Sunday, May 26, 2013

Alphabe-Thursday for letter B: By gone era.

 Mung beans before they are cooked.
I added lotus seeds, not traditional or authentic, but I am not a traditional person.
Sweetened with cane sugar. A nice warm soup to eat on a cold autumn day or in Borneo on a sunny afternoon.

           Grandmother Chan had a mui zai (slave.) Her parents bought this poor girl to serve Grandmother for the rest of her life.
My father, John remembered fondly of Grandmother’s mui zai  whom he called Ah Jia, (big sister.) In fact he saw her more than he saw Grandmother. She kindly separated the rough green husk of the sweet mung bean soup, so he would have it as a smooth watery thick soup. 
There was talk that the British government in Malaya and Singapore was going to pass a bill to emancipate slaves. Those not releasing the slaves would be punished.
To preempt this, when this mui zai was 16, a marriageable age, Grandfather Kee Seng arranged for a suitable mate and married her off. This was much to the aghast of Grandmother. Grandmother whinged that this mui zai was paid for by her parents; therefore she was her property. This mui zai was her slave for life.  Grandfather Chan had no right to sell her property. 
But Grandfather would not have any part of this old feudal slavery system. They married her off to someone up the Rejang River.
The emancipation law was never passed and Grandfather never heard the end of Grandmother harping on and on about it.
Some of those mui zais maintained a good relationship, coming back to the family as though they were part of the family. In many cases where they had suffered abuse from their owner and hated them; they never came back to visit.  Some, their new family forbide them to. Grandmother’s mui zai  never came back.

Father did meet the mui zai many years later. Father was on official duty in a school near where she was married off to. She came and was hesitant to talk to Father, now an official of the government. She wanted Father to help her grand children to get into teachers’ college.  
She said quietly that it wasn’t that she didn’t want to visit the Chans, it was because she was not allowed to. She had been emancipated from one family into the slavery of another. She mentioned what a good family she had grown up in, and she would rather be old and single and be a mui zai in the Chan’s home. 


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