May 08 2009 09:03 am
Or should it be Herstory instead of history? Never mind the terminology, but in short, I was adopted!
Those who can read mandarin, can read my story here, because I’ve forgotten most of it:
Click for clearer image. This is the newspaper cutting when my story was published in the Sin Chew Jit Poh in May 1994. A Chinese colleague took me there . Nothing happened after that. I was told by a Singapore friend that she saw/read somewhere there about my story too, unfortunately there was no lead.
Biologically, I come from a Hainanese family in Singapore. Time was tough in the early 1960s. I have evidences to show that I was born in 1961, and not 1962 as stated in my “birth certificate”.
The story goes like this:
There was this couple by the name of Maskam and Som. Maskam is of Javanese origin, whose parents hailed from Parit Kudus, Pontian while Som was a Kelantanese lass. Maskam is still alive but Som passed away a few years ago. You can read here about Maskam when we went to visit him last year. He is now remarried to another Kelantanse lady (widow with a few children).
Anyway, let’s flash back to early 1960s:
Maskam worked for Singapore Telecom. His mum was a midwife at the Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital in Singapore. This hospital was regularly mentioned in P Ramlee’s movies. Maskam and Som then, being a childless couple, started adopting babies who were given away, and mostly by mothers who delivered their babies at that hospital.
By 1961, before I was adopted, Maskam had personally adopted 1 boy and 2 girls . The boy was from Boyan origin while the girls were Chinese.
My biological parents were poor, and when I was about to be given away, my mother was very sick. I was told that I have an elder brother, who cried when his little sister was taken away! My parents heard about the kind-hearted Maskam. Through a middle man, it was arranged for me to be taken away. Maskam told me that the day I was given away, my dad,who was a hawker, or was it a chicken rice peddler (someone who sells chicken rice on a 3-wheeler cycle) didn’t come home because he didn’t have the heart to see me being taken away. It was a drizzling dusk (maghrib time). My mother told Maskam that if she got to live longer, she would like to see me when I am a grown up. She said, it’s ok if Maskam doesn’t want to reveal who she was, it would suffice her to see me from afar!
That story never fails to touch my heart! At least I know that I was given away because my parents were poor and my mother was sick. Not because I was not wanted by my family. In those days, many Chinese families gave away their daughters because they believed that the girl would bring them bad luck if she was kept with them, and she’d be better elsewhere! Some of these families were not poor at all!
Unfortunately for us, in the 1970s, Singapore did a lot of development, and so many little villages were uprooted. Later in the 1980s, when Maskam was still working in Singapore, he couldn’t find the middleman who arranged for me to be given away.
Now, how did I become “bt Mohd zin” and not “bt Maskam”?
You see, Maskam had a close neighbour who was like his elder brother. That neighbour was Mohd Zin and his wife. Mohd Zin, a Bugis decendent from Muar, was married to Sepiah (the only mother I know), who was also a Kelantanese, like Som.
Som was then a Cabaret dancer (yes! just like in P Ramlee’s movies), and she worked at night. Maskam would send and fetch her. While Som was away, it was Sepiah (a housewife who made kuihs to be sold at food stalls) who took care of Maskam’s kids.In those days life was tough that men had no second thoughts for their wives to be cabaret dancers, as long as they could bring home more dough!
One day Maskam was informed that he got a unit at the Telecom Quarters in Paya Lebar (I remember vividly the place. I used to visit the place and had many great times there). When Som was to leave the neighbourhood, Sepiah asked for Maskam and Som to give her (& Mohd Zin) one of the 2 baby girls (that was Misah and me). I don’t know how it was done ,but since I was 3 months younger than Misah, I was then given away. Later, Sepiah came back to Kelantan to re-register my birth, hence the birth certificate was issued in 1962, about 1 year later. I only came to know of my actual year of birth because Misah’s birth certificate was the original one, with “adoption” stated on it. Ramisah was born in early 1961 (I can’t remember the month). By the way, Misah had surrendered her Singapore citizenship, and is happily married to a Kelantanese.
Despite living apart, both families visited each other as much as they can. Sepiah, at that time had a son from a previous marriage, but no child with Mohd Zin. That son is the brother that I recently visited. Apart from that son, Sepiah had an elder son who was brought up by his grand auntie in Kelantan. Anyway, my brother and I used to call Maskam “Bapak” and Som, “Mak Som” while their kids called Mohd Zin “Abah” and Sepiah “Mak Yah”.
How did I come to know that I was adopted? Wait for the next chapter, hahaha!!!!
So, I just wonder, with the advance of Internet, would I be able to trace my biological brother, who cried when I was taken away? Or for all we know, My mum is still alive? Wouldn’t that be a great gift for my Mother’s Day this year?