Saturday, November 15, 2008

In praise of my mother

My parents were immigrants from China and I am a first-generation born Malaysian. Both of them were born in a village (can't remember the name of the village, but it is about 30 minutes drive from Jiangmen, Guangzhou, China). My father came to Malaya during the '30s and returned to China to marry my mother. Theirs was an arranged marriage, and my late mum was a child bride at age 13. Barely in her teens, she had to take care of a mother-in-law and 2 sisters-in-law. By 15, she was a young mother taking care of her 1st born in war torn Hong Kong. War had come to China shortly after her marriage, and my grandmotherwith 3 young ladies to protect from the invaders, decided to move to Hong Kong believing that it would be safer there, but then Hong Kong was also invaded.
After the war, they returned to China, where my mother had two other daughters, but sadly both my sisters died at infancy. Life was tough because of the political unstability in China at the time, and money had to last until the next arrival of money from my father and grandfather in Malaya, which was rather erratic. There were no mail or telegraphic transfer at that time, and they had to rely on messengers who travel by boat between Malaya and China.
After the fall of the Kuomintang, came the peasant revolution in China. My mother being from the landowner class (even though they no longer own land then) were made to work in the fields by the peasants, and were severely punished for every error. My grandmother suffer the most when they placed a corpse face to face on top of her as punishment for buying more than the approved amount of food for her family and still behaving like the landed class . After toiling for a few years, the peasants decided they had been punished enough and freed them. Many wealthy landowners died because they could not stand the torture, and my mother were certainly glad they were no longer landowners then.
My grandmother died soon after the torture stopped, and my mother migrated to Malaya in 1957, but sadly she left a life of toil in China only to toil in Malaya. By then my father was diabetic and had TB, and my mother was widowed a few years after coming to Malaya. Having 2 young children to take care of, my mother became a shop keeper, and ran a coffee shop in the small town that I grew up. With the little income from the coffee shop and a monthly remittance from my grand-aunt who worked as a nanny for a wealthy family in Singapore, my mother managed to bring up her two young children (me and my brother) and educated us until we completed our secondary school education.

1 comment:

Small Footprints said...

What a touching story! I cannot imagine what your mother and grandmother went through and how hard it must have been. Thank you for sharing their story ... and yours. It reminds us all to never take our lives for granted.

Take Care!

Small Footprints