Memories of Syonan: An era of the dominance of fear and blighted times

By: May Lian

The Japanese occupation was a bitter and painful time for my parents.

Up north, Malaysia. My grandmother had to make a cruel decision to ask her son to leave home to seek job in a foreign land. Situation at home was very bad. She felt my dad might have a better chance out there. If he made it, his siblings would too.

My dad who cherished school had to give up schooling. He too had lost his dad during the occupation. He didn’t know anyone here. He was told to find shelter and seek apprenticeship or job. He was all but 14 years old.

To survive with nothing but clothes on his back. The journey ferried by an unknown truck driver. He slept in the open truck as it moved from Seremban to Singapore.

My mom was 12. She lost her dad and there was no money for living or school. After war, the sisters had to work as servant girls. A job of scrubbing, washing and minding kids, when she herself was a child. Her clothes, only two pieces, to last a year were made from old curtains.

I often often asked if they were upset with their lot. Their pain obvious, they resigned to times of hardships and necessities. Many cannot relate to the distant events.

These are the narratives only family members hear but cannot relate to; the anguish, the pain.

Syonan was not a celebratory of end of war. It was a beginning of dominance of fear, blighted times.

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