This is my 100th post on this blog, a milestone indeed. I have learnt so much when writing this blog, a pleasure and privilege which I treasure very much. Learnt about my traditions and culture, learnt about this small corner of Singapore I live in, and above all, I have learnt about my family - by talking to other family members, and by searching through the wonderful Straits Times on-line archive.
From my father's family members, I learnt that my great-great-grandfather actually came to Singapore, something I never knew before. An earlier post recounts how his son, my great-grandfather settled in Singapore and brought the rest of the family over from China. My great-grandfather went into business with his cousin and other relatives, but politics would intervene to drive them apart. He was an ardent Republican, but his cousin harboured communist leanings and eventually went back (or was deported) to China. Slowly, my great-grandfather became a more prominent member of the business community. The Great Depression drove him to the brink of bankruptcy, but he built his business up again. The Straits Times quotes him as voicing opposition to the taxes on rice imposed by the British.
World War II came to Singapore, and my great-grandfather took his family to Johore where his brother lived. Alas, one of his brothers lost his life during the war, leaving his widow and young children behind.
I've told stories before about how my great-grandfather met his wife, my great-grandmother. On my mother's side, I have told the tale of her grandfather, the ang mo lang who came from Britain to make his fortune in the Far East. His son, my grandfather, would become a teacher and principal of a boy's school here, leaving his stamp on the next generation of young people - who would turn out to be the first generation of Singaporeans who grew up and brought up their families in an independent Singapore.
Sharing these stories with other people led them to share their own. An aunt on my mother's side told me about her father. Orphaned at an early age, he left his home in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for a distant island called Singapore. He did not tell his mother - just left her a note to inform her of his intentions, or so the story goes. He came to Singapore, met my grand-aunt and married her during WWII when they were both in Bahau (the Eurasian settlement created by the Japanese in Malaysia). Another story, about my mother's mother's brother, who sailed away many years ago to a distant land called America. Today, his son returns to the country where his father was born, to meet the relatives he has never known.
So many stories, so many stories yet unheard and untold. And other people have their stories too, of their families, their grandfathers and great-grandfathers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They grew up and grew old, contributing to the society around them even as their lives were rocked by the turbulent times in which they lived. Collectively, their lives are like threads in a pattern, woven in and into the fabric of the history of a country called Singapore.