Are You Ready for a Long History?

Or should it be Herstory instead of history? Never mind the terminology, but in short, I was adopted!

Those who can read mandarin, can read my story here, because I’ve forgotten most of it:


Click for clearer image. This is the newspaper cutting when my story was published in the Sin Chew Jit Poh in May 1994. A Chinese colleague took me there 🙂 . Nothing happened after that. I was told by a Singapore friend that she saw/read somewhere there about my story too, unfortunately there was no lead.

Biologically, I come from a Hainanese family in Singapore. Time was tough in the early 1960s. I have evidences to show that I was born in 1961, and not 1962 as stated in my “birth certificate”.

The story goes like this:

There was this couple by the name of Maskam and Som. Maskam is of  Javanese origin, whose parents hailed from Parit Kudus, Pontian while Som was a Kelantanese lass. Maskam is still alive but Som passed away a few years ago. You can read here about Maskam when we went to visit him last year. He is now remarried to another Kelantanse lady (widow with a few children).

Anyway, let’s flash back to early 1960s:

Maskam worked for Singapore Telecom. His mum was a midwife at the  Kandang Kerbau Maternity Hospital in Singapore. This hospital was regularly mentioned in P Ramlee’s movies. Maskam  and Som then, being a childless couple, started adopting babies who were given away, and mostly by mothers who delivered their babies at that hospital.

By 1961, before I was adopted, Maskam had personally adopted 1 boy and 2 girls . The boy was from Boyan origin while the girls were Chinese.

My biological parents were poor, and when I was about to be given away, my mother was very sick. I was told that I have an elder brother, who cried when his little sister was taken away! My parents heard about the kind-hearted Maskam. Through a middle man, it was arranged for me to be taken away. Maskam told me that the day I was given away, my dad,who was a hawker, or was it a chicken rice peddler (someone who sells chicken rice on a 3-wheeler cycle) didn’t come home because he didn’t have the heart to see me being taken away. It was a drizzling dusk (maghrib time). My mother told Maskam that if she got to live longer, she would like to see me when I am a grown up. She said, it’s ok if Maskam doesn’t want to reveal who she was, it would  suffice her to see me from afar!

That story never fails to touch my heart! At least I know that I was given away because my parents were poor and my mother was sick. Not because I was not wanted by my family. In those days, many  Chinese families gave away their daughters because they believed that the girl would bring them bad luck if she was kept with them, and she’d be better elsewhere! Some of these families were not poor at all!

Unfortunately for us, in the 1970s, Singapore did a lot of development, and so many little villages were uprooted. Later in the 1980s, when Maskam was still working in Singapore, he couldn’t find the middleman who arranged for me to be given away.

Now, how did I become “bt Mohd zin” and not “bt Maskam”?

You see, Maskam had a close neighbour who was like his elder brother. That neighbour was Mohd Zin and his wife. Mohd Zin, a Bugis decendent from Muar, was married to Sepiah (the only mother I know), who was also a Kelantanese, like Som.

Som was then a Cabaret dancer (yes! just like in P Ramlee’s movies), and she worked at night. Maskam would send and fetch her. While Som was away, it was Sepiah (a housewife who made kuihs to be sold at food stalls) who took care of Maskam’s kids.In those days life was tough that men had no second thoughts for their wives to be cabaret dancers, as long as they could bring home more dough!

One day Maskam was informed that he got a unit at the Telecom Quarters in Paya Lebar (I remember vividly the place. I used to visit the place and had many great times there). When Som was to leave the neighbourhood, Sepiah asked for Maskam and Som to give her (& Mohd Zin) one of the 2 baby girls (that was Misah and me). I don’t know how it was done ,but since I was 3 months younger than Misah, I was then given away. Later, Sepiah came back to Kelantan to re-register my birth, hence the birth certificate was issued in 1962, about 1 year later. I only came to know of my actual year of birth because Misah’s birth certificate was the original one, with “adoption” stated on it. Ramisah was born in early 1961 (I can’t remember the month). By the way, Misah had surrendered her Singapore citizenship, and is happily married to a Kelantanese.

Despite living apart, both families visited each other as much as they can. Sepiah, at that time had a son from a previous marriage, but no child with Mohd Zin. That son is the brother that I recently visited. Apart from that son, Sepiah had an elder son who was brought up by his grand auntie in Kelantan. Anyway, my brother and I used to call Maskam “Bapak” and Som, “Mak Som” while their kids called Mohd Zin “Abah” and Sepiah “Mak Yah”.

How did I come to know that I was adopted? Wait for the next chapter, hahaha!!!!

So, I just wonder, with the advance of Internet, would I be able to trace my biological brother, who cried when I was taken away? Or for all we know, My mum is still alive? Wouldn’t that be a great gift for my Mother’s Day this year?



  1. bm,
    wow! what can I say….perjalanan hidup you penuh dengan liku liku…tabik kat you ni..boleh cari ke akar umbi siapa diri you sebenar nya. Dan bila kita dapat tu siapa ..kita berusaha untuk mencari dan mencari….
    Saya rasa tahun ini Mothers day you akan lebih bermakna…
    Saya akan menjadi pengikut setia kisah you …


  2. Oh wow! I didn’t know you have such a colourful history! If your real mother is still alive, how old would she be now?

    You know, arwah ni pun was given away when she was small by her parents who lived in Singapore at that time. Her “father” (the one we know here) was actually her mother’s brother (her uncle lah, in other words). She found out about it only later and was quite bitter about it.

