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What’s it like being Poh Ling Yeow’s Brother?

What’s it like being Poh Ling Yeow’s Brother?

“Is it true that you’re Poh Ling Yeow’s Brother?! Wait till I tell my wife/daughter/family!!!” At the peak of the inaugural series of Masterchef, it seemed like every second person I spoke to would ask me that very same question. It was OK for a while but then there came a time when I started to wonder if I should formally change my name to “Poh’s Brother”! Anyhow, answering this first question was easy. As far as I can remember, I’ve was always Poh’s brother! Answering what would invariably be the next question, “What’s it like to be Poh Ling Yeow’s Brother?” took a little more thought. I discovered this when a couple of radio hosts rang me at 5am in the morning. For the life of me I cannot remember what I said in response but I remember a lot of stuttering and awkward pauses until they politely said Thank You and hung up on me. Poh Ling Yeow

I guess if I had ample time to think it over, I would answer with this. “Poh and I have always been close but we’ve never lived in each other’s back pockets.” Her and I were very different. I was the typical Asian eldest son, who went down the path of focusing on my academics, with the view of getting a good job. Poh was always one to go with her heart and do what she was passionate about. While we were very fortunate to have relatively liberal parents, this sometimes caused tension between her and the folks. During times like these, I would often be peacemaker. Despite of having pretty much polar opposite personalities, we’ve always confided in each other when it didn’t feel right to go to Mum and Dad. These deep and meaningful moments hold a special place in my heart but my fondest memories were of the funny moments we had together. Poh Ling Yeow

At the filming of the final episode of Masterchef, we, her family, were filmed spilling onto the main floor to congratulate Poh on becoming runner-up. Weeks later, the day after that episode was aired on TV, on arriving at the office, my colleague came up to me to let me know he and his family saw us on the tube, and then slowly and awkwardly eased his way into what he really approach me for.  “So, what’s going to happen with the kids while she travels to all her new commitments and stuff?” If you’ve never seen the aforementioned episode, picture this.  Here’s me, carrying my youngest daughter in one arm and towing my older daughter with my other hand, first on the floor to give Poh a big hug. Not knowing any better, like this colleague of mine, most people would have easily made the mistake of assuming that I was Poh’s husband with our two beautiful daughters. My answer to him was “Um…nothing. You do realise that she’s my sister, not my wife, right?” GROSS!!! It’s somewhat ironic that during our teenage years, when Poh and I would go somewhere together, we would always walk on opposite sides of a street so that people wouldn’t mistake us for being boyfriend and girlfriend. Who would have guessed that after making it through those years without anyone making that mistaken assumption, failure would come so many years after and at such an unexpected moment. Poh Ling Yeow

Here’s another one. I would have been about 9 years old at the time and Poh would have been 6-ish. We’d just been watching the Brady Bunch on TV, where a couple of the Brady siblings were playing leap frog and decided we’d like to give it a try. With Poh’s agreement I was to be the leaper. I was kinda’ chubby back in those days and not exactly Michael Jordan in the hops department (read can’t jump!). No surprise, being substantially heavier than little Poh, she got pummelled (understatement) to the ground when I, the leaping frog, failed to leap. She cried so hard she couldn’t,  in my defence, get the words out to explain that we were just playing. For my troubles, I got to kneel in front of the Buddhist (we were Buddhist back in those days) alter for half-an-hour as punishment for ‘bullying’ my sister. Poh Ling Yeow

Left the best for last. I’m not real sure about what my genetic makeup is but given that my back is on the hairy side, I suspect that all is not Chinese or even Asian for that matter. Anyhow, it got  to point where I started to get a bit self-conscious about it. When I raised this rather serious concern with my dear sister, she suggested that I have my back waxed. Better still, she offered to do it for me. BONUS! Suffice to say, I will never forget the moment she tore that first strip of wax off my back. It doesn’t end there. It was all good for a day and then my skin started to flare. I ended up having just about every follicle on my back infected. Poh and I look back and laugh now. For me, it definitely wasn’t funny then. Needless to say, I never did booked a return appointment. Poh Ling Yeow

These are just a few of the fond memories that illustrate the sort of relationship Poh and I have, and what it’s like to be Poh’s brother. As I think of more that are worthy of a piece, you’ll no doubt read about it here. When I think of Poh, words like “Determined”, “Stubborn”, “Laughter”, “Loyalty” and “Talented” come to mind, but most of all I think of how proud I am to be referred to as “Poh’s Brother”. Poh Ling Yeow

Header photo: Poh and I (and Fifi)

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