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  • My parent’s love story started with the love of ‘durian’, the King of Fruit.

    In 1984 during a hot and sticky durian season, my Chinese Dad, Tan Kim Seong met my Indian Mum, Mathevi Malaiethan in a durian plantation in Merlimau, Malacca. What was originally a durian plantation visit and feast amongst friends turned out to be the day my parents first met and fell in love with each other.

    In the midst of all the durians, Dad took up the courage to ask Mum for a date.

    At home, when my maternal grandfather, Malaiethan found out about their date, he forbade my Mum from ever seeing him.

    He said to her, “He is a Chinese man - you have to marry an Indian Hindu man. He doesn’t even have a government job…..only a technician in a factory.”

    “No, I don’t agree for you to see him!”

    Back then, a phone was hard to get to, so Mum and Dad found it hard to communicate. Thankfully, their friends were very understanding and helped pass notes and messages for them.

    Mum and Dad had a difficult time convincing both their parents about their relationship. Dad’s side of the family finally relented after hours of talk.

    On the maternal side, Mum tried many times to convince my grandfather but failed. She even tried to get help from her relatives to talk to him but to no avail.

    Seeing how upset Mum had become, my grandfather had arranged for Mum to be married to a local teacher. Being a strong willed woman, Mum refused.

    It was only after my maternal great grandfather, M.A. Nambiar, had intervened and advised my grandfather to accept my Dad that he began to soften his stance.

    My grandfather placed Mum on a curfew, and restricted her from meeting Dad for a few months while he investigated my Dad’s family and background.

    In the next few months, Dad was totally heartbroken and decided to migrate to Canada to complete his higher education.

    His plans were diverted when my grandfather eventually accepted my Dad’s proposal and took steps to ensure that he would provide enough for my Mum’s future.

    Dad used to say that his journey to marriage was a difficult one - financially and emotionally. He had come from a very poor family and to meet the costs of the wedding, he had to work day and night to save up for it. He worked in an electronic factory during the day, and would sort vegetables at night.

    Because of his handiness around the house, Dad also offered to help my grandfather whenever there were repairs or renovations that needed to be done. This helped sweeten the deal for the marriage.

    Culturally, Dad had never been exposed to the Indian culture and Hindu customs, so he had to patiently follow orders from my grandfather and Mum. Likewise, with Mum, she had to adapt to the Chinese side but she found it easier than my Dad.

    Two years on, they finally married with the blessing from both sides of the family.

    Dad said to me “If it wasn’t for your great grandfather Nambiar for convincing your Mum’s father, there wouldn’t be a wedding.

    And of course, without our love for durians, you wouldn’t be here!”

    Till today, the sight and smell of durians will bring them back to the good old days of romance.

    Submitted by Hema Tan Sui Lan for The Chindian Diaries.
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