Nine lives: This writer has been amazingly lucky enough to escape many close calls throughout his life.
During a recent visit to the Nilai Memorial Park in Negri Sembilan, I chanced upon an epitaph with the lines, “Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye. Cheerio here I go on my way.”
Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye was a song made popular during World War II by the late Gracie Fields who sang it to troops leaving for war. For those who survived, they were lucky to be alive. Thus luck and life are synonymous to me. I’m alive today, thanks to a good dose of luck.
On Christmas day of 1941, Japanese warplanes made a random air raid on Klang town where I was at that time. Bombs rained down on the town, and brought widespread destruction, death and despair.
Thankfully, my house was not hit. I emerged unscathed but suffered from shell shock. It was a miracle I survived this wanton bomb attack.
Being young and naïve, I was listening to the Voice of America’s radio broadcast one night when an armed Japanese soldier barged into my house, drawn by the radio broadcast. He made a room-to-room search but failed to enter the room I was in, though he passed by my room twice. The punishment for listening to an American broadcast was death by beheading, according to Japanese military orders. It was a close shave for me, and I took a long time to recover from the trauma.
Some months later, the notorious Kempeitai (Japanese military police) raided the Chinese language night class in Meru Road, Klang, and arrested students and teachers on suspicion of subversive activities. They were imprisoned in Pudu Jail, Kuala Lumpur, and tortured for the duration of the war.
I was a student of the class and had skipped class on that fateful night, and thus avoided arrest and imprisonment.
After the war, there were many other incidents in which I narrowly escaped death.
On a fishing trip to Taman Negara in 1950, I was within close range of a tiger hidding in the bushes when it began to roar. The forest rangers came to our timely rescue. We bolted and headed for the boat. It was another harrowing experience for me.
Sometime in 1952, I wanted to go to Kuala Lumpur, and got a lift from my cousin. Our car was involved in a head-on collision with a latex-laden tanker. My cousin was killed in the crash; I was hospitalised for more than two months. Even till this day, I feel very sad whenever I think about that tragic incident.
In the early 1960s, I met with another serious car accident. My Volvo skidded on a rainy night at some isolated place near Rawang, Selangor. It turned turtle twice on the road, rolled down a slope and came to rest on a tree trunk. Within 10 minutes, a lorry passed by and stopped to investigate. Two men came down to help and had my car hauled up onto the road. These good Samaritans politely refused to accept any monetary reward.
I did not suffer any injuries or shock, thanks to the seat belt I was wearing. I was spared from death again.
I vividly remember calling out to my mother at that instant when my car turned turtle. From what I read, soldiers about to die called out for their mothers like I did on that fateful night.
On May 13, 1969, I narrowly missed the rioting and certain death. It was about 6.50pm and I was driving past one of the main thoroughfares in Kuala Lumpur. I came across a large unruly crowd which blocked the road. My car was stranded there.
By chance, a good Samaritan appeared and he managed to get the crowd to make way for my car to pass through. I slowly made my way out and drove to safety.
On a trip to Langkawi in early 1970, my superior and I missed the ferry and had to travel in an open boat with long propellers. We met a squall near the island and were forced to stop at an isolated spot surrounded by rock outcrops. The boat tossed in the turbulent waters. There were no life jackets and both of us could not swim. We feared for our lives.
Suddenly the squall abated, and heaven smiled on me again. I firmly believe divine intervention had saved us from drowning.
There is a well-known saying that a cat has nine lives. Based on my luck count, I believe I’m at the final stage of life.
But I am not about to panic though. I remember the song Old Black Joe, and I know that “I am coming, I am coming ... to a better land I know.”
This is a comforting thought indeed.
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