Tracing her family's forgotten roots

Four-year investigation led Beijing-based S'porean photographer to grave of grandfather, who had been executed in China decades ago

DEDICATED MONUMENT: This three-metre high obelisk (above) in Meixian, east Guangdong, bear the words 'The tomb of martyr Shen Huansheng'. It is here that Miss Sim Chi Yin's paternal grandfather lies.
HISTORY: (Above) This photo of the author's grandfather Shen Huansheng, probably taken in the early to mid-1940s, when he was said to have been the editor of the leftist Ipoh Daily newspaper.
Miss Sim Chi Yin (above).
Her journey to his grave led to a book titled Roots: A Granddaughter's Belated Search (above).
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Mum is out, Dad is in

Singaporean family featured in reality TV series where dad takes over household while mum goes on holiday

FAMILY TIME: In reality TV series Mom's Time Out, Mr Tan Jee Teng (in blue) runs the household and looks after son Atticus (bottom, far right) and daughters Ashlea (top) and Aubrey (centre), while his wife Mrs Leah Tan is whisked away to a retreat.
DAD IN CHARGE: In reality TV series Mom's Time Out, Mr Tan Jee Teng (centre) runs the household and looks after his three kids, realising that it's no cakewalk.

Working mothers will agree that the struggle to juggle career, family and the often elusive "me" time is a real and sometimes painful one.

Singaporean mother-of-three Leah Tan, 34, is one such mum.

And her story will be chronicled in the second season of reality TV series Mom's Time Out, which follows three South-east Asian families as the husbands take over running the household while their exhausted wives are treated to a five-day vacation at a luxury resort in Cebu, the Philippines.

It premieres Sept 16 on Lifetime (StarHub TV Ch 514) at 9pm.

Mrs Tan's day typically starts at 10amafter her aircraft engineer husband Mr Tan Jee Teng, 36, goes to work at 7am, leaving her with their three children - Atticus, seven, Ashlea, five, and 10-month-old Aubrey.

After she sends the older children to school in the afternoon, Mrs Tan, who runs an events company mostly from home, dives straight into "work mode" while attending to her baby round the clock and carrying out household chores.

Although the family has a domestic helper, Mrs Tan claims to be a clean freak who is "constantly packing and vacuuming... 24/7."

At night, she prepares dinner and with her husband, helps the children with their homework. Mr Tan, on the other hand, is more laid-back and admitted his lack of flair for cooking.

On weekends, Mrs Tan often heads out to meet clients or see that events run smoothly while her husband takes over at home.

She admits the stress gets a bit too much to handle at times and she has been forced to seek much-needed peace and quiet in her car.

She told The New Paper in an interview with Mr Tan yesterday: "All mums go through ups and downs. I go through them especially when I have lots of events to prepare for.

"Conceptualising events and doing planning work need a lot concentration. Sometimes when the kids are too noisy, I don't get to sleep enough and yet in the day I have plenty of errands to run non-stop, "

DAD IN CHARGE: In reality TV series Mom's Time Out, Mr Tan Jee Teng (centre) runs the household and looks after his three kids, realising that it's no cakewalk.

With Mrs Tan away on her escapade, Mr Tan took leave from work for the "experiment".

It was his first time caring for all three children for days on end but he was "excited" and embraced it.

It has also been a long time since his last vacation alone with his wife. They have date nights "once in a blue moon" and it is spent discussing how to be better parents.

Despite Mr Tan's eagerness to assume his wife's role, there were challenges.

"I didn't foresee so many arguments between the older children and with such frequency. Aubrey is an easy baby but with Atticus and Ashlea, I had to step in and force them to compromise each time they quarrelled," he said.

Mrs Tan also had to remind her husband to keep the children "well-fed and the house looking great" during her time away.

In her absence, Mr Tan ordered food from an online supermarket which included instructions on preparing do-it-yourself meals.


"I chose to cook meatball rice with snow peas and it was a successful attempt as there were clear steps on how to prepare the meal. The kids even gave me passing grades," said Mr Tan.

He even threw in a surprise for his wife - a handicraft work to show his love and appreciation for her.

In the past, he used to make her paper flowers for every month that they were together.

The experience made him appreciate his wife's sacrifices for the family and he commended her for dealing with the domestic chaos on a day-to-day basis.

"I took leave so I didn't have work to think about. Leah does a fantastic job that I cannot do and I really admire her," he said.

Mrs Tan was grateful for the short break from the hustle and bustle of her daily life.

"I just needed that solid six to eight hours of peace. It was a good break but to make up for missing them, I filled up two trolleys worth of shopping to bring home for them," she said with a laugh.

