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Epilogue


Extract from The Star Newspaper,  Sunday October10, 2010

 



Bosom Buddies

By TAN EE LOO educate@thestar.com


Making friends is easy, but keeping a long-lasting bond requires unconditional acceptance.

FROM the moment they met on the first day of school 51 years ago Lee Siew Har and Yeap Meng Chee were inseparable.  They were both seven years old and it was a happy first encounter as they threw caution to the wind and chatted incessantly oblivious to the sea of teary-eyed faces around them. 
What is even more interesting is that the duo, who had never asked for any special seating arrangement from the time they were in Standard One (Year One) at the Methodist Girls School, Penang, right up to Form Five, had always been seated next to each other.

Pic1
Looking back: Lee and Yeap viewing an old album. They have remained best friends for over 50 years.

We never pestered our teachers about sitting next to each other, but somehow we did for all of 11 years ... and there was never a dull moment, shares Lee, a language instructor.  With so much time spent in class together, it was only natural for them to want some breathing space to do their own thing, but that was not to be.  In fact, they could not have enough of each other and signed up for all the same after-school activities like cycling and swimming. They even pursued photography, together.  While they were close in school, the girls also mingled with others and made their own friends.  When we made new friends, we would embrace them and often we had one large circle of friends, adds Yeap saying that they also had friends in their respective neighbourhoods.

pic2
Back then: Lee (fourth from left) and Yeap (right) with friends in secondary school.
(L-R:     Hong Tiang, Cheng Hoon, Chooi Imm, Siew Har, Siew Im, Meng Chee)

Over time, they lost contact with some friends, kept in touch with others and found new ones. Also, their families have become closer as a result of their friendship, adds Lee. These days, the women, now 58, go on holidays together and enjoy eating out.  While the bond between Lee and Yeap is a classic childhood friendship, child experts are now saying that having a best friend can lead to bullying or social exclusion.  There have been concern over cliques where groups of friends gang up together and end up bullying socially weaker schoolmates.

This according to a news report by MSNBC has led educators in the United States advising children against having one best friend. 
Instead, they encourage children to have as many friends to prevent them from overly depending on just one friend. This is to prevent them from being totally devastated should that friendship turn sour.

Pic3
Chan (left) has been Judith's tower of strength and support.

While such concerns are not entirely unfounded, parents don't want their children growing up with superficial friends who are around only when things are rosy.  As famous American television personality Oprah Winfrey once said lots of people want to ride with you in the limo(usine), but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.  Children should expand their social circles as they grow. They, however, must also know the difference between a true and fair-weather friend.  The process of developing a close rapport with another person will empower children with confidence and a sense of security as they come to understand the importance of having a true friend who would stand by them through thick and thin, especially in today's mercenary world.  People who have known their best friends since childhood opine that allowing children to explore and develop close friendships could have a positive impact on children's social, emotional and academic developments.

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The good old days: Despite the distance, Judith (right) used to tutor Chan over the phone.

They should have as many friends as possible. If they end up in cliques or having a best friend ... well that is not a bad thing either, says Judith Chan, who has known her best friend since she was nine.   She adds however that a best friend is someone a child can confide in. It is through close friendships that one will learn about trust, betrayal,understanding and tolerance, which are in fact values and skills that one will require in adult relationships.

Going the extra mile

Only a best friend would go the extra mile for a close pal.  Just ask Chan Mun Yee, 29, who was fortunate to have best friend Judith Chan tutoring her years ago.  Both the girls were at that time studying at SK Abu Bakar, Mentakab, Pahang. Chan was struggling with Mathematics in school so Judith offered to help improve her grades. Even after moving to Kuala Lumpur because of her father's job posting, Judith would tutor Chan by calling her from the public phone near her house.
Chan returned the favour by teaching Chinese to Judith, who grew up in an English-speaking family.
Their comittment to each other resulted in hours of talk time on the phone, showing that distance was no obstacle to their friendship.

Pic5
Great rapport: Syazana, Suloshini and Woo love being out together.

Chan, now a Biochemistry lecturer, describes Judith, 29, as the big sister in their friendship, saying that her friend had never turned her down or made excuses when she asked for help.  We would spend hours talking on the phone about school, homework and, sometimes, boys, quips Chan.  She's truly my best friend, says Judith, proudly adding that Chan is the most important person in her life after her husband and family.  It may seem like I've sacrificed a lot, but it is Chan who has given me great emotional support, adds Judith, a career adviser.  The trust that both friends have was evident during Judith's pregnancy two years ago, when Chan was a tower of strength and support.  You can have many friends, but in your time of need, you can only rely on perhaps one or two good friends, she adds.  Children can have best friends without alienating their other peers, as Syazana Amran discovered.  When she was in school, Syazana's mother often encouraged her to socialise and make friends.  I had a large circle of good friends, but I built a strong rapport with Suloshini Jahanath and Woo Yi Lei, who were and still are, my closest friends since primary school.  We have lots of friends but at the end of the day, you should know whom you can count on, says Syazana, 27, a marketing executive.  Having a friend whom you can trust means you can let your guard down and be yourself.
I like the fact that we are completely comfortable with each other and there is unconditional acceptance, says website programme officer Suloshini.  Woo says their friendship had kept them sane and together during major exams. 

Pic6
Farischka (right) and Kayla have a keen interest in animals.

Sharing the same interests love for animals, dancing and singing brought Farischka Sabrina Subahan and Kayla Janice Osfild Kean together.  In school, we always hang out. It's good to have friends or you'll just sit there by yourself and watch others play, says Kayla, nine, who has known her best pal since kindergarten.  Kayla also knows how to cheer Farischka up when the latter is down. I often break into a smile when she puts on one of her funny acts, Farischka says.  Although Kayla is happy to have Farischka as her best friend, she believes it is equally important to make new friends.  Being in an international school, there will be a time when either of us might move away, so it is good to have other friends too.

As Lee sees it, respecting your best friend's personal space and time is the key to a successful friendship.  We must cherish our best friends, but we must also respect their ties with others.
Only then will we expand our circle of friends and learn from them, she adds.

 





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