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I had missed the important moments of my children growing up - by R

O17 (Consolation)

R, ‘A’ level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison

Title: Overcome Desire

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Overcome Desire

'A' Level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison

Consolation Prize

In Dec 2010, I was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment and 33 strokes of the caning.  Upon hearing this, my mind went blank. The only thought that flashed through my mind is "How am I going to survive behind bars, for such a long period of time? How my family aside going to survive without me, their sole-breadwinner?” When I turned around and saw my wife caring my one-year-old son with tears rolling down her face. I started to ponder, “Will all this have happened if I did not desire to lead a luxurious and carefree life? Unknowingly, my tears trickled down my cheeks. This is how my story goes.

I came from a poor family and my parents were divorced when I was fourteen. My mother brought up my elder brother and me single-handedly. We used to move house every now and then to avoid the borrowers whom my father, a habitual gambler, had owed. My mother sometimes repaid those “Ah long” (unlicensed moneylenders) not because we are able to, but for the safety of us, the children.

During my primary school days, my allowance was barely enough for food. Thus, together with my 2 best friends, we would extort money from my classmate to satisfy our physical needs. This subsequently exacerbated to theft. Throughout my sporadic theft, I was only caught twice but was not handed over to the police on both occasions. Soon, I was inculcated to steal whenever I could not afford to buy the thing. My mother is an authoritarian parent and overly concerned with my results in school. I would receive caning if I did not get full mark for any subject or was not the first in class or the level in school. Weekdays are strictly studying without any entertainment. This desperation of entertainment made me love enjoyment even more. My mother always believed education could extricate poverty. Soon, I got to know a few groups of friends and started going clubbing, drinking and karaoke, especially those who were hostesses. Gradually I grown to love this lifestyle that I desired to lead a luxurious and carefree lifestyle.

Shortly after, I started to involve myself in horse betting and within a period of about 2 years, I had accumulated debts amounting to about five figures. My mother repaid most of these debts. I was so sad that what I used to despise my father doing to my mother, it had replicated in me just like the saying “history repeats itself”. I felt very hurt but I consoled myself that I would treat my mother better to compensate her. At that time, I was holding a proper job with good career advancement in civil service. When my expenses surpassed my income, I was not able to earn extra income due to the nature of my job. Thus, I resorted to borrow money from co-operatives, credit cards and illegal means. To make the matter worse, I got myself involved in illicit habit, drug consumption.

In 2006, I was arrested for drug consumption. Prior to my incarceration, I compelled my ex-wife to file for divorce because I felt that I was incompatible for her and did not want to be a disgrace to her in front of her relatives and friend. Then, I lost everything dearest to me; wife, career and freedom. I was diagnosed with depression. I made a promise to my mother that I will change. A year after, I was released. I got a proper job with decent pay and led a normal life. Coincidentally a friend of mine invited me to a joint venture with him and I agreed without hesitation. While running our business, we were required to entertain customers at nightspots to drink. It was during this time I got to know my Vietnamese wife. I had gone back to the old regime. The frequency of going nightspots shortened from weekends to everyday. Soon I was overwhelmed by my desire again.

My lifestyle required a substantial amount of money to sustain. In order to sustain my lifestyle, I started to embezzle company funds and subsequently resorted to borrow money from Ah long. Before long, I was heavily in debt and the debt due to “Ah Long” because such a substantial amount of $20,000 whom my guarantors defaulted their payments. During that period, my wife went through all the hardship with me without grumbling and borne me two wonderful sons. During her pregnancy period, there are occasions when I was unable to afford to bring her for the monthly consultation with the genealogy and sometimes, we were penniless and had to make do with instant noodles. At that time, I was at my wit’s end when suddenly an idea struck me!

I started to traffic drug as a storeman cum paddler for a drug importer from Malaysia. I thought that I had overcome my drug addiction but only to realise that I was totally wrong. I succumbed to temptation and took my first puff of ‘ice’. Soon, I started to import drugs directly from the producer of Malaysia to increase my income. It took me about a year to repay all my debts. However, my desire did not allow me to stop my activities. My luxurious life was shattered when the CNB officers ambushed me. While I was in remand, my wife brought me a joyous yet heart-breaking news. She was pregnant with our third child.

During my present incarceration, I attended religious counselling, did some soul searching and self-reflections. For the past 8 years, my family have never missed any opportunity to visit me. Their love and care for me, and how dearly I am to them, really touched my heart. They had suffered a lot, going to MPs to extend their social visit passes and hopping from agency to agency to apply for citizenship and student passes for my wife and children. Every time when I saw their faces, clouded with the sadness and disappointment when the application was rejected for the past 8 years, I felt like needles pricked and poked my heart. How tortured I was when I was unable to help them and they had never blamed me. It was then I realised that I was living in my own cocoon. Missing out the people who I mattered most, my family who had stood by me through thick and thin.

I remembered during a family open visit, my children were asked what are their hopes for the family, my youngest son, aged six then answered, ‘I hope my father can come back soon’. Upon hearing this, I broke down. I realised how selfish I was to pursue my own desire at the expense of my family. I was given a choice they were not. I had chosen how to live my life but they have to suffer with me, simply because they are my family. After having some deep thoughts. I discovered that all those that had happened was because I had started wrongly. Thus, I need to restart my life.

I’m already in my forties and there are not much time left. I had wasted my life, more than 10 years inside person. Now it is time for me to restart my life and focus on the well-being my family. I believed that with the support of my family and friends, I am able to overcome my desire this time. Time and tides wait for no man. Time is not on my side. Sometimes during my quiet time, I always wonder to myself. Is this how I reciprocate my family’s love for me? No! They have suffered more than enough and it is time I do something for them. I had missed the important moments of my children growing up.

However, I am proud that they are well brought up. They accepted me wholeheartedly and was never ashamed to acknowledge their father’s incarceration. All these things, I really must give credit to my mother and wife. So, I’m going to say goodbye to my desire and lead a fruitful life. not for myself, but for all the sacrifices and sufferings my family has gone through for me. Suddenly, I recall a song and it starts like this ‘Tie a yellow ribbon on the old oak tree…”



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