Posted: Saturday, April 07, 2012 10:56:01 PM
My grandfather was an indefatigable man. Having grown up in a destitute village in China where finding tomorrow's bread is not of small concern, throughout his life, my grandfather never stopped toiling. Even after retirement, he couldn't stop working. Believing that fortune always befalls the one who suffers the greatest, my grandfather refused to take even a small break from life's atrocities.
At first it was the idea of writing a book. My grandfather taught linear algebra all his life as a university professor, having lived through the Sino-Japanese war and the cultural revolution, peace and serenity was all he initially desired. That is, until the foreign policy reform of the 1970s. All of a sudden, writers all across the country poured years of afflictions and joys into new volumes of poetry, prose, and drama. Scholars discouraged from releasing their studies for decades also recounted the works in professional journals and periodicals. Seeing people of all ages effortlessly picking up fame and wealth, my grandfather could not suppress the urge to jump on the bandwagon. At some point he decided to revisit his notecards from thirty years of teaching and chain them into a textbook titled "Key Points of Advanced Algebra." For a year and a half, he worked assiduously on research and scripting, suffering sleeplessness and exhaustion and even refusing to take three minutes to use a cup of his favorite tea. And when a nicely-wrapped letter from a publication arrived to our apartment congratulating my grandfather on the acceptance of his work, we were all encompassed in pride and rejoice. Yet, whether it was a sudden loss of interest or the absence of expected gains, a year later the subject of "book" was forbidden at the diner tables.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the term "entreprenuerialship" to an average Chinese did not only carried a degree of unfamiliarity, but excitement. No more confinement by the government-operated corporations, now came the existence of private sectors for the first time in modern China. The second undertaking my grandfather assumed, who is now approaching his seventies, was to establish a small business with several of his former students. After working painstakingly for thirty years, during which occurred China's worst economic downturns, my grandfather finally saved a good load of money to enjoy life during retirement. Yet, again, the poison of curiosity, mixed with a sense of indignation about the lack of opportunities available during his prime years, propelled him to assume another grandeous undertaking. Despite our futile admonitions and less-than-monstrous threats, grandfather won't change his resolve. So with all the money he had in store, grandfather packed up and left our monotonous town. When he left he wore a Western suit that costed more than half of his monthly retirement, in his hand, however, was a cane at least twenty years of age. He marched onwards in the sunset like a hero ready to make an appearance before a crowd of worshippers, yet there were none to greet his majestic advances save the rotting leaves of autumn refusing to rest amongst the dry ground.
What the mailman brought to us three months later was an invitation to tour this newly-constructed factory that grandpa managed to create. Half amazed and half skeptical, our family took a trip to the warehouse. At first surprised and elated its grandeous size, we were soon hit by the knowledge that by and by, my grandfather's name did not appear on the property contract. In other words, his former students, who after traversing abroad for some years learned of deception and fraud, illusioned my grandfather into exploiting his life-long earnings. For months my grandparents took frequent trips to the factory demanding justice to a flock of youths whose mind couldn't recognize the concept of "morality." Eventually, they turned their heads to court. The judge, whom ironically happened to be one of the their acquaintances, somehow found my grandpa's accusations invalid. Disappointed and puzzled, my grandmother later concluded, that some unspeakable exchange of profit must have taken place under the table.
As China's economic boom continued, there suddenly stirred a social movement analogous to the West's Renaissance. In every metro station, desperate youths cupping Newton' "Mathmetical principles of natural philosophy" in their palms or noiselessly memorizing chapters of "On Origin of Species" are just a part of the campaign for the revival of Mr.Sai (a phonetic abbreviation of "science"). The reality was: after nearly fifty years of intellectual confinement where all literature save Mao's little red book and Karl Marx's manifesto was rendered "poisonous" to one's spiritual well-being, people everywhere cheered in delight when cargoes of writings arrived from the Pacific. "The dragon is awake," a popular rock song chants, and with it, came the first glimpse of hope at free-will for many. My grandfather, though a math professor, had since young dreamed of becoming an engineer. After China's foreign policy reform, he was provided the necessary resources to explore this interest. Whilst recovering from the investment catastrophe, Grandpa returned to the college where he once taught and entered a partnership with the laboratory manager. After much deliberation, Grandpa accepted the project of designing electronic toy instruments, which, if approved by the company that initiated the contract, will bring significant revenue to Grandpa's account. Thus, Grandpa again fell back into the ruinous lifestyle of four-hour sleep rountines and minimal aliments. Yet, his unwavering passion for science, coupled with a diligence unfaltered by years, incited impressive progress on his project. Within two months, his prototype was finished, and it took only another week for the company to send out the approval along with the much-anticipated check. The lab manager was more than pleased upon hearing the news, as our family gathered for a grand celebration.
It was only the next day that my grandpa, after unable to wake up from bed, was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.
Fortunately, his earnings were enough to cover immediate treatment, and now he lives healthly in a renovated apartment. As we revisited those memories on the phone, I was frankly, a bit surprised to learn of his involvement in the community choir, which, aside from holding practices, frequently visit hospitals and shelters to nurse the less fortunate. He later explained that after experiencing life's pleasures and pains, reflection and giving through music felt like the greatest gift.
Then last week or so, Grandpa received a golden badge, along with some monetary award, from the city officials in recognition of his volunteering work. Having witnessed and contributed to the ceaseless growth of his country day after day, grandfather was finally crowned a knight.