Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.

"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Su Min
I was conferred the degree of MB,ChB on July 24, 1946, on which day, by a coincidence Rosie had her second baby, a son Su Min. In the circumstances, it can be understood that the event was unplanned, but what was more unplanned was that she had to have the baby at home. We had made arrangements for a second visit to the nursing home where Sing Po was born, but when the time neared for Rosie to be delivered, it was learned that Sing Po had measles. It was our practice to leave Sing Po in her pram on the side-walk outside our apartment, to get a bit of sun and fresh-air. Many of the neighbourhood children would stop by her pram and chat with her and most likely, one of them had passed measles to her. The nursing home could not admit the mother of a child with measles so Rosie spent a couple of days cleaning out our spare bed-room scrubbing every corner twice on her hands and knees.

Dr. Little who had delivered Sing Po, also delivered Su Min for whom we had a name ready. The literal meaning of Su was “to exhort” or “to save” and the meaning of “Min” was “people” and Su Mm could be taken to mean “a saviour of his people”, brave words! The pun was that “Su” was also the Chinese word for “Scot” as in Scotland. Thus we had two children, one of whom reminded us of our home, and the other of o home-from-home. Truly, Xiao Qian had given us two great names. Prophetic, too, was another usage of “Su”, for the same word is used in the name “Jesus”, and “Su Min” was indeed an appropriate name for one who became a pillar of the Singapore Wesley Methodist Church! Thus was fulfilled for Su Min the Christian prayer that Christ should dwell in us.

The spare bed-room that I glibly mentioned above came about because Chong Eu had graduated and had gone away for his housemanship postings, after which he left for Chungking by the Burmah Road to work for my Uncle Robert, and to serve the land of his ancestors. It was our understanding too, that when I had finished my studies, I would follow him, although the plan was made before Sing Po was born and had not been reviewed. I discussed the idea with Rosie a few times, and she never dampened my enthusiasm in any way, so I took it for granted that she agreed.

Before Su Min was born I had enrolled in a Chess Tournament scheduled for Nottingham, hoping that the timing would be right. I think the baby was a bit late coming and I had forgotten about going to Nottingham when Rosie said that I should go. I hesitated about leaving Rosie just two weeks after the baby was born, but she insisted that she would be all right. So, after making a stock of chicken aspic for her, off I went to Nottingham. I was to be away just over a week, but after three days, Rosie phoned me in the students’ hostel where I was staying, and a wonder it was she could find me. Her tale of woe was that Sing Po and Su Min both had whooping cough; Su Min was hospitalized and she had to be with him; could I come home and look after Sing Po? No question! I packed hastily and took the next train back to Edinburgh.

Very likely, one of the neighbourhood kids had passed whooping cough to Sing Po and she had brought it into the house. At barely three weeks of age, whooping cough was no fun for Su Min whom the doctor promptly put into intensive care in the infectious diseases hospital. Best thing for the baby they said was mother’s milk. Would Mrs. Lim like to continue nursing, and at three hourly intervals? There was no accommodation in the hospital for mothers, so Rosie put an advertisement in the newspapers which promptly got her a bed in a home near the hospital. She could only stay there at night, though, and day-time, she had to commute from Sciennes Road. Some kind soul lent us a bicycle and Rosie would cycle to the hospital to give Su Min his rations, then cycle home for a quick snack and nap, then off again to the hospital. A small problem was that Rosie was not very good at cycling and the route was a bit up-hill and down-hill. She could not trust herself to make right-hand turns against any on-coming traffic, so she had to get off and walk round the corner. Getting off the bicycle was another problem and more often than not, getting off meant applying the brakes and falling off. Rosie was covered with bruises and abrasions before long. Her exertions could not have been helpful to her milk production and it was a wonder that Su Min got enough antibodies to help him over the critical period and I think he had supplementary feeds of milk formula. I don’t recall how long he was in hospital, but by and by both babies recovered and we brought Su Mm back to Sciennes Road.

As winter was approaching, I thought it high time I should return home. We had learned by letters from Singapore that my father and my mother both had died, he in Singapore, and she in China. Rosie’s mother, however, was already back in Singapore. There had been no news from Chong Eu, so I thought the best thing to do was to return to Singapore and await events. When I wrote to the Colonial office to ask them for a passage home, I tentatively asked also if I could apply for a job in the Malayan Medical Service. I was told that to do this, I should have to get back to Singapore first. I learned later that the Colonial Office did recruit doctors for the Colonial Medical Service, but only from among their own people. “Natives” such as I got recruited locally into the Malayan Medical Service.

It was in the spring of 1947 that we got our passages on a troopship that was formerly a P&O liner. We spent some time in London awaiting departure and stayed with Rosie’s brother Eu Jin who had qualified in architecture in Perth and was on some post-graduate studies. To my surprise, my old friend Ong Swee Keng was sharing Eu Jin’s apartment. Swee Keng had been teaching school, but was now studying law. As we had a little time, we parked the children with a child-care place named “Universal Aunts” and went to Pans to see what we could see. We climbed the Eifel Tower, of course, and saw the famous show at the Bal Tabarin night club. The Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand in the original French at the Comedie Francais was most interesting because we had just seen the English version in London. Cyrano’s despairing cry “Too late, too late!” at the end of Act 2 lives vividly in my memory.
There were separate quarters for men and women on the troopship and Rosie took our babies with her. To give her some relief, I would take Su Min in his pram on deck, once we had left the Bay of Biscay. Poor boy, he had not yet learned to walk, having been confined to his carry-cot or pram in the past few months. Eight men shared my cabin, my companions being Singaporeans and Malaysians who had been to London to attend the Victory Parade, something I had not heard of. What I did not realize until much later, was that some of them were members of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army that had fought in the Malayan jungles against the Japanese, and later returned to the jungle to fight against the British. For all I know, Chin Peng might have been one of them. They made no move to make friends with me and I was too engrossed with my family to try to get to know them.


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