Uncle A: My Grandpa at Work & Other Stories

Following my last post about one of my grandma’s specialities, fried mutton with potatoes, my uncle confirmed that it was one of his favourites too.

I then asked him to tell me about what family meals were like back then. Prompted, he went on to tell me these stories:

For lunch it was a first come first serve thing. Each at their own time after they returned from school. (I guess that’s how it has to be when there are 7 children and I don’t think even the dining table could cater to all at the same time.)

For dinner they would wait for their father to return home and sit at the table for a late dinner. Taking turns.

Back then they didn’t dare ask their father questions as he was regarded as an authority figure, but they were obviously very proud of him.

He had diabetes, but back then there were no medications for it like there is now. (Perhaps he would have made it past 54 if drugs like metformin existed back then). All he did was to take some herbs that were said to be good for diabetes.

They would eat on a banana leaf, with a whole spread of dishes, only on special occasions like Deepavali. (That I experienced as well with my grandma and eldest aunty at the helm, and the meals were divine)

My uncle recalled how his dad wore a tie and carried a briefcase to work. Also a container of packed food for a light lunch, place in that briefcase. He had a heavier meal at night.

Back then work was not so inhumane. It was strictly from 9am to 4.30pm. Grandpa would leave home at 8.30am and be home by 5pm.

One story that my uncle related, appealed to me tremendously. That my grandpa took up driving (taught by his nephew Uncle P), but once he ended driving into a drain and then gave it up. That made me feel like less of a failure for not driving. Instead he took a straight bus to work.

Lawyers would come to my grandpa for advice as he knew the law very well. These were known people in the community and not strangers.

My uncle A was happy to report that he had been to his dad’s office. His dad was a chief clerk at the criminal district and magistrates court (now called the subordinate courts). Previously he also worked at the Supreme Court and civil district court.

My uncle said he’s been to his office a few times and often saw him lock up. He had to keep the money (eg fines etc collected) in the court safe.

His official title was Chief Executive officer at the court and reported to the Chief Justice who was a British person (colonial rule). (It was either of these persons 1955–1958: John Whyatt or 1959–1963: Alan Rose)

After his retirement the Chief Justice was going into private practice and offered my grandpa a job with him. But it was not to be, as my grandpa died at age 54 years while he was on his 3 months leave prior to retirement. They were entitled to this if they were going overseas. Otherwise it’s 1 month prior to retirement.

He started his leave in March and left on the ship on April 25th 1960. My uncle never imagined it would be the last time he would see his dad. He thought it would be just a short holiday and he would be back so he wasn’t sad when he left.

Rewinding back further into history, my uncle also related a story of his form teacher in Primary 2, Ms Govindasamy. This was a story he told his grandchildren as it was something they could relate to.

He was at McNair primary school and it was mortifying that she lived just two houses away. He said he was very frightened to have her in such close proximity especially as she talked to his parents. Also he confessed that he was a bit mischievous. He would hide when he saw her walk outside her house.

They lived in a row of 4 terrace houses. She also happened to be the aunty of Professor S Jayakumar.

After primary 2 he didn’t give a hoot as she wasn’t his teacher anymore.

I’m logging down these stories not in any particular order, but as I receive them. Many stories will naturally overlap.

At some point I hope to gather a size full and be able to weave them together in chronological form. (All the stories are tagged under the category family)

Often memories are not chronological, but that’s fine by me. I’m relishing the gems I’ve never heard before, like the one about my grandpa learning to drive. I must say that my Uncle A has a remarkable memory.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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