The Little Man 

The Little Man

Once, there was a little man. He was little by size, so to speak, a mere one metre tall at an age where everyone was twice that size. Since young, he was unhappy. He hated the sight of himself in front of the mirror – that tiny, scrawny figure that barely looked visible in crowds. He always tried very hard to make himself big. Hold his breath so his chest and stomach would expand, wear many layers of clothings so he looked more ample, experimented with higher soled shoes, placed extra padding on his car seat so he looked tall to passing cars, sat on a high stool before his customer service counter – you name it, he had tried it. But he was still unhappy.

Interestingly, people around him loved him. They loved him for his good heart. But he was still not happy.

One day, he was walking gloomily along the streets after work, trying to think of another ingenious plan to become ‘big’. Suddenly, ‘plonk!’, a small piece of wood fell to the ground before him. He swore and shuddered at the fact that it could have hit him. When he looked to see what it was and where it came from, he looked up and lo and behold, it seemed as if someone up there had answered his prayers (literally!). There hanging inconspicuously under the window of the row of shop-houses, was an old rickety sign that said, “Want to look BIG? Come and have a chat with us.”

His heart leapt with joy, and he fell to his knees dramatically, placed his palms together and quickly chanted, ‘God! Guan Yin! Buddha! Jesus! Sai Baba! Mother Theresa! Guan Gong! Di Gong! Amadeus! and er… president Bush! Hitler!… whoever you are that answered my prayers, thank you!” He closed his tirade of names with a few more violent shakes of his folded palms and quickly darted up the old, dark staircase at the side of the shop-house. Usually he would have been too scared to go anywhere so dark. But this time, he did not care. Ah, an answer to looking big!

When he reached the third floor landing, he quickly located the door labeled prominently with the letters “B.I.G”. That must be it! He quickly knocked on the doors, listening out for any sound inside that might tell him that someone was in. He heard the sound of feet shuffling, a cough and the sound of the door handle turning.

As the door swung open, he saw a pair of eyes staring at him at eye level. At eye level, mind you, he has yet to meet anyone his size from birth till date! Inside his tiny frame, his heart sank. He had expected someone super big to open the door, a testament that the sign outside that window did mean something.

The pair of eyes scanned the little man, then an old wrinkled hand stretched out and held his left arm, “Ah, one of us! Welcome, young man, I have been waiting for you for a long time.” When the door swung open a little more, the light from the room behind showed the face of a kind, serene old lady. He felt more comforted immediately and trusted her enough at that time to allow himself to be led in.

The room inside was small and bare. The old lady beckoned for him to sit down at one of the two bamboo chairs available, and she walked into one of the two rooms in the small apartment. When she returned, she held in her hands, an old photo album.

The little man scanned the whole room quickly. Old as it was, the room was neat and tidy. On the wall, there was a family portrait and he quickly identified the old lady as the beautiful young woman sitting next to a man (her husband?) with a baby on her laps.

The old lady spoke, “Ah, that is my favourite family portrait. My old man has passed on now, and my son is doing well. But I prefer to stay alone and enjoy the peace.” Now she pulled the other bamboo chair to face the little man and sat down slowly. “I know why you are here, as all the other people before you. Before I start, I want to know why you are unhappy with your size. Don’t you have parents who love you? Friends, colleagues, relatives? Do people hate you or look down on you that much?”

The little man blushed. In fact, almost all his family and friends loved him and more than once re-assured him that his size did not matter to him. In fact, his parents showered so much love on him that when they died, they left all their valuables to him. But the hardest truth was that, he could not bring himself to love himself. For the size he was.

“Ha! Ha! Another unhappy one…” The old lady crackled. “You people really know how to bring suffering to yourself. But well, since I started helping people like myself and you, I have seen all kinds. I know how miserable it must feel inside. But I better introduce myself now and how I can help, before you think I’m taking you for a ride.”

The old lady relaxed into her chair and that dreamy look started her reminiscence into days of old. “You see, I was a world renowned seamstress. I trained under the greatest masters of the world. I even got into the World Book of Records for designing, cutting and sewing a full gown in thirty minutes. At the peak of my career, I met the man of my dreams and we married. A year later, my son was born and we were the happiest family you could find. My son grew up quickly with the years, but his stature was so small that his rugby friends always tackled him and he was the target of the school bully. He became a very unhappy and angry boy. One day, he came home from secondary school with a bleeding wound on his head. He stormed into my room where I was sewing the days’ assignments and screamed at me, ‘I hate you! Why did you give birth to me so small?’ Those words broke my heart and I wept. I did not dare to talk to him, to comfort him or even to help him clean that wound on his head. How could I tell him that I had no control over the genes that were imparted while he was in my womb?

For months, my little boy refused to talk to me or my husband and we were distraught. One night, I had a nightmare. I saw my little boy running frantically away from a crowd of huge men. They were bearing up on him, almost catching him and they were so big that they could easily crush him just by sitting on him. Then I saw my boy fall into a hole. The big men surrounded the hole to see where he was. Suddenly, my boy sprung out of the hole. He became so tall! The men were so scared that they quickly ran away. When I woke up, I was amused and also worried for my little boy’s future. But that dream gave me an inspiration. What if? What if I tailored a suit for my boy that would make him bigger and taller?

