Sunday, September 16, 2018

Grandma's Stories - The Kind Japanese Officer

Another Japanese occupation story that I had neglected to document. Here's a short story about the kind Japanese officer who took a liking to my grandmother when she was a little girl.

Maybe my grandmother reminded him of his little girl back in Japan; or maybe he just likes the company of children (but not in a sexual way)... regardless, my grandmother's family was lucky to have caught the attention of this kind Japanese officer.


The large house my grandmother lived with her 7 sisters, a young brother and her mother had a garden in it, and during the Japanese occupation, food was scarce. They had grown tapioca in addition to a few fruit trees that were already there. 

One day, my grandmother was digging for tapioca when the Japanese officer came around. They often walk to other people's homes and properties uninvited and this was not at all surprising. 

However, my grandmother didn't realize that he was there... that is until he squatted down and helped my grandmother to dig up the tapiocas. He then took her around to their neighbour's gardens and helped her harvest some of the ripe fruits that were there. Being the young girl that she was, my grandmother didn't think too much about befriending a Japanese officer, though her mother had other ideas.

But try as she might, she could not stop the Japanese officer from coming around now and then and taking my grandmother out for "fruit-hunting" trips around town. In some way, the officer helped my grandmother's family by providing them with more nutritional food rather than just tapioca, but those extra food were actually stolen from their neighbours. Not sure how or what her neighbours thought about this but they couldn't really speak out in fear of being executed.

Then, for an entire stretch of days, the officer simply didn't come around anymore. My grandmother had no clue what became of him - he was likely restationed - but her family no longer had extra food (in some way) from the officer.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Grandma's Stories - The beggar who demanded more

My grandma and my grandpa were walking along the street. They had just went to the nearby market to buy some groceries and to have their breakfast at their favourite coffee shop.

My grandpa saw a disheveled beggar at the side of the street, asking passersby for money. He looked really pitiful.

My grandpa, being the kind-hearted gentleman he is, walked straight to the beggar and gave him RM 5. It should be enough for the beggar to get a good meal in his stomach plus a drink of his choice to wash it down with several cents extra.

However, the beggar, instead of thanking my grandpa, had burst into anger and yelled at my grandpa, 'Why the hell do you give me only RM 5? You are such a miser!'

Considering that no one else had given that beggar any money the entire time he was begging by that street, my grandpa was shocked at the beggar's reaction.

My grandma quickly pulled my grandpa away from the beggar and told my grandpa to walk away. 

'It is these kind of ungrateful people that do not deserve other people's help.' She said.

They saw the same beggar over the following few months, but after some time, the beggar vanished and never came back.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Grandma's Stories - The day the Japanese came

The tension is running high as news of the Japanese imminent invasion rolled to their small town. People are hording food and holing up in their fortified houses. Some even went that extra mile and obtained, illegally, some small firearms but most are armed with planks of wood and parangs (*long knives).

However, none of them had expected this.

The air raid siren blared through the hot sunny evening as my grandma's father and eldest brother were making the final preparations in closing up their grocery shop. Curious as they were, they and some other shop owners came out of their shops just to be greeted by a hail storm of bombs raining towards them. Her eldest brother, being a hot-blooded young man who ran out first to 'watch' the bombings, was caught by the first of the bombs and died on the spot. Her father was caught by the second wave. He also died that day. 

When she heard the news from a surviving shop owner who ran all the way back from the site of the bombings, she and her 7 sisters cried. They had lost their brother and father on that day. Not to mention, in her family of 12, the only two males who were able to work for a living were dead. Only a second brother who was around 10 years old was left. My grandma's mother, who was a strong woman, quickly gathered her children around and told them not to leave the house under any circumstances - to wait until the bombings in the distance stopped. They all cowered in fear in their home as the air raid siren continued to be sounded. It was until night fell did the siren stopped.

The following days were deary once the bulk of the Japanese troops on bicycles arrived. They conducted a house to house search for adult males to be sent to work in prison camps and (there were rumours) for pretty females to satisfy their 'needs'. During the searches, my grandma and some of her younger sisters, being only young girls, hid under the bed under their mother's instructions. They were very lucky as no harm had come to them.

Food were, too, hard to come by and getting rations were even dangerous as people were known to kill other people for their rations. 

But considering the stories from other places in Penang at the time of the Japanese invasion, my grandma's family and the district she lived in got rather off lightly. Thank goodness.

This is one of the stories my grandma told me constantly over the years as she recalled the death of her father and brother. Despite not being very close to both of them, the death of a family member (in this case, two family members) are traumatic and very saddening. They were a family after all.

Grandma's Stories - Police who actually did their jobs

That time my grandma was around 11 years old. She was cycling to town after school to buy some groceries for her mother. She reached the sundry shop which she usually went and bought some stuff from the uncle shopkeeper.

She was happily leaving the shop (as she had completed her chore) and was on the home, when suddenly, she was approached by a gang of plain-clothed policemen.

"What have you bought from that shop, girl?"

My grandma was surprised and intimidated by the policemen, but she replied bravely, "Oh nothing much actually, just some sugar..."

The policemen got excited and said, "You'll have to follow me, girl."

My grandma was frightened and wondered, "What do they want me to follow them for?" But being a good girl as she was, she followed the policemen into the sundry shop where she had left moments ago.

Once inside, the policemen demanded the shopkeeper to reweigh the sugar that he had sold to my grandma.

Lo and behold! It was less than what she should have gotten. The crooked shopkeeper was caught red-handed! His face flushed red as the policemen wrote down his particulars for a saman (*summons).

The policemen then brought my grandma to her nearest living guardian, which is her second brother (since her father and eldest brother had died during the Japanese invasion some time ago) and asked him whether he wanted to press charges. Both he and my grandma declined since it was just some sugar and that the shopkeeper had reimbursed my grandma with the properly weighed sugar.

Nevertheless, this was an unforgettable experience to my grandma and hence, she told me this story whenever we passed by the place where the sundry shop used to reside.