MY parents were of south Indian origin and came from the state of Tamil Nadu. My mother was a beautiful lady with fair skin and was staying in the town of Kamunting, Perak, when my father first met her.
My father, a cook for a rubber estate manager, was dark. He was captivated by my mother’s looks and married her.
My father took my mother to the estate and taught her to tap rubber and when she was good enough she joined the estate work force.
Every day she would get up early and set off to answer the roll call before going into the field to tap rubber with two metal pails dangling on either end of pole balanced over her shoulders.
Mosquitoes were a nuisance and deadly snakes were abundant in the rubber estate, and tigers were also often spotted. The workers had to brave all these creatures to make a living.
Many amenities were lacking. There was no electricity or tap water in the estate then. They depended on wells, rain and the river for water. They went into the bushes to answer the call of nature.
My mother became pregnant soon and she went to work, with me in her womb. She was still working on the day her water bag burst and had to be rushed to hospital.
I was born on Aug 15, 1947, the day India achieved its independence. She was the happiest person in the estate and everyone came to congratulate my mum.
It was an auspicious day for the Indians. I was considered a lucky baby. Even though I was pitch dark, to my mum I was the fairest baby on earth.
When she went to tap rubber I was left in the hands of the estate nanny known as Ayamah and when work was over my mother would come running to fetch me at the estate nursery with great speed and relief. She would hug and kiss me as if I had been lost and found after many months.
Her love for me was unconditional and she would starve to feed me. Later, she took me with her when she went to tap rubber and I would help her clean the rubber cups.
When an ant bit me, she would shamelessly cry with me. I cried more on seeing her cry and that would make her cry, even more.
As I grew up I got sick many times, mostly due to malaria, and as I shivered she would be by my side to console and nurse me back to health. Every tear from my eyes would break her heart. She bled inside her and shed a thousand tears for every tear of mine.
When I reached schooling age my father was not keen on sending me to school because hardly any estate boy succeeded in school. My mother never went to school and she did want me to be deprived of an education and she insisted that I go to school and so I went.
I had to walk several kilometres to school come rain or shine and she would not fail to give me a few coins to quench my thirst.
However, it was never enough because of the extreme heat so I resorted to stealing coins from her copper containers which she kept at the alter.
She knew that it was me who emptied the containers. She scared me by saying that God would make the person who stole the coins blind without pointing the finger at me.
I was worried for a week but as I was still able to see it only encouraged me to continue with my thieving ways.
As I faced my examinations and late night studying, she was there to make me coffee and my suffering less painful.