Sitiawan Stylo was a portly man with a pleasant and somewhat alluring disposition. He often made friends of everyone from big wig corporate men to waiters at the local Chinese restaurant. He was fair-skinned, bordering on a yellowish tan he said he got from his mother. He had a thick head of hair which never seemed to grey and light brown eyes that had a hint of bluish grey at the iris edges. He always saw the glass half full and led others to see the same through his actions and sheer energy. In his later years, it was common for him to have a pack of youngsters around his chair during the holidays, usually seeking his counsel or just basking in the warmth of his affection.
Sitiawan Stylo accompanied his 6 y.o. daughter to her first kindergarten race. What he did not expect was for the headmistress to suddenly announce a parents’ race as part of the events. Stylo’s daughter knew he knew he had little chance of winning, but instead of backing out of the race he had been randomly picked for, he chose to be a sport and take part in the race. As expected Stylo did not win. Or stand second or third or fourth. He was the second last. He was no runner for sure. And in spite of his daughter standing on the sidelines looking aghast at what she thought would be a colossal failure for anyone in a competiton, Sitiawan Stylo trotted back from the finish line, gleaming and clapping. When his daughter asked, “Acha, aren’t you sad you didn’t win?”, he cheerfully responded, “I would be sad if I didn't try. Because if I didn't try, I would not be able to show you that you don't always have to be sure of success to try something. Trying, whether it brings you failure or not, is the first step to success." His daughter was still sad then, but as she grew up, these words resounded in her head at every class debate, singing contest and writing competiton.
Stylo, now 55, was medically boarded out of work where he'd earned accolades like "Insurance Man of the Year" and made manager despite his lack of education. He was diagnosed with a severe heart condition. His now 11 y.o. daughter and 7 y.o. son were oblivious of the lifestyle implications. Instead, the kids were ecstatic that there would be someone at home when they returned from school every day, especially since both their parents worked late. Stylo felt restless and restricted at home, as he was still completely mentally productive and alert. Despite the high likelihood that he would descend into depression, it was amazing that Stylo did the opposite; He found ways to keep his mind satiated - teaching his daughter and son cooking, home chores, fix-its, wood work, pet care etc. He also inculcated their reading habit, set a time for listening to classical music and introduced physical activity on alternate days of the week for good measure. His daughter, being the elder of the two, was the first to notice how he turned his life around all on his own. Later in her own life, she always looked to that part of Stylo's for strength in her own.
No one but the angels knew that 62 y.o. Stylo was days away from his fatal heart attack. He was smiling and happy during his last few days, but increasingly demanding of his children; especially of his daughter, who he insisted, enters the accounting profession. His daughter was peeved feeling that a career in English literature or music would be more up her alley. However, after futile arguments, she begrudgingly settled for an accounting course. Stylo died on the day she signed up. It was only four years later that she understood how far sighted and planned Stylo’s decision was, given that financially, the family was struggling. Stylo's daughter graduated in accounting and was snapped up by a major accounting firm, laying foundations for a very stable income source and therefore being able to support her retiree mother.
To date, these three episodes with Stylo remain monumental in his daughter’s life. She always remembers - "failure is what you encounter while you practice for success", "strength is something you build, not have" and, "think through your plans before you act".
Acha, you are Sitiawan Stylo, my hero!