Heart & Soul: My New Year's revelations

  • Family
  • Saturday, 04 Jan 2014

IT was on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. Just like many others, I dressed to the nines and went out to paint the town red to herald the start of another spanking new year. I was out celebrating with my friends at one of the trendy clubs at the Asian Heritage Row along Jalan Doraisamy in Kuala Lumpur.

At about two in the morning, I left the club to go home. When I went to my car, which was parked a few roads away from the club, I saw a lanky old man tottering nearby. He smiled at me and wished me: “Happy New Year”. Thinking that he was one of those pesky jaga kereta (illegal car park attendants) or hobos asking for money, I looked at him with contempt and ignored his greeting.

To my astonishment, he did not ask for money. He just walked past me. As I was opening my car door, I heard someone call out: “Hello Uncle Choo, still not back home yet? Oh yes, by the way, Happy New Year.” I turned around to see the old man replying to the caller: “I’m out for my New Year walk. Thank you for your concern and Happy New Year to you too.”

A while ago, I was happily celebrating a brand new year with hope and joy with the crowd in the club, and now I sat alone in my car, feeling totally awful and embarrassed at having been prejudiced and rude to the old guy.

Seeing the traffic snarl in the wee hours of the morning, I decided to pull over at the nearest 24-hour mamak shop for a glass of coffee before I continued on my way.

The restaurant was crowded with patrons who must be New Year revellers like me. I managed to find a table to share with another customer.

While I was sipping my coffee, the man stood up to leave. He stumbled as he was doing so, toppling his leftover drink on the table. The spillage hit my face and shirt. The man apologised profusely and offered me his handkerchief to wipe the wet stains. But I coldly brushed his hand off. I was furious at his clumsiness and glared at him.

While I was dabbing the stains on my shirt with my own hanky, I saw the man walk away with a limp. I reproached myself. I felt foolish and regretted my boorish behaviour.

On New Year morning, I woke up at noon famished. After lunch at a coffee shop near my apartment, I walked over to the convenience store to get the newspaper. Just before paying I realised my wallet was missing. Then I remembered having left it on the table at the coffee shop where I had lunch. I immediately rushed back there. To my horror, it was nowhere to be found.

“Excuse me, mister, here is your purse,” said an elderly woman hawker. I was so relieved and thankful! “Thank you so much, auntie,” I said as she handed back my wallet. At that moment, I realised she was the same hawker whom I had raised my voice at, a while ago, to complain when the food arrived late. To be fair to her, it was a public holiday and there were many customers. But because I was hungry, I lost my cool and shouted at her.

After getting the paper, I walked back to my apartment. And I thought about the three unpleasant incidents which happened to me that New Year. Could it be the so-called “things happen in threes” or is it what psychology and cognitive science term “confirmation bias”?

I felt something was trying to get my attention. Whatever it is, those three shameful occurrences left a great impact on me. They were eye-openers for me.

When it comes to the dawning of a New Year, most of us talk about New Year’s resolutions. But for me that year, the three happenings which I encountered were what I called my “New Year’s revelations”.

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