Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Gong Xi Fa Cai," says Jessica of Hot Legs Nightclub & Karaoke

“I wish my heartiest Gong Xi Fa Cai to all Chinese readers of The Wordslinger blog,” says Jessica. “May joy, wealth and health be with you today and always.”

Why are men crazy about Malay GROs?

My post titled “Hot, sexy Malay girls: karaoke lounges in KL to book them for a fling” in 2011 has garnered almost 130,000 hits to date (Jan 2020), which works out to an average of 1,300 hits per month. This is my post with the second highest number of hits. Why are so many men seeking this kind of information? I am flummoxed. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Remember to deposit money in your bank on Li Chun Day (Feb 4, 2020), advises feng shui consultant Sifu Sabrina

Li Chun is the beginning of spring which falls on February 4, 2020,” says Sifu Sabrina, looking up from a feng shu text (pix above). “This day is auspicious for depositing money in your bank account! However, you must wear red. CEOs of companies should also deposit cash or a cheque in their business accounts. Money deposited on this special day will grow and multiply!” Her lips bloom into a smile to reveal teeth as white as Mandarin orange seeds. “Gong Xi Fa Cai!”


Sample Chapter 2 of "Burma Road Driver, Resistance Fighter"

                                                                Chapter 2


Inside Great Southern Hotel, the iron-cage lift jolted to a halt and Kwong Eng-Liang pulled apart the scissor-grille door. He and his room-mate, a reedy and dark man, stepped out. They walked down the wide corridor to the hotel’s diner, Southern Restaurant. At its entrance, Eng-Liang stopped and gave the place a once-over.  More than twenty tables draped with spick-and-span white cloths filled the restaurant. Cardboard signs scrawled with “Reserved for Nanyang Transport Volunteers” sat on several tables. There were views of the star-lit night in two open windows adorned with arabesque-designed grilles set at one wall.  From a juke box, over the babble, Shanghai singer Pai Kwang was crooning a Mandarin song titled I Am Waiting for You in her trade-mark dark voice

“Shall we sit near a window?” his companion asked. “I like to enjoy the view.”


Eng-Liang and his companion started to tread between tables.

Earlier in the morning, he had taken a Malayan Railway train from Kuala Lumpur and had reached Singapore in the afternoon.  He had ridden a trishaw to the Ee Hoe Hean Club at No 43, Bukit Basoh Road, which served as the headquarters of the China Relief Fund. After his registration, a female clerk had told him to check into Great Southern Hotel, located at Cross Street, which had agreed to provide accommodation and food for Nanyang Transport Volunteers. Two men shared a room, while a woman was given sole occupancy.

Eng-Liang’s gaze froze at the sight of a woman—probably in her mid-twenties—occupying a table in the centre.  A rose among the thorns! Such a feisty girl! And pleasant-looking from what I observe from here.  Women with a strong personality attracted him. He and his elder brother had been raised by a tough mother who had often fought with his drunkard father.

Eng-Liang sized up the two men sitting across the woman and chatting with her.  The stocky man was in his early twenties. His rawboned companion was tanned, not more than thirty in age. Probably both are coolies, he sneered mentally. Breaking away from his room-mate, he strode to the table and drew out a chair beside the woman. He introduced himself in English, “Sorry to interrupt. My name’s Kwong Eng-Liang. May I sit here?” 

The woman flicks her gaze up. “You’ve pulled yourself a seat,” she said, her perfectly sculpted brows inching up, “haven’t you?” She wore a high-collared floral print top with matching pants in orange. 

The blunt words startled Eng-Liang but he gazed at her with warm, melting eyes, flashing a forced smile. Sagging his body slightly, he gestured to the seat with an open palm.  “May I?” he asked again.

His heart fluttered when she upturned her lips in a half-smile. “Of course.”

Eng-Liang sat down and exchanged pleasantries with the other two men. He segued to compliment the plush accommodation and the facilities within the hotel.  Everyone nodded and praised the generosity of its owner, Eu Tong Sen. Eng-Liang threw a distant glance at his room-mate– now seated at a window table–who fired back an annoyed expression. I don’t give a hoot to him, he mused. This woman’s more important.

