I interviewed my grandmother, who shared the story of her birth (and how she was given away), life on the cash crop plantations on Pulau Ubin (and through the Japanese Occupation), as well as her eventual move to mainland Singapore in the 1950s.
Read “Given Away At Birth“, and here’s a short excerpt:
“有人要你就好了”, Jie Liu (揭六) said in Cantonese, hours after his seventh daughter, Pang Tai Quee (彭大娇), was born in the early morning of September 26, 1939, on Pulau Ubin. She was the ninth of 10 children. It was a baby boy her father wanted, and seven days later she was given away to his friend, Pang Heng (彭兴). Opium brought both men together, who had to take 25-cent boat rides to buy packets of the substance from Changi back home, and had to dump them into the sea when the sirens of police boats blared in the distance.
Smoking opium in the afternoon, even though possession was illegal without certificates from a medical practitioner since 1934, eased the exhaustion of Madam Pang’s foster father – albeit temporarily. “He earned seven or eight dollars a day at the granite quarry”, she recalls, “but the labour of mining granite, which was sent in barges back to the mainland for construction, was backbreaking”.