It was the 1940s. The Malay peninsular was under British colonization. Somewhere in a little town down south, a young Malay man passed his Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination. During the time when Malays hardly finish school, let alone sit for HSC, much less passing one, the young man was a high achiever. He was the first in his family to get such qualification. The British-led local government quickly took notice. Soon, he began his job with the District Office.
Across the road from the District Office, there was a small Chinese settlement. A Chinese girl in her late teens lived there with her family. Everyday she saw many different people passing by her house to go to the little town. One of them was the Malay guy. She saw him much more often than the others as he passed by her house everyday on his way to work. From exchanging smiles to casual chats, they quickly found much in common. Before they knew it, they were an item.
The guy knew there was no way they could be together. He was Malay, she was Chinese. He was Muslim, she was Buddhist. Her father would never let it happen, the old man already made plans to marry her off to a shop owner from a nearby town, a man of her own kind.
But he loved her, only her. And she loved him, only him. They had to be together. Being a teenager, her life was legally owned by her parents. She would have to wait a few more years till she became 21 before she could make her own decision.
They both knew time was not on their side. If they waited any longer, they would be separated forever. The girl made up her mind. She would listen to her heart. She would leave home and go with her guy. After all, he wasn't just any guy. He was a guy with a decent job, a bright future and a heart filled with love just for her.
Off she went to follow him, a pair of lovebirds that they were, making their own destiny. He brought her to a nice Muslim family. They would take care of her, hide her from anyone who tried to find her and teach her how to be a Muslim. They would be her adopted family. She would live with them and they would treat her like their own daughter.
For a while, she had to stay in the attic, not allowed to go out, fearing that the news would leak to those looking for her. Her guy would come often to visit. He would tell her stories of what was happening in the outside world and bring her gifts to cheer her up. Most importantly, he would bring her chocolates, for he knew how much she loved chocolates.
A few years passed and she turned 21. Finally, she could embrace Islam and marry her guy. They wasted no time. She assumed her new Muslim name and became his wife.
He treated her like a princess. In the evening when he finished his work, he would take her for a drive around the little town, something that she enjoyed very much. It didn't bother him that he just got home after a long day in the office, or that he hadn't shower, he just wanted to make her happy. Once she had a bad toothache in the middle of the night, he went to a pharmacy and pounced on the door so hard to wake up the owner so he could get something to ease her pain.
Along came children and their lives were complete. His career flourished, he got an offer for a new post in Kuala Lumpur. His young family rejoiced.
But as destiny would have it, their happy moments were not for long. Before the move even materialized, he was struck by a serious illness. His once chubby body became thin and frail. After much suffering, he returned to his maker, leaving her behind with three young children below the age of five.
She was devastated. The love of her life was gone. She was a new Muslim, a young mother, a runaway. She had young children to raise but no job to earn money from. All the while she had depended on her husband, he was her pillar of support. Suddenly he was gone.
She learned to survive by doing odd jobs. She sold food at a school canteen. She had talent for sewing and embroidery, she didn’t waste it, turning it into small cash here and there. Life to her was a struggle. Yet, she made sure her children received good education. As for herself, she held on to her new religion. Her adopted family made a good job instilling her with strong fundamentals of a good Muslim. Challenges came from all corners, she weathered them one after another. If she didn’t have anything else, she had faith.
Years passed and a proposal came along. An elderly man wanted to take her under his wings, making her his second wife. She had not much to win, even less to lose. Soon they were married. They were blessed with a daughter. Not long after, the elderly man passed away. Once again, she was a widow. But this time around, she was no longer alone. Her older children had grown up. She had made amends with her own family. She was in a different stage in life than she was in previously.
Time went by, her life went on. She watched her children grew up, went to college, earned good jobs, got married and had their own kids. Her hard work had paid off, she was blessed. Amidst the wonderful things she had, not a day went by that she didn’t remember her first love. He was always on her mind. Every time her children and grandchildren asked her about him, tears brimmed in her eyes, reminiscing the old days when he was still around, making her smile.
As she braced through old age, her turn to meet her maker fast approached. She was given a notice in the form of frail health, during which she prepared herself for the ultimate journey. At first she was scared. Closer to the day, she was ready. Her children whispered the sacred words of “La ilaha illa Allah” into her ears and she repeated after them. In the calmness of the night, in the home that witnessed her colorful life, she answered the call to the thereafter.
Tears rolled down the faces of the loved ones that she left behind. As much as they knew it was the best for her, their hearts were filled with sorrow. Her children and grandchildren kissed her forehead one last time. Her brother and sister, despite their religious differences, came to the burial ground to send her off to her final destination. She was laid to rest at the same cemetery where her guy, the love of her life, her one true love, was buried many years before.
After only a short life with each other, the time finally came for two loving souls to reunite with one another. The Malay guy and the Chinese girl could now be together, forever and ever.
And they lived happily ever after, in the thereafter.
The guy was my grandfather, the girl was my grandmother. This is their story, based on the recollection of people close to them, who saw them fell in love, came together and forced apart. I put this in writing so it won’t be lost in time, so I will never forget where I came from, so in many years to come the later generations will know what made us a family…
…so in the end, this sad week shall pass with a beautiful happy ending.