Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Blood is not always thicker than water

This old adage always brings forth the impression that flesh and blood will never turn against one another. In Confucian teachings it was always an honour for the family to help those of their line in times of need, to prosper the whole of the clan with the well to do chipping in for those less able to hold themselves up. In the past this patronage extended through clans with families sharing the same surname (often from the same village and province in China) looking out for each other as they share their fortunes in this new land the have strive to eek out a living. Nowadays the Chinese trait stills hold true that the fact is family always looks out for each other (though the farther off the relation the less help you can hope for).

With this in mind the lot of us, my uncles and aunts decided to invest in one of our relation’s business, financing his gold smith shops. It was this trust that they decided to risk all their money and lifesavings in helping out to fund the business while getting promises (in verbatim) that a higher than normal rate of interest would be paid out. At the time this was nothing much the usual, times were good, gold prices were going up, markets were bullish and his business never seems to stop growing with his siblings and him running shops in areas like Sentul and Brickfields of which their clientele consists of mostly Indian buyers. Funds in excess of millions were poured in with interests going as high as double digits and payments were given out no joke.

The money was good; it helped out a lot for us all, even relations with enough money to live comfortably wanted a share in it with prospects of increasing their already bulging wealth. My family too could do with the cash, we each pulled a pot near RM100, 000 (life savings we scrapped through hard savings) which was promptly invested into the business. This was already considered a small sum compared to everyone else but the interests of over RM3 k helped in a lot of matters. My siblings and I too put money within at RM10, 000 each with interests at about RM800 a month.

Things were not always smooth, more so things suddenly look a bit awry beginning the previous year after years of trouble free interest repayment. An uncle suddenly found his checks being delayed in clearing as well as offer to borrow more cash and added as investment. At one time, checks received began to bounce (which my dad experienced). Recently there was talk between him and his siblings in going their separate ways (we found out that funds from the business were being channelled by them for personal uses such as procurement of cars and house payments) due to certain issues. All seems well as this particular uncle’s shop was doing well, the one generating profits among the other shops.

During CNY, this uncle acted as if nothing was amiss, he was even kind enough to throw a large dinner for the family and said business was as usual and hiccups in interest payments would be cleared up soon enough. He even wrote a backdated check for my dad’s part. Yet a few days ago, every single check bounced, we were told the account had been closed and all cash bursary were withdrawn during February. Later we found out a deal had been made without our knowledge among the siblings (most probably mitigated by their father), the end result; with immediate effect interest rates would be cut to 1%, my uncle was to become a silent partner, our cash investment would be taken stock and later decided by the sister, he would be paid a sum of RM30, 000 a month, his wife RM5, 000 and his mistress RM5, 000 (yes we found out he had three). As for us relatives, we were shocked, we were caught with our pants down and the uncle didn’t seem the least bit perturbed about what had just happened.

Without warning, all future planning was hit sudden with a wrench in the works. The suddenness of it all compounded the problem and left us all with no breathing room for a solution in our favour. Plus he had the audacity to smirk and say with an all so honest face that everything was all right in the world as we ate for CNY. Thus the ripple effect led to one aunty having to sell off a condominium in Bandar Utama of which she was suppose to get the key this month, her daughter’s wish to continue masters was dashed, she having to find a job and her son’s future in his masters course in UPM in jeopardy; another aunty had just shifted into her new house, renovations had to be done and her kid had just enrolled in Taylors for an engineering course; another aunty fuming mad at the betrayal and complaining about the interest cut (though they didn’t need the cash and lastly another uncle is having problem claiming back the RM2 million he put into the business and could not tell the wife about the affair (of which he has to fork out the cash from his own savings to pay her).

I may seem to be airing out dirty laundry but I am pissed. We put our trusts in you, a family member whom we expect would honour his word and later found out that trust was misplaced. My dad is cringing, I have never seen him so hard pressed ever before, no matter how bad times were previously things never seem as hard as now. With a recent purchase of an Avanza, interest payments beckon to be paid. If we were told of the troubles, we could have forgone the new vehicle but with it delivered this was no longer an option. We have to contemplate selling our Proton Wira for a low market price to cover interest payment, budget has to be tightened for home loan refinancing and car payments, my sis had to postpone her driving lessons to the end of the year due to lack of funds and I told dad to lower the monthly stipend he sends me to RM500 from RM800.

Things look bad, our budget has to be curtailed and spending lessened, I couldn’t sleep the whole night though my dad asked me not to worry about it but all the same the feeling of guilt that gnaws at me that my masters fees are draining that very budget and I am not employed. There was a point that I almost contemplated stopping and start looking for a job to ease the burden but so far in it’s a waste. My efforts now thrust towards securing a scholarship that would cover expenses for me and stem some of the haemorrhaging of cash. My sis is passing form 5 this year, it looks like she will have to take form six due to finances. Everyone is talking now, trying to sort out the mess and deal with the uncle’s sister which now controls the finance. It’s so sad that the worst feuds must come from within the family, this shouldn’t be.

The worst bit is seeing an indifferent uncle who pretended so nicely that we were all fooled and even at this moment sits back and smirks that he must have gotten a good deal out of it all; a good pay for not having to do anything, no responsibilities to deal with the mess he contrived and even having the galls to talk about going on a holiday and travelling with the family. One lesson that I will never forget again is never to rely on anyone else, even relatives. If things need to be done, it’s final that you’re the only one you can trust.


Papi said...

It's really sad when this kind of things are happening. You put all your trusts and hopes to one person, only to find that he betrayed you in the end. And being a relative is even more worst.

Be strong, I m sure u and ur family will survive and I m sure everything will be fine. :)

Saffron said...

Betrayal of trust sucks, bleah. Especially coming from someone you should've been able to trust, then it sucks even more.

Hang in there, hope you and your family pull through.

Dhana said...

Hang in there Kervin. Good luck!

Adam said...

That really sucks. Happened to us too but we came out of it. But my parents are very forgiving. Its harder for us. But as they say about karma - "things that go around, come around."

Adrian said...

Hey pal, sorry to hear about your state. But hey, at least I didnt lie to you when I told you last time that while blood may be thicker than water, money is a solid, and definitely thicker in that sense than blood...

Kervin said...

Everyone: Thanks just needed to rant, things will sort out one way or another, hopefully for the better. It feels a bit raw that it happened as such under our noses. Yeah Adrian, guess blood does not count for much these days, only the loyalty of cash. Life sucks but goes on and so do we.