Funny how a mention of word could trigger such memories. Someone mentioned the Popinjay Soap on one of my Facebook post yesterday, and that has led me to thinking of Tok Nani and her green Popinjay soaps. And I started telling the story, bit by bit it blossomed into the post before this and now this one too.
Someone asked me if my Tok Nani or any of us kept in touch with her biological family. Well no, she lost contact with them right from the beginning. She wasn't told that she was adopted until after her marriage, even though people wondered why she looked so different from the rest of the siblings who are younger than her in looks and color. They were all dark skinned and with sharp features. And double eyelids. While she had flat onion shaped nose, eyes that were not quite slits but distinctively oriental. And her skin, creamy soy milk-like, which breaks out with freckles whenever exposed to the sun, something I inherited but my mom doesn't.
Years later, when the flashes of memories finally clicked with the whispers she heard as a child from the nannies, cooks and drivers, she asked around about her origins, but for some reason the adults weren't too keen in talking about it. A few nuggets of informations that she managed to gather here and there say that she may have a younger sister who were also given up just before her parents went back to Japan.
Sometimes during the late 50's or 60's one of my uncles met a lady who was the spitting image of my grandmother, she took to him really well, treating him like a son even though she was some VIP wife in the northern state of Penang. Perhaps she knew something, maybe she had some answers. Too bad my uncle didn't pursue it.
By late 70's and early 80's when my mom and some of her siblings started pursuing the search, most of the elders that may be party to the information has already passed on. Some of her (adopted) siblings and children remain steadfast that she's their biological sister though.
She may have been raised in a typical Penang Jawi Pekan family with strong roots in the Indian Muslim cultures. She may have lived her live steeped in the Mami lifestyle, instilling the values into the lives of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, but there's no mistaking her origins.
disclaimer : this story was written based on stories I heard from my late grandmother, uncles and aunt. while no fictionalization was added, I can't guarantee that all facts are accurate. Like I said, too bad I was born a few decades too late.