That was way before the first man on the moon, mind you, with all that space suit stuff. But I began to design and conceptualise a suit that would give both height and breadth to the wearer. My seamstress training only familiarized me with cloth materials, but then I began experimenting with others, with springs and swimming floats, material which were inflatable but yet life-like. My dear husband was a mini scientist and he was very crucial in this process.

In six months, our B.I.G. suit was ready. We happily packed it into a box on Christmas eve and put it under the tree for our little boy. When he walked out of his room the next morning, he was a beaming six footer, looking well-muscled and ample. He kissed and hugged us and went around showing off his new build. He became very popular and as he grew older, he progressed quickly in his career and soon found himself a beautiful looking wife.

When he got married, he became unhappy again. You see, you cannot be wearing the B.I.G. suit all the time. When you shower or when you are with your wife, well, you know what I mean, you cannot be wearing it. So on his honeymoon, his new wife was shocked at how small he really was and it took her some time to get used to who he really was. My son tried all ways and means to shower gifts and affections on her, in desperation to make her love this body he hated. But over time, their marriage broke. There was resentment and anger, but most of all his wife felt cheated. How could he be one man before marriage and another man after?

They divorced and our son became unhappy again. This time, he was not so sure about the B.I.G. suit again. He was two-minded whether to wear it again. It was the cause of a love failed and his love was more important to him than anything else.”

The old lady suddenly looked apologetic and asked the little man, “Oh, sorry for the long story! I forgot to get you tea!”

The little man smiled gratefully and he felt both happy and touched by what this old lady was telling him. His heart was beating so fast with these silent questions “Can I see the suit? Can I try it? Can I? Can I?” He wanted to see how it would look on him. Incredulous as it seemed, it was still the answer to what he had been searching for his whole life!

A cup of tea later, the old lady opened the photo album and showed him her son’s photographs. At school, he was scrawny. Later at college, the picture of a confident, well-built young man flashed across the pages. The little man felt so excited to see what difference the B.I.G. suit made!

Then the old lady took out another newer album and showed him the same man, now more matured looking but small, smiling serenely next to a woman taller than him by a head, clutching her by the waist. There were pictures of them with two little children playing and in all the pictures, they were smiling so beautifully. “This is his new wife. They married five years ago. He met her after his divorce, or rather, she bumped into his arms! Ha! Ha!”

The old lady laughed. “You see, my new daughter-in-law is partially blind. She cannot see beyond her hand held in front of her eyes.”

The little man gasped. Blind! His heart went out to her. He always had sympathy for people with disabilities. He nodded politely.

“But my dear son has never been happier. And he has given up his B.I.G. suit forever.” The most beautiful smile spread across the old lady’s face as she reflected on her beloved son’s happiness.

“You see, when someone small meets someone blind, who can blame the other for being less perfect? But the most important thing is this. When they met, they were meeting each other as they were. They were not wearing any suits. They opened their hearts to each other right from the start, with true honesty and acceptance of themselves and this is important in making relationships work. It also makes your own life easier. You just have to be yourself.”

The old lady pulled her chair forward and held the little man’s hands in her warm, loving hands. “My son, do you still want the B.I.G. suit?”

The little man looked into her kind eyes and…

“YES!!!” the yell of the naughty little boy next door pierced through the early morning calm. “I want Macdonalds! Yes, I want! I want it now!”

The little man jumped up from his bed as he mouthed the words “Yes! Please do let me try the B.I.G. suit!” He looked down at his body which was still the same tiny self and he looked around him in confusion. Huh? A dream!

The disappointment hit him like a huge baseball bat. But it was so clear and real and he could still clearly recall the story and advice of that old lady. Disbelief was in his mind as he stepped bewildered into the shower, playing and re-playing the dream and the message it held for him.

As he stepped out of the shower, a body tinier than his ran into his legs and hugged him, giggling and screaming. “Ah, you little devil!” As he swept the toddler into his arms, the baby kissed him wetly on his cheeks and his heart softened with love. He looked at that wriggling baby in his arm, this little nephew of his, who loved him truly for who he was.

“Son, is baby in your room? Come and have your breakfast. I’ve prepared your favourite nasi lemak.” As the little man walked out of his room, the morning sun illuminated the room with love and clarity. The room of his heart was brighter now. The B.I.G. suit real or imaginary perhaps was not necessary in the first place.

As he tucked into his nasi lemak, he scanned the day’s papers from the sports page backwards. Three letters caught his eye. “B.I.G.” His eyeballs quickly rolled backwards to the obituary column and his eyes nearly popped out with the fishball in his mouth when he made out this caption printed in bold, “Maker of the B.I.G. suit passes away peacefully in her sleep”. Below that caption, was the face of the serene and motherly lady who had spoke to him in his dream (?!).


Are you unhappy with whom you are?

Looking for your B.I.G suit? Or B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L suit? Or E.L.O.Q.U.E.N.T. or R.I.C.H. or I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.T. or S.U.A.V.E or?

You know, we could fill up a whole warehouse with these suits and it will still not be enough. Some of us go through our whole lives looking for such suits, to beautify ourselves outside, to make ourselves feel more secure, to make us think we are happy.

We are always working so hard our whole life so that we can afford to be who we are not.

It does not take that much suffering to be happy!

Just stop, slow down and look inside yourself.

Peace and contentment comes from within. Any kind of grasping outside only brings more pain and bewilderment.

With honesty, comes acceptance;
With acceptance, comes tranquility;
With tranquility, comes insight;
With insight, comes liberation.

May the ‘false’ not be with you.


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