    But after she got married, she made it a point to visit her real mum in Singapore once a year, usually during Raya Haji. So they managed to make peace, but the feelings were not the same (according to my husband lah). I don’t blame her mother for feeling that way… she never did raise her in the first place.

    Her “mother” here (that we know of) was a very nice lady. I think they raised her well with much love and affection. Sadly, all of them have passed away ~ her real mum, her mum here, her dad here and she herself. How unfortunate.


  3. Ezza,

    Kesusahan dan kerumitan perjalanan hidup banyak mendewasakan kita!
    Tu belum cerita pasal life after my “mum” and “dad” passed away..
    Tunggulah.. bila2 senang, akan keluar segala cerita.. senang in the future anak cucu nak baca.

    Yeah, if only I can meet my blood relatives, it would be an interesting movie i think!

    I have more “colourful” history! Tunggu….

    Yeah, i too hope so. We are all getting older each day, don’t know if I have more siblings? I always wonder. DH when he sees someone in Singapore who looks just a bit like our sons, he’d say, “maybe that’s your brother”!


  4. I still remember you telling me this “herstory” when we were working in Section 17 Shah Alam in the 90s. I felt sebak hearing in from your mouth then and I still feel sebak reading it in ur blog tonight… P. Ramlee movie indeed… Happy Mother’s Day fren…


  5. This is a really cool story! Hope you have further luck in tracking down your biological parents!


  6. Sabar,

    Although I’ve told you this earlier (way back in late 80’s), but for the record, I’m going to say it again. I knew that you were adopted through uji’s grandma, who always met your mother while visiting us at school. Because your mom had mentioned it to an almost stranger,never thought that you did not know about it. Never brought it up because I didn’t get it from you, and did not know how to deal with it. Being 13+ at that time, decided not to bring up the subject unless you mentioned it. I am really, really sorry for keeping it from you. I feel soooo bad because, otherwise, the ‘herstory’ might change.



  7. What a Story!
    As a guy from JB many of my aunties were actually adopted chinese girls by my grandad for reasons you’d mentioned, poor and girls being the lesser choice. They grew up as malay muslims and now have bumiputra childrens because malays believe children are ‘rezeki’.
    My cousin in Singapore, we grew and played together when we were both young, in Geylang Singapore, only knew she was adopted a week before her marriage. I can imagine her horror learning this when she was about to be given away in marriage. She did meet her biological mother and all went well. My auntie had raised them well, her and another adopted brother.
    She’s a single parent now still in Spore when her dear husband had a heart attack some years ago. They have 3 children. Eldest girl is married and has a cucu now.
    Well, its a colorful life…


  8. Sab,

    Just read about your herstory. It reminded me of my momstory. I’ll mention it here, cause so far my blog is only for technical stuff.

    My mom only knew she was adopted on the day of her akad nikad. With my dad she managed to trace that she was the only child of her mom and dad. She also managed to trace and meet a number of her siblings that were “satu mak lain bapak, beberapa bapak” also “satu bapak, lain mak, beberapa mak”. I am still trying to keep her existing siblings and offsprings straight in my family tree.

    I hope one day you’ll be able to do so too. Amin.

    My dad was also adopted, but he knows/visits his biological parents from early on. I guess in the old hard days, adoption and remarrying is very common.

    sabre23t =^.^=


  9. HAJ, yeah, our lives are colourful it our own ways 🙂 .

    Sabre, thank you for sharing your momstory.
    I don’t know if I’ll ever get to meet my biological parents/siblings. Who knows, miracle might happen…


  10. askum Sabar…..m very sorry but i didn’t know anything about this. Must have been very difficult to know n accept such things.But u r very special n Allah loves u very much….giving u the luv of all the others in ur life.Stay strong my dear n take care…..miracles may happen…lets hope for the best…


  11. W’salam, K Ana.

    Actually it was not difficult once I knew about it. It explained a lot of unexplained situations and event. When I found out, it became clear why certain siblings are not so keen to have anything to do with me, while others have hearts of gold!

    But yeah, I never give up hope. Who knows…


  12. My daughter Shazlina posted your blog on my facebook together with her appeal if I know some pressmen in spore. I had a number of collegues in Berita Harian spore and the Straits times. unfortunately they have all retired just like me.
    anyway I still have friends in NST and BH Malaysia and I will try to get their help. One is your namesake just received her datukship, Nuraina Abdul Samad (Samad Ismail’s daughter). She still have families in Spore.
    I will get in touch with her and also Group Editors of BH and Harian Metro, who were all working for me before, including Nuraina, when I was with NST and BH.
    Harap-harapnya ini akan mendatangkan hasil.

    My prayers to you in your quest yang mulia ini.



  13. Dato,

    Shaz was my student and a good one, both academically and personality too. It’s so sweet of her to re-post my story. I’d do almost anything to trace my biological family. I really appreciate your empathy and willingness to contact your acquaintances for me!

    Nuraina is the name of my youngest child 🙂 . Dato Nuraina once visited my blog, after I left a comment on hers. I occasionally read hers too.

    Though the probability of finding my biological family is really small, at the back of my mind I never give up. Who knows, if Allah wants it to happen, I’ll meet them..

    Thank you again for your effort and time.


  14. HR,
    I pun dh lupa I janji part 2, hehehe…. Lo ni tak berapa free, nantilah, bila free i sambung cerita…. Tungguuuuuuu…….. 🙂


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