When I was small, my parents used to drag me to all kinds of kenduri (feasts) by relatives, family friends and neighbours. My siblings and I often attended loads of ceremonies celebrating significant life events like weddings and the birth of a newborn.
Back then, we (my siblings and I) did not have the option of not going. We were expected to follow our parents wherever they took us. No questions asked. When I was under eight, all I did during the feasts was play with my cousins, eat, and play some more. I did not have a role.
However, by the time I’d turned nine, it was expected of me to contribute to the cooking preparations alongside the other womenfolk. As I was still relatively young I would be given simple tasks such as cutting vegetables, slicing/chopping onions and chillies or pounding spices.
I used to look forward to attending kenduris as I got to catch up with my cousins, some of whom lived on the other side of town. I also enjoyed watching and listening to the womenfolk gossipping away while going about their tasks. In fact their chatter soon became a source of entertainment, if not information.
In fact that was how I found out whose wedding would be next and whether we were invited or who recently had a baby. My mum wasn’t particularly excited about me eavesdropping on the gossip. She was perturbed, to be precise. You see, very often, when I didn’t understand what the women were saying, I would ask my mum.
I think as a parent, mum felt it was her duty to censor information she felt I wasn’t ready for. She was also uncomfortable with having to explain certain things.
After several warnings from mum I stopped approaching her for answers but that didn’t stop me from eavesdropping. In fact I realised I had to be a better listener. I also learned to gather information from different sources so I could put two and two together.
I think, whether we realise it or not, or, whether we master listening and analytical skills at our own pace or through formal lessons, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve needed to put the skills to practice in order to figure things out. Sometimes, it’s for our own survival. At other times, it’s for the sake of knowledge.
In primary school I had a very close friend. We did everything together. We were like twins except we looked nothing like each other. I trusted my best friend. Well, at least I thought I did until another friend came along.
This other friend liked to bad mouth my best friend. Because she was very convincing and spoke with such authority, I believed everything she told me and started to distrust my best friend. The next thing I knew, my best friend and I stopped talking to each other.
Young and inexperienced, I did not know how to be discerning with information made available to me. I made a rash decision based on anger and did not verify my well, only source.
Over the years, through working and life experiences, I gradually learned the importance of checking the credibility of my sources. I became aware that when a person tells me a story, it is told from his perspective. As a listener, it is my responsibility then to myself to question and understand his agenda.
It’s important, I realised, to read between the lines and question what I hear or read. That fact is more true now with the existence of social media, which makes it too easy for information to be shared and spread like bushfire.
Today, news, both good or bad, flattering or embarrassing, is hard to contain. This can oftentimes result in confusion and frustration.
More than ever, we as individuals, need to be discerning with information.
I think if we question everything, we will be secure in what we believe and will be able to find peace in the opinions of others.
One of the lessons that has stuck with me from attending kenduris and eavesdropping on gossip is that when it come to sources of information, there are many to access from.
Especially in today’s world where information travels at the speed of light, we no longer need to rely on the official source (in my case it was my mum). I must emphasise however, that it has served me well to understand the motives behind both my mum’s censorship and the womenfolk’s free flow of information.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.