Last year, Madam Tng Kwee Tin visited Sri Lanka for the first time.
The 77-year-old retiree was there with a group of friends to visit a Sri Lankan friend, a woman who had attended her void-deck exercise sessions regularly.
Madam Tng, who is more comfortable speaking in Mandarin, Teochew, Malay and other Chinese dialects than English, found her friend’s accented English hard to understand. “I just nod,” she said in Mandarin. “She laughs, I laugh.”
Madam Tng has been holding exercise classes at Haig Road since 2006. In 2011, the retired People’s Association dance and arts instructor added dance classes as well.
“We have lots of people coming – some Malays, a Sri Lankan lawyer whose daughter was studying here... a woman from Hong Kong whose daughter is married to a Singaporean,” she said.
But when she was growing up in Rochor Road, she attended Chinese schools.
“In Primary 2, my mathematics teacher spoke Cantonese and I couldn’t understand a word,” said Madam Tng, who is Teochew. “So I scored zero marks!” Later, she picked up Hokkien, Cantonese and some Hainanese as well.
Last night, Madam Tng attended the Inter-Racial Inter-Religious Harmony Nite and appeared in the organisers’ new video that honours the pioneer generation’s contributions.
She has family members of different religions as well: Her son is Christian while her daughter is a Buddhist.
“I don’t want to inconvenience anyone, so I told them, when I die, just scatter my ashes at sea.
“I love to travel, so at sea I can travel to my heart’s content,” she said with a laugh.
This article was first published on July 13, 2014.
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