By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

A physically handicapped Chinese man has defied all odds by gaining admission into an Ivy League university in America. Ding Ding, 29, from central China, attributed his achievements to his mother’s persistence and devotion.

Complications during childbirth nearly suffocated Ding, afflicting him with cerebral palsy. Doctors told his mother not to expect much, saying it was pointless to save the child as he would have a difficult life ahead.

His father was less forgiving. He told his wife that the boy would be a heavy burden on the family. The wife insisted on saving the child. Their disagreement caused them to split and they went separate ways. Ding’s father divorced his mother, leaving the two to fend for themselves.

To support the family Ding’s mother took several jobs including a teaching post at a college in Wuhan. She did part-time jobs as well. When time permitted, she took Ding for rehabilitation sessions regardless of the weather. She learnt how to massage the boy’s stiff muscles and would play intelligence-boosting games and puzzles with him.

The mother too insisted that Ding learn to overcome his disabilities as much as possible. And this included the use of chopsticks, something the boy found difficult, as he had problems coordinating his hand movements. She trained him to act and be accepted as a normal person.

Ding graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Peking University in 2011 and followed up with a master’s degree at the same institution of higher learning. Last year he was admitted into Harvard, a private Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Ding described his mother, who now lives in Jinzhou, Huben province, as his “spiritual mentor”. The two cherish their close relationship very much.

You may wonder why my sudden interest in an event that took place far away from our shores. Well, it has much to do with the recent Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 14) and the upcoming Father’s Day (Sunday, June 18). Although some dim-witted Islamists have termed both occasions as a Christian conspiracy to influence Muslims’ thinking, especially those whose aqidah (faith) is shaky and are, therefore, easily swayed. Why are these self-proclaimed mullahs so naïve? Does honouring our parents constitute a deviant act? Come, on! You can’t be a bigger moron than that. 

Ding’s mother’s devotion to her only child is a fitting tribute to mothers who go out of their way for the love of their children. In my lifetime I have witnessed many such instances. I have seen mothers who would save every morsel of food available so their children would not go hungry. Their personal wellbeing is of no consequence. That’s what some mothers are made of.

When I was in primary school, in the 1950s, I remember one Punjabi lady who would, without fail, come to the school at recess time to feed her twin daughters. This was in spite of them having enough pocket money to get by. In those days a 20-cent pocket money was a luxury few could afford. And the two girls had that in their possession. The mother would be there to question the class teacher whenever she felt they were being wrongly graded. The lady was not much of a scholar but she could differentiate A from B and B from C.

Incidentally, my father wielded the rod. Woe betide anyone who crossed his path. He insisted that we speak English among us siblings. My elder brother got to read the Straits Times (15 cents then) and me, the now-defunct, Straits Echo (10 cents). And after reading the papers we were required to relate to him what we had read, verbatim. That helped me in mastering the English language. I thank him for that and for enrolling me in a mission school instead of a Malay-medium school, which I had the dubious distinction of being a reluctant student for a year. 

I have two sons and both are married. One is well into his forties, the other in his late thirties. Unfortunately, I was not around much when they were growing up, as I was moving from one army camp to another. Their mother was their mentor and companion. In reflection, it was an opportunity lost as I did not perform my fatherly duties to the fullest. Having read Ding’s mother’s sacrifices for her only child, it saddens me. Obviously, I had not done enough.

Both my boys have a child each, one girl and one boy. They are as doting as any caring father would be and I respect them for that. So fathers out there you should do more for your kids. And with Father’s Day around the corner, perhaps it is time for a change.