New Pb 431 pp.
This is a story about one girl’s dream to escape poverty and fulfil her ambitions. Set against the rich social and political backdrop of war-torn Malaya’s independence, the child’s viewpoint tells a personal story of family life and individual survival in the multi-cultural, multi-religious melting pot of Malaya, as it was then known.
The trials of smallpox and poverty are contrasted with key moments such as meeting Mr Nehru and greeting Mrs Indira Ghandi. Lily Forbes served as a cadet in the Indian National Army, following in her father’s footsteps (he had fought in Burma during World War Two).
unwanted love interest was followed by a traumatic incident. In an ironic twist
of fate, failure in her exams turned Lily’s destiny around. She returned from
India to Malaysia.
the heart of this tale lies forbidden love, a passion for food, and the
tenacity to pursue dreams despite surroundings.
book is centred on the early part of my life, based largely in Malaysia but
partly in India, before I left for England at the age of twenty-two. I was born
into a life without electricity or running water.
during British rule had a population mix of Malay, Chinese and Indians with a mixture
of cultures and religions. I was one of nine children raised in some poverty,
growing up in a rural village, and a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. My mother’s
talents as a seamstress supplemented my Dad’s wages as a railway worker. The grounds
surrounding the house provided essential fruit and vegetables. Houses were
mainly built of wood. Wells provided water. One thing we did not go short of
was warmth; there was no need to worry about paying bills for central heating
with an average daily temperature above thirty degrees. Warmth was created too
in the form of a loving family.
was the first in my family to fly the nest, to live away from the continent of
Asia and experience a completely new way of life. I left Malaysia to come to
England to obtain a qualification in nursing with the full intention of
returning, but I met my future husband, broke from the Indian tradition of
marrying within the caste, and in the process made it easier for the next
generation to follow their hearts. We are now a multi-ethnic and multi-national
family, embracing Americans, Australians and Europeans.
life of the children in my family living in Malaysia today bears little
resemblance to my life and the conditions of my formative years. One of the main
reasons for writing this book is to show this and future generations a glimpse
into the way their roots were formed.
For all my descendants, both the current generation
and those of the future, I would like to think that there is something in this
book that will appeal to you. To anyone else reading this book with whom I have
no connection, I would like to share with you my experience of being born into
a country that was war-torn by occupying Japanese forces during the Second World
War and subsequently reclaimed by the British as part of their Empire. But Britain’s
influence and power was then on the wane as Malaya worked towards gaining full
independence, achieving this in August 1957. Six years later what is now known as
Malaysia was formed with Singapore (for a period between 1963-1965), Sarawak
and Sabah. As I am learning to deal with life’s challenges, so too is Malaysia,
a young and independent country that is still learning to make its own
decisions after so many years of British rule."