An old fashioned hi-fi radio player sat in the hallway next to a pile of expired newspapers. Dad played it every weekday at 7 pm as soon as he returned from work in his beige uniform. It was the Mandarin news he was following. The stories read by the almost-perfect Chinese newscaster, I could barely understand a quarter of it.
I studied full time in a Malay coed school. Despite that, English language was taught as a secondary language. Coming from a multiracial country, namely Malay, Indian, and Chinese, I grew up in a fairly diverse environment. Dad wanted my siblings and I to learn Chinese language, so he paid extra to send us to additional school. It made sense as there must be a structural way in learning our mother tongue. Juggled between two schools, I was mostly engrossed in meeting more school mates. Sadly, I was neither very good in Malay, English, nor Chinese languages. On the upside, I was exposed to all three languages. Quantity over quality, so to speak.
Studied at two different schools exposed me to different cultural curricula. For instance, I didn’t know I could write Chinese calligraphy, and even qualified for a competition. Taiwan entertainment news was not an exception either. In 1993, like many other school girls who fancied celebrities, I was as well, exposed and hooked over curiosity.
Known for my lack of passion in learning anything academically since young, there was a big swing in my attitude towards learning Chinese language later. I recalled picking up Chinese newspapers, flipping towards Entertainment section, and learning to read those modern and traditional characters with a handy dictionary, in pursuit of a singer, 林志颖 – Jimmy Lin stories.
Hogged over the hi-fi radio player and tuned into Mandarin radio channel for hours, dad couldn’t be happier with my enthusiasm, thinking it was language learning I was after. With little to zero money, there was no way I could afford purchasing Jimmy Lin’s first album. The only way to enjoy his songs was through the radio, and best was when his movies were aired on TV. “Shaolin’s Popey” was one of my favourites. There were times when I was obsessed with recording his songs by sitting in front of the radio all day long in the weekend. Dad eventually did a little favour by keeping an ear for me. Vividly, Chinese New Year was the best period when TV stations played his performances, and I deliberately recorded them in VCR and watched them over and over again.
Haven’t earned my full wings to fly, I was content with simple little achievement.
Mom saw how persistent I was in chasing moments of mesmerization, she bought me my very first Jimmy Lin’s album from a music record shop under a tree.
Mom couldn’t read Chinese characters, and hence she was motivated that someday I could. How did I remember this music record shop so clearly? The number of times I visited the store to ensure the album was still there just to come out with nothing, I’d lost count. It was a cassette that I held on dearly for over many years. Effortlessly, murmuring all lyrics come at ease on my fingertips until today. Gradually, I escalated my interest in Chinese characters learning over the years, both modern and traditional. All because I was dreaming and gearing up towards meeting him, some day.
The extra miles one would do for a pretty face and a charming smile, it was a blessing in disguise that Jimmy Lin played a part in my childhood chapter.
The fact that I could speak Chinese language fluently today is a miracle. More than 25 years now, life has moved on for many. Still, mom and dad knew how much it means for me to meet my childhood inspiration. They would call me from near and far, just to broadcast whenever Jimmy Lin appears on local TV. Instantly, memories would flash back from the 90s over the phone. Whilst concerts have become easily accessible compared to before, the celebrity has however refocused his career towards acting post military training and more recently towards car racing. Despite a few surprising appearances here and there, they were all concentrated in China. Perhaps, there could be more opportunity of seeing him in the racing world rather than entertainment world for sure. It was also how he met his gorgeous, tall and slender wife. A family of three children, he continues to inspire many.
Many would have thought Jimmy Lin’s greatest hit “十七岁的雨季” – The Rainy Season Of Seventeen from his first album is just another song from the archive. For me, it’s a song that I grew up with since ten years old. I am thankful for the opportunity mom and dad had provided me. By the same token, I truly appreciate how Jimmy Lin has inspired me, and probably other teens in the 90s. As much as he is chasing after his racing dream, I am still chasing a childhood dream.
“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” – Mae Jemison