"It’s no good asking a child if they mind being sent to boarding school and away from Mum and Dad. I didn’t know. I was excited. I could put my left arm over my head and touch my right ear. My arms were long enough. A missionary uncle praised me, encouragingly, with the little game. That was all the proof needed that I was ready for the four- or five-months absence from my parents. I was a big girl now. I was six. "
"I realise now, as a parent myself, that their parent hearts were aching for me as much as my child heart was longing for them. We each still struggle with the shadow pains from those never-had memories when we should have been together. As I have acknowledged the real pain and hurt, and chosen to forgive them, I have been able to receive their love and affection. Puncture wounds leave holes, and our hearts have their fair share of leaky spots. These heart holes have been very slow to heal – I’m discovering new levels even as I write this – and though a lot of repressed grief now runs quite freely in our family, we have found much healing by just being leaky together.
"This is how I became the person that I am, not bitter but angry in my bones in a way I have only come to recognise in my middle age. Anger sits deep in my skeleton, part of my marrow, regenerating with each cycle of blood. Rage sits below the surface boiling up at inconvenient intervals:
...when I look at my children as they each in turn reached and passed the age at which I left home, and they were so small and so much a part of me that I could not imagine cutting them away from our entanglement in each other. "
"My daughter is about to start school and I suddenly find myself remembering. And as I remember, I rediscover the pain, long buried, which I believed had dissipated by now. I am suddenly forced to confront my past and deal with it. And I am realising just how much is wrong with me, and that I am well into my thirties and hardly beginning to understand myself, or the actual impact of the trauma I experienced as a child. I hope I still have the chance to figure it all out. "
Now, if I close my eyes, I see the insides of the taxis – spotlessly clean, filled with the smell of leather, diesel, and hair tonic. Little Buddhist lanterns dangle from the rear-view mirror while the driver hums softly to the muted clamour of a Chinese opera on the radio. Sometimes, if you caught the ride from Kuala Lumpur, the driver was a Sikh, wild-eyed and dark-bearded with a cream or pink silk turban. I used to watch to see if it was true – if Sikhs carried knives in their turbans. Eventually the taxis came through the gate, up the drive and I heard the soft crunch of gravel and the chuckle of the diesel motor as it slowed to an idle in front of the bungalow’s entrance porch.
"I also think that realizing and admitting that what I went through as a child was traumatic, and especially speaking about it, is yet another step towards healing. Writing this has also had quite an impact. It has been incredibly difficult and painful, and there have been times when it has brought me to tears. Yet at the same time, I strongly believe that it has enabled me to learn more about myself and why I act and react the way I do. "