El Condor Pasa (If I Could)

KL Diary Number 3

I’d rather be a hammer than a nail


Yes I would, if I could, I surely would…

My paternal grandfather owned and ran a hardware shop. Given that my dad must have grown up with a shop full of hammers, nails, screws, it is shocking that he has no ability when it comes to DIY. He has no practical skills except for sweeping the garden.

Mr Gochugaru and I, on the other hand, can really handle all sorts of home improvement tasks. Once, when Mr G was on holiday in Hong Kong, HK Sister got out the toolbox and a ladder, and requested that he hang up some large paintings for her.

There are so many domestic issues to tackle head-on in my KL Home. Actually, it’s not my home, it is my parents’ home but you know Chinese families…my problem is your problem.

Today we deal with some mosquito screens which are torn and which let the bloodsuckers in. The first Zika virus case in Malaysia has just been reported and we cannot take risks.




The screens are removed from its frame, a new sheet of metal is cut to fit, and the frame is replaced on the window.






The second task is more tricky as it involves a leaky air-conditioner in the study. My dad has been walking around since Saturday like a bear with a sore head.

My dad hates it when appliances and machines don’t work so when he is told that the air-conditioner cannot run because of a broken PCB (yes…that’s a printed circuit board, as I have learnt) he is like a bear with a sore head who has been told there is no more honey in the hives and furthermore, the bulldozers are coming to rid his patch of the forest of habitable trees.





That’s what I dislike about business people. They always want things done their way and they want it done now. It’s a battle to teach my parents some basic manners in handling workmen. I wonder if I should be giving the workers some danger money. Then I think that perhaps it’s me who should be given the cash instead.

The thing is, KL Sister has gone on a holiday with HK Sister. So I am home alone with two grumpy parents and a severely disabled sister. We manage fine, but it does show up that we need a full time domestic helper.

Here in Asia, we call them maids. So my mum has been to the maid agency and last night she pushed a bundle of papers towards me and said: choose a maid. In turn I pushed the papers aside and promptly went to bed because the last thing I want to do late at night is to think.

Why would I prefer to be a hammer than a nail? Because hammering the message in is about all I am doing these days: that we all need to work together, that housework isn’t just the responsibility of one person, that KL Sister has taken on too much for far too long, that it’s not fair to shout at your children when you are having a bad day, that you need to be able to train a maid if you want one, that you just can’t pass the buck anymore.

I don’t want to be a nail because in this house, it’s always someone else’s responsibility and someone else’s fault, and it is that someone else who gets nailed for it, whatever the ‘it’ is for the day.

That’s just the way life has been for a very long time, and that’s why my sisters and I have turned into helicopter children, hovering around our parents so they don’t trip, don’t fall, don’t make a mess…because we simply don’t want to be yelled at, by one parent or the other, if something were to go wrong.

Well, I have decided to let go and that the yelling (at the moment between my parents) can go on. In the end, between being a hammer and a nail…I would be a pair of earplugs. Tidying up my make-up bag, I realise that I carry more earplugs than I carry face cream. This is how much I value a quiet life. Plug in and shut out…goodnight everybody.

I’d rather be a forest than a street
Yes I would
If I could
I surely would




The Song:
The lyrics of  El Condor Pasa (If I Could), by Simon and Garfunkel, don’t really make sense but the tune is a popular one. The original song was written by a Peruvian composer 100 years ago who based it on the folk music of Peru and Bolivia. It is estimated that there are more than 4000 versions of this melody world-wide.