At the doorstep of hell….well,almost.
As I was growing up, dad used to tell me about the Japanese atrocities. In his twilight years, while I was taking care of him, he told them to me all over again.
When the Japanese came to Malaya in December 1941, dad was just a young man of 21, staying in Kampung Merantin, Batu Gajah, Perak. He was an apprentice in a workshop but war changed everything.
The British had retreated and the locals were left to defend themselves against the aggressors. The men folk kept vigil at home while the women hid in the nearby jungle to escape from being rape by the soldiers.
One night, the Japanese came to his village and those nearby. Using loud hailers, they commanded all the young men in the villages to come out or else risk being shot at. These young men were then round up and marched to a field in nearby Changkat. They were made to stay there until dawn.
Early the next morning, they are told that some of them will be chosen and sent to help build the Burma Siam Railway at the Burmese border.
A Japanese soldier sat at the desk, handing out pieces of white papers to the young men. In these papers were written the word ‘Go’ while some were just blank. They were given out alternatively. Those who receive the paper with the word ‘Go’ were made to queue in a row ready to be on their way. Those who received the blank papers were to be sent back to their respective villages.
When it came to his turn to come forward to collect his paper, dad became very anxious and worried about his fate. He hesitated and paused for a moment. In a flash, a Japanese soldier was pointing his rifle at dad and the guy behind was barking furiously at him to hasten up. He even pushed dad violently forward.
Confused, dad quickly stepped aside and said,” If you are so impatient, why not you go first?”
Without a word, this guy just shoved dad aside and surged forward to collect his paper and his face turned pale. He got the paper with the word ‘Go’ which was actually meant for dad. And as for dad, he got the blank paper which was meant for that impatient guy.
Many of his friends went and as far as he knew, none came back. Some died from starvation or disease while many were tortured to death. Dad managed to earn another 66 years of life, succumbing to a bout of pneumonia at the age of 87 on 24th April 2007.
This piece is specially dedicated to my beloved dad,Yip Hee, may he rest in peace in Nirvana.