The preliminaries in courtesy with the two men over, Eng-Liang turned to the woman beside him, his eyes lit in a sensual gleam. “You haven’t told me your name,” he said.  Her eyes, though small, sparkled with zest, warming his heart.  Her high nose bridge conveyed an air of elegance.  Her rosebud lips fascinated him.  Such kissable lips, even without lipstick!  From her head, two braids hung at the sides of her squarish face, revealing peaches-and-cream complexion.  Though not exactly buxom, nature had endowed her with a svelte figure with everything in the right proportions in her five-feet-five frame.

“My name’s Su Liu-Shan. Just call me by my first name.  After all, we’re compatriots in the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement.”

“Actually, we’re small cogs in the war effort. Like pawns in a chess game.”

“Every bit of contribution counts. Individuals working as a team accomplish more compared to those acting independently. It’s like machinery.  Each part has its own function. But by combining all the functions, a more powerful function results.”

Impressed with her logical faculties, Eng-Liang felt drawn to her. “Wow, your English’s good.” She’s beauty with brains.  “Were you from Convent School?”

A bob-haired waitress in a high-slit cheong sum came to the table and started to set empty glasses, chopsticks and spoons in front of the diners.

 “No, I’m a B.B.G.Sian. And you?” Liu-Shan tossed a glance at the waitress. “Thank you,” she said and the waitress went away.

“That stands for Bukit Bintang Girls School in Kuala Lumpur, right?” He smiled. “I’m a Johannian.”

“Ah, St. John’s Institution on Bukit Nenas Road. That’s just a short distance away from my former school. Brother Cornelius Nulty’s still in charge?”

“Yes. He’s a tough cookie but a fair man.” Eng-Liang knitted his fingers to a placid clasp and placed his hands on the table. “Students are scared stiff of him. Is KL your hometown?”

“Yes, I was born and raised there. What about you?”

“Kajang’s my hometown. My mother’s still there with my elder brother.” He swung a gaze at the two men sitting across. They were now chatting with each other in Cantonese dialect. They don’t seem to understand English. He was pleased.  “After my father died when I was ten, I was sent to stay in KL with my uncle. So, I grew up there.  After I got a job, I moved out.”

The same waitress returned with a pear-shaped porcelain pot and filled the glasses with steaming tea.  The fragrance of jasmine tinged with a faint sweet scent wafted about as steam curled upward from the brew.  She left the pot in the centre of the table and went away.

Liu-Shan flicked a downward gaze at his hands. “You look like a pen-pusher.” Her eyes met his. “What was your occupation?”

“I was a purchasing clerk at the Cold Storage. Have been there for five years. I started as a store assistant, doing almost everything. From sweeping the floor to lugging crates of canned food to arranging displays. Two years later, I was promoted to my former position. I updated inventory records and issued purchase orders to London. Sometimes, I sourced for new suppliers, get quotations.”

“That’s admirable.” She smiled to reveal pearly white teeth. “You left a secure, comfortable post to become a truck driver. Patriotism certainly runs deep in you.  Other men in your position would prefer to remain in the comfort zone.” Her gaze held his for a moment.

“What can I say? I was always the boy in my neighbor-hood to rescue cats stranded on trees.”  Eng-Liang flashed a quick smile and turned away as a lump arose in his throat.  I want to go to China to run away from my gambling creditor. China may also offer opportunities for some lucrative deals. Contraband, black market goods or whatever.  He raised his glass, blew at the steaming tea and took a long sip.

A waiter came with a tray filled with platters of stewed pork, fried fish, roasted chicken and stir-fried vegetables and bowls of rice and transferred them to the table.

Using chopsticks, Eng-Liang gripped a chicken drumstick and placed it on Liu-Shan’s bowl. “Come, let’s eat!”


At 8 a.m. the bus ferrying the Nanyang Transport Volunteers entered the massive gateway of Shuang Lin Monastery in the squatter district of Toa Payoh. Inside the bus, Liu-Shan rubbed her palms over each arm alternately a few times. I shouldn’t have worn a sleeveless top. But again, long sleeves would be hot in the afternoon. She looked out the window. The monastery consisted of a single pagoda in the front yard and a cluster of buildings with saddle-shaped roofs sporting upturned eaves.

Sitting beside her, Eng-Ling shifted in his seat. “I never expected the Driving Institute to be located here. I always thought that monks should be apolitical, not et involved with affairs of the state.”

Liu Shan turned away from the window to face Eng-Liang. “The fight for justice and liberty extends across both secular and religious institutions. Don’t look at life only in terms of black and white.”

