dr Vai is a Malaysian. He studied and worked in UK before coming over here to practise. He is a specialist in micro hand surgery. He began relating his real experience as a Primary school pupil in a Malaysian school.

According to him, he had to wear a green color school tie as part of his school uniform. The shirt was white and the trousers was also green in color. One day, Dr Vai forgot to bring his tie. He didn’t realise that he left it at home until he reached school. By then, it was too late to go back for his green color school tie.

The little school boy of Dr Vai panicked. He knew that he would get a good thrashing from the school discipline master for his carelessness. Dr Vai and most of the older generation belong to that class of students where they were brought up with a big stick and caning was the norm then. No parents would would ever challenge the school authority even though their children were disciplined by public caning. Nowadays, parents would not hesitate to lodge a police report or even petition to the Prime Minister if they feel that their children were “abused” when their hair was snipped! Really langgar! We live in a different era.


The quick thinking and intelligent school boy of Dr Vai then thought of something to salvage his predicament. He went around the school gardens looking for a pandan leaf. He managed to find a huge longish green pandan leaf and adroitly used it in lieu of a green school tie. The Chinese would describe this precarious situation as “败中求胜是一种境界,一种智慧。” Alas! The school discipline master didn’t resonate with this priceless concept. Maybe, he is not a Chinese? Only a Chinese will understand the full significance of that statement – ” 败中求胜是一种境界,一种智慧。” Many great battles and wars were fought and won based on the full understanding of this timeless concept – roughly translated as “in the face of inevitable defeat and hopeless desperateness, one overcomes adversity to score victory like the proverbial phoenix risen from the ashes is an art and genius!”

Dr Vai was publicly caned and humiliated. It left an indelible mark in his young mind. Till today, he still remembers vividly that incident etched forever in his mind. Dr Vai says that if he were the school discipline master, he would definitely praise and highlight the incident to the entire school as an example of creativeness, resourcefulness and innovation. It was something unexpected of a small little boy. Who would have thought of that pandan leaf replacing his forgotten tie?

Do you think that the little boy ought to be caned? Au contraire, we need to train students who could think out of the box. The key to face ever increasing global competition is innovation, creativity and resourcefulness! We do not wish our competitive school system churning out highly educated leaders lacking EQ or compassion only to lord over lesser educated, disadvantaged mortals and devise ways and means to extract the maximum out of their sweat, tears and blood to keep their bottom line? Do we?

Hence, Dr Vai joked that he is slightly tilted towards “masochism” which he attributed it to that traumatic childhood experience. Psychological damage was done at an early tender age. Despite of that, Dr Vai was able to soar and achieve international fame in his field of speciality. If it had happened to any of us, we might have ended differently! Different strokes of the cane for different folks they say, pun intended.

Click here to read what NTU Professor says about public caning.

Click here to read more about Dr Vai.



About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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8 Responses to Dr Vai’s traumatic canning experience

  1. Roaring Lion says:

    The values imparted to the children in the modern society are of vital importance that either they make it or break it. Any person can play the blame games and point out the fault of others without much considering the wrong of his own. Suffice to say, the parents refuse their children to be disciplined by the school for their bad behavior and character, would ultimately be chastised by the society.

    I would much agree with Gintai that individual has to be measured up with compassion and love that the EQ is built up from within. Thus, the end-product is measured by what values are being fed in.

    • The latest living example Amy Cheong is a good case study. Do we want to have educated ppl holding high posts in public office exhibiting that sort of behavior – contempt for the others? Zero tolerance and zilch empathy for others’ differences?

      • Roaring Lion says:

        She should not have commented negatively on racial issues to hurt others since it is a sensitive subject. Legally, she can make a complaint to the authority to mitigate the noise level.

        Similarly, I would expect leaders to have high integrity, good moral characters and great people-oriented skills.

  2. Luck also counts says:

    It should spell caning, not canning. Canning is to put food in a can for preservation and sale.

    But Dr Vai was caned all the same, despite his young creativtiy and resourcefulness. Perhaps he was just unlucky.

    To succeed not only need plenty of resourcefulnes and hardwork but also some luck.

  3. patriot says:

    Me believes humans are born instinctively with mix of masochism, sadism, prudish, vice, crooked and straight etc. Physically too, it is between the super athletic and the vegetable wth the most in the middle who are consider normal.

    Apart from the natural attributes and luck, 天时地利(right/auspicious time, timing and good location matter much to the fate of any individual.

    Science matters too; whence ones’ job is replaced by machine, how good one was at it becomes irrelevant.

    If success is measured by money, those who won big sum in gambling are some of the most successful. In a way, good luck is most important . Born healthy into a rich loving family, grows up looking good and materially well of and has a respectable demeanour have to some extend depend on good fortune.

    Citizens too have to depend on good fortune not to be under the Rule of abusive and or rogue rulers.


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