He turned the ignition key. The engine spluttered. After a few more coughs, the engine reliably revved into a familiar drone. He looked at his watch and gave two quick hoots to hurry up his passenger in the house. The reminder broke the silence of the seven o'clock morning in the single storey terrace housing area.
A teenage girl rushed out from the house in a blue and white school uniform. "Morning, Mrs Lim," she gestured to the lady next door as she got into the car.
"Aren't you a bit late this morning?" the father asked as he reversed the car out of the house.
"Sorry, Ba. Lots of homework last night, " the girl replied while munching on her bread.
He had always enjoyed the drive taking his daughter to school. It took roughly half an hour to weave out from their residential area, through the small town and to her school not far outside the town. He didn't mind the traffic going through the town. It gave him extra times to chat with his daughter.
"What happened to your bag?" he noticed a tear at the side of her bag.
"Oh, this? Got caught against the rail of the stair at school yesterday," she replied, trying to sound nonchalant about the damage.
He remembered the bag. It was her birthday present two years ago. She was never one who would be rough with her belongings. She had been brought up knowing the value of cents and the time and effort that make it go round.
"How's your preparation for the coming exam?" he changed the subject.
As they chatted, the car stopped in front of the school.
"Sweetie," he beckoned as she got out of the car, "we'll go shopping tonight for a new bag."
The girl hesitated for a while. "It's Okay, Ba. It's still usable."
"We'll go. I got extra from work this past two months. Anyway, it's been two years with the bag," he insisted.
With that, the face of the girl blossomed into a smile and beamed with joy. "Okay then," she waved goodbye and closed the door.
He smiled as he watched his daughter walked towards the school gate. The sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from raising this girl for twelve years overwhelmed his heart. All other successes in his business or career paled miserably in comparison. He knew, as he had always known, he made the right choice.
He was still wearing the smile, and savouring the overwhelming sense of satisfaction when he stopped his car in front of a gated factory.
The guard gave him a salute before raising the bar and let his car in. He drove past a myriad of shinny BMW and Merc before shoving his old timer into a vacant slot amongst them.
As he got out from the car, he found himself whistling.
"Morning, Mr Lu," the lady walking ahead of him looked back as she heard the happy tune.
"Morning, Mrs Lee," he gave the lady a playful salute.
She waited for him before continuing their walk towards the office.
"I've booked the hotel at the beach resort as requested. It'll be a five hours drive before you'd reach the resort. But ...," she hesitated.
"But what, Mrs Lee," he inquired, in the happy tone of his, blending his words into the tune he's whistling.
"You sure you don't want a trip to the Disney in Japan, or even Hong Kong for this holiday?"
He paused for a little while, pondering on the question. "Not yet, Mrs Lee. Not yet," he replied. "But soon," he added with a knowing smile.
As they walked towards the office, the lady couldn't hide her admiration for her boss. An admiration reserved for a father who owned a multi-million dollars business, with more than one hundred workers, branch offices in six countries over three continents, and yet, would live a lifestyle of moderation befitting not one, but many notches below his income level. A sacrifice he and his wife would willingly make for ten odd years without any complaints, for nothing but the sake of their daughter and her upbringing. In her opinion, they were probably the greatest, most unselfish parents ever walked on the surface of this earth. Ever.
If you are a parent, would you?
As a parent, would you?