For a moment, she admired his distinct cheekbones, angular jaw and hazel eyes. Mama once told me that if a person’s eyes are brown, he is not pure Han Chinese but has minority blood, she recalled. But brown eyes make him more captivating.

The bus jerked to a stop and everyone got to their feet to get out. Eng-Liang noticed a gap in the shuffling stream of passengers. “Let’s make a move.” He stood up, stepped out in the aisle and took a step backward. Liu-Shan rose, moved forward into the space and they shuffled out. A saffron-robed monk, his neck weighted down by a string of red-sandalwood beads, greeted the visitors, “Welcome to Shuang Lin Monastery. Please proceed to the hall at the right wing.”

Twenty minutes later, Liu-Shan and Eng-Liang were sitting in front-row seats facing a half-bald man with a paunch who stood on a small wooden rostrum. He wore a white shirt and a worn-out belt which secured his pants under his beer belly.   “Good morning, lady and gentleman. I’m Chester Choo. I’m the supervisor of the Driving Institute.” His voice sounded like he was shouting through his nose. “During your one month’s training here, every morning will start with callisthenics and simple military drills. These will take about one hour.  Then, our drivers will teach you how to drive Bedford trucks. Each vehicle has a kerb weight of 14,450 pounds. They are similar to those you’ll be driving in China. Because of the difficult terrain and the sheer size of the truck, hand and eye co-ordination and judgment are extremely important. I must tell you in advance that the Burma route stretches over two mountain ranges and crosses more than 400 bridges over deep gorges. The height of the road above sea level varies from six hundred to more than a thousand feet.” He paused to emphasize what he was about to say, his eyes gleaming like steel. “Therefore, your lives may depend on your driving skills you acquire here. So, please give your fullest attention to your instructors. I shudder to imagine what will be the fate of the driver if his —” he looked at Liu-Shan for a moment “—or her truck plunges down a ravine.” The audience remained silent for a few moments as Chester gazed at the faces before him with the expression of a funeral undertaker.  “After graduation, you’ll receive a certificate of completion. Some of you will then board a ship bound for Haiphong in French Indo-China and from there proceed by train to Yunnan. Others will travel by rail to Malaya, up to Rangoon and eventually to Lashio. From Lashio, trucks will transport them for Kunming. I’ll give finer details when your course is nearing completion.”  He took a breather again before finishing his briefing. “If you encounter any problems during training, you can come see me personally. My office is the smaller one next to Venerable Pu Ling’s.” He gave the audience an once-over. “Now, let’s go to the training grounds to meet your instructors.”  


In the Chinese opera theatre in New World Park, the final scene of “Madame White Snake” was being played out. To the rapid rhythmic clashing of cymbals and the clacking of wooden clappers, Siao-Ching, the green-snake incarnate, was battling Buddhist monk Fa-Hai, both players twirling and circling. Alas, in a flurry of cascading sleeves, Siao-Ching stabbed the staff-wielding Fa-Hai with her sword, freeing Madame White Snake from Thunder Pagoda. There was a moment’s silence followed by a vivacious screeching of the fiddle and plucking of the zither as Madame White Snake, her face in white and pink, rushed with open arms to her awaiting mortal husband Hsu-Sheng.  As the audience hollered and clap- ped, the curtain closed.  Only for three seconds. It drew apart again and all members of the cast, faces painted and wearing elaborate headdresses, stepped forward and took a bow.

After a cacophony of cheering, applause and stamping of feet, there was a scuffing of chairs against the floor as people rose to their feet.  Liu-Shan and Eng-Liang shuffled to the middle corridor between two groupings of seats and moved to the exit.  Outside the theatre, Liu-Shan felt refreshed by the cool air.  She saw Eng-Liang in front, jostling between people to create a path for her to move, and occasionally glancing back to make sure she was not lost. He’s quite a gentleman, thought Liu-Shan. Over the past three weeks, he’s been pulling chairs out for me at Southern Restaurant.

When Eng-Liang reached a row of games stall where it was quieter, he stopped walking and turned to face Liu-Shan. “Care for a bite?” He flicked his wrist to read the time on his watch. “It’s not too late. We still have time.”
“I’m not hungry. Let’s get back.”

Eng-Liang directed her by placing a palm on the small of her back. “Did you like the plot?”

“I love it. The original legend was a horror story; however, this evening’s performance portrayed the story as a romance.”

