My mum’s handphone rang. Her expression changed, her voice became weak. I stood beside her outside Bukit Panjang Plaza Library while she was on the phone with the next party. The phone call didn’t last long.
My mum: Angela called me, she said Tata (Aasta but pronounced as Esther) met with an accident. She said very serious. We have to go see. Let me call your Uncle Yew Chai (He is not Aasta’s dad. Her dad abandoned her family years back) first.
I panicked. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t ask her anything. I was lost. All I could do was to follow my mum out of BP Plaza and made our way to Uncle Yew Chai’s place which was just opposite the plaza. She called him to tell him what happened and he had to give us a lift to the hospital.
Coincidentally, we met my other aunt and my other cousin, Aunt Kah Imm and Daphne, at BP Plaza as well. So we went to wait for Uncle Yew Chai together.
As we were waiting for his old and white Mercedes to appear, I bombarded my mum with so many questions like: How is she? What happened? Where? How come got accident??
She couldn’t answer me. She just said that Angela (Aasta’s eldest sister) said ‘it’s very serious.’ Those 3 words frightened me.
Finally Uncle Yew Chai came with his wife in their car and the 4 of us hopped in. My mum said to go pick up Aunt Pak Nang (Aasta’s mum) at her workplace.
There was a traffic jam.
We all talked about what may have happened to Tata. My Uncle said Tata always had a habit of listening to her discman while crossing the road. I realized he was right. In fact, she listens to her discman most of the time and gets so engrossed she doesn’t know we’re talking to her. I was quiet for a moment. I was hoping to see my closest and bestest cousin on the medical bed with just slight injuries and smiling at us as we enter the ward.
We got out of the jam.
Aasta’s mum was already waiting for us outside her workplace very impatiently. As she got into the car, she grabbed my hand so tightly. She treated me like her daughter as I was very close with Tata and she still is. As my Uncle made his way down to SGH, all the ladies started to sob and Aunt Pak Nang cried. She couldn’t imagine what could have happened to her dearest and youngest daughter.
We reached the hospital. My mum enquired with the reception nurse whether Aasta Ng Ying Ru was brought in.
Nurse: I’m sorry mdm. Agnes Teo was sent in but we haven’t received Aasta Ng yet.
I didn’t know who was Agnes Teo. My mum and Tata’s mum broke down. I didn’t know what to do. I only cried along.
My mum needed the washroom so I accompanied her. That was the first time I see her crying so badly as she said, “I don’t dare to tell your Aunt Pak Nang what happened. I scared she cannot take it!”
I didn’t understand what she meant.
Aunt Pak Nang wanted to go to the accident area. So we all got back into Uncle Yew Chai’s car and went to the accident area, Henderson Road.
There was another jam.
All of us were in tears, except Uncle Yew Chai.
We alighted a distance from the accident area as there was a jam. So we made our way to where police cars, a partially crashed car, a bus that drove up the curb and many onlookers were.
Aunt Pak Nang grabbed my hand and we ran there together with the others behind us. I was crying, so was Aunt Pak Nang. She was murmuring “Tata, nothing must happen to you… Nothing must happen to you. Don’t scare mummy.”
As we got near the accident area, I saw Cousin Angela and her boyfriend, Christopher, as well as a white plastic sheet that covered something or somebody underneath. I was hoping it wasn’t her.
My Aunt Pak Nang asked to see the body. The policeman lifted the white sheet.
I saw a familiar black t-shirt and khaki knee-length pants, with the familiar pair of white school shoes. I could also see a familiar school bag a few meters away. But I couldn’t recognize that face.
My bestest and closest cousin laid there, without any movement.
There was blood. Blood on her arms, on her legs and on her face. I knew then why I found that face so unfamiliar; that face which used to bring smiles on mine; that fair and smooth complexion which made me rather jealous.
My cousin’s right face was badly scratched and bleeding.
I remember myself just standing in front of her crying and crying and crying. I didn’t dare to go near her at all, while her mum hugged her and screamed “WHY!!!??? WHY MUST THIS HAPPEN TO YOU??? TATA, HOW CAN YOU LEAVE ME???? YOU ARE A GOOD GIRL, WHY MUST GOD TAKE YOU AWAY FROM ME???”
Those words pierced my heart. I didn’t know why God took her away. I could hear crying in the background.
I remember seeing familiar faces like Uncle Yew Hock and Cousin Aaron (Aasta’s brother) coming. Aaron always fought with Aasta over the slightest the things but they all did it out of fun. He loved her a lot. Just like how Uncle Yew Hock loved his sister, my Aunt Pak Nang.
I remember seeing people taking her body away and Uncle Yew Hock had to pull Aunt Pak Nang away from the road to the roadside where she continued to cry and scream until she lost her voice.
I remember Angela scolding my mum for bringing her down. I finally realized why my mum said she didn’t dare tell Aunt Pak Nang what had happened. The very minute my mum received the phone call from Angela, she already knew that Tata was gone.
I remember seeing Aaron hitting the tree until he hurt his hand.
I remember seeing my aunties crying, including little cousin Daphne cos she was too young to understand.
I remember seeing my sister coming to fetch us to Aunt Pak Nang’s home.
I remember seeing my Aunt kneeling in front of her Buddha alter and crying and blaming Buddha for taking her most-beloved daughter away.
