Friday, February 03, 2006

Lessons of history outside ivory towers

My mother's elder sister or Da Yi (elder aunt) is the only member of the older generation left to deliver some moral lectures to us whenever she feels necessary, including during Chinese New Years.

We accept her moral authority although we may still respectfully give her feedback on the changed or changing socio-economic, technological and political conditions that we have to face now.

During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, she, like my mother and so many other females in war zones throughout mainland China and Southeast Asia, was a pretty girl in her 17 or 18 years of age. So, they had to cut their hairs short and dress like boys to avoid becoming the targets or preys of Dai Nippon army's systematic, psychopathic and racist sexual violence. They survived with integrity to witness the defeat of the fascist enemies and liberation of Batu Gajah and Tanjung Tualang, the area where the underground resistance was operated by brave and heroic people like Pak Rashid and Makcik Suriani.

When she visited us on the first day this Year, she said she felt so we are now so lucky because we could enjoy at least three or four days of break for the festival. She recalled that my parents' cofeeshop only closed one day a year and that was the legally compulsory 1st of January or what she described as "Englishmen's New Year".

Indeed, I still remember, in the 60s and 70s, our kedai kopi opened for business from 7.00 am to 11.00 pm throughtout the entire 15-day Chinese New Year, including the New Year's Eve as well as the First Day.