They passed stalls selling clockwork crocodiles, wooden soldiers, rice-paste figurines, teddy bears and cap guns.

Eng-Liang cast a side gaze at Liu-Shan. “The lead singer acted well as Madame White Snake.” 

“I wonder if Madame White Snake is as pretty without her makeup.”

Eng-Liang chuckled, revealing white orderly teeth.

“What’s so funny?”

“Madame White Snake was played by a man! That’s Peking-style opera.”
“Huh?” The corners of Liu-Shan’s lips upturn in a grin. “Really?”

“In ancient China, women were conservative. They weren’t allowed to perform in public. Therefore, males took on female roles. Though times have changed, there’s still a shortage of opera actresses.”

“I don’t understand Hsu Sheng. First, he died of fright after seeing the white snake beside him on his bed. Later, when Madame White Snake brought him back to life with magical herbs, he chose to remain with her. He seems like a contradiction.”

“That’s because his love for her is true.”

Let me test the waters, thought Liu-Shan. “Blind love or true love?”

“True love.”

“Loving a snake-demoness is blind love.”

“A husband should love his wife as she is. True love is always blind. And it’s eternal.”

“Yes, their love for each other was eternal and true.”

They exited the park under a pagoda-roofed arch with neon lights glittering on its twin pillars. A crowd of rickshaw pullers came running up, gathering around in a circle, balancing the shafts of their bicycle-tyred conveyances.  Eng-Liang and Liu-Shan moved to a young puller whose trousers were tied at his ankles, above his black cloth slippers. Eng-Liang held out his hand to help Liu-Shan up the rickshaw and after she had settled down, he climbed aboard and announced, “Great Southern Hotel.”  The puller started to plod away along Besar Road lined with shop-houses and sheltered sidewalks.

Liu-Shan leaned back, taking in the drab scenery. “Tell me something about your family.”

“My Dad owned a coconut plantation, about six acres. He didn’t produce copra but palm toddy.” Eng-Liang chuckled. “He started drinking his own product and eventually became a drunk. He then graduated to moonshine. My Mom thrashed him whenever he came home tipsy.  One evening, he didn’t come home. The next morning, the Sikh milkman found him dead in his truck, just outside our home. He had died of an apparent heart attack.”

“Have you tried palm toddy?”

“No, it stinks.” Eng-Liang made a face. “Smells like vinegar. After my father’s death, my Mom managed the business, drove his truck to deliver the tanks of palm toddy. Around that time, she sent me to KL to stay with my uncle. She wanted me to give me a secondary English-education. My elder brother had already dropped out of primary school many years ago. He remained with her.”

“Any plan to get involved in palm toddy?”

“Nope, agriculture’s not for me. I’ll probably sell off my future share of the plantation. Start some sort of trading business.”

Seems like potential husband material, thought Liu-Shan.

They kept quiet for the rest of the journey until they reached Great Southern Hotel.  They entered the lift and when it stopped at Liu-Shan’s floor, she bade him a warm “Good-night.”


August 23, 1939

The clomp of boots on concrete floor sounded in the dark corridor of a prison as four  Chinese men, all in their twenties, were led by eight Japanese soldiers to the back doorway into an open courtyard surrounded by a high perimeter stone wall.  The prisoners were bare-footed, their hands tied behind their backs and their faces bruised from the beatings suffered during their earlier interrogation by the British police. 

Captain Kasuki Fukuda sat at a desk placed under the shadow of one wall, thrown by the morning sun hanging low in the sky. The Japanese soldiers herded the four men in a single line to face Kasuki who flitted his gaze across their faces.

“All of you have confessed to the British police of having planned and carried out the assassination of Cheng Hsi-Keng,” he said in English, “who’s the esteemed manager of the Federal Reserve Bank of North China.  In accordance with Japanese law, the penalty for this offence is execution by beheading!” He hiked his stubbly chin. “Does any one of you have any last words?”

Heads downcast, the four prisoners remained silent.

Kasuki nodded to one of his men. “Let the execution be carried out now.”


Watch the trailer on YouTube on this link:

Get the full novel on this link:

[Kindle e-book reader is downloaded FREE! ]

Monday, January 13, 2020

Ways to appease the Grand Duke Jupiter or Tai Sui in year 2020, according to feng shui consultant Sifu Sabrina

I put my box of mandarin oranges outside the door of Sifu Sabrina’s office in Low Yat Plaza, KL, rap my knuckles on it a few times and push it open. I heft up the box  with both hands, step inside and kick the door shut with my heel. “Good afternoon, Sabrina!” Sweet thunderation! She is togged up in clothes that can destroy a man’s sanity (pix below)!

