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Sunday, 05 November 2017 00:00

Class Monitor Made His Mother Proud

Written by  Low Siew Lian, Malacca / Translated by Teoh Hui Xuan

Shanmugam (right) received the Academic Progress Award and held up his award during the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme presentation ceremony. [Photograph by Tan Yen Pack]

Being a well-behaved and thoughtful boy, Shanmugam would return home immediately after school to help his mum with household chores, clean his grandfather’s wounds, and reduce the burden for his uncle. His family is the centre of his life, and they have high hopes for him. Though this means that Shanmugam would not have much time for his friends or entertainment, he is willing to make that sacrifice.


At eight years old, Shanmugam a/l Vengadasalam studies very hard in school to achieve good grades, for he knows that it would make his mother happy, and he would be entitled to free meals in school and transportation allowance from Tzu Chi, thereby reducing his uncle’s monthly expenses.

By accident in November 2016, Shanmugam’s teacher became aware that his family was facing food shortages, and raised his plight to Tzu Chi. Volunteers then paid his family a visit and upon understanding their situation, they began to provide food for his family and monthly financial support for his education. This year, he continues to be one of the beneficiary students of the Happy Schooling Scheme and Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme.

The little ‘home’ monitor

Shanmugam’s family have considerable expectations for the tiny, young, quiet and obedient boy. In school, he helps teachers to monitor his class, and back at home, he continues his role as a “home” monitor.

Shanmugam was aware of his family’s plight at an early age. All household expenses are depended upon his uncle’s meagre salary. Shanmugam’s mother, Sujatha a/p Karpaya, was a victim of domestic abuse and was divorced from her husband. Four years ago, she contracted breast cancer and had to undergo treatment. Born with a defective leg and unable to balance herself whilst walking, moving heavy objects around is a problem for Sujatha. She once worked as a cleaner, but even that was a problem for her.

At the age of six, Shanmugam began sharing some household responsibilities with his mother, and he is now her handy little helper. When Sujatha is making dinner, Shanmugam would do the dishes, sweep and clean the floor, and wipe the cupboards and tables around the house. If Sujatha needs to do some grocery shopping, he would list down things to buy and ask the neighbours for help or walk to the nearest grocer himself.

Shanmugam also takes care of his 70-year-old grandfather, Karpaya a/l Arussalam, who lives with them. His grandfather was involved in a car accident 40 years ago. It left a wound on his ankle, and Shanmugam would help clean the wound daily. On September 17, 2017, volunteers took Shanmugam and his grandfather to Tzu Chi Free Clinic. The nurse soon discovered that the grandfather’s wound was covered with layers of dead skin over the years. The wound took over half an hour to clean and it revealed a pinkish layer underneath. By then, the nurse realized that the wound was deeper than they thought and larger than the size of a palm. As it was too large a task for Shanmugam to handle, they advised Karpaya to go to the nearest hospital in Alor Gajah to seek medical help.

However, when volunteers visited the family again, they discovered that Karpaya was unable to visit the hospital regularly due to transportation difficulties. Volunteers then decided to make the necessary arrangements for him. Meanwhile, Shanmugam did not slack off his responsibilities and continued to remind his grandfather to clean his wound daily.

Family means everything

The adults were rather strict towards Shanmugam’s upbringing. Studying takes up a large part of his life. He reads his textbooks and revises his homework; the family could not afford extra reading materials for Shanmugam. Sujatha said that even on the first day of Deepavali, Shanmugam changed into new clothes and stayed at home instead of going out to meet his friends. As he always returns home immediately after school and did not participate in extra-curricular activities, he does not know where his friends live. He understands that if he comes back later than usual, his mother would have to do things on her own, which tires her out and hurt her feet, and no one else is also able to help his grandfather to dress his wound. Shanmugam is most worried about getting a lower grade and creating extra burden on his uncle.

In the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme’s self-assessment booklet, Shanmugam wrote down his self-expectation in Malay: “I want to study hard until I can get into a university. When I grow up, I want to help my mum and at least, reduce her burden.” Sujatha also said that Shanmugam is her only hope: “His results are the most important thing. I would like him to get a decent job when he grows up, then I wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore.”

Occasionally, when Sujatha gave Shanmugam extra pocket money to treat himself to an ice-cream, he would refuse her offer and instead console Sujatha by saying, “Mum, you don’t have to buy that for me now. Someday, I’ll treat you to an ice-cream instead.”

Last year, Shanmugam earned the first place in his cohort. The rankings for this year are still waiting to be released, but his results for the first half of the academic year had improved compared to the previous year. On November 5, during the Tzu Chi Study Grant & Awards Scheme presentation ceremony, Shanmugam was awarded the Academic Progress Award. Sujatha was very pleased to see her son receiving the award. For someone who had never received praises for herself, it was a moment of pride for Sujatha. Friends and relatives were curious if Sujatha had prepared a present for Shanmugam, but he instead told her that her praises were worth more than any present she could give him.

Although money means everything to this family, Shanmugam and his family continue to be kind and charitable to other people. They save up coins in Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank, and Shanmugam is always diligent in his daily donations. When people visit his home, Sujatha would share her ideas on saving up and donating to the poor. Her relatives and friends, including her Malay friends who often help her to get her groceries from the shop nearby, are always willing to donate a few coins into the bamboo bank. On the day of the ceremony, the family returned a bamboo bank that was filled with money and love to Tzu Chi.

Sujatha earnestly thought they are still a lucky family. She said that there were people in the news who were in worse predicament than them, and they may not even have a roof over their heads. As such, she felt that she and her family should extend a helping hand to these needy people. There are now two coin banks in her house, one for Tzu Chi and one for the family. Often, the family would choose to donate their savings to Tzu Chi instead because they believe that the act of giving is a gift itself.

 

 

On September 17, 2017, Tzu Chi volunteers took Shanmugam and his grandfather to Tzu Chi Free Clinic to clean the latter’s wound. There were volunteers around to shower their care. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]   Shanmugam would list down the groceries Sujatha wants to get and ask their neighbours for help or go to the nearest grocer himself. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]

On September 17, 2017, Tzu Chi volunteers took Shanmugam and his grandfather to Tzu Chi Free Clinic to clean the latter’s wound. There were volunteers around to shower their care. [Photograph by Quek Kah Hoon]
 
Shanmugam would list down the groceries Sujatha wants to get and ask their neighbours for help or go to the nearest grocer himself. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]
 
Shanmugam is seen here helping his 70-year-old grandfather to clean his wound. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]   Tzu Chi volunteer presented an award to Shanmugam. It was in recognition of his hard work. [Photograph by Tan Yen Pack]

Shanmugam is seen here helping his 70-year-old grandfather to clean his wound. [Photograph by Hong Geok Hui]
 
 
Tzu Chi volunteer presented an award to Shanmugam. It was in recognition of his hard work. [Photograph by Tan Yen Pack]
 
Both Sujatha and Shanmugam spend their money thriftily and donate their coins into the Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank. They are seen here donating the money saved to Tzu Chi during the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme presentation ceremony. [Photograph by Tan Yen Pack]  

Both Sujatha and Shanmugam spend their money thriftily and donate their coins into the Tzu Chi’s bamboo bank. They are seen here donating the money saved to Tzu Chi during the Tzu Chi Study & Awards Scheme presentation ceremony. [Photograph by Tan Yen Pack]