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  • This is the story of my father-in-law, Narayan Muthu and mother in law, Lim Ah Chwa.

    A story of two different worlds meeting and making a new life together in Malaysia, despite the hardships during World War II.

    An Indian national from Madurai, South India, Narayan was a soldier in the Indian Army. During the early 1940's, he was transferred from India to Malaya by the British government.  

    Only in his early 20’s, he left his family to live in Malaya. While serving his time as a soldier, he also took up part time work as a driver for a British Governor.

    After some time, Narayan was appointed to join the British Governor  in a rubber plantation estate called North Labis Estate, situated in the district of Labis, Johor. He was ordered to live in one of the worker’s quarters.

    It was around this time during the Japanese Occupation that Narayan witnessed riots, commotions and fights between the Japanese soldiers and the locals.

    He remembers one day meeting a Chinese family who was hiding from the Japanese army. He helped them to vacate the area and took them in his car. Later, he found a small wooden house near his quarters and sheltered them there. Little did Narayan realise that this family would someday become his family.

    They were so deeply grateful to him for the new life that he had given them, that they suggested Narayan marries their daughter, Lim Ah Chwa.

    A Chinese national from Guangzhou, China, Ah Chwa had migrated to Malaysia when she was a teenager. After her father was killed in the war, her mother decided to flee China and relocate the family to Malaya.

    By then, her mother had married another Chinese national and started a new life in Malaya. They worked hard as rubber tappers and had six children of their own.

    As food was scarce then and they had a big family, Ah Chwa grew up in poverty. Their meal for the whole day would be tapioca and black coffee.

    On most days, her parents would fear heading out to work as they were afraid of being captured.

    By this time, Ah Chwa had also grown into a beautiful young lady. Her parents insisted that she stayed indoors and away from the Japanese soldiers. There were many cases of young women being taken away to be 'comfort' women for the senior officials.

    Seeing how the family was struggling with hardship, Narayan offered his help. 

    As he was living alone, he helped them with whatever extra he had from his employer - things like rice, groceries, clothing and kerosene.

    What started out as his desire to help the family, had also unexpectedly brought Narayan and Ah Chwa closer.

    Both of them could only communicate with broken Malay that they had picked up and some sign language. Neither could speak the other's language.

    Despite their language barriers, they soon developed feelings for each other.

    After World World II ended, they decided to tie the knot.

    Before their first child was born, they moved to Kluang and started their new life together in an oil palm plantation called Coronation Estate. 

    They were blessed with thirteen children. All of them have different skin tones, ranging from very fair to very dark skintones, and everything in between.

    Fortunately, they were never discriminated in public or schools, except to be mistaken as “budak Melayu” (Malay kids) most of the times.

    Whenever I tell the story of Narayan and Ah Chwa, it always strikes a chord with everyone.

    Theirs was a tale of love, hardship and language barriers. As they say in life, "Love is blind"

    Story as told by Malar Subramaniam for The Chindian Diaries
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