Sifu Sabrina swivels away from her computer to face me. “Ooooooh!  Is that for me? Thank you, thank you! ” She rises, moves to the sitting area in a far corner and plops down on a cushioned chair. “Please leave it on the coffee table.”

I stride across the room, set the box on the black coffee table and sit across Sabrina. “Can we discuss next year’s Tai Sui?”  

“Sure.” A smile tips the corners of Sabrina’s mouth, creating two dimples at her cheeks. “Have some Chinese tea, please.” Leaning forward, she takes an upturned porcelain cup with dragon motifs set on a metal tray and clunks it upright in front of me.  “It’s pu erh tea—excellent for clearing cholesterol.” From a pumpkin-shaped pot, she fills my cup with tea and sits straight, her eyes like pools of warm melted chocolate.

I pull out a notepad and a ball pen from my shirt pocket. “Fire away, please.”   

“Rat and Horse are in direct conflict with Tai Sui; Rabbit and Rooster; indirect conflict.” Sabrina crosses her legs at the knees, allowing one sandal to dangle at her  big toe. “Year 2020’s Tai Sui is General Lu Mi who sits in the north.” She pauses as I scribble in my notepad. “One way to neutralize his energy is to celebrate a birthday or a wedding grandly. Or if a family member gives birth, throw a big-scale full-moon dinner for the baby.” She adjusts the strap of her top and brushes a stray hair away from her forehead. “Second way is to place a pi yao in the north  direction of the living room and office. You can buy the pi yao easily from a fung shui store. The four affected Zodiac animals should carry the pi yao amulet with them.  The third way to appease Tai Sui is to pray to him at a temple.” She leans forward and stretches out her right arm, her blood-red nail polish glistening under the room lights. “Your notepad, please.”

I hand over my notepad and ball pen, lift my porcelain cup and glug a mouthful of tea.  Leaning back in my chair, I swipe my lips with a handkerchief.   

Sabrina flips to a new page, lowers her eyelashes and scribbles on it. “Here’re a few temples that I recommend.”  Her arched brows crease in concentration for a while. “There! Here you are.” She returns my notepad to me.  

I read the list mentally.   

Sentul Kuan Yin Teng
No. 36, Jalan Sentul Permai, KL

Sin She Si Sze Ya Temple
No. 113A, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur

Guan Di Temple, Kuala Lumpur
No. 168, Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, KL

Jinjang Sin Thye Foo Yan Temple
Jalan Jinjang Aman 4, Off Jalan Kepong, KL

Setapak Shang Qing Gong
No. 48, Jalan Air Biru, Off Jalan Air Panas, Setapak, KL

Kuan Yin Temple
Junction of Jalan Ipoh/Jalan Tun Razak
(Opposite Dynasty Hotel), KL

“Thank you.” I return my notepad and pen to my shirt pocket.

“Of course, don't renovate the northern sector of the house, shift the TV away if it is placed in the north of the living room, don’t sit facing north at home and in the office—that' a confrontational position—but sit with your back facing north. In this way, Tai Sui will be your guardian not adversary.”   Sifu Sabrina jolts to her feet. “That’s all I have to say. Thanks for coming.”  

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sample Chapter 1 of "Burma Road Driver, Resistance Fighter"

                                                           Chapter 1

April 9, 1939
Tientsin, China

Standing at the entrance of the Tientsin Grand Theatre, the cheongsum-clad usherette looked at the two tickets handed to her by a fortyish stocky Chinese man, accompanied by a younger man. “Oh? Front-box seats.” She directed an open palm at the aisle. “Please follow me, gentlemen.” Striding on flats, she led the two men, both togged up in Western clothes, to an enclosed box at the front of the stage and they took their seats.

Thirty minutes later, while five women dressed in coat-tails suits, their hands holding canes, their heads crowned with top hats, were tap-dancing on the stage to music,  a bomb exploded in the front box. The explosion killed the stocky man, his companion and three others sitting near him. 

