Growing Up Under the Mango Tree

Growing Up Under the Mango Tree
Author: Lily Forbes Paperback, 431 pages Subjects: Malaysia, History, Novel Publisher: SilverWood Published: 2014
‘My conscious life sprang into being amid belching smoke, sticky bodies and ethnic diversity. Considering where my future was to take me, it seems quite a coincidence that my earliest memories involve travel – and an Englishman.’
This is a story about one girl’s dream to escape poverty and fulfil her ambitions. Set against the rich social and political backdrop of war-torn Malaya’s independence, the child’s viewpoint tells a personal story of family life and individual survival in the multi-cultural, multi-religious melting pot of Malaya, as it was then known.
The trials of smallpox and poverty are contrasted with key moments such as meeting Mr Nehru and greeting Mrs Indira Ghandi. Lily Forbes served as a cadet in the Indian National Army, following in her father’s footsteps (he had fought in Burma during World War Two).
An unwanted love interest was followed by a traumatic incident. In an ironic twist of fate, failure in her exams turned Lily’s destiny around. She returned from India to Malaysia.
At the heart of this tale lies forbidden love, a passion for food, and the tenacity to pursue dreams despite surroundings.
"The book is centred on the early part of my life, based largely in Malaysia but partly in India, before I left for England at the age of twenty-two. I was born into a life without electricity or running water.
Malaya during British rule had a population mix of Malay, Chinese and Indians with a mixture of cultures and religions. I was one of nine children raised in some poverty, growing up in a rural village, and a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. My mother’s talents as a seamstress supplemented my Dad’s wages as a railway worker. The grounds surrounding the house provided essential fruit and vegetables. Houses were mainly built of wood. Wells provided water. One thing we did not go short of was warmth; there was no need to worry about paying bills for central heating with an average daily temperature above thirty degrees. Warmth was created too in the form of a loving family.
I was the first in my family to fly the nest, to live away from the continent of Asia and experience a completely new way of life. I left Malaysia to come to England to obtain a qualification in nursing with the full intention of returning, but I met my future husband, broke from the Indian tradition of marrying within the caste, and in the process made it easier for the next generation to follow their hearts. We are now a multi-ethnic and multi-national family, embracing Americans, Australians and Europeans.
The life of the children in my family living in Malaysia today bears little resemblance to my life and the conditions of my formative years. One of the main reasons for writing this book is to show this and future generations a glimpse into the way their roots were formed.
For all my descendants, both the current generation and those of the future, I would like to think that there is something in this book that will appeal to you. To anyone else reading this book with whom I have no connection, I would like to share with you my experience of being born into a country that was war-torn by occupying Japanese forces during the Second World War and subsequently reclaimed by the British as part of their Empire. But Britain’s influence and power was then on the wane as Malaya worked towards gaining full independence, achieving this in August 1957. Six years later what is now known as Malaysia was formed with Singapore (for a period between 1963-1965), Sarawak and Sabah. As I am learning to deal with life’s challenges, so too is Malaysia, a young and independent country that is still learning to make its own decisions after so many years of British rule."

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  • Product Code: 9781781322277
  • Availability: In Stock
  • RM52.90

Tags: Biography, Lily Forbes, Malaya, Malaysia, Novel