Like an unfinished painting, my life lacks the details and finishing touches that make it complete. During the last few months, I have met people who have helped to paint in the details, people who were there during certain important and historic moments; moments when I was too young to remember or moments when I have been away. And I have been away for a long time.
So they came into my life and added a dash of colour here, a stroke of detail there and now a picture is emerging. Not quite complete, but there’s something there.
“You know dear, “ said the voice at the other end of the line yesterday, “ I stood on the verandah, overlooking the
She was very much the socialite rubbing shoulders along the corridors of power in those days and was very active in the
“But my memories are all kelam kabut,” said this very English lady punctuating her very English English with her very Malay Malay. “Sometimes”, she added, “it comes out like bangsawan,” and we both roared out with laughter down the line, this Malay Mak Cik and this very fine English lady.
She said she didn't think her recollection would interest me, not realising that I was frantically jotting down everything she narrated; about her first meeting with Tunku at the railway station, about David Marshall accompanying the Tunku to meet Chin Peng in Baling, about Ong Yoke Lin’s order for serai to make satay for the Merdeka celebration at the UN. If she’d have me as her tenant for a week, I’d pack right now and leave my loved ones to fend for themselves.
Indeed, there were many, many people, British ex-servicemen especially, whom I met over the last few months, who said they could recall their tour of duty in
“I remember the day it was announced and because we were away from the capital, we decided to play football against the officers, and we gave them quite a beating,” said one, adding hesitantly that they had one too many stengah's that day.
“Oh I was there and I was wearing the songkok and I stood to attention, feeling very proud indeed,” chipped in another.
“How can I forget
And indeed, one introduced me to his daughter, a product of the romance with a Chinese local beauty.
And yet another said he helped build a school for the Orang Asli and taught them English. He also spoke of the unfriendly forest and the even more unfriendly and hostile communists, especially the ones he came face to face with when he and his men stormed a house.
The last group of ex-servicemen I met was in
The dog handler started his journey from here to
At a conference I attended some months ago, a scholar showed me the scribblings of a survivor of the death railway, his jottings as the Japanese prisoner of war and many more. At a reunion of Japanese POW’s at the
Over the last few weeks too, I had been spending time with a very special lady. She left for
To a certain extent her life is a mirror reflection of mine. She chatted about the year she arrived soon after independence, about the sixties and seventies and about the years that I missed while being away. And I talked about Britain under Margaret Thatcher and the day she left number
Anyway, she and the rest and many more have contributed so much to fill in the blanks and added their personal touches. And I will continue in my quest to meet many more people who will add more dashes of colour to this painting of mine.