After the smoke had cleared, a wizened man from a back-row seat moved to the front with his fat wife in tow. “Oh Lord Buddha!” His eyes bulged. “I recognise this man! He’s Cheng Hsi-Keng, the manager of the Federal Reserve Bank of North China!” He turned to his wife standing beside him, cupped a hand to her ear and half-whispered, “He’s a Japanese collaborator! May he burn in hell!”


Edgar George Jamieson, the British Consul-General in Tientsin, looked up from his sheaf of papers when a knock sounded on his office door. “Enter, please.” As he adjusted his spectacles, his personal aide stepped in and closed the door behind him.

“Sir,” said the young man, “Captain Kasuki Fukuda is here to see you.” He blinked. “He has no appointment, but he said it’s very important.”

Edgar took off spectacles and put them on top of the sheaf of papers in front of him. “Show him in.”

The personal aide opened the door and stepped to one side.  A stocky moustachioed man garbed in army uniform clomped inside the room and the personal aide took his departure. Both hands holding his cap, Captain Kasuki stopped about three feet away from Edgar’s desk and remained standing. “Sir, I’m here as representative of the Japanese North China Army. I wish to raise the matter concerning the assassination in the British Concession two days ago. My superior General Masaharu Homma wants to know whether the British police have arrested the assassins.” His diction is near-perfect.

Edgar clucked his tongue. “We’re still working on the case but we’ve identified several suspects.”

“When the assassins are arrested, we want the British police to hand them over to us. That is my superior’s message to you.”

“No, they will be tried under British laws.” 

“In that case, I have further instructions to inform you that we will blockade the British Concession if you don’t comply with our wishes.”  Kasuki shot a hostile glint from his slit-like eyes. “That’s all I want to say.” He turned, stepped forward to open the door and left.


Kuala Lumpur

The morning sun threw her shadow long on the road as Su Liu-Shan pedalled her bicycle, leg muscles straining, heart pounding, along Kepong Road.  Oh my goodness, I may be late. I shouldn’t have read the Hua Ch’iao Hsien Feng which contained Chiang Kai Shek’s speech. It kept me awake till 2 a.m.

When she reached a block of shop-houses, she allowed the bicycle to roll on its own momentum towards Fook Rubber Trading.  After she had parked and locked her two-wheeler on the walkway, she took a rattan basket off its rear rack and entered the shop-lot, filled with the smokey odour of rubber sheets.

Her boss sat at his desk, his fingers flicking black beads on an abacus. He wore his hair slicked backward and had on a short-sleeved shirt. A thick ledger, dog-eared at many pages, lay beside the beaded counting-frame.  Liu-Shan greeted her employer, and he flicked his gaze up and nodded before continuing to work on the abacus.

Liu-Shan settled at her desk behind her boss and put her rattan basket on the grey cement floor.  From a left side drawer, she pulled out a debtor’s journal and a file bulging with delivery notes and started to post book-keeping entries. On the other side of the room, her two co-workers were busy writing, their heads lowered.

Murmurings of voices came through the open door at the back. Liu-Shan knew the manual workers were grading rubber sheets in the back section of the shop.

After two hours, her boss rose from his wooden chair and left the office.

Liu-Shan got up and took a few steps to his lacquered escritoire to take his newspaper. She placed the broadsheet on her writing table and scanned the headline: “Japanese Navy maintains blockade along the coast of south and central China.”  Oh my goodness, I hope the war doesn’t reach here.

Turning the page, she saw an art exhibition advertisement titled “Eyes on the World: The Best of Chinese Finger Painting”. The event was being held in the Chinese Assembly Hall on Birch Road.  Finger painting? Wow, how interesting. Maybe I will get to see a live demonstration.

She moved to her boss’ desk again and used his phone to call her ex-classmate. “Hello, Alice, want to go with me to a finger-painting exhibition tomorrow?” She paused for a second. “That’s great! We can travel by Ah-Keong’s rickshaw. This evening, I’ll go over and ask him to pick us up at 7 p.m. Your place first. Bye-bye.”  She replaced the receiver to its cradle and returned to her desk.

Both Liu-Shan and Ah-Keong, the rickshaw puller, lived in Kapur Village, linked to Kepong Village by Kepong Road. The two settlements sprawled ten miles north-west of Kuala Lumpur.


