The most important freedom of all is the freedom to defend freedom.
When the Japanese invaded Malaya, I was at a barber shop getting my moustache trimmed. All of a sudden we heard this loud explosion. Boom! Everything in the barber shop fell off the shelf. The barber himself was so shocked that he lost control of his hand and accidentally shaved one side of my moustache. We looked at the street and saw people running for their lives. We did not know what was going on, but we decided to run as well. My barber ran with his bag of scissors while I ran with half a moustache on my face.
That was the story I grew up listening to. My grandpa always had wonderful tales to tell every time he visited. We used to spend hours sitting at the playground, coffee shops, street pavements and in trishaws while he told stories I could never find in any book today.
Grandpa told me how grandma got sick of eating tapioca for weeks when they were hiding from the Japanese. He told me how he was forced to become a translator for them; I still have no idea how grandpa learned the Japanese language in the first place. And he told me about sneaking under the table every time the Japanese forced him to drink liquor. Apparently it was impolite to decline invitations to drink.
My grandpa was an ordinary chap. In the mornings he would make a living with his old typewriter and his tiny table and chair strategically placed, sometimes outside the courthouse and sometimes outside the oath commission. In the afternoons he accepted invitations to recite prayers and verses from the Holy Book around the neighbourhood for minimal donations.
Money was always tight. But he was lucky he had grandma. She was an entrepreneur. Every morning there would be long queues from the street up to her kitchen where she sold tosai, idli, paratha and apam for breakfast. With whatever they made, grandpa and grandma raised seven kids.
My grandpa is no longer with me today. But his memories live in me through his stories. He did not carry any weapon. He didnt kill anyone, but he fought for the independence of our nation in his own way. He survived through the Japanese invasion and British rule, he lived to witness his motherland gain independence, and he gave the gift of freedom and peace to his children and grandchildren.
I still remember his pieces of advice.
Always trust in yourself. Always be strong. Always have faith. Always stand up for what you believe in. Always speak up when you disagree. Never let anyone step on you. Always be courageous. Always be happy. Always smile. Always remember that I love you.
Originally posted here:
The essence of freedom