Life is back to normal for the Tans after filming the show and the status quo remains, but Mrs Tan believes the experience has taught her husband patience.

"I probably didn't come back a changed person but I came back to a changed husband who is more understanding of me juggling my various roles.

"He now understands how I can switch roles from a businesswoman to a mother in a split second, and then from a mother to a daughter when a phone call comes through. It requires continual effort and lots of love," she said.

She added that her husband has now stepped up more to allow her some alone time.

"There are days when I need to hide in a corner and breathe or just pamper myself with shopping, a perm or a manicure and he has definitely chipped in to be a more active father," she said.

Stitching new lives for others

Long-time volunteer starts initiative which provides women who are unable to work with sewing machines to support themselves

INSPIRATIONAL: Madam N Kumari Devi was nominated for the 21st Exemplary Mother Award organised by Jamiyah Singapore's Women and Family Department two years ago. She spent the $2,000 prize money to start Project Sew, which provides women who were unable to work with a chance to be financially independent.

By the time she was 25, she had lost both her parents.

Turning her loss into a source of strength and inspiration, she wanted to help other women disadvantaged in life.

When she was awarded $2,000 in recognition of her volunteer work in 2013, she used that money to help more women to be financially independent.

For the past two years, Madam N Kumari Devi, 53, has been working on Project Sew, her initiative to help women who were unable to work.

They include single parents, the disabled and those who have to provide all-day care for their loved ones.

The project gives these women an opportunity to earn a living by supplying them with a sewing machine and provides them with materials and sewing lessons.

Madam Kumari had received $2,000 for being nominated in the 21st Exemplary Mother Award, organised by Jamiyah Singapore's Women and Family Department. 

Madam Kumari, who is married with three children aged 15, 18 and 24, received the award for her efforts in volunteering.

Despite juggling family commitments and a busy career as a transport operations manager, she has been volunteering for more than 10 years.

Madam Kumari's father died from a stroke when she was 15.

This took a toll on her mother, who became stressed with juggling jobs to support the family.

Madam Kumari, who remembered her working till late almost every day, said her mother never took care of herself because she was too busy.

She died from a heart attack when Madam Kumari was 25.

When asked what drives her to help the less fortunate, Madam Kumari said she was inspired by her mother.

She said: "There is no way to tell you how hard it is when you lose both your parents so soon.

"As someone who has gone through so much, I understand how hard life can be."

During the project's official launch at the opening of the Nee Soon East Community Centre on Aug 1, Madam Kumari said that Project Sew sold about 40 tissue box covers.

She reasoned that every family needed one, which would help with the sales. Each cover was sold for $10, and about $400 was made at the official launch.

Former MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, Mr Patrick Tay, who attended the launch, said: "Project Sew is a very good, very proactive initiative that helps to build the kampung spirit that we want to have to engage the community."

Besides spending her winnings on starting the project two years ago, Madam Kumari contacted different organisations and coordinated resources from several companies.

They included electrical equipment company, Brother, who sold her the sewing machines, and textiles supplier Spotlight, who supplied the sewing materials.


So far, the project has three beneficiaries - middle-aged women who were unable to work.

Madam Kumari contacted them through the Ministry of Social and Family Development's social assistance group ComCare, where she volunteers.

One of them, Madam Lim Bee Hwa, 56, has been in a wheelchair for more than 15 years.

Before Project Sew, Madam Lim could not work and had to depend on social services to support her.

Madam Lim, who lives in a studio apartment and is an unemployed divorcee, helped to make the tissue box covers during the project's launch. From the sales, she earned $140.

She said: "I was depressed and there was nothing to occupy my time.

"But now I have been given another chance."

Madam Kumari said she wants to help more women in ComCare but she is limited by her lack of time and funds.

"I have all this desire but I do not have enough time and money. I have been doing this by myself, and I want to do more, but I cannot," she said.

Those keen on helping Project Sew can reach Madam Kumari at 62570446 or

"Project Sew is a very good, very proactive initiative that helps to build the kampung spirit that we want to have to engage the community."

- Mr Patrick Tay, former MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, who attended the launch of Project Sew.

About the Exemplary Mother Award

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New Face 2015 Samradha Sanjeev

Samradha Sanjeev, 18, loves movies.

“I love listening to stories and movies do exactly that.” Her favourite: Disney movies.

“I wait for them to come out in cinemas and I don’t care even if I find myself sitting among a group of kids. I  grew up watching Disney movies and I am not giving that up.