I remember seeing my grandmother crying and hugging my Aunt Pak Nang.
I remember seeing everyone cry.
I remember myself in Tata’s room, looking at everything that she owned, and crying to myself.
I remember calling her classmates and telling them the news, and they thought I was joking.
I remember Aunt Kah Imm’s birthday was on that fateful day, the same day as my cousin’s death anniversary.
I remember watching the news with my relatives and all were crying as the news reporter made the news.
I remember seeing Tata’s church pastors coming over and saying prayers to bless her soul and all of us. All of us cried.
I remember not being able to sleep at night and my mum was at Aunt Pak Nang’s to accompany her.
I remember having a tough week even though it was the september school holidays.
The next day…
I had to go back to school to arrange so many things. She was in the same school and cca (choir) as me. I reached school and her classmates (also in choir) met up with me to accompany me to the general office. On the way there, I met my choir teacher and she told me she watched the news. I cried.
She took me to the general office and talked to some people. She then told me to go back for choir practice first while she handled the admin work. I walked into a room of choir people and stood behind, trying my best to sing. Instead, I cried so much and interrupted the session. My teacher had to bring me out of the room while leaving others lost and worried.
While I was outside with 2 teachers, they asked me to tell them what happened the day before. I told them everything I knew and they started to tear.
I was brought for counselling.
I also remember having a small group of close friends together with the teacher and talking about Tata.
Tata was a very bright student. She excelled in her English and Literature and even joined the English drama club. She was always active in school and many enjoyed her company. I remember seeing her perform on stage with her classmates and drama club members. I loved her so much but there wasn’t much time I spent with her in school. My English head of department then, Mr Koh Jee Leong, recognised her with her excellence in English. My cousin wanted to be a writer and Mr Koh knew that. But she can never get a chance to be one.
The next day…
I had music exam at Clementi Yamaha. I did very badly and I just passed borderline.
After my exam, I had to go attend her funeral wake at her place. My Aunt was a Buddhist but Tata wanted to be a Christian. The fatal accident happened just outside her Christian church, Heart of God, which was part of City Harvest. So my aunt arranged for a christian funeral. I saw a white ivory coffin. But I didn’t dare to go near. I couldn’t find the courage to do so. I didn’t want to remember her as someone lying in there. I wanted to remember her as the bubbly and cheerful cousin of mine.
By noon, many people turned up. Her primary school friends turned up with flowers. Her secondary friends and choir mates came in a bus my school arranged. I saw all my friends and they all asked me to take care and be strong. I saw all my teachers and principal from CCKSS. Some of her teachers cried while some talked to my aunt, who was putting a strong front but crying inside.
I read from the newspapers about the incident and the bus driver was actually half asleep while he was on duty. He said he was out the previous night offering things to the hungry ghosts and didn’t sleep much. He wanted to avoid the car in front of him so he turned away but he knocked on the car. Instead of stepping on the brake, he stepped on the accelerator. And because it was green light for pedestrians, my cousin and her friend, Agnes Teo, was crossing with Agnes’ father way in front of them. As a result, the bus knocked Agnes and Tata and drove up the curb a distance away. Agnes’ dad witnessed everything! My cousin was hit and according to the paramedics, she flew 10 meters away. She died on the spot. Agnes died on her way to the hospital.
There was a christian service held for her that night. Church members and pastors came over to recite prayers and stuff. I just remember crying alot.
I stayed over at her wake, watching the coffin at all times, with her brother and other cousins.
She was cremated the next noon. Before cremating, we all had our last words with her. I remember seeing Angela reading to Tata her favourite storybook when she was a kid. Then we witnessed the cremation.
September 2, 2001, 1.52pm
It happened exactly 4 years back. But the pain is still there. Each time I think of her, I cannot stop myself from crying. This evening, I’ll be visiting her with her mum and my mum, with the company of my boy.
In loving memory of Aasta…
7 March 1988 – 2 September 2001
This is her when she was a baby. Look how cute she is.
This is my favourite photo of us as babies. Small-eyes is her. Big-eyes is me. I was a year older than her. Compare our sizes.
Aaron, Aunt Pak Nang with Tata in her arms, and Angela. This photo must be 10++ years old.
The very pretty side of my cousin. Lovely.
That’s us when we’ve grown a lil. My dad used to book chalets at Pasir Ris downtown east every year without fail during June holidays and she will the first person I’d invite. She always had to cry in front of her mum to let her go.
I took this pic for her. We were at Uncle Yew Hock’s place. Most probably was during Christmas where we always celebrate it there with the rest of the relatives. Now it’s a total different mood for Christmas.
Tata was even closer to me than my real sister. We made a pact to live together in future and even get married the same time. We did everything together, eat, sleep, bathe, swim, play. We would cry in front of our mums to let them allow us to stay over at each other’s places. She was a strong girl, always there to support her mum after her dad left the family. Now that she’s gone, my aunt has become less happy and smiley. She still keeps Tata’s belongings, never thrown them away. Now we see alot of photos of Tata in every part of the house. My memories of her are fading away slowly. I can’t seem to remember much about our past anymore. Photos are the only things that keep these memories.
It took me 2 hours to type this entry out. But it will take me forever to heal the pain that someone I love was taken away from me permenantly.