Be kind, be caring. Don’t hold grudges.
Mdm Chum Ai Haw was born in 1915 in the Hainan province of China. At 20, an arranged marriage compelled her to travel to Singapore where she would join her husband who was 16 years her senior. He was a shy man who started his early career as a hawker at Bain Street and later retired as a bar waiter with Cathay Organization.
Despite owning a food stall, food was scarce in the Chum household. Mdm Chum and her husband would have porridge every day, with coconut and salt for added seasoning and texture. Although she claims to have never worked a single day in her life, her children remember her sacrifices, raising five sons, three daughters and fourteen grandchildren. Mdm Chum treats her Indonesian helper like her own daughter or best friend, teaching her the Hainan dialect and offering life advice: to be kind, caring and not hold grudges.
Despite not having any history of chronic illness, Mdm Chum started developing pains in her leg and needed a walker to move around. She kept to her daily routines—making her way downstairs to savour her favourite bee hoon and fried chicken wings, with her helper. At 102, she is no longer as mobile and spends most of her time in bed. She maintains a positive disposition, playing mahjong with her helper (who lets her win) from time to time, and reminiscing over pictures of her past travels to China.