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Day 7, 8 and 9

Saturday, Sunday and Monday

It was Mr. Vaidhyanathan Iyer’s idea to move to Sankokoshi Estate, a Japanese owned oil palm plantation. His convincing rationale was that since it was Japanese owned it would be safe from attacks. As soon as we arrived in the estate we occupied one of the abandoned houses, a Japanese style house with sliding doors and mats everywhere. The workers and bosses had obviously left.
Peace reigned and we could breathe a little easily after six days of anxiety and fatigue. I was obviously not privy to the thoughts and worries of the adults, or even my mother’s fear for my father’s safety. But from what I know of my mother, she was always a stoic and strong woman, and so she was probably resigned to whatever destiny had in store for her and her three children.

In any case, oblivious to the cares of the grown-ups, I spent days seven, eight and nine exploring the beautiful estate. Fruit trees laden with guava and mangoes, a crystal clear stream where we could see goldfish swimming and abandoned railway trolleys meant for palm fruit were enough to keep me and the other children fully occupied and happy. The camaraderie among the different refugees was inspiring with everyone pitching in in different ways. The women helped each other with cooking while the men worked with each to fortify the place as best as they could. They gathered sticks, homemade spears and other weapons for protection and bicycled to nearby villages for supplies, produce and groceries.

Into this idyllic setting, a group of bedraggled Australian soldiers on the run, remnants of a defeated British Army, staggered. Exhausted and broken in spirit, they appealed for some food. They were extremely appreciative of the biscuits and soft drinks that we gave them. They set off for an unknown destination after eating and drinking and all we could do was to wish them well.

As if to signal the end of the war and the fall of the British in Malaya and the Straits Settlements, a squadron of low flying Japanese planes flew over the estate. We watched the Singapore bound planes that were on their way to consolidate Japanese victory over the British. The war was over...but our troubles? Not quite.

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