IT’S said that behind every successful man is a woman. Well, in the case of some men, there may be more than one woman.
Syed Zainal Rashid, Winston Tan and Munisamy Letchumanen are doting fathers who are “the only guy in a household full of women”.
It is a madhouse for Syed Zainal Rashid, 58, when all his girls are at home. There is shouting and laughing everywhere, but it is all good for him. In fact, he has grown fond of this “noise”.
Syed Zainal is the father of four energetic girls — Hot FM deejay Syarifah Aleya, 29, actress Syarifah Amani, 26, Syarifah Aleysha, 19, and Syarifah Aryana, 17. His wife is Akademi Fantasia mentor and actress Fatimah Abu Bakar.
Syed Zainal is grandfather of twin girls, Aleya’s daughters, Aza Ameena Muhd Ashraf and Asha Ameena Muhd Ashraf.
“Living in a house full of women is far better than a house full of men,” says the Alor Star-born Syed Zainal. The family lives in Kuala Lumpur.
He finds living with all females in the house “easy”. As he is very particular about putting things where they belong, he says girls follow instructions better than boys and they do their work with finesse, unlike boys.
“Looking at my friends who have many sons, I can see the advantage of having only girls. With boys, you have to police them more,” says Syed Zainal.
For him, the only downside to not having a son is when he wants to go fishing or to discuss sports. “My girls do try, but the reality is they are more interested in the players than the game,” says Syed Zainal.
Of his daughters, Aleya shows the most interest in sports and sometimes, they do talk about rugby, Syed Zainal’s favourite game. In his eyes, Aleya is the leader of the pack, Amani is the thinker, Aleysha is the observant one and Aryana is his little baby.
“They are good kids,” says Syed Zainal who grew up with three sisters and a brother.
On whether the girls take a long time to get ready for a family outing, Syed Zainal says he has a technique to avoid this problem. He will usually be the one to get ready first, so his daughters will see the urgency to dress up faster.
But a man needs his “manly” space sometimes. And Syed Zainal is lucky to have his own leisure room where he can listen to his music and read books.
“If I were to open the room for everyone, the room might just be a wreck!” he says.
Syed Zainal always emphasises the importance of being independent at all times. “Women have to be strong. They need to be able to take care of themselves and not depend on their husbands.”
He wants his girls to experience life. He trusts them and thinks that being overly protective can backfire sometimes.
“It is always a bit sad to see your daughters moving out to have a life of their own but I want them to be independent and be whoever they want to be in life.”
The closeness between him and his daughters shows.
“We can talk about anything to our dad, even if it is about boys,” says the talkative Amani.
She adds that the only sibling rivalry is getting their father’s attention.
“Everyone fights for his attention. But I am the only one with a nickname given by my dad,” she says, laughing.
On a more serious note, Amani and her sisters are always inspired by their father. To them, he is an “awesome” dad.
“He trusts us. But if we break his trust, then we’re in trouble.”
Syed Zainal and Fatimah have always opened their doors to their daughters’ friends, especially those who have problems at home.
Amani recalls having friends who ran away from home and sought help at their house. “Some parents are so strict with their kids that it spoils their relationship. I’m so lucky that I don’t have to hide anything from my dad. When we talk, he always listens,” says Amani.
THE GIRLS ARE MY BOYS
When Winston Tan, 63, was younger, he thought that having a boy and a girl would be just nice for his family.
But fate had it that Tan and his wife Patricia Khaw would be blessed with two girls — Ju Lin and Ju Ann.
Winston doesn’t mind having only daughters because children, he says, are a gift from God.
“I have no problems living with only girls... it is absolutely fine with me. My house is never messy, at least,” he says with a laugh. “Daughters are more obedient. I think girls are more responsible.”
The loving father used to be an estate manager in Mount Austin, Johor. Living there for eight years, the family had nothing much to do for recreation, so they spent a lot of time together and formed a strong bond.
Having loads of time at home, Winston and his girls enjoyed playing games like Scrabble, cards and congkak. They also picked rambutan using a makeshift pole and sickle. They distributed the harvest to workers on the estate and to the girls’ teachers.
“When they were kids, they rode bicycles around the house. And when it was time for a family outing, they would be so excited because living in an estate could be quite lonesome,” says Winston.
The Malacca-born says that as teenagers, Ju Lin and Ju Ann talked “girl stuff’ with their mother. “But if they need money for shopping, they will come to me,” he says.
Now, Ju Lin is 34 and Ju Ann is 28. These days, Winston spends more time with his wife. His daughters have turned out well, and he can finally take a breather and enjoy his days.
“I have less things to worry about as my girls are adults. Ju Lin is focused on her career and Ju Ann is married.”
Both girls say their father is kind and sensitive. Ju Ann adds: “He taught me many living skills. He gave me a 555 note book and explained banking to me. He said I will earn interest if I didn’t ‘withdraw’ the whole sum of my pocket money for the week.”
While reminiscing about living with her dad, she can’t help but shed some tears.
As the only man in the house, Winston has equipped his daughters with valuable lessons in life, such as changing tyres.
“He taught me how to check the engine oil too,” says Ju Ann.
But there is one thing she will never forget — the day her father gave her her first sip of beer.
“He told me I must learn to hold my drink so that I won’t get drunk easily and be taken advantage of,” says Ju Ann.
There is a saying that a daughter is a little girl who will grow up to be a father’s friend. This is exactly whatWinston’s daughters are to him.
Life was not easy for Munisamy Letchumanen, 58, when his five daughters were still young. He and his wife, Nagammah Perumal, 55, had to work day and night to manage.
“With only daughters, I find that things are a lot easier. Because I had to work long hours, they looked after each other,” says Munisamy who did multiple jobs then.
As the only man in the house, he feels it is his responsibility to provide for the family. So, when his girls were still in school, he would wake up at 3am every morning to help his wife make vadai and distributed them in Petaling Jaya. He also worked as a store keeper and a gardener. Sometimes he sold kuih at night markets.
“It was tiring but it was for the family,” says Munisamy. He had never wished for a son. To him, the daughters are enough.
“They are really good daughters. Women are more responsible and they get things done faster. They usually don’t procrastinate,” he says.
Living with only girls, Munisamy sees the advantage of being able to understand women better.
“Yes, they can be very sensitive,” says Munisamy.
Love issues are often difficult for him to tackle. “When I ask my daughters whether they have boyfriends, they will say no.When I say I want to find them a partner, they come clean and admit they have someone special. In the end, I let them live their lives and choose their own partners,” says Munisamy.
His daughter, Puspa Devi, 30, says her father is one-of-a-kind.
“I remember how my father cycled to send the kuih in the morning. He has done so much for us,” says Puspa.
Now that she and her sisters — Nirmala Devi, 31, Tresa, 28, Lalitha, 25, and Lorreta, 19 — have good jobs, they reckon it is their turn to provide for the only man in the house.
“They always want to give me things even though I don’t need them. In the end, I’ve no choice but to accept,” says Munisamy smiling.