East-West marriages and other matrimonial matters

Another interesting experience for us was when we joined the East-West Society. There were many nice and educated people amongst them. Especially interesting was an Englishman in the education system, with a Chinese wife. We were told that he was a social outcast with his people, and that his promotion prospects had been curtailed. As he wasn’t old, I feared for him; they were well matched.

Another interesting and very friendly couple was an Indian philologist who was married to a Chinese woman. He could not obtain work with the government or with the local tertiary colleges, because (so I was told by others) of his marriage. That did not make sense. The English should not have cared if an Asian married outside his own ethnic community.

Perhaps his MA degree in philology was not recognised by the authorities. He was certainly wasted as a private tutor, when he could have been teaching and challenging students. I found him a most erudite man, equally well matched with his wife. The Society seemed to be a meeting place for the unwanted. We felt quite at home and were grateful for their friendship and support.

… … I was introduced to a young Aussie lass. She had been the short-term mistress of a senior, ageing English official (her description) while his wife had gone home for an extended visit. Her description of the life of a colonial made both of us disgusted. The lass claimed that the people she had mixed with were very ordinary people, “jumped up” into positions of power, and quite egomaniac in their professed superiority over the natives. She looked forward to returning home to an unpretentious life.

… … Then the Aussie lass took me to meet a couple of young Aussie men who were drinking at the bar on a boat in the harbour. They said that they were in business. They had an Aussie drinking companion, a major (with the appropriate accent), who said he was traveling to Europe. My friend suspected that he was Intelligence, as he avoided saying what he did when I asked. The next day, one of the Aussie men rang me and asked if I could take a small parcel on board and drop it off at a designated point just outside a harbour to be specified. I declined. Was that a test or a business deal?

From the YMCA on a Sunday morning, I could see worshipers leaving a church. I did not know or care about its denomination. Europeans left first and together, Asians next. They all walked on one side of the road, while beggars stayed on the other side – there was no communication between them.

The trip to Fremantle was fascinating. On board in second class were: an English ex-national serviceman from Malaya, two French ex-national servicemen from Algeria, and a former Australian military policeman returning to Australia without his Japanese wife. The military policeman, after leaving the service, lived on his wife’s farm in Japan. These four had some stories to tell.

(These extracts from my 1997 memoir ‘Destiny Will Out’ present depressing pictures of East-West relations in the early 1950s in British Malaya.

Further, in the 1960s, a close friend of mine returned from Malaya after a 3-year posting as a junior Australian diplomat, but with a most peculiar accent. When challenged by me as to why his normal educated voice had so changed, he recognised that he had adopted the speech sounds of the British colonials. He too was critical of the snooty behaviour of the British.

As for the invitation for me to take a small packet with me and then to drop it off, I realised much later that these guys would have been Australian Intelligence agents; they were very smooth and plausible operatives. I did not know it then, but my Australian in-laws had sought Ministerial approval for my admission to Australia as an immigrant. They wanted their daughter home.)