The Lee Kuan Yew I remember: Lee Suan Yew: My wonderful Big Brother

The Lee Kuan Yew I remember: Lee Suan Yew: My wonderful Big Brother
FEB 9, 2013: Mr Lee Kuan Yew with his youngest brother, Dr Lee Suan Yew, before the Lee family’s Chinese New Year reunion dinner.

WITHOUT my Big Brother, I would not have done well enough in school to become a doctor. As a teenager, I was more interested in watching boxing and wrestling matches on Saturday evenings. Schoolwork seemed dull in comparison.

But one day in 1950 when I was 17, Big Brother sat me down and asked what my plans were for my future. "Do you want to become a doctor or a lawyer?" he asked.

He was 10 years older and had just returned from England where he had been called to the Bar.

I told him I wanted to become a doctor.

He said: "That's good. But you're not concentrating on your studies. You are spending your weekends enjoying, going out with your friends. You want to go to England and become a doctor, you've got to really put your mind to it."

He was right. I needed to be more serious in my work if I wanted to take up medicine. That was an important message that I needed to hear, and I took it to heart.

In 1954, I got into Cambridge University, where I studied medicine. While I was there, it was his words, not those of my parents, that echoed in my mind and kept me working hard in school. That helped me a lot. I became a general practitioner in 1968.

Although we were far apart in age, he had a strong influence over my life. During the war, he taught me how to play chess. I developed a love for it and even became captain of the chess club at Anglo-Chinese School.

We had a school coach, but it was my brother who laid the groundwork for me. My team won the top chess competition against other schools and was awarded the Lee Geok Eng shield.

I was in my late teens when he started playing golf, and I followed him to the golf club.

He said: "Let me teach you some rudiments of golf. I think it will be good for you because in your old age, you can still play golf."

He was absolutely right.

Looking back, it was Big Brother who planted the seeds of the things I enjoy: chess when I was young and golf when I was older.

He also guided me along with good advice.

He was a wonderful brother and it was really the little things he did for my family that carried us through thick and thin.


This article was first published on Mar 24, 2015.
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