The patter of Ah-Keong’s slippered feet came to a stop, and he lowered the bars of the rickshaw. Liu-Shan, garbed in a cheong-sam, and Alice, donned in a print dress, got down from the wheeled conveyance at the gate of Chinese Assembly Hall.  The facade of the white domed building of Corinthian Order featured four fluted pillars each topped with an astragal, a rosette and a volute, in that order. Several small clusters of visitors streamed continually towards the entrance.

Cork-board partitions divided the hall lengthwise into three corridors. Unframed paintings done on rice paper practically covered the partitions.  Liu-Shan and Alice shuffled from one corridor to the next, admiring the dragons, landscapes, flowers and birds. 

A cardboard sign about two feet by six inches hung from a tack on the last third-row partition. The title read:  “Japanese atrocities in Nanking.”  Displayed below were more than twenty black-and-white photographs of civilians massacred by Japanese troops when they overran Nanking in December 1937.   One photo showed scores of dead bodies lying on the bank of the Yangtze River. Another depicted a grinning Japanese solder holding a decapitated head in one hand, a samurai sword in the other. A third showed Japanese soldiers shovelling earth into a pit to bury civilians alive. A chill spread down Liu-Shan’s body and her heart shattered, eyes shimmering with tears. She pulled put a handkerchief and staunched at her eyes.  On another partition, a huge poster was tacked.

She read it carefully.

                                         RECRUITMENT NOTICE

This is an enlistment notice for drivers and vehicle mechanics in Nanyang to serve in our motherland. Willing parties with the necessary skills can contact the various China Relief Fund Committees or branches. The following are the required criteria:

1. Skilled in driving and hold a driver’s licence. Must understand simple Chinese, be in good health and don’t have undesirable habits. Between 20 to 40 years of age.

2. Monthly salary will be $30 Chinese currency, calculated from the day of embarkation. There will be a bonus for excellence in performance.

3. The location of work will be in Yunnan, Kunming or Guangxi. The China Relief Fund Committee will bear travel costs.

4. All applicants must be recommended by a local contact or shop owner who can vouch for their loyalty to China.

5. Forms have been sent to the China Relief Fund Committees in each locality. Once a certain number of qualified applicants have been reached, they will be contacted for an interview and be sent for training in Singapore. 

For further information, please contact Mr Tony Tan, Recruitment Co-ordinator,  Chinese Assembly Hall, Birch Road, Kuala Lumpur.

Chiang Kai Shek’s speech in Hua Ch'iao Hsien Feng which Liu-Shan had read two days ago made a deeper impact on her. The generalissimo had appealed to the Chinese in Southeast-Asia, termed Nanyang in Mandarin, to help China. The country’s ports had been blockaded and its only supply route for war materials was the 713-mile Yunnan Burma Road, running ran from Lashio in Burma to Kunming in China.  

“My goodness, this is dangerous work.” Alice screwed up her face. “I’m not brave enough to do it.”

Liu-Shan looked downward a few inches. A rectangular cloth bag filled with sheaves of paper was hanging beneath the poster.  She picked out one sheet and looked at it.  The heading stated: Application to be a Nanyang Transport Volunteer. She folded the form into half, slipped it inside her handbag and flipped her gaze upward to Alice. “Come, let’s go for supper at Great Eastern Amusement Park. I heard it has the best tok-tok mee in town.” 

Alice blanched. “Goodness gracious, Liu-Shan, you’re not thinking of volunteering, are you? That region’s terrain is mountainous. Worse, Japanese fighter planes sometimes attack the trucks.” 


With a fork, Liu-Shan speared a piece of chicken to her mouth and started to chew. Round porcelain plates piled with stir-fried water spinach, fried chicken and fermented bean paste lay on the table. The blustery wind from a wall fan prevented a few flitting flies from settling down on the food.

Her parents, both in their mid-forties and her younger brother, two years her junior, were seated at the square dining table with her. Their home was a single-storey brick-and-plank structure in Kapur village, a predominantly Chinese settlement of four hundred houses.  

Liu-Shan’s gaze moved from face to face of his family members. I may not see them for god knows how long. Her father was engaged in small talk with her mother about the day’s business. 

A tinsmith, Su Poh-Hock operated a shop in Jinjang village knocking out mugs, sieves, funnels, kettles, water scoops, hand-operated fluid pumps and rain gutters for roofs of houses. Every weekday, he rode a Norton 16H motorcycle to his workshop which employed two workers. His son, Wah-Keong, had dropped out of school at sixteen and had been working as an apprentice at a carpenter’s yard for almost eight years.
Poh-Hock stopped chatting, took a gulp of Chinese tea from a glass, and Liu-Shan took the opportunity to cut in. “Papa, I’ve something important to tell you.” She studied her father, seated across her.   He was a small man with button eyes and a comedian’s eye brows—so thick they looked like they had been touched up with a sketching pencil.

