Friday, February 01, 2013

Stories of long ago: Life-long gratitude

It struck me that nowadays, we seldom see demonstrations of life-long gratitude and sacrifice. What I mean by that is a a visible act of gratitude that really costs you something your whole life long.

My ponderings brought to mind two stories from my mother’s family…


The first story ~ A Life for a Life

My mother once told me the story of how my great grandfather fell into the clutches of the Japanese soldiers during the Japanese invasion of Malaya in the Second World War. It was the harrowing tale of how he was tortured mercilessly, then dragged off to prison. All because he had missed curfew.

He would have remained in prison if not for the intervention of a Malay man who helped bail him out. All he asked as a token was that if the baby my great grandmother was carrying at that time happened to be a girl, to give the baby to him. My grandfather flippantly said yes on the spot.

As it turned out, my great grandmother did give birth to a girl. So as promised, the baby was reluctantly was given away. How it must have torn them. But a promise was a promise. A life for a life. His gratitude had costs him his own baby daughter. The sting of the sacrifice must have shadowed him for the rest of his life.

To dive further into the history pages, you can read my mum’s account of this story.


The Second Story ~ Free Pratha for Life

223951_10151013794991276_2103848204_nThis next story is a happier one. It’s an often told story of how my grandfather (my mother’s father) had won the lifelong privilege to enjoy free roti pratha every day. And not just any ordinary pratha, but the BEST roti pratha in Batu Pahat, Johor, and some say in Malaysia.

My grandfather was a enterprising and well connected man in the village where my mother grew up. My mother tells me that he was looked up to by everyone as a sort of leader in their village.

The story goes that one day, a young Malay man came to him desperately seeking advice as his wife was dying. My grandfather advised him of a certain medicine or remedy to use. The man followed his advice and thankfully his wife was cured. The exact details of the miracle remedy in the story is rather vague. But the point is, his wife was saved and everyone was happy.

The young Malay man was an enterprising fellow who had a food stall selling roti pratha. In gratitude for helping to save his wife’s life, he promised my grandfather that he could eat at his stall any time, every day, absolutely free, for the rest of his life. If that is not lifelong gratitude, I don’t know what is.

And so to this very day, almost every morning, my grandfather heads out to the fellow’s stall to enjoy the best roti pratha in Batu Pahat, Johor, and some say in Malaysia… absolutely free.

To delve further back into history, you can read my mum’s account of my grandfather’s childhood.


This post is part of my series on Stories of Long Ago


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