SINGAPORE – It was a decision made under the dim light of a kerosene lamp in the early hours of a January morning some 58 years ago.
But the pain of giving up one of her seven children has kept the memory clear for Madam Teng Ek Kiew, 90.
In 1964, the housewife, who already had five other children, gave in to a prominent Malay family in their kampung in Bukit Besi, Terengganu, after they begged her incessantly for her newborn daughter.
The Malay family had only sons and was desperate for a girl.
Speaking to The Sunday Times last week (Sept 12), the stoic great-grandmother said few words about how she felt at the time.
“I cried a lot when they took her, but (the adoptive mother) kept begging me every day,” she said in Hokkien through a translator.
Her eldest child, Mr Ling Kok Heng, 68, still recalls when the adoptive mother came to take his newborn sister. He was nine years old at the time.
“The others don’t remember or were actually asleep, but I was pretending to sleep. I heard them carry her… I was crying but didn’t want anyone to know I was awake,” said the retired electrician in Mandarin.
The daughter was named Hamsiah Mohamad and raised by the Malay-Muslim family. The Lings asked that the adoptive family be not named.
Madam Teng recalled: “After my confinement, I went to see the baby and saw that there were three women taking care of her. I was comforted when I saw she would have a good life.”
Along with her late husband, Madam Teng lived in a small kampung near Bukit Besi, a mining town north of Pahang in Malaysia, known for its iron ore. Her husband Ling Ek Koon was a motor technician at a tin mining company when they lived there.
They would see their daughter around the kampung in the early years of her life but never told her they were her birth parents.
Madam Hamsiah found out she was adopted when she was 15, after one of her adoptive mother’s friends let it slip, but she was not told who her birth parents were.