Chapter 9 – Discovery

Su-An Sim Perera glanced at the yellowing sheets with crumbling edges and now safely stored in plastic envelopes on her desk. They’d been filed in several folders carefully catalogued as to the year of writing and each journal page had been neatly signed off at the bottom with a signature that was becoming even more familiar with each passing day; Priya London Perera.

It had cost Su-An a lot of money to have pages restored to a point where they could be easily read and these restored pages had been faithfully scanned into her computer to ensure their further preservation.

Su-An stood up to clear her head and moved to the window to watch river craft moving up and down the Brisbane River. It was a Sunday and there seemed to be less traffic than usual. She loved the home they’d rented just across from the University and the spectacular view from her back room office. She loved her job too, but couldn’t wait to get home each evening to review materials for the book she was writing. The wealth of information contained in Priya’s journals was a treasure indeed. Su-An had always wanted to write a book.

2006 Singapore 7In her growing up years in Singapore she’d thought of writing a family history based on Sim family experiences. She’d even started to interview grandparents and related members of the Sim family in Malaysia where Sim’s had migrated to from China. It was all Malaya then.

However recollections did not always agree and Su-An had come away with nothing more than a vague impression of conflict in South China which had caused mass migrations into South-East Asia and beyond. The Sim ancestors were part of that migration. The more recent past, military occupation during World War II, was too painful for the elders to talk about. Finally Su-An put on hold the idea of writing a book on her family history.

Su-An met her future husband at Nanyang Technological University two years into her enrolment. Young adult students had their favourite meeting spots on Orchard Road and it was nice to sit and chat while unwinding from a heavy day of lectures and library research before going home to hit the books again in the evening. Success or failure at studies was a family affair and Su-An knew she had no alternative but to pass with the best of grades to keep family face.

It was there Su-An noticed Anton Perera. Anton was always surrounded by groups of happy students and seemed to be the life of the party, so it was hard not to notice him. He had foreign features, but his mannerisms and musical English were distinctly Singaporean, then to Su-An’s surprise she heard him break into flawless Mandarin one day. It was not the ancestral language of the Sims but it was now required study and she had to admit Anton seemed better in his expression than she was. This intrigued her.

So Su-An decided to do research on this curiosity. Most knew the Perera family had lived in Singapore going back into history but that was the extent of knowledge of the family from people of her Grandparent’s era. So Su-An delved into public records. She considered it good practice for research should she ever decide again to write her dreamed of book. What she found interested her!

In the 1800’s there’d been a warehouse in Singapore under title London Shipping Company. The warehouse owners were Priya and Juan Perera. They were wholesale distributors of spices and non-perishable goods relying on the London Shipping Company vessels for their supplies and distribution. By the early 1900s the warehouse had been replaced by government buildings and there was no explanation for that, but at least she’d traced Anton’s ancestry.

So one day as groups of students gathered at their favourite spot on Orchard Road for snacks and discussion of their day’s activities at Nanyang, Su-An sought Anton out and shared her new found discovery with him.

Anton looked at her in amazement. “Do you know our family?” He asked.

He was puzzled. How would this Chinese girl know his family? The Perera’s had close friends in the Chinese community and those friendships went back for generations, but Anton was not aware of any friendly connection with the Sim family.

Su-An felt embarrassed and turned to leave.

But Anton followed her and asked her to share a table with him. He was curious to know how this information had fallen into the hands of someone he didn’t know.

Su-An was curious to know more about this family too. It was an academic exercise for her and she put embarrassment aside and agreed to sit and talk.

More afternoon meetings followed and after a year both Anton and Su-An knew there was chemistry at work and they could not bear to be apart from each other.

But there was the problem of parental approval. Anton’s family would be no problem. There’d been intermarriage between the Parera’s and Malay, Chinese and Indonesian communities before.  But that had not always been well accepted by the parents in those latter communities. Some had eventually accepted the situation and some had been estranged. How would the Sims react to an engagement proposal?

Anton soon found out. The Sims forbad Su-An to have any further dealings with Anton and had friends report on any further contacts so they could take action. Su-An reported this to Anton with bitter tears and for a time they were not seen together.

