“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
That was the motto of Anderson School, Ipoh, Perak where an eager 16 year old transplant from Kerala, educated up to that point in Malayalam, started his adventure in what was then British Malaya. It was a motto he quickly embraced for his own life. It was a motto that spoke to his intense drive and determination to build a better life. For it surely took a lot of striving for this young man, raised by his widowed father, a sacristan and resourceful “Chutan Maistry,” or Jack of all trades, to head for a place that to his youthful imagination seemed like “a land of milk and honey;” a place that promised far better prospects for a better life than he believed could be found in India. That teenage immigrant was my father.
He was forever grateful for the patronage of his eldest brother, John Manuel Morais, a Normal-trained Geography teacher at Anderson School who helped him make the transition from eager schoolboy to young cub reporter; from the constrictions of life in Kerala to the opportunities his British schooling in Ipoh unlocked.
On March 6, 1991, he left us for his final journey home. But not before he had launched us on our own journeys. By his example, his strength of purpose and his sense of connection to those around him.
He liked describing himself as a self-made man. And he was. The lack of a college degree did not keep this immigrant from becoming the managing editor of the local edition of The Malaya Tribune, a leading English newspaper headquartered in Singapore, at the age of 27.
I don’t know if he was aware of the saying often attributed to St. Augustine, that we should “pray as if everything depended on God, but work as if everything depended on us.” But that pretty much sums up the faith and willingness to work hard that defined his life. We were blessed to learn from his example. He taught us, not just how to pursue our goals, but how to remain forever grateful to those who helped us along the way. And then to pay it forward. We had so many advantages he did not have, and yet anything his children might have accomplished pales besides the courage and sense of purpose it took for my father, as an adolescent, to imagine a life an ocean away and make that dream come true. In so doing, he made possible our lives and our dreams.
We pray he continues to move from glory to glory in God’s nearer presence…and in the company of his wife, Gladys Vaz Morais for whom the angels came on Nov 8, 2015.
We remember and are grateful, today and always.
At the start of the tour of the United States in 1958 with other Southeast Asian journalists, he spoke on behalf of the group at a luncheon hosted by the Press Club of Washington at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C. He said:
“The saga of America has impressed the world. It is the saga of a land where distressed and hopeful peoples of other countries come to find new homes. They have added their blood and their strength, their tears and their hopes to make the great American dream what it is today.”
Decades later, I can only imagine my father’s response to the predicament of Dreamers today.
Read with much joy your remembrance of John Victor Morais. Appreciated the lovely photos which brought back many pleasant memories. And he must have had a hand in ensuring a safe drive back from Dungun, Trengganu where Pat and I had spent 3 nights at a YTL holiday resort named Tanjong Jara Resort. It was a 4 hour drive back with two pit stops of ten minutes each.
A beautiful remembrance of our beloved Daddy. He will be very proud to read this. Can’t believe it is 27 years since he left us. We all remain inspired by his life and example. FYI, Ian: In the second pic, just in case you miss it, you will see skinny moi in my shorts in the background with my family at the old, small Kuala Lumpur airport just before my father left for the U.S.on a month-long U.S. State Department-sponsored tour for senior Asian journalists. Love, Big Bro/Herbert
Dawn, You are certainly carrying on his legacy, and doing a great job!
He is looking down and very proud of you as well!
Lovely peace, dearest Dawn. Brought back great memories. I was delighted too that I had the interview I did with in 1989, recorded on tape, when he was 78 and which I shared with all of you yesterday (7th March). Lovely to be able to hear his voice again after such a long time. Had a home cooked banana leaf meal with Rajah & Durai in his memory,The banana leaves were from the trees he planted so many years ago, I think he would have been very happy to be remembered in this way.
I just found the chance to re-read and re-admire this very nice, moving reminiscence. Thank you!