“The only thing better than Disney movies is a Disney movie marathon with pizzas and good friends.”

The economics student at the University of Groningen said it’s not just her obsession — her family loves Disney movies just as much.

“My dad and I would watch together. I’d also update him on all the new Disney movies he had missed.”

For Samradha, family is everything. Her older brother is both her best friend and inspiration.

“He works extremely hard at anything he does and tends to pick things up pretty fast, which is quite  annoying,” she said in jest.

“He makes the people around him very happy and that’s something I really admire.”

"I grew up watching DISNEY MOVIES and I am not giving that up. The only thing better than Disney movies is a Disney movie marathon with pizzas and good friends"

Subaru WRX

A tenacious performer, the all-new Subaru WRX is a responsive thrill built on the concept of “Pure Power in Your Control”. The all-new WRX reigns in the intense and superior power of the 2.0-litre  Subaru Boxer engine.

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Novak Djokovic (above).
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HAZY: The Marina Bay street circuit yesterday.
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Martin ensures everything runs smoothly at the Singapore GP

Martin leads a small army that is crucial to the success of the Singapore race

Sarah Martin (above).

She wasn't much of a motor racing fan before the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in 2008.

After seven years of being intimately involved in the world of Formula 1, Sarah Martin's view of the sport has changed dramatically, and it's not just because she is the director of operations and security of race promoters Singapore GP Pte Ltd.

"I have a great respect for it; it's a different art form," she told The New Paper.

"I think it's the level of perfection that comes with this race, the technology behind it (and) the way it's set up and run."

This weekend's street race along Marina Bay will be the eighth edition of the only Grand Prix fully run at night.

In her role, Martin strives to ensure everything - from security to logistics and the rest of the nuts and bolts - run smoothly.

She heads a team involved in all operational planning and logistics pertaining to the event, apart from race related matters.

This includes sourcing, contracting and planning the entertainment programme that features multiple stages with over 300 acts throughout the circuit park.

She oversees the gate and grandstand operations, security development and food and beverage vendor arrangements, emergency planning as well as the recruitment and training of over 5,000 staff.

In the high-octane world of pilots unafraid charging around in space age machines at supersonic speed, many would think Martin's biggest challenge is being a woman in a man's world.

The 40-year-old rejects that notion.

"I don't think of myself as a woman in a man's world. It's a job and it's a job whereby I have the skills set to deliver," she said.

"Yes, you are dealing with very serious issues and you're in a room full of men.

"But, man or woman no one is given any leeway and that's the greatest thing, because then everybody just gets the job done."

To facilitate the set up of the final phase of infrastructure, roads around the circuit park area in downtown Singapore are set to close at midnight tonight. The F1 Village is already 95 per cent ready awaiting just the small touches: carpet grass, signages etc.


A huge part of the excitement unique to the Singapore race are the various musical performances that accompany the Grand Prix.

Over the years, the likes of Robbie Williams, John Legend and Jennifer Lopez have been highlights, and in 2013, around 65,000 people made their way down to the Padang to watch Justin Bieber perform 24 hours after the race.

Martin, who in the past was responsible for bringing international world music event network WOMAD to more than nine countries, is expecting a 70,000 crowd to catch super group Bon Jovi at the Padang after the race on Sunday.

"The Padang field, we now know, can take up 70,000," Martin said.

"It's because of the way the crowd dynamic is fixed. You normally have a situation on a flat field whereby only the front is packed. Our scenario is to have the whole field packed.

"We have safety measures, a secondary crash barrier in the middle of the field. Most (concerts) only have one mosh pit. We create multiple mosh pits."

The Singapore Grand Prix has showcased the country to a global television TV audience of around 360 million every year, and at each race, around 40,000 international visitors flock to the Lion City.

They leave not just mesmerised by Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso and their unique skills on a street track with the Singapore skyline as a spectacular backdrop, but also rave about the excitement of watching the fastest drivers in the world bang wheels under the Valerio Maioli-powered lights, and the world-class entertainment that surrounds the race.

Martin is proud to be part of the unique experience that is the Singapore Grand Prix.

The balance of entertainment and sport across the three-day event, she insists, is never an issue.

"The race holds its own; it's the crown jewel and around it are the additional jewels," she said.

"We wanted to have an event that played to the space and audience. That's one of the successes of the Singapore GP as it's allowed a greater profile of people to come to the race.

"It comes quite naturally, there is no formula. When we put things together it's a combination of what is available, what we have seen, how we up the gambit on certain things.

"Of course, every year we've got to deliver whatever else we delivered last year and then promise a bit more."