Monday, August 25, 2014

Anak Merdeka, ‘57

Outram Jail, circa 1950s
Kandang Kerbau Hospital, circa 1950s

I was the baby of the family
There were Pa, Ma, Mal, Yat and me
I was born on the eve of Independence
At this maternity hospital called the Oxen Pen
Along with the birth of a new nation
Made up of the FMS and the Straits Settlements
After four and a half centuries of foreign domination

When Ma was heavy with me
Pa was incarcerated into the Penitentiary
Framed for supplying fire arms to the Radical Lefties
That shook the sensibilities of my grandfather, the Selangor Mufti
Who arrived in Singapore in his maroon Mercedes
Driven by his private chauffeur, my third Ami 
Siddi’s presence lent credence to his eldest son’s defence
And swayed the court verdict to a prison sentence    

Ma worked her bones to feed and shelter her family
And buy Pa his pack of Players when she visited him monthly
Her loyalty to her husband was admirable
In spite of her brothers and sisters’ disapproval
They were all the support system that she had
Her mother had died of miscarriage when she was eight
And her father expired when she was a young bride

When I turned six
Pa was released
He moved us from the one-bedroom barrack next to the cinema Central
To his godfather’s two-bedroom house in the village at the Foot Hills
But there was no decent job for a sworn enemy
And he can’t feed his family with fervent pleas
So across the border, and into the interior, he set off with his buddies
To clear acres of land and grow some paddy

When the field of grains turned golden
It was the start of the harvesting season
Pa took us to visit
And witness what all the months of toil had yielded   

Alas, he ran out of funds to pay the villagers
Whom he hired as daily harvesters
When they refused to show up for work
Pa and his buddies could only watch
As tracts and tracts of paddy stalks began to rot

Anak Merdeka - Independence Child
FMS - Federated Malay States
Mufti - Grand Cleric
Ami - Paternal Uncle 
Siddi - Paternal Grandfather
Paddy - Rice Grains

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