“Yes, what is it?”

Liu-Shan flicked her gaze to her mother.  “Mama, I’d like to keep the small  family photograph. The one in the photo album. It’s in your dresser.”  She noticed surprise flicker in her mother’s eyes and cast her gaze to her father again.
“Papa, I want to sign up as a Nanyang Volunteer.”

“What!” Poh-Hock’s jaw dropped.

Her mother put down her fork and spoon, laid them on her plate.  “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Young people like you are just swayed by a sense of adventure and idealism, not patriotism.”

“That’s not true.”  Liu-Shan shook her head. “If we don’t help, many innocent civilians will die.”

“What’s the pay like?” Poh-Hock asked. “You’re also going to get a big shiny model to wear after your service?”

“It’s not the money, Papa. I’ve seen photos of the brutal massacre of civilians in Nanking. Thousands of defenceless women and helpless children.” She raised her voice a decible for emphasis.  “Papa, you should go see the photo display I went to. There were photographs of women raped and their vaginas pierced with bamboo stakes!” She noticed her mother’s jaw drop and her face turned white. “My mind’s made up, Papa. I’ve decided to be a Nanyang driver.”

A heavy silence hung in the room, the groans of the wall fan became louder. Poh-Hock locked gazes with his daughter. “If you feel so strongly about this volunteer work, then go ahead.”  His eyes grew clouded, and he wiped his tears with his sleeves.


Inside the office of a smoke-filled gambling den in High Street, Kwong Eng-Liang sat facing Chin-Leung, the bald scarred-faced owner. The former wiped sweat on his forehead with his sleeve. “I’ll pay you eventually — just give me more time.” He flicked his gaze at a batch of IOU’s on the table in front and returned his attention to Chin-Leung. Hell, that’s a big stack!

“Mr Kwong, my patience is running out.” Chin-Leung leaned back on the low-backed chair and placed his slippered feet on the mahogany desk.  “Luckily for you, I’m a reasonable man.” He lowered his feet and stood to his full six feet, legs apart in a warrior’s stance. “I’ll let you settle this sum in three equal installments.” He levelled a gnarled finger in Eng-Liang’s face. “My man will wait for you outside the Cold Storage on pay day for three consecutive months to collect payment. Don’t try to slip out through the back door. Another of my boys will be stationed there.”

Eng-Liang blinked and nodded. Good luck to you! Tomorrow, I’m taking an advance salary on the excuse that Mama has fallen seriously ill and needs an operation. “Don’t worry, sir, I won’t try to abscond.” Then I’ll discreetly clear away my belongings in my desk and disappear. “You’ve my word of honour.”


Bangalore, India

In the hall of the RAF Flying Training School, the emcee standing at a wooden lecturn atop the stage leaned towards the chrome microphone. “Graduates, please stand for our national anthem.” Overhead, fans spun furiously, cooling down the temperature in the hall to a tolerable level.

Seated on wooden chairs facing the stage, forty-three graduates jackknifed to their feet.  The tune of God Save Our King played on a gramophone came out from a pair of loudspeakers at the stage and when it ended, the emcee continued, “Now, I have the pleasure to invite the Superintendent of the Flying Training School to deliver his speech.” The emcee moved away to the wing and a slim middle-aged man climbed up to the lecturn from a front-row seat. He harrumphed before starting his speech.

Outside, fields of sorghum, their grain heads swaying in the wind, lay in swatches in the near distance around the grounds of the school, soaking up the sunlight.  This school was one of nine in India that had been set up by the British government to produce more pilots to counter the threat of Hitler’s Luftwaffe. A few other countries in the British Empire also operated such training schools. 

After the Superintendent finished his speech to loud applause, the emcee announced, “Now, graduates, please come to receive your Pilot’s Wings. I shall call the names in alphabetical order.”  He cast his gaze down at a piece of paper, paused, looked up and announced. “Timothy Clarke.”

As Timothy rose to go to the stage to receive his Pilot’s Wings, he wished his girlfriend Stephanie and his parents back in Manchester could have been here to witness this proud moment of his. 


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