Monday, July 4, 2011

My Story

Hello again everyone,

Got some messages about where the f%*k did I went missing to the past few months. Well I was uneasy with some weird things that happened around me. That made me feel I was being watch by Big Brother. So I decided to keep low profile for awhile.

Then why am I blogging again now? Well it had to do my trip to Tanjong Pagar station on June 30th. It was the final day of service for KTM trains at the station.

Being there reminded me of the stories my mom used to tell about our family's early struggle. The train travels from South(SG or JB)to KL or vice versa were featured in many of our family's toughest moment.

Those long trips were interesting and tough for young families back then. For those families that were poor like us, third class tickets were only what we could afford.

A typical trip starts with my father going up the train with the luggages to scramble for seats(霸位)while the rest of us waited on the platform. After he found the seats, he would then yelled out from the window so that my mom would know which train coaches to board.

After the whole family had boarded, the long journey on non-reclining seats in non air-cond coaches began. When my parents need to put me(a baby back then) to sleep, my father would then mount the sarong and its spring onto the coach luggage rack above our seats. Though we had to use baby napkins(no Pampers or Mommy Poko for us), my mom tell us now how fortunate she was that my brother and I did not gave her much problem on those train journey.

Well as I rework my memories while lingering around on the historic day last week, it suddenly dawned to me that it was actually the first time I had been into Tanjong Pagar station in my life. My brother had boarded trains at Tanjong Pagar but not me. All those train trips that I've been in was actuallly arriving and departing from JB.

As the pieces of memories fell into place, I felt I needed to blog about how all this came about. To explain I need to go back to where it all started.

My father left Pahang in the late 1960s and came down to Singapore. Like many Malaysian youths that time, he became construction worker. It was the time when big tall buildings started to boom all over what we called CBD now. Later in the 1970s he married my mom who was a Singaporean and then came my brother.

The dramatic turn of events came when I was born. Two weeks after I was born, Singapore government discovered that my father was staying/working in Singapore without a work permit(something not uncommon back then). The government officers gave my father less than 48 hours to leave Singapore or risk being deported or maybe even jail.

And so my father left Singapore the next evening after dinner with a heavy heart. He rented a bed in JB motel for the next few weeks while trying to figure out how to get out of this mess . Not only was my mom was numb on what to do next. She was also fearful as she had no clear idea what the laws were. Whether whe had broken any of  the laws and what Singapore government would do to her.

Most Singaporeans those days had first hand experience of what Lee Kuan Yew was capable of and had good reasons to be fearful. My mom was one of them. And that explained why she went along with being sterilized after my birth. Not many lowly educated poor couple dared to stand in the way of Lee Kuan Yew's quasi eugenics steam train (with preferential coaches for graduate talents).

Out of fear, she quickly terminated our rental flat at HDB. Realizing that there was no way she is going to cope with a newborn plus a toddler by herself (also without any income), she had to leave Singapore for now.

A few weeks later with the help of my father's Ipoh friend, my mom brought my brother and I to reunite with my father who was waiting for us in JB. On the night of that very same day, our family departed from JB to KL and later to Pahang. So my first time on a KTM train was from JB. (And somehow in all the years that passed later, I did not had the privilege of being in Tanjong Pagar station even once).

But our family problem did not end there. My mom was really suffering in Pahang. It was a combination of adapting to a rubber tapping backwaters environment and also my difficult to get along with grandmother.

She had written letters to her family in Singapore. Sensing something was not right, my maternal grandfather asked my mom's cousin to help out. And so this cousin and her husband travelled all the way from Singapore to Pahang to visit my mom. Upon returning to Singapore, my mom's cousin related how my mom lost a lot of weight and was very distressed.

My mom's elder brother knew he had to do something. And on his next business trip to KL, he visited my mom in Pahang. Before he left, he gave my mom some money and a note (with the hotel address he was staying in Bukit Bintang). He told my mom that he will be in KL for the next few days. And if she really could not cope anymore, just use the money and look for him in KL.

The next day, my mom knew she could not take it anymore and had to leave us behind, however painful it was going to be. While my brother and I was napping, she left for KL and then back to Singapore with my uncle on the KTM train again.

A few weeks later, my father made the brave decision to reunite the family again. It is something that I truly respect him for. He packed the bags, carried me(less than a year old) in one hand while holding my brother's hand with the other and went downsouth on the KTM train again.

Again this time we got off at JB as my father was still barred from entering Singapore. My father phoned my mom. Upon hearing we were in JB, my mom rushed over to meet us. My brother and I followed our mom back to Singapore for while my father tried to find work in JB.

Afterward my mom worked as a waitress somewhere near Hill Street. An old childless couple help took care of me while my mom was at work. My mom often tells me how this couple really doted on me. Although I don't remember them, I am very grateful for what they did. My brother was sent to my aunties place. My mom will visit him during her off days and he would cry profusely everytime my mother had to leave.

Meanwhile, my mom's elder brother appealed to Singapore government to get my father off the blacklist. After many months, he finally managed to do it. My father could enter Singapore again and even work (provided with a valid work permit of course).

But he refused to stay and work Singapore again. Rightly or wrongly, he hates Lee Kuan Yew for what had happened to us when I was born. Of course you may argue that Singapore government was very lenient and could have slap a fine or jail term against my father.

But to my father although we were poor, we were not welfare bums taking free lunch from Singaporeans. Singapore government could have afforded some grace and flexibility to let my father some make arrangement for my motherand us. But the way it left my mother(who was still in confinement) in a lurch with a newborn plus a toddler was simpy ruthless.

So my father would rather eaked it out in JB where he had no job and no friends at that time than to go back to Singapore. About a year later my father had a job and found a place for us to start anew. And so my mom and us kids moved to JB and settled here ever since.

Going through the past made me contemplate on keeping my low profile recently. Why am I so afraid of incurring wrath from Singapore government?Yes there are rules against documenting of activities at immigration checkpoints? But I am not a threat to national security. Hey I am just blogging about the unrecorded struggles of thousands Malaysians who contributes to Singapore prosperity.

I may not have stories as dramatic as mediacorp serials . But I do feel that my struggles with fellow kaki tambaks do tell a meaningful human side of things. Something I feel that should be passed on.

I've exposed quite a bit of myself today and it may come back to my detriment. But I have taken the decision not to stay quiet. If I ever get kicked out of Singapore for blogging, then be it. At least it was my choice.

I am back and hope to post regularly again.


Paige said...

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. It must have taken a great effort to write about it. I am very touched to read this. May you and your loved ones be safe and happy. Thank you once again for sharing with your readers.

julian said...

Thank you so much for sharing. It was really touching. Many of us forget the struggles that our parents take to ensure that we are well and happy. Thank you once again for sharing.

masaiboy said...

hello brother,

while i agreed that the past government had done unfair things to your family in the old days, u have no reasons to worry what the government or big brother behind can do anything to u nowadays. people are more well-educated and well-informed nowadays, and we all now what we are entitled to, compared to the previous generations. government now is always under scrunity from people and they have to be transparent on how they treat people.

so, u will be alright, and continue to blog whatever stories u have.


Anonymous said...

Bump in to your blog when i was "googling" for direction from Bukit Indah to Tuas via 2nd link. i'm a kaki tambak myself, using first link previously, now going to use 2nd link bcoz it's nearer to my new work place.
Just to say "Bravo" and thank you for doing this blog, and for all the articles that i really can relate to. From now on,I will certainly follow your blog.

from: a kaki tambak that wishes not to be a kaki tambak :)