V. Mahalingam reading from his copy of the ‘The Sunday Times’ broadsheet newspaper dated Sept 1, 1957, a day after the proclamation of independence. (PIC BY ROSELA ISMAIL)

THE DAY of the proclamation of independence is fresh in the mind of 76-year old V. Mahalingam, a former secretary of the Selangor Badminton Association.

“How could I forget it? I was 19 at the time,” Mahalingam said.

It was a remarkable day for all from various backgrounds and religions, he said.

He said that he could not forget his eagerness to witness the historic day of the proclamation in 1957.

“Anticipation time was high. Many were excited to be part of the important day. 

“Exactly at 9.30am, Tunku Abdul Rahman read the declaration, and we all shouted ‘Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka’,” he said, adding that he still kept a copy of the The Sunday Times broadsheet newspaper dated Sept 1, 1957, published a day after the proclamation.

His memory of the joyous day, however, does not detract from that of World War II, when he was orphaned at 6 after losing his parents and three of his siblings.

“It happened on Feb 19, 1945, when
I was playing with my two older brothers outside our house in Sentul. It was then we saw three British Royal Air Force (RAF) B-29 bombers flying low over the railway quarters.

“We ran for shelter when the air raid sirens sounded. Shortly after, another three B-29 bombers flew low around the area. 

“Their target was the railway marshalling yard, which the Japanese were using to store ammunition during their occupation of Malaya,” he said. 

He said it was a terrifying moment for many of them, as the Japanese began to open fire right behind his house. 

“One of the bombs fell in our garden, and I took cover under the study table. My mother and my siblings, including myself, began to pray, hoping for a miracle. 

“But it was doomsday for my family. The bomb hit our home, killing my father, mother and my three siblings. I was the only survivor.

“My surviving sisters were not at home when the incident happened,” he said, adding that he grew up with help from his sisters and relatives. 

They moved from Sentul to Brickfields, in Jalan Chan Ah Tung. 

“I stopped running for cover under the table when I began my school life,” Mahalingam said, adding that he used to hide under it as a child away from his sister’s maid. “But I must say that the table saved my life when I heard the air raid sirens.”

He has since managed to locate and buy the cherished study table.

Having lived through Malaysia’s 60 years of transformation, Mahalingam said he was happy to witness the nation’s growth. 

He said its development had come quickly, in terms of technological, economic and social progress.

“There are many job opportunities now, compared with those years. The transportation system has changed, and it is much easier for Malaysians to travel,” he said.

He said the nation had come a long way, and that the people should always uphold their unity.

“We must always stay united as Malaysians, and should cultivate tolerance and respect.”

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