Day 145 - Ram (7th person I approached)
May 25, 2014 - Ram was coming from the gym when I stopped him and asked him to chat.
“I go to the gym at least four days a week,” he told me as we went to sit down. “I’m 55 years old, and I need to look after myself.” Older than me and looks so much better. Well done.
Ram was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“I’m the middle child of three, all boys. If anything, I’d say I have a bit of the ‘forgotten' middle child thing. I wasn’t spoiled and had to do chores and work to help out. But I think it set me up to have a good work ethic and stayed with me throughout my life. You have to work hard to get ahead,” he says. Ram’s father worked for the Government.
“We were fortunate. My father had a good job. We had a maid, a driver, a nice home. I wasn’t exposed to poverty. The Government kept it out of the main city,” he said. Ram completed elementary and high school in Kuala Lumpur.
“When I was 17, we immigrated to Canada. My parents had applied to Australia as well, but we got the paperwork for Canada first. My parents focussed on our education. They thought coming to Canada would offer more opportunities. In hindsight, had we stayed in Malaysia, I still would have gotten a good education, and then a good job. My father was rather well connected,” he said.
Upon arriving in Vancouver, Ram found it difficult to settle.
“It was the first time I had encountered racism. It was the late 70’s and I could sense people looking at me. There was a fear and dislike in their eyes. I would take transit to get around, and while waiting at a bus stop, I had people drive by and spit at me. I could hear people behind me talking about me. I was shocked at the way people treated me. I didn’t notice other minorities, but people seemed to really notice me. I started going to the gym. Once I started to feel stronger, I guess it helped with my own confidence and the racism didn't bother me in the same way. I’m not a violent person whatsoever and I didn’t go to the gym to be able to defend myself. But a confidence from within developed, and things seemed to get better. I’ve been working out ever since, some 30 odd years now,” he told me.
Ram was accepted to the University of British Columbia (UBC).
“I was going to get my Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology. I was working part time, cleaning toilets, janitorial stuff. Whatever I could get to help pay my tuition. I had been considering going on and attending Law School. During my third year at UBC, a group of lawyers visited our class and basically suggested that going into law wasn’t the best thing to do. The economy was failing and times were tough. There weren’t many jobs going, and it would be expensive to complete law school,” said Ram.
Through a friend, he had heard of a job going at The Province and Vancouver Sun Newspapers.
“I got a job and quit UBC. I started working in advertising, and did that for about ten years. Then I did an on-the-job apprenticeship and learned how to maintain and run the printing presses. I’ve been doing that for the last 24 years,” he said. Times are changing and at the end of this year, Ram will take an early retirement.
“The newspaper industry seems to be dying. Everyone, myself included gets all their news on smart phones and other devices these days. The print news industry is slowly winding down. Fortunately I’ve had a chance to plan and save. I bought my house and maybe I’ll have to sell and downsize. But I’ll be able to look after myself,” he said.
“Looking back, when I think about the life I would have had if my family had stayed in Kuala Lumpur, I’m lucky really. I would have had a good life there. But it would have been a sheltered life. I would have gone on just living my own life, and taking it for granted. A bigger house, a better car, more money. I realize just how status-symbol driven Kuala Lumpur is. Coming to Canada, I’ve learned about humanity, and caring for others and being aware of just how fortunate I am,” said Ram. I asked him if his son, who is 19 years old had picked up his work ethics and beliefs.
“Well, unfortunately my childhood approach of doing chores and helping around the house hasn’t really rubbed off on him. However, I’ve tried to impress upon him the value of saving money for a rainy day. Not spending everything you've got, just because you have it. Responsibility. There’s always going to be a rainy day. Working hard and putting something aside for his future. And being a good person. He is kind and thoughtful. He has a girlfriend and he knows to respect her, and treat her well. He is growing into a very fine young man.” #notastranger