My first lesson in history began when I was just three years old. I was in Baling, Kedah, when the Baling Peace Talks was held at the Tunku Putra English School. I started my primary education at the same school a few years later. My father was a government officer at the Baling District Office for almost seven years before he was transfered to The Treasury in Kuala Lumpur. We were staying in the government quarters about 300 metres from the school. I don’t rememember anything from the incident but I think I learned several new words from the crowd that gathered around my house that day. They were “Tunku Abdul Rahman, Chin Peng and communist”. That would be my first informal introduction to the subject of history. Unfortunately, I fared badly in the subject despite the early exposure, much to the chagrin of my late father who seemed to enjoy it as much as I loathed it.
Like all the other Malaysians in the 70’s, I was aware of the fighting that was going on between the armed forces and the communists but it did not deter me from tying the knot with a military man. My mother, too, would not have consented giving away her only child in marriage had she been scared to death turning her daughter into a widow. So would my grandmother before her. Two of my aunties were married to Army officers. The truth was never really revealed, not even AFTER marriage! It only surfaced after my husband published his book three years ago!!!
It would be a lie to say that he did not breath a word to me about what was going on in the jungle. I knew that the Nuri was shot at many times. I knew that they fired at his aircraft twice. I knew that he had to ferry many soldiers, some dead, some seriously wounded out of the jungle. I knew that there was a raging war deep within the jungles. But they were told in such a casual manner that left me completely unsuspecting of the actual scenario. He immediately dispelled whatever fears that I had by convincing me that it would take hundreds of shots to bring down a big bird like the Nuri. Besides, they always flew so high it would be impossible for the bullets to reach them, conveniently omitting the part when they had to land and take off. I was young and naive and sufficiently SATISFIED with the explanation.I would be in for the biggest shock of my life soon after this.
Even at the Wives Club, there was no talk about whose husband was being shot at. They talked about everything else under the sun EXCEPT that. I would know who would be promoted, who would go for overseas courses, who would be appointed Flight Commnders or Squadron Commanders, who would be posted out, who would be coming in, etc, etc, etc, way ahead of my husband. BUT, there would be ZERO discussion on what went on inside the jungle. I used to wonder whether they knew what I knew. It only became apparent years later that they knew much, much more than me. Yes, the wives were a desciplined lot and I was slowly imitating them, both the good AND the bad.
To be continued………