Thursday, November 20, 2008

My mother's story

Mother's grandfather was a merchant in China during the Ching Dynasty. He was the god-brother of the Governor of Guangdong, and was thus able to move freely between Guilin and Guangzhou to ply his trade, and one of his most lucrative trade was opium (shame to admit it, but it was then). With his earnings, he bought parcels of paddy land in his village and harvested by the peasants. However, this good life was not to last very long, as he died before 60, leaving a wife and concubine, 3 sons (who had never worked a day in their life) and various family members. To survive, the land were gradually sold off. When all the land were sold, my grandfather and his brothers had to leave their village to find work. My grandfather went to Medan, Indonesia, but was not successful so he returned to China.

My paternal grandfather and father were at that time working in Malaya. In order to obtain an introduction to work in Malaya, my mother's father decided to marry her off to my father. So at the age of 13, my mother was married off by her family, and on the introduction of his now son-in-law, my mother's father came to Malaya, where within no time he acquired a concubine despite having a destitute family waiting in China.

Rich families in China at that time had bought maids to look after the household, as was the norm in my mother's family. But my father's family were not well off so had no maids. Overnight, by welcoming my mother as their new daughter-in-law, they acquired a maid in my mother. My mother had to look after her mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law, who were not much younger than her, and also her husband and father-in-law if they were around. My mother had to take care of the house including drawing water from the well for their baths while all this able-bodied persons just sat around without lifting a finger to help.

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