On graduation Anton found a job in the electronics industry and in a surprisingly short time was singled out as a future candidate for administrative advancement. Management was in his DNA. The foreign company decided to give him wider experience and to increase his international exposure decided to send him to one of their world branch offices. They decided on Australia for his present assignment.

Anton’s Mother, the last remaining of his parents died before his appointment was to take effect, and as the eldest son he inherited documents and heirlooms which his Mother had treasured greatly and wanted him to keep in her memory. His siblings would occupy the family property in his absence.Singapore

Anton thought of his new appointment and the adjustments he’d have to make in a new culture. He was both eager and apprehensive. He needed to have someone who could share the ups and downs of this experience with him. He thought of Su-An.

Through one of Su-An’s friends he sent a message asking her to meet him, and the message returned was that she’d love to see him again.

So they met. Anton poured out his yearning for them to be together and in spite of family feelings on the issue Su-An agreed.

So they were married just before Anton’s departure with a host of their friends from student days to give them support.

Their first place of appointment in Australia was Sydney. Anton was to commence work immediately so their honeymoon was short.

Su-An not yet having a job was left to do the unpacking and in the process discovered heirloom treasures handed down by the Perera family and now in Anton’s possession.  It was there Su-An discovered the fragile remains of Priya’s journals and could barely tear herself away from them to finish unpacking and begin a job search.

This was the mother lode. This was to be the long sought inspiration for a book she’d always wanted to write. She sought help to restore the fading journals.

But years later Anton and Su-An had changed jobs, cities and citizenship and now found themselves in the beautiful city of Brisbane Australia. It was to be here her book would be written.

To be continued.

“© Copyright Ian Grice 2013 All rights reserved


The copyright on first picture above belongs to Wikipedia. The remaining two Ian Grice

9 thoughts on “Priya

  1. Oh, no!! I was enjoying this so much and with each paragraph could not wait for the next when you suddenly left me hanging. : ) This has been such a wonderful and interesting read I will not like seeing it come to an end. Looking forward to the next chapter sweet Ian. Hugs


  2. I liked how you smoothly transitioned to modern days and Singapore. I want though the story of Priya, you know how she came be there, who she married and how her life proceeded. Sorry but I like her and want to follow her through to a marvelous end.

    The character of the new Singapore is wonderfully done, by the way.


  3. Hello Ian,

    800 Thomson – its a condo, I believe. Ah, so you were the one 🙂

    That photo was of a B&W bungalow and as you know, the preferred dwelling type of the British colonials back then. Many still remain but used as offices and even for F&B purposes. There are some in the former Naval Base and elsewhere, still used as dwellings on short term leashes. All on freehold land and all owned by the government who took over the British assets when they departed, as you know.

    Yes, this post held my special interest as you already gave me a heads up in an earlier reply.


  4. I thought this chapter would catch your attention Eric. The next will be the last in the Priya series and it fills in the gaps you are looking for. I hope you like it. The third photo is of the old colonial building, part of many on the compound from where I handled the business of multiple countries in the Asia Pacific from Korea/Japan/ HK and Taiwan down to the borders of Australia, across the Pacific to Guam and over to the borders of India. I instigated the development of 800 Thomson which sadly had to dispense with the beautiful colonial buildings as they had become fire traps needing more than we could afford to restore. We partnered with Mr Lee from Hong Kong who you will know as the wealthy industrialist. During redevelopment we moved to Suntec City which had just come on line. The number 800 you will recognize as a very valuable asset we lost in the redevelopment but it saved the property from being grabbed as it was freehold, one of the few remaining in Singapore, and we got brand new facilities plus a huge sum which we reinvested for educational and charitable purposes.


  5. Well, this episode blew my mind, Ian, with heavy shades of my courtship of Lisa (now my wife of 33 years). Her family was from Chinatown and – anyway, as Mechanic Leigh would say, that’s another story.

    I notice that you smoothly fast forwarded Priya’s tale to contemporary settings and in Brisbane 🙂 I wonder whether in the following episodes you’ll interpose vignettes to cover some more backstories about Priya. You’ve painted her character so well, I would love to read more about her.

    You’ve also captured several landmarks of Singapore and interwoven some of our policies such as the important but poorly implemented Speak Mandarin Campaign in the 1980s, which triggered many Singapore Indians to migrate.

    I look forward to the next